When President Bill Clinton announced on The View last Wednesday that he would be signing his new book Back to Work at the Chappaqua Library in two days, “The library’s phones started lighting up from all over. People called from Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, all over the country,” asking how they could get an autographed book, said Library Director Pamela Thornton.
The day of the book signing, Friday, December 9, 2011, the response was similarly overwhelming. More than 500 people stood on line, some more than three hours before the event began, for the opportunity to shake our famous neighbor’s hand and obtain an autographed book.
The book signing came about thanks to another neighbor, The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville. “On the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend Bill and Hillary Clinton came to shop. Every copy of his book that was there was autographed and purchased in minutes,” said Roy Solomon, who owns the store with his wife Yvonne VanCort. When they asked if he would consider a formal book signing, “he said he was leaving for Haiti – the store is too small – so he wasn’t sure where they could do it, but he would look into it,” said Solomon.
Thinking the president’s response was a polite demurral Solomon was surprised when Random House, Clinton’s publisher, called last Tuesday advising that there was a two-hour window Friday when Clinton would be available if they could find a large enough venue.
By that evening the Chappaqua Library was a go. Solomon praised the library for helping to coordinate the event so quickly, “The people at the library were absolutely fabulous. They worked really hard to get it together in a few days,” he said.
“We had 72 hours to plan it,” said Thornton. “It was amazing, exhausting, and great.”
On the day of the event, despite the long lines – one to purchase a wristband, one to check all coats, bags, and phones, and one to shake hands and get a book signed – the atmosphere was calm and friendly. Shortly before the former President arrived, those who had been waiting for hours were chatting with strangers as though they had known each other for years. Many people from out of town who had never met Clinton were particularly excited and when they finally got inside the theatre and were close to meeting the President, some admitted to being nervous. “I don’t know what to say to him,” was a common refrain.
Clinton greeted everyone with a handshake and a big smile, high-fiving small children and doing his best to put everyone at ease. Although he chatted with each person as he signed their book, and took a break to speak with the press, he still managed to autograph all 500 books in the time allotted.
At 5 pm, fifteen minutes before the event was due to end, lines were still snaking around outside and librarians were counting heads to determine who would have to be turned away. Fortunately for Library Director Thornton, the bookstore had set aside an autographed book for her because the 72-hour whirlwind had not stopped. “I didn’t even get to meet him because I was snipping wristbands as people left, so I didn’t get to shake his hand or say thank you, but I wrote him a nice letter,” Thornton said.
As a thank you for hosting the event, The Village Bookstore donated 10% of their profits from the 500 books sold that day to the Chappaqua Library. The bookstore has another 200 books and they are hoping that Clinton may be able to autograph some offsite so those who missed out can still obtain a signed copy.
About the author: Marianne A. Campolongo is a freelance writer and photographer from Chappaqua. To see more photos from the Clinton book signing, visit her website www.campyphotos.com