The Most Magical Place on Earth: The National Book Festival

JLW volunteers Carly Rockstroh and Amy Shuart at 2013 NBF
By: Carly Rockstroh
JLW Sustainer, former Community Affairs Council Director (2012-13), former Literacy Event Planning chair (2011-12), former LEP Committee member (2009-12), and lifelong lover of books

Smiling volunteers in black and white JLW hats and bright colored T-shirts walk with clipboards and coffee in hand. A few eager readers start making their way to the Book Signing Lines with tote bags full of books, and I am tying an apron around my waist and stuffing Post-its and Sharpies in any available pockets. The sun is just rising, but the magic of the National Book Festival can be felt all around.

Soon, more crowds of people of all ages and demographics seem to come from every direction. I even recognize a few from previous Book Festivals. The calm of the morning quickly turns into a bubbling roar. JLW volunteers are wondering who the surprise “hit” author will be this year. Children squeal in anticipation that they will get to meet their favorite authors. History fanatics consult the schedule for the History pavilion author talks. A few fans line up for the first round of authors signing books—for JLW volunteers, it is time to get to work.
JLW volunteers at 2014 NBF

I have always been a lover of books, and the JLW’s commitment to literacy and the National Book Festival were two main reasons why I joined the JLW in 2007. I will always remember going to my first NBF the year before I became a member with my mother and grandmother. You practically had to restrain me from grabbing a white hat and a clipboard and getting in on the action.

JLW volunteers at 2014 NBF
So why is the National Book Festival so special? In many ways, the National Book Festival embodies who we are as a League and as a result, connects all of our members to our mission and our community. For New Members, it is the first volunteer experience they will have as a JLW member. For Actives and Sustainers, the National Book Festival is a tradition for which we are proud and passionate. For the Literacy Event Planning Committee, it is a labor of love that they work tirelessly for with the Library of Congress for the months leading up to the event. Volunteering at the National Book Festival is a way for our whole League to come together and share our love of books and reading and to help celebrate literacy with hundreds of thousands of readers every year.

JLW volunteers at 2014 NBF
In 2011, I had the absolute pleasure of chairing the Literacy Event Planning Committee and the over 500 JLW volunteers who made the Festival happen that year. To say it was a dream role would be an understatement. The next year, I had the opportunity to serve as the Community Affairs Council Director and loved seeing the NBF taken to an even greater level. Each year, I am impressed with how the JLW has become more and more involved in the Festival. From extending the Festival to two days in 2011, to moving from the beloved National Mall location to the Convention Center, the JLW has been an advisor to the Library of Congress on how to best organize and run the event, particularly the Book Signing Line areas. I am so grateful that we have the opportunity to work with the Library every year on the Festival and that they value our input and support. A successful Book Festival requires a strong army of smiling volunteers, and the JLW has been that army for 15 years. This year, I encourage you to volunteer at the National Book Festival to be a part of that magical, impactful army of JLW volunteers. Or, attend the Festival with friends, family, and children. However you get involved—bring your passion for books and literacy and the wonderful impact they can have on our community. Just like books can transport you to a new and special place, the National Book Festival can bring you, even just for a day, into a world where people of all shapes and sizes can come together.

JLW volunteers at the 2014 National Book Festival