Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and the surrounding communities came together to collect books for charity and simultaneously arrange the “longest line of books,” breaking the Guinness World Record.
The impressive attempt occurred on Sept. 8, 2017, International Literacy Day. This year, SIUE is celebrating the collaborative world record achievement, having received official confirmation from Guinness World Records nearly a year later in late August 2018.
SIUE’s longest line of books measured 2.64 miles and included 21,048 books. This greatly surpassed the previous record set in 2016 which included 13,410 books stretching 1.4 miles in the United Kingdom.
The full day effort culminated in a police lieutenant, an accountant and an attorney (from the Edwardsville Police Department; YCG accounting; and Mathis, Marifian, & Richter, Ltd., respectively) supervising as land surveyors officially measured the line using satellite technology (from Hutson & Associates). SIUE University Marketing and Communications videotaped the entire line of books to provide a permanent record of the achievement.
“We were all blown away by how many people came together to donate books, lay them down end-to-end, and then pick them right back up again,” said Stephen Hupp, PhD, consultant for the SIUE Head Start program, who helped lead the effort, along with students and colleagues.
The record attempt was made possible by armies of students, numerous faculty and staff, and droves of community members who volunteered their time, and donated new and gently-used books.
“This event was an incredible way for our students to participate in community engagement, especially with regard to children’s literacy,” said Jeremy Jewell, PhD, director of the Clinical Child and School Psychology graduate program.
“It was inspiring to see the larger community come together and so generously donate their time and books to support this great cause!” added Laura Pawlow, PhD, professor in the Department of Psychology.
The majority of the children’s books used to create the longest line have been given to children in Head Start programs in East St. Louis, Cahokia, Caseyville and Belleville. Other books were also donated to several SIUE organizations, local charities, and even an effort to send children’s books to Ghana in Africa.
SIUE organizations that helped coordinate the world record attempt included the SIUE Psychology Club, Psi Chi, the Head Start Social-Emotional team, and the Clinical Child and School Psychology graduate program.
Local organizations that provided large amounts of books included centers for children (SIUE Early Childhood Center, Christian Activity Center), schools (St. Mary’s Catholic School in Edwardsville, St. Jacob Elementary, Liberty Middle, Lincoln Middle), libraries (Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, Tri-Township, Coal City), churches (St. John Newman, St. Andrews), and others (Afterwords Books, the Bushrow Family, Southern Illinois Professional Development Center). Many other groups and people also generously donated books.