During a house move two years ago, copyeditor Rachel Miller realized that she could combine her “overwhelming personal library” with her desire to get to know the employees of Wieden+Kennedy by founding a lending library. Today, it’s grown into a fantastic social and intellectual resource for W+Kers; check it out below, along with our Q&A with Rachel.
Q: How did its founding and being made official come about?
Rachel Miller: The library was the result of two circumstances in my life: 1. I was relatively new to the agency and being located on 6 meant that the copyeditors (then proofreaders) didn’t really ever get to meet anyone other than the project managers and the occasional studio manager or artist. 2. My family and I had just moved to a great little rental house in Westmoreland and had been facing, once again, the problem of what to do with my overwhelming personal library. I still had all my favorite books from grad school, plus all the comps I’d accumulated over the years from my tenure at Dark Horse Comics, plus all the stuff I just bought and read or bought and hadn’t read yet or bought and forgot about. I didn’t want to get rid of the books, but it seemed a shame that no one was reading them. We had a couple of empty shelves outside of our office, so I started bringing the books in a few bags at a time.
I sent out the first all-agency email introducing W+Kers to the Lending Library and how it works and also asking people for book donations. I titled it “Hey, Readers” thinking that people who love to read would be interested and might actually open and read this particular all-agency email. I got a few replies, including one from Joani Wardwell, who happened to have heaps of marketing and advertising and pop culture books that various pubs had sent her over the years. She asked if we could use them and that was what made it a real library with real “sections”: classic lit, graphic novels, horror/sci-fi/fantasy, and marketing.
Slowly, other people started donating—really good books. I’ll come into work and find a little box of great stuff sitting on my desk. When Marco Kaye was doing his Salon Series, he and Jinnina were kind enough to get the library a signed copy of a book from each of the writers featured. I started asking the writers to write in some of their favorite books too, when they signed, so we have a couple books with little reading lists by the authors, something I often wish I had when I find a writer whose work I enjoy. I wonder what kind of stuff they like to read.
It has been great not only for us to meet fellow W+Kers, but also for people new to the agency. We get to meet them, and they get to check out one of the many interesting perks of the Portland office, and maybe take home a book for company if they are still new to the city and don’t have all their nights booked with social obligations yet. We also help out people who travel for work a lot. We’ve got many anthologies and collections and other reads that are good for flights.
Q: What were the first books to become a part of the collection?
A: See above. College lit. Graphic novels. We’ve got lotsa Hemingway, Wallace Stegner, Ian McEwan; we’ve got the Crying Freeman series by Kazuo Kioke (it’s AWESOME) and From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell (also very awesome), to name a few.
Q: Who do people contact to make requests?
A: That’d be me.
Requests have been a great way to find new writers. I have a small monthly budget to add to the library. We don’t have UNLIMITED space, so I try to be selective. When people donate books, I ask them to only donate books they really loved but maybe don’t have the shelf space for at home, and that they want to be able to share with other people. I’m not saying you get your books back; it’s a donation and sometimes the books don’t ever get returned (I have bought TWO complete sets of the Stieg Larsson books; we currently only have the first one on the shelf!).
I am always checking out thrift stores and library sales, but Powells gives me a discount on new books, so I am there a lot too. If I don’t have a request that month, I just pick out stuff that I am currently into or that I’ve heard other people talking about. I got on a British chick lit phase this past year and have found some great writers in that genre who definitely deliver on the escapism. Someone requested The Magicians by Lev Grossman, so that was a writer I’d not heard of yet and was happy to find. Now we’ve got a couple of his books. Lisa, one of the copyeditors who is also a writer and is extremely well read, turned me on to Sarah Waters, so now we’ve got four of her books.
Also, it’d be GREAT to have the entire Harry Potter series. We occasionally check out books to people’s kids too, especially when the kids come into the office to hang out with mom or dad for the day. It’d be nice to have HP to offer. Having said that, there are some truly ADULT books up here, including the graphic novels, so don’t send your kids up alone unless you truly let them read anything.
Q: What are the most popular books in the library, currently?
A: Right now people are asking for The Help ( a lot of W+K people are in book clubs!), the Hunger Games books, the Stieg Larsson books, the Game of Thrones books, and Cassandra Clare’s City of Angels series. A lot of readers here dig historical fiction, so we’ve built up a nice selection of books that fall under that. The Abhorsen series by Garth Nix has been very popular too. And we’ve got a couple vampire series, Sookie Stackhouse, Twilight, and Blue Bloods, that are always popular. The YA witch series, SWEEP by Cate Tiernan, is getting hot too. And there’re 15 books in that one! The fairies-with-lots-of-teen-angst series by Melissa Marr, beginning with Radiant Shadows, was very popular last year.
Q: What are the most popular books in the library, of all time?
A: The books that have been checked out the most BY FAR are from the Bloody Jack series. It’s a young adult (YA) series written by L. A: Meyer about a girl whose parents die in the plague and she finds herself running in a street gang and then aboard a British naval ship, disguised as a ship’s boy. The series is about to release its ninth book; we have the first seven here. Everyone who reads these books gets totally hooked. I wish I’d had these books to read when I was 12, instead of (shudder) Go Ask Alice and Jay’s Journal; adolescence might not have been so, well, bleak! But I’m glad to have ’em now. They are just fantastic.
Q: To give some insight into the agency culture – have you noticed any trends in employees’ reading tastes/preferences/etc?
A: Well I have to say, there are quite a lot of us who live in the YA horror/fantasy/dystopia world. A lot.
Employees can find the W+K lending library in the northeast corner of the sixth floor, behind the copyeditors’ desks. Checking out books is free, and they’ll also happily provide recommendations. Contact Rachel Miller for acquisition or inter-office lending requests.