How is TD Book Week Organized? Interviews with the Coordinators, Part 1

How is TD Book Week Organized? Interviews with the Coordinators, Part 1

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TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is organized by a team of volunteer coordinators who work on scheduling presentations for each province and territory. They coordinate with the visiting authors, illustrators and storytellers, as well as the schools, libraries and other venues that will accommodate them, in the months ahead of Book Week. They also handle travel arrangements and book accommodations. We chatted with a few of the coordinators to give you a glimpse into what it’s like to organize Book Week. You can also read Part 2 of our Book Week coordinator feature.


Shawna Thomson, Book Week Coordinator for Nunavut

ShawnaTell us about your experience coordinating TD Book Week 2017 so far.

I started working on Book Week for Nunavut back in September. Normally Book Week takes place in the eastern part of Nunavut, but this was the first year bringing it to the western communities of Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay. Organizing Book Week in Nunavut is unique because of the large distances between our communities. A lot of work has to be done via email or over the phone. Any time our author wants to travel to a different community, she has to get on a plane! So the biggest part of my job was making all of those travel arrangements and making sure there are people in each of our isolated communities who can become local coordinators with me. I couldn’t have done this job without the help of our local Learning Coaches and administration staff – Greg Hoosier, Ashleigh Hogan, Ruth Roberts, Pam Gross, Alison Corbett, Roman Mahnic, Raymond Snow, Terri-Lyn Hall, Nicole Wutke, Haydn George and Tiffany Kelly.

How did you first get involved with Book Week?

I work as a Language Arts Consultant in the western part of Nunavut. My job is to help organize our Learning Coaches and provide in-servicing to our staff about current literacy instruction techniques. One of my fellow consultants was the Book Week coordinator last year. She raved about the author who travelled to Iqaluit and Pond Inlet. She recommended me as a coordinator for this year and I was only too excited to jump on board and bring Joan-Marie Galat up to Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay this spring!

How meaningful is it, for you, to be organizing Book Week for your particular province or territory?

It is extremely meaningful for me to be involved with organizing Book Week in Nunavut this year. Our communities are very isolated and our students sometimes don’t get the rich opportunities in field trips and guest speakers that are readily available to children in the south. The fact that TD’s Canada Book Week goes out of their way to include Nunavut, even with the additional organization and financial commitments, really speaks a lot to their dedication to literacy for all students in Canada. Our author, Joan-Marie Galat, has written books on the aurora borealis, which is a special phenomenon in Nunavut. It will be exciting for our students to hear about something that is relevant to them. We are in the middle of territorial literacy initiative so this is a particularly exciting way to get our students excited about reading!


Arwen Rudolph, Book Week Coordinator for Saskatchewan (Moose Jaw/Regina & southern areas)

ArwenHow did you first get involved with Book Week?

I was the Children’s Librarian at Moose Jaw Public Library from 2006 – 2010. The previous librarians had always applied to host an author during Book Week, so I did as well. It was through that process that I became a member of CCBC and became familiar with Book Week. At some point I think someone from the Centre asked if I would organize the tour one year, and I said yes. And then once I’d gotten over the giant learning curve the first year, I just kept going.

How do you juggle all the work involved in being a coordinator?

I’m very lucky in that my current job is very flexible, so I can work on Book Week during work hours if I make up the time later — I end up working a lot of Saturdays in March and April.

What are some of the challenges of this job?

The hardest part is just trying to communicate with everyone and pull it all together. It involves a lot of back and forth with hosts. You’ll think you have everything nailed down, and then someone will say a date or time doesn’t work for them, and then you have to change everything around, and contact all those hosts again and ask them if they can change their date or time to accommodate another host.

Another hard part is that Saskatchewan is very spread out and very rural. Despite my best efforts, there inevitably ends up being a lot of driving to get to different locations. Just this year, Erin Bow will be driving over 1,000 km over the course of the week. It’s a challenge finding enough hosts in one area so that the author can make it to two or three different schools or libraries during the school day, and still have time to stop and eat lunch!

What are your favourite aspects of this job? Or the most gratifying parts?

I enjoy meeting the authors and watching them interact with the students. I have met some really interesting, amazing people over the years, and watched some great presentations.

How meaningful is it, for you, to be organizing Book Week for your particular province or territory?

I am very happy that I can do this for Southern Saskatchewan. I come from a small town of about 1,000 people in Southern Saskatchewan and some of my most vivid memories in elementary school were from when we had a special visit from an author, so I know that this program has an impact. An author visit can entertain, educate and inspire, and I’m very happy to do my part to make that happen for the children of Saskatchewan.


Sharon Westber, Book Week Coordinator for Yukon

SharonHow did you first get involved with Book Week?

I first became involved with Book Week in the early-1980’s in my new job as teacher/librarian in an elementary school in Whitehorse, Yukon. I loved the way Book Week brought us the authors of the Canadian books my students enjoyed. By the mid-80’s I was coordinating Yukon’s Book Week and did so for 20 years. Last year, happily settled into retirement since 2000, I was called on to to fill a temporary gap and stepped into the role of coordinator again.

Why did you decide to become a Book Week Coordinator?

Book Week was a program that benefited our Yukon children. It was supported by our Teacher/librarian’s Association and I took on the coordinator’s role as part of my professional vocation.

How do you juggle all the work involved in being a coordinator?

As a retiree “out of the loop” I find coordination a bit more of a challenge. However, I know my community well and have found cooperative support at many levels. Book Week is a lot of work. Dedicating a certain amount of time to it regularly over the weeks is a must; dividing the work into focus areas and completing each as a block reduces the stress that comes with loose ends; expecting stumbling blocks and frustrations helps me to work through them; enjoying the high points along the way keeps me going.

What are some of the challenges of this job?

Delays in communication; schedule changes.

What are your favourite aspects of this job?

Enjoying the author’s/illustrator’s presentations with our students. Meeting our touring guest and becoming acquainted with his or her work and experiences as a Canadian writer/illustrator.


Gail Hamilton, Book Week Coordinator for Manitoba

TD_Juror_Gail_HamiltonHow did you first get involved with Book Week?

I first got involved with Book Week when I became a Regional Officer with the CCBC. I had hosted children’s authors at my school in the past and found the experience to be very rewarding.

In my first year of organizing Book Week, the touring authors in Manitoba were Cary Fagan and Vladyana Krykorka. They were absolutely delightful, and the perfect authors to host for my first venture into organizing the tours.

How do you juggle all the work involved in being a coordinator?

My husband has always joked that I am a list maker. I could not coordinate the job of organizing Book Week if I weren’t! There are so many little details to think of- everything from arranging transportation and accommodations to media interviews and appearances-  so a list of things to do (and when to do them) is a must for me.

I am fortunate to have such tremendous support from the host teachers, teacher-librarians and public librarians who recognize that Book Week is such a worthwhile event. They, and a small group of volunteer drivers, help me out immensely by ensuring that our touring authors are well looked after and get to their presentations on time. They do everything from chauffeuring to providing lunch, and, if time permits, some of our hosts and drivers even act as tour guides, showing their guest authors the points of interest in the cities and small towns that they visit.

What are some of the challenges of this job?

One of the challenges of this job is creating an itinerary that maximizes the author’s time while he/she is in Manitoba. I try to schedule presentations in schools and public libraries that are in close proximity to one another in order to use the time wisely, rather than spending too much time in travel.

Another challenge is last minute cancellations. These do not happen often, but when they do, I have to find another host school or library to fill the open time slot. For example, this year, two schools that were granted presentations realized a few weeks ago that they had a Professional Development day on the same day as their author presentation. I tried to do some creative juggling in the timetable so that they could still have their author visits, but it just didn’t work out. Luckily, a few other schools were able to take advantage of the openings in the schedule.

Though not really a “challenge”, I feel badly when I can’t accommodate every applicant who requests a presentation. I feel so strongly about the benefits of Book Week and I don’t want their students to miss out on this marvellous opportunity. There are just not enough hours in the school day!

When Book Week is over — and the weather has cooperated, and the authors have gotten to all of their presentation venues on time and have been safely delivered to the airport for their flights home — I must admit I breathe a sigh of relief. But it’s a good feeling, especially when both the authors and the hosts offer such positive feedback about the Book Week experience.

The challenges are few, but the rewards are many!

What are your favourite aspects of this job? Or the most gratifying parts?

The most gratifying part of this job is attending an author’s presentation and not only learning from him/her along with the audience members, but also seeing the positive effects of the visit on the students. The younger students are absolutely enthralled, and the older ones ask insightful questions that prove that they’ve delved deeply into the book(s). Many hosts go all out and decorate the library or classroom to welcome their special guest and I’m always amazed and impressed by their creativity.

For me, acting as a chauffeur for our touring authors is a treat as well. As one rural librarian and volunteer driver so aptly put it, “When else can one have an author to themselves for an hour or more to discuss books and writing?” Indeed!

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