Book to Action Volunteers

Emily Aaronson, Acting Senior Librarian, Studio City Branch Library,
California poppies, and Book to Action logo

Almost all book lovers know the feeling: you read a great book, and you want to discuss it with someone. Sometimes the book also inspires you to learn more and perhaps do something to make the world a better place. These are the feelings that inspired Book to Action, a division of California Center for the Book, which enables readers to come together as a community and do volunteer work related to the chosen book.

In Spring 2017, Studio City Branch Library participated in Book to Action for the first time. The branch was so happy with the success of the programming that they are participating again this year. The book chosen for 2017 was The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, about a young woman aging out of the foster care system. The library partnered with seven different groups involved in foster care in Los Angeles—The Alliance for Children’s Rights, CASA of Los Angeles, The Book Foundation, Children’s Bureau, Foster Care Counts, Fostering Media Connections, and The Right Way Foundation—and had numerous library events, including an author visit and panel discussion with the partners. One of the most inspiring things about the program was seeing the community get involved. They collected more than $400 worth of material donations for The Rightway Foundation, which provides housing, mental health, and employment services to transition age foster youth (18-24) in South Central Los Angeles. The Book to Action experience also launched a cooperation between the library and CASA of Los Angeles and has already resulted in six community members becoming CASA volunteers, ensuring that at least six more children in the foster care system get the services and support critical to their success. 

four ladies smiling

Erika McCall with volunteers at the RightWay bowling fundraiser

Many patrons stayed involved after the library programs were over, like Erika McCall, who is an author and founder of the Go For Yours Foundation, where she works with people ages 13-21 to provide them opportunities to succeed. As luck would have it, Erika just happened to be in the library working on her writing on the day of the author event. She was excited to see there were organizations working with foster care youth, so she attended the program and met Thalia Henderson, the Business Development Specialist for The RightWay Foundation. When, later in the month, the library invited patrons to participate in a potluck for the RightWay youth at their center, Erika went, and their connection was cemented. In the past year, not only did Erika organize an entire team for RightWay’s bowling fundraiser, but she also became an active volunteer for the organization. After attending a trauma-informed training, she was paired with two youth as a mentor and communicates with them regularly. Through her own organization, Erika donated many toys for the holidays and sponsored a screening of Black Panther for the RightWay youth. Erika is just one person whose life was impacted by Book to Action, and seeing the ways the program reverberated through the community, inspired the library to participate again.

table full of toys

Donations collected for the Rightway Foundation at the Studio City Branch Library event

This year's Book to Action theme is animals, and as April is both National Volunteering Month and National Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month, the library thought it would be the perfect time to have their programs. The chosen book is Pen/Faulkner winner, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, which weaves a tale of loving but fallible people whose well-intentioned actions lead to heartbreaking consequences. They believe it will be a springboard for conversations about human and animal relationships, and hopefully inspire people to learn more about and improve the lives of animals.

cat in a hand crocheted basket

Animal bed to donate to Best Friends (cat not included)

Studio City Branch Library has partnered with Best Friends Los Angeles, Comfy Carepacks, Stray Cat Alliance, and Wildlife Waystation, and will be taking material donations that will help their animals. The Book to Action animal partners will also be speaking about volunteer opportunities at the author event, featuring Karen Joy Fowler on Saturday, April 28 at 3 p.m. The library will host additional events including making animal beds for donation to Best Friends, and teaching patrons to make these beds using two different methods: no-sew animal beds with fabric, and arm crocheting beds with chunky yarn. We hope this year’s program will inspire people to learn more about animals.

Recommended Books About Animal Intelligence

Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
Safina, Carl, 1955-

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
Waal, F. B. M. de (Frans B. M.), 1948-

Adam's Task: Calling Animals by Name
Hearne, Vicki, 1946-2001,

Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide
Foster, Charles, 1962-

The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion
Wohlleben, Peter, 1964-

The Ape and the Child: A Study of Environmental Influence Upon Early Behavior
Kellogg, W. N. (Winthrop Niles), 1898-1972.

Next of Kin: What Chimpanzees Have Taught Me About Who We Are
Fouts, Roger.

Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human
Hess, Elizabeth.

Lucy: Growing up Human: A Chimpanzee Daughter in a Psychotherapist's Family
Temerlin, Maurice K.

Tamed & Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind
Montgomery, Sy,

The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World
Tucker, Abigail,

Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals
Grandin, Temple.

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness
Montgomery, Sy,