New York’s Irish Arts Center will kick off its spring season with a new event that will feature the distribution of 10,000 free Irish books which will be handed out in each borough on St. Patrick’s Day, an event that’s the first of its kind held in New York City.

At a time of the year when news crews are looking for new angles on St. Patrick’s Day traditions, the Irish Arts Center is hoping that their giveaway will say something interesting and positive about the Irish cultural contribution to the U.S.

“Our mission is to celebrate both Irish and Irish American literature in a broad context in a way that serves all New Yorkers,” Aidan Connolly, the center’s executive director told the Irish Voice.

“So we got together with the City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and working with her office, we’re going to be picking a spot in each borough -- we’re working on those locations right now -- and we’ll be giving out thousands of Irish books on St. Patrick’s Day to New Yorkers.”

The idea is to use Irish culture to promote literacy. It’s an event in line with the center’s own mission, and it’s the most broad based outreach they’ve yet attempted.

“We want to reach the whole city with all of its diversity,” Connolly says.

“Obviously around St. Patrick’s Day lots of folks in the mainstream media are looking for fresh ways to talk about Ireland and St. Patrick. We always try to come with something a little bit different for them. We thought this would be a really great way to put a unique spin on it.”

The books will be free. They’ve been recruited and rounded up from prominent publishers in the city that have donated them free of charge, and the center has also received sponsorship from Quinn’s office and the center’s own supporters.

Said Connolly, “Our hope is that anyone who’d like to participate will donate the books. It’s about Irish culture giving free culture to all New Yorkers. We’re thinking about setting up a donation center at the Irish Arts Center for members of the public or interested organizations who might want to drop off books. It’s a really simple concept.”

For Quinn, who will forgo the main march on Fifth Avenue due to its continuing ban of Irish gay groups participating with their own banners, the book day will be an equally valuable and compelling way to celebrate Ireland and its cultural heritage on St. Patrick’s Day.

Quinn told the Irish Voice, “What better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than to share a novel or book of poems by one of Ireland’s literary giants. The Irish Arts Center book day is a great idea and I think they’re on to something big.”

To donate books or to participate in the day, contact the Irish Arts Center at 212-757-3318.

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