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Accio Books! How Wizard Activists are Building & Saving Libraries All Over the World

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Always books. Never boring.

Book Riot is featuring ways to be a literary activist this week. See all the posts here.

This guest post is by Katie Bowers. Katie is the Campaigns Director at the Harry Potter Alliance where she helps turn fans into heroes. She enjoys reading, travel, and most importantly, button makers. Follow her on Twitter at @CornishPixie9.

In spring, the air changes. It gets warmer, and sweeter, and for the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), it becomes filled with flying books! Summoned by our members (known as wizard activists), the books collected and donated during Accio Books — our annual literacy & library advocacy campaign — help build libraries and ignite a love of reading for children around the world.

Since 2009, wizard activists have donated over 315,000 books to communities in need. Some of the libraries we’ve built are permanent institutions — lending libraries like those at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda, the Bedford-Stuyvesant New Beginnings Charter School in New York City, and Borderline Books in Leiden, The Netherlands. Other libraries we’ve brought into being are what we call Apparating Libraries. The library appears overnight, popping up in places like the Brightmoor Community Center in Detroit, Michigan and Operation Breakthrough in Kansas City, Missouri. As young people and their families visit the pop-up book giveaway and filled their bags to the brim with free books, the library slowly disapparates and the books become part of the young people’s personal collections.

These personal collections provide a great advantage to kids, particularly over the summer when students often lose the academic gains they have made over the school year. Research has found that kids with books in the home do better academically, and reading just four to six books while school is out can help prevent the summer slide. That’s why in 2017, the HPA is summoning books to Words Alive, an organization that provides literacy and education services to over 5,000 children and families in Southern California. HPA chapters and members right now are raising thousands of books for Words Alive, who will host an apparating library and give the books away to young people and their parents to build their own magical home libraries.

On top of donating to Words Alive, many wizard activists will choose to donate locally. With HPA chapters in 35 countries around the world, this means that Accio Books will have a global impact. Young people in Orlando will be able to find a new favorite book at UCP of Central Florida, a school for children with disabilities where the Central Florida Slug Club helped build a library in 2016. Rohingya refugees will feel welcomed at a small lending library, currently being developed by Kovalen, our local chapter in Malaysia. At Good Shepherd School in Masaka, Uganda (a school that our local chapter, Masaka HPA, helped build), students can check out books from around the world in a library stocked by last year’s Accio Books campaign. Across the globe, our chapters are pretty amazing — you can find out more about them, and even help their program win a grant at A Community Thrives.

In Estevan, Saskatchewan, our L.U.M.M.O.S. chapter has already kicked off the advocacy portion of Accio Books. Indeed, while a worldwide book drive is impressive, we don’t believe only in building new libraries — we also want to save them. In late March, government officials in Saskatchewan announced that there would be a 58% funding cut for libraries across the Canadian province. Activists on the ground headed to their representatives offices on April 7th and in honor of Drop Everything and Read Day, sat down in and around their offices to #SaveSKLibraries. L.U.M.M.O.S. also rallied our network of wizard activists to post selfies from around the world, demonstrating that Saskatchewan’s horrific cuts were not going unnoticed.

In the United States, wizard activists will join with the American Library Association to continue to advocate for libraries on May 1st and 2nd for National Library Legislative Day. With net neutrality under new threats, and the proposed elimination of the Institute for Museums and Library Services, fighting for libraries is more important than ever. Last year, wizard activists took 868 actions to defend public libraries, including calls, tweets, and even sending owls (er, um, letters) to Congress. This year, our literary, literacy and library-loving wizard activists are set to break records.

If you’re thinking you might be a wizard activist, good news: you don’t need a wand or even an HPA chapter to summon books and save libraries. You can visit our Accio Books headquarters to donate books to Words Alive, take action for libraries, become a Prefect, and even donate to support the campaign (and donors even get a shot to win a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows signed by the world’s first wizard activist, J.K. Rowling). If you want to take it to the next level, find an HPA chapter to join, start one yourself, join our online book club, and vote for our Chapters Program to win a game-changing grant from A Community Thrives. Whatever you choose, a worldwide community of wizard activists is ready to help you gather books, save libraries, and change the world one story at a time.