In this episode of The Archive Project, we celebrate the twentieth year of Multnomah County Library’s Everybody Reads program. Each year, the Library chooses one book that they hope everyone in Multnomah County will read and talk about. As part of the program, the Library and their partner organizations host events based on the themes of the book, and they distribute thousands of free copies to readers of all ages thanks to support from The Library Foundation. Literary Arts has been a proud partner of Everybody Reads for over a decade, by bringing the featured author to Portland to culminate the program with a live event at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
In the episode, we join Vailey Oehlke, who has been director of Multnomah County Library since 2009. Vailey is in conversation with Literary Arts’ executive director, Andrew Proctor. They discuss the inspiration and beginnings of the program at the Library, reflect on the role of public libraries as important and unique cultural resources, share favorite moments from past author visits, and go behind the scenes of how the books are selected. We also hear from previous Everybody Reads authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of 2019’s selections Americanah and We Should All Be Feminists; Portland-native Mitchell S. Jackson, author of 2015’s selection The Residue Years; and Ross Gay, author of 2021’s selection The Book of Delights.