#OneBookWednesday: The Selection Process

By Kalela W. Wed, May 18, 2016

When everyone in Philadelphia is reading the same book as part of the One Book, One Philadelphia program, how is that work chosen?

A small committee of Free Library staff, educators, and One Book volunteers drafts a long-list of potential titles, bringing their own ideas to the table as well as considering suggestions from the community.

The committee is guided by a set of criteria. The book has to

  • be written by a living author,
  • lend to dynamic programming,
  • contain relatable and universal themes, and
  • be of outstanding literary quality.

After meetings, committee members spend hours upon hours reading suggested titles. Library staff sometimes squeeze reading into lunch breaks, taking most of it home for a busy reading season. The list is then whittled down to a handful of titles on a shortlist. Following more deliberation and discussion, two or three titles are chosen. Then committee members vote!

It is a long and deliberate process, but an important one—the featured title is the cornerstone of One Book, One Philadelphia, engaging the city in a shared conversation and touching the lives of tens of thousands each year.

For a look back at our past picks, visit freelibrary.org/onebook.


I have often wondered about the criteria for choosing. I believe the Free Library has done a master job of addressing the interests of the various reading populations in the city. Although some of the selections weren't initially interesting to me, on further examination I discovered viewpoints and experiences that were a pleasant surprise. I hope the One Book, One Philadelphia program continues because I believe it can build bridges of understanding.
Ann Watkins - Overbrook Wed, May 18, 2016

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