Read About It! Frequently Asked Questions

Please review these FAQs for a quick overview of the Read About It! program. These questions and answers are not meant to supplant a careful reading of the guidelines, but rather to facilitate the application process—particularly for first-time applicants.

What is Read About It!?
Read About It! is a series of "packaged" book discussion programs developed for public libraries. Through informal discussions with an expert discussion leader, Read About It! exposes people to new authors and gives them tools to deepen their reading experience. The programs, which occur over four sessions, appeal to popular interests and engage readers from all walks of life in the humanities.

Who is eligible to apply?
Public libraries in Pennsylvania are eligible to apply.

How much does the program cost?
The program is free to participants and libraries. One free program per calendar year is available to participating libraries. PHC purchases and ships materials to the site and to the discussion leader. The discussion leader's honorarium also is covered by PHC, as well as any travel costs that may be incurred during the program. Libraries are responsible for the costs associated with the return of program materials (e.g., any unused books and all DVDs).

What is included in the Read About It! package?
PHC will provide the following:

  • Books for up to 16 participants and the library coordinator. Additionally, Books on Screen sites get four DVDs (of each film) to circulate
  • Detailed guides to help prepare for, promote and administer the program
  • Official Read About It! posters and bookmarks to publicize the program
  • Payment for discussion leader expenses, including honorarium and travel expenses

What are the featured programs of Read About It!?
PHC currently offers five programs including:

American Life Stories
Many contemporary memoirs highlight the diversity of the American experience. Why are we so fascinated by people's life stories? What do they tell us about America, its people and its culture? Selections include James McBride's The Color of Water, Esmeralda Santiago's When I Was Puerto Rican, Firoozah Dumas's Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and Frank McCourt's 'Tis: A Memoir. American Life Stories book list available for review [162K PDF]

Books on Screen
"It wasn't as good as the book." When is this true, and why? What can a film offer that great literature does not? The program comes with copies of the movies to screen or circulate. Selections include Charles Portis’ True Grit, Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone, Ian McEwan’s Atonement and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Books on Screen book list available for review [27K PDF]

Detecting Women
Female detectives have changed since Agatha Christie created Miss Marple in 1930. Now many are wise-crackin', gun-totin' private eyes. Others are police officers, chief examiners and lawyers. Selections include Agatha Christie's Murder at the Vicarage, P.D. James' An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, Patricia Cornwell's Postmortem and Sujata Massey's The Salaryman's Wife. Detecting Women book list available for review [192K PDF]

Facts in Fiction: the Civil War Era
Featuring contemporary examples of historical fiction about the Civil War era, this program looks at what we enjoy about these novels, how the stories strive for historical authenticity, and how they connect the past to contemporary concerns. Selections include Gore Vidal's Lincoln, Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels, E. L. Doctorow's The March and James McBride's Song Yet Sung. Facts in Fiction book list available for review [142K PDF]

Pennsylvania Writers
Diverse peoples, communities and landscapes make up the Keystone State. How do different writers envision our state? This program explores Pennsylvania through the work of four prize-winning authors. Selections include John O'Hara's Appointment in Samarra, Kathleen Cambor's In Sunlight, in a Beautiful Garden, Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones and Ellen Litman's The Last Chicken in America: a Novel in Stories. Pennsylvania Writers book list available for review [146K PDF]

Please note that book lists are subject to change.

Can participating libraries choose their own books for the program?
Books are selected expressly by PHC to advance specific learning outcomes. To ensure that the book groups are accessible, PHC specially designs each program to appeal to popular interests in literature. PHC works closely with experts in literature and book discussion programs to develop themes and select texts. Popular contemporary titles are chosen deliberately to engage a wide audience, particularly readers who might not otherwise join a book discussion group. They provide a starting point for learning about literature. Libraries may customize their programs by substituting ONE book in the series. PHC will provide each library with a book list, including a list of approved substitutions.

How can my library apply?
Applications are no longer being accepted for fall 2011 and spring 2012 programs. Applications for fall 2012 and spring 2013 programs will be available in winter/spring 2012.

What is a DUNS number?
A Date Universal Numbering System number is a unique nine-digit identifier issued and maintained by Dun and Bradstreet that verifies the existence of a business entity globally. All Read About It! applicants must provide a DUNs number. Obtaining a DUNS number is absolutely free. Request a number online. Obtaining a DUNS number may require up to two business days.

How does PHC select participating libraries?
The selection process is competitive. Not every library which applies will be selected. Library staff must address their ability to increase the library's value as a community learning center and to attract audiences new to book discussion programs. PHC wants to see that a library has a specific promotional plan and that it is able to dedicate the administrative time needed to make their program a success. PHC gives equal weight to libraries that represent Pennsylvania's diverse regions and communities—urban, suburban and rural. View a list of libraries currently participating in the program.

What are the responsibilities of participating libraries?
PHC expects participating libraries to dedicate time and energy into fulfilling their responsibilities so that they advance the program's primary goals. Library staff are responsible for:

  • Recruiting a discussion leader
  • Coordinating program content and the final book list with the discussion leader
  • Scheduling program dates and times with the discussion leader
  • Publicizing the program to attract participants
  • Registering participants
  • Evaluating the program
  • Returning any unused books. Note: Books on Screen sites must return all DVDs.

What are the responsibilities of PHC?
Read About It! is a deluxe program. PHC dedicates considerable staff time so that library staff can gain as much from the program as possible. PHC's responsibilities include:

  • Providing programmatic support—from program preparation to conclusion
  • Providing program materials to library staff and discussion leaders
  • Ordering and shipping books and films to library staff and discussion leaders
  • Conducting a phone orientation for library staff and discussion leaders who are new to the program
  • Recommending potential discussion leaders, upon request
  • Covering discussion leader expenses, including honorarium

What are the responsibilities of the discussion leader?
The discussion leader is asked to lead and facilitate each discussion. Instead of structuring the session in a lecture format, discussion leaders are to encourage conversation among the participants. Read About It! is designed to enable participants' insights and comments to dominate the discussion. The discussion leader will work closely with library staff during the program. Responsibilities include:

  • Coordinating program content and the final book list with library staff
  • Scheduling program dates and times with library staff
  • Writing an introductory letter to participants before the program begins
  • Evaluating the program

What qualifications must the discussion leader have?
A discussion leader must demonstrate expertise in literature through publications, teaching or through other means. Typically, a discussion leader holds an MA or PhD in literature, an MFA in creative writing or an MED in teaching literature. On occasion, PHC will approve a discussion leader with substantial teaching experience who has a BA in secondary education, English or literature.

  • Discussion leaders for Books on Screen also must demonstrate expertise in film through teaching, publications or scholarly work.
  • Discussion leaders for Facts in Fiction also must demonstrate experience in American literature through teaching, publications or scholarly work. Experience in American studies also is desirable.

How can participating libraries find a discussion leader?
Finding the right discussion leader often is the most time-consuming part of the Read About It! process. Library staff take the lead in recruiting a discussion leader, as they will work closely with that individual. Staff should choose a discussion leader that he or she is comfortable working with. The discussion leader also should be someone who will relate to and encourage the participants. PHC recommends contacting the English/Writing department of area colleges or universities. Friends groups, colleagues, board and community members also can be contacted for recommendations. PHC will, upon request, provide a list of recommended individuals who have worked with the program in the past.

Note: PHC has final approval of the discussion leader. If using an individual not recommended by PHC, please submit a resume/CV for PHC review.

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