World Book Night 2019: Poetry Chapbooks

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How do we honor both National Poetry Month and World Book Night (April 23) in a single post?  Let’s honor the poetry chapbook.

The American Heritage Dictionary (2016) defines a chapbook as “a small book or pamphlet containing poems, ballads, stories, or religious tracts.”  (Chapbook, 2016).  Chapmen were the door-to-door peddlers who originally sold them (Chapmen, 2001).

Craig (2011) notes how chapbooks form part of a poetic gift economy.  She describes how their form is not only shaped by, but also shapes, the poetry community’s culture (p. 48).    The Information Creation as a Process frame speaks to how a product is valued in a particular context.  It also concerns the fit between a product and the needs of its users (Association of College & Research Libraries, 2016, p. 14).

Williams’s (2016) students explore chapbooks and related items in special collections.  In doing so they reflect on the context in which these items were created.  They also reflect on archives (pp. 117-118).

Of course we can enjoy our favorite books any day.  Still, a special day reminds us of the ways in which we share books.




Association of College & Research Libraries. (2016). Framework for information literacy for higher education. Chicago, IL: Author.

Chapbook. (2016). In The American heritage  dictionary of the English language (6th ed.).  Retrieved from

Chapmen. (2001). In The companion to British history (2nd ed.). Retrieved from

Craig, A. (2011). When a book is not a book: objects as ‘players’ in identity and community formation. Journal of Material Culture, 16(1), 47–63.

Williams, P. (2016). What is possible: Setting the stage for co-exploration in archives and special collections. In  N. Pagowsky & K. McElroy (Eds.),  Critical library pedagogy handbook (Vol. 1, pp. 111-120). Chicago, IL: Association of College & Research Libraries.  Retrieved from


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