The National Book Festival is a magical day for hundreds of thousands of bibliophiles of all ages – including including me – and it is also the day that started my Junior League of Washington (JLW) journey 13 years ago. My first fall in DC, a colleague and JLW New Member told me about the National Book Festival and the Junior League. Looking for something to do with my mother and grandmother in town visiting for the weekend, we headed down to the National Mall to check it out. It took less than a minute for me to know that whatever this “Junior League” thing was, I needed to be a part of it.
For most JLW members, the National Book Festival is their first volunteer experience as a JLW member. Donning a white JLW baseball hat, colorful t-shirt, and khakis, I joined the JLW ranks as a New Member in the fall of 2007 and never looked back.
My JLW journey as a volunteer and a leader includes many personal milestones – first time as a JLW volunteer; first year as a “black hat” leading a book signing line as a Literacy Event Planning (LEP) committee member; chairing of the LEP committee and the JLW’s support for the event the first time the Festival was two-days long; serving as the Community Affairs Council Director at the event cheering on then chair Tessa Wilkins and the committee; and many years as an alumni “black hat” joining the LEP committee for a day while supporting the League in other leadership roles. This year, I look forward to returning to the Festival as the JLW 2018-2019 President-Elect and working side-by-side with JLW members and the Library of Congress for the 18th National Book Festival.
When I think back on the many years I’ve spent at the National Book Festival, I can’t help but think of a few tips from my years volunteering at the event, which also have helped me as a volunteer and a leader. I hope each of our members will consider these tips as they volunteer with us at the National Book Festival on September 1:
- Smile – Buddy the Elf is right – smiling is my favorite! It is also contagious—even at 7 a.m. when you ran out of time to get coffee.
- Listen to someone else’s story – Talk to Festival attendees and other JLW members as you volunteer and you will undoubtedly make personal connections, learn something new, and have a laugh.
- Embrace the rainbow – One of the most amazing parts about the National Book Festival is the diversity the event attracts. Celebrate our differences and unexpected connections you will make.
- Attitude is everything – You will be on your feet volunteering and helping Festival attendees for several hours. They may be tired, hungry, frustrated at long lines, lost, hot and sweaty, or nervous to meet their favorite author. YOU can help change their outlook or at least help answer their questions to make things a little bit better. YOU have that power, if you have a good attitude yourself.
- Wear sneakers – While literally wearing sneakers at the National Book Festival is really important, it is just as important figuratively. What do I mean? Get up and move. Walk up and down the book signing line and talk to people, offer assistance, ask questions, be of service. Standing in a corner talking to the one person you know will not get you anywhere in life. But wearing sneakers surely will.
- There is no “I” in Team – Cliché, but for a reason! The JLW is one of the strongest teams I know. Individually, all members bring different talents and can do great things. Together we are a force that can accomplish AMAZING things. As the Library of Congress would attest, the JLW is the ONLY volunteer team who could get more than 1,000 excited fans through a book signing line to meet a popular author in under 1 hour.
- Titles are for BOOKS, Not People - And with any team, ALL roles are important. Passing out post-it notes to give fans the chance to have a book personalized is just as important as helping hand books to the author to help the line move more quickly. Handing out programs and “I Love To Read” stickers brings as much joy as helping kids get their Festival passports stamped by as many states as the can in the Pavilion of States.
- Share the LOVE – This year’s JLW focus is all about LOVE – or “Living Our Values Everyday.” As a JLW member, you are an ambassador for our brand, and the National Book Festival is an excellent place to share our brand AND our values of Community, Leadership, Service, Diversity, Collaboration, Empowerment, Respect, and Integrity.
I can’t wait to see all of you at the 18th National Book Festival, the 16th that the JLW has supported, on September 1, with your JLW hats and sneakers on!