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Cloquet celebrates World Book Night with surprise book giveaways

Cloquet library director Mary Lukkarila paid a surprise visit to the Chamber parking lot just before the July 4 organizational meeting Monday and found Cloquet City Councilor Barb Wyman, right, and Community Education Director Sara Liimatainen, left, along with other July 4 committee members. Lukkarila handed out her final three copies of "The Kite Runner" there to finish off World Book Day in Cloquet. Jana Peterson/

Writer Anna Quindlen described World Book Night as "like an intellectual Halloween, only better."

"We're giving out books, not just Mars bars," said Quindlen, the program's honorary chairwoman.

Celebrated Monday, World Book Night made its first visit to Carlton County when four volunteers handed out 80 free books between them. The books selected for distribution by local volunteers were: "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, "The Stand" by Stephen King, and "Q is for Quarry" by Sue Grafton.

Cloquet Public Library sponsored the first World Book Night free book distribution in Carlton County. Four volunteers selected one book from among 30 titles that had been printed in special paperback editions by publishers who agreed to participate. Although libraries and bookstores on the local level serve as distribution points for the volunteers, the books are given away at other public locations in the community.

Cloquet Adult Services Librarian Mark King was the local coordinator.

"We were excited to learn about the first World Book Night to be held in the U.S. and scrambled to pull things together here on short notice," King said. "There has been a great deal of enthusiasm on the part of our volunteers and volunteers across the country.

"We expect that as the word gets out, participation will increase next year," he added.

World Book Night started in the U.K. in 2011 and was celebrated in the USA, Britain, Ireland and Germany. The free book giveaway is designed to reach people who do not ordinarily purchase books or visit their local library.

Sponsored by a coalition of publishers, booksellers and librarians, World Book Night originally planned to find 50,000 volunteers to give away 1 million books in the USA. That was cut in half because of logistics and shipping costs, says Carl Lennertz, its director. "But a half-million is still great." (For those keeping score, the Brits, with about one-fifth the U.S. population, are giving away 1 million books.)

A private reception for the local volunteers was held at the library last Monday evening.