Make Your National Book Festival Battle Plan

We try to give book-lovers as much information as possible about the National Book Festival, in a useful way, on our website.  It might seem a little daunting, what with six author pavilions and numerous other attractions spread out across four city blocks on the National Mall and a sea of about 130,000 other people around you.

But if you’re a “planner” looking to make the most of your day, a little advance prep time can go a long way.

First, get an overview on the NBF general information page, and while you’re there, you might want to download the map of the grounds (PDF link).

Then check out the schedule by pavilion to see when and where your favorite authors are presenting.  What I find extremely useful, though, is the graphic that I included in this post (and which is also in the printed program).  It’s a one-page grid of all the pavilions, cross-referenced against the time of day.  I literally take a Sharpie and circle the authors I want to see in order to prevent conflicts or overlaps.

Other advice:

  • You’ll do yourself and everyone else a big favor if you take public transportation. Nearby Metro stations include the Smithsonian and Federal Center SW on the Blue and Orange lines, and L’Enfant Plaza and the Archives/Navy Memorial on the Yellow and Green lines.  Train and bus routes can be found on Metro’s website.
  • Wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting a little dusty from the gravel pathways flanking the Mall.
  • Dress for the weather and consider using sunscreen.  The current forecast calls for temps in the high 80s and almost nothing but sunshine.
  • Pick up one of the thousands of free C-SPAN National Book Festival bags to carry your books, your programs and your what-not, but get there early.  The bags go quickly!
  • For social media-ists, you can tag your festival photos with “2010nbf” and your tweets with the hashtag #nbf.  You can also stop by the Library of Congress Pavilion to see a real-time Twitterfall of tweets with the aforementioned hashtag.  I’m always amused to watch festival-goers standing in front of the big monitor, tweeting on their phone and then getting excited when their tweet rolls down the screen.

And finally, while the authors are the stars of the show, don’t forget about some of the other goings-on, each of which promises to make a good day even better:

  • The Library of Congress Pavilion, abutting Fourth Street, has a lot to offer.  Our experts we will demonstrate how to preserve your personal collections of photographs, books and audiovisual materials. The Library has one of the world’s premier collections of genealogical publications, and our staff can get you started on developing your own family tree. The Veterans History Project of our American Folklife Center collects, preserves and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans. Watch video accounts, join the audience for live presentations and learn how you can participate. Experience the Library of Congress through interactive exhibitions and discover, study and enjoy cultural treasures from around the globe on our World Digital Library website (
  • While you’re there, get a first look at our “Gateway to Knowledge” traveling exhibit, just steps away, before it hits the road.  And just down Fourth Street is the Digital Bookmobile powered by OverDrive, which will be demonstrating digital book downloads.
  • The Pavilion of the States salutes the literary traditions of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. A brochure available in this pavilion, called “Discover Great Places Through Reading,” offers a list of 52 great reads.  Young people can also collect stickers from all of the states’ tables on a keepsake map, a very popular feature of that pavilion.
  • Borders is the official bookseller for the 2010 National Book Festival. Visit the book sales pavilion if you’d like to purchase selected books by 2010 National Book Festival authors. Be sure to pick up books by your favorite authors before going to the book-signing areas.
  • In the Let’s Read America II pavilion, Target invites you to send “Mail from the Mall” to locations anywhere in the world. Using ingenious photographic technology, visitors can insert themselves into several postcard images and then send them to friends and family using postage featuring the Target mascot, Bullseye the dog. The post boxes will be available right in the pavilion.
  • In the Let’s Read America I pavilion, AT&T invites visitors to join Dipper, the AT&T Cares star; the Library of Congress Federal Credit Union will offer bingo with the friends of “Sammy the Saver” Rabbit, who offers tips for developing good saving habits.  In that pavilion, Penguin Group (USA) will give festival-goers a chance to have their photos taken with its mascot, the Penguin, and invite children to enjoy storytime tales and try out the new online reading site “We Give Books,” which lets kids put books in the hands of other children who don’t have them. will offer authors David Baldacci, Brad Meltzer, Mem Fox and Jennifer Liu Bryan reading aloud with the mascot, Hilda the spokesgoat. Scholastic Books will let fans of books sign the We Believe Wall or make a video statement about one’s belief in every child’s right to read in the 21st century. Several of the Let’s Read America I sponsors also will offer kids the chance to work on craft projects.
  • In the PBS KIDS Raising Readers pavilion, there will be several activities in which kids can immerse themselves in the world of learning.  Children can sing along with PBS KIDS’ SteveSongs, join Miss Rosa and other PBS friends for storytime, or pose for a photo with many favorite PBS KIDS characters including Abby Cadabby, Alpha Pig, Arthur, The Cat in the Hat, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Curious George, Princess Presto, Super Why! and Wordgirl.

You’ll get all of this information, author biographies and more in the printed program, which will be handed out at information booths around the Mall.

And if you still need help after all of this, ask one of the hundreds of festival volunteers in the red T-shirts.

Ready … set … read!


  1. Joe
    September 24, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    I have been to every NBF since it’s inception in 2001 and I plan on keeping that streak going tomorrow at the 10th annual NBF. Always have a great time and the volunteers and staff are always extremely friendly, helpful and courteous. Thanks to former First Lady Laura Bush for bringing the NBF to DC. It’s also great to see bookmarks returning this year, and thanks to all the kids who did a great job designing their own versions of the bookmark. I saw the list of all the entries and it had to have been a very tough decision picking one as the winner.

  2. Papa Bradstein
    September 24, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    A few years ago, the PBS Kids characters showed up an hour before the festival started, making it easier for small kids to get to see them. Do you know if they’ll be doing the same this year? If so, what time will they be appearing? Thanks.

  3. Kendrick Rusert
    April 26, 2011 at 1:25 am

    I have been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this blog. Thank you, I will try and check back more often. How often do you update your site?

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