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Thousands check out library's reading festival

LAWRENCEVILLE - Apparently bookworms have yet to become an endangered species in Gwinnett.

The Gwinnett County Public Library held its first ever Gwinnett Reading Festival at the county fairgrounds in Lawrenceville on Saturday, and more than 4,600 people attended, said Eddie Suttles, director of public relations for the library.

"It's just been amazingly successful so far," Suttles said.

The festival was an effort to promote the Gwinnett County Public Library, books and a love of reading. It featured workshops, panel discussions, book readings and plenty of activities for kids.

Gwinnett libraries worked hard to get the word out about the event beforehand, and the effort appeared to have paid off.

"They just keep coming in the doors," said Jackie K. Cooper, author of four books and a resident of Perry. "They did a tremendous job of advertising."

About 30 authors like Cooper were on hand to read, discuss and autograph their works.

Cooper said he had a lot of aspiring authors come his way for a little advice.

"I told them my story and told them if it worked for me, it can work for them," Cooper said.

The idea for the Gwinnett Reading Festival was one that had been formulating in Nancy Stanbery-Kellam's mind for about four years. Stanbery-Kellam is the executive director of Gwinnett's library system.

In January the idea began evolving into something more. A committee was formed to start planning the event. On Saturday it appeared those plans had worked to perfection.

"It's really been kind of exciting to work together as a committee," said Michelle Grice, co-chair of the planning committee for the festival. "We're keeping a checklist so we can make it bigger and better in the future."

Suttles said the library is planning on making the festival an annual event.