My latest big project is An Evening with Nnedi Okorafor. Back in June, I read Dr. Okorafor's book Who Fears Death and immediately became a huge fan. I had already been thinking about bringing authors to campus as a way to support the Virginia Tech Cultural and Community Centers and the communities they serve. Dr. Okorafor seemed like a perfect fit. I started following her on Twitter (@nnedi) and quickly saw how right I was. She routinely talks about topics related to social justice, racial justice, creative writing, and African culture. It was easy to see how having her speak would serve the academic interests of Virginia Tech and the cultural interests of our Black Cultural Center.
I reached out to the director of our Black Cultural Center and asked if she thought bringing Dr. Okorafor to campus would be a good idea. She was as excited as I. I began exploring how to bring an author to campus for a talk. Dr. Okorafor's website (http://nnedi.com) included contact information for speaking engagements and I reached out to inquire about availability and speaker's fees. Things snowballed from there. We agreed on a fee and I set a total budget for the project. I had thousands of dollars to raise and no budget to work with for this event.
I started contacting all the potential partners I could think of: the Black Cultural Center, Africana Studies program, English department, Women's and Gender Studies program, the new Center for the Humanities, Office of Inclusion and Diversity, the Moss Arts Center, nearby universities, the public library, and more. I managed to bring on a number of partners interested in helping make this author visit a reality and reached my set funding goal. I then worked out contract details with Dr. Okorafor's agents.
Once the contract was signed, the real event planning began. I made sure space was reserved and worked out a schedule of events for the day of the visit. I arranged for the University Bookstore to be on site to sell Dr. Okorafor's novels during a book signing event. I arranged audio/video support in the main event space and an overflow space. I worked with the library's marketing team to define a marketing strategy and a schedule for when advertising messages would go out.
As the event approached, I approved graphics and copy for advertisements and finalized transportation and lodging details for Dr. Okorafor. I emailed everyone I could think of that might be interested. My goal with this event was community engagement. I wanted people from beyond Virginia Tech to attend.
In total, there are three events happening for this author visit: a reception for 30 students from Creative Writing, Africana Studies, and the Glossolalia literary festival staff; the main author talk, and a book signing. I've done outreach to the public library system and three other local universities. I've arranged to put flyers up in local businesses and have table cards in the university dining hall. There's a digital advertising campaign with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts.
The event is still a week away and I'm anxious to see how many people will attend. This is the largest event I've done at Virginia Tech to date and I have been the one in charge of every aspect. If it goes well, I'll be exhausted but elated. I'll update in a week with the results. Until then, keep your fingers crossed for the success of my event.
I'm the Community Collections Archivist, Community and Cultural Centers Librarian & Resident Librarian at Virginia Tech.