While celebrity influencers normally have packed schedules, the pandemic meant they suddenly found themselves like so many Americans: at home with plenty of time on their hands. Sensing an opportunity, the Chicago Public Library launched a campaign that harnessed the power of celebrities and other high-profile figures to champion reading and literacy. The timing was especially important given that physical schools and libraries were forced to close their doors to readers due to COVID-19.
The Chicago Public Library tapped a string of famous people to read stories, which were streamed over Facebook Live every weekday at 10 a.m. (Videos remained live on the library’s page so kids could watch and rewatch their favorites.) The initiative kicked off with local celebrities, but as word spread, mega-stars such as Oprah and the Obamas, as well as actors including Kristen Bell and Matthew Broderick, signed on to read and film their own stories.
The campaign made a splash — particularly considering its budget of just $5,000. (All celebrity and production costs were donated pro-bono.) Altogether, 2.2 million hours of stories were watched, and the Chicago Public Library saw an 800% year-over-year increase in Facebook followers. Perhaps most importantly, digital checkouts were up 30%.