The Passion Behind The Imagination Library

Published December 8, 2020 / Last Updated December 9, 2020
Team Dolly is a collaboration of writers, editors, and publishers assembled by Dolly Parton Productions. Each member is dedicated to accurately publishing the latest news and historical archives of the living legend that is Dolly Rebecca Parton.

Managing Editor - Jacob Timmons
Senior Editor - Amanda Webb
Creative Director - Sarah Chapman
Team Dolly
Latest posts by Team Dolly (see all)

People behind-the-scenes of the Imagination Library share their passion for the program and its mission.

Who paves the way for Imagination Library books to arrive at a child’s home, on time? Who makes sure that each book is addressed properly to each individual child? Who reads every book to evaluate quality, age level and content? Who spends days, weeks, months fundraising to ensure books are free for all registered children? In these Front Porch interviews you’ll meet a few of the people who have worked hand-in-hand to grow the program and introduce it to new cities, states and countries. Our Managing Editor, Jacob Timmons, connects via video call with David Dotson, Jeff Conyers and Ann Staup to talk about some of the key milestones of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. They share funny stories, talk about the challenges and rewards and even share their own ideas for writing a children’s book.

Growing The Program

David Dotson is the chief executive officer of the Dollywood Foundation, the nonprofit organization which houses the Imagination Library. David joined the Imagination Library team shortly after it launched. He led the initial replication efforts which grew the program. When it started, the Imagination Library mailed around 1600 books to children in Dolly’s home county in East Tennessee. When replication of the program was introduced more counties came on board followed by different states and eventually countries. In that effort, David worked closely with Jacob Timmons, who also happens to be president of S.D. Professionals, LLC, the company that created a fully-automated operation that streamlined the entire process for the Imagination Library program. In a recent Zoom call, David and Jacob talked about the early days of replicating the program in new areas.

In the interview, David is also quick to praise the unsung heroes of the Imagination Library. The people who “made our dream, their dream.” He said,

“There is always one, two, three, four people in an organization or in a community who are really the heroes, the unknown heroes…They are some of the most talented, most committed, most inspiring people in the world.”

The Joy Of Each Book

Jeff Conyers, brought on in 2011, is the President of the Dollywood Foundation and shares David and Jacob’s passion for growth and expansion. His devotion to the Imagination Library is unmistakable. The consummate champion for the program, Jeff is devoted to seeing each local affiliate succeed. He credits part of his enthusiasm to experiencing first-hand the benefits of monthly books arriving in the mail. Jeff said,

“I’ve had the opportunity to see it in my own family, right at home, and watch my kids grow up getting a book in the mail every month. Seeing them run up to me saying, ‘Hey, Daddy Daddy, will you read this book to me?’ And I know that’s happening in millions of homes all across the world right now because of the work that we get to come in and do every day.”

1.7 Million Books Each Month

The actual mailing of the books is a critical part of the Imagination Library’s story. Jacob called up Ann Staup the owner of Direct Mail Services, Knoxville, TN, to talk about how the books move from a warehouse in East Tennessee to the doorsteps of millions of children. Her business is sometimes referred to as “the little company who could” because they made such incredible strides to facilitate the needs of the program. For Ann and her team, this work is more than a labor of love, it’s challenged her to adapt and grow in many ways that she could never have imagined. A mailing list that started at 1600 books in 1995 now increases each month and the current monthly total sitting at 1.7 million books! In the interview, Ann talks about the automated mailing process, her devoted team and milestones she has witnessed over the years. Ann said,

“It’s a passion to make sure we are doing everything we can to make sure this program grows, the way that Dolly wants it to grow.”

Imagination Library Film Premiere

A new feature-length documentary spotlights Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and the thousands of local affiliates around the world who help make Dolly’s dream come true. The Library That Dolly Built will premiere on Facebook worldwide on December 9, 2020, at 7 PM EST. Additionally, a European premiere is set for Thursday, December 10 at 7 PM GMT. The film will premiere in Australia on Friday, December 11 at 7 PM AEDT.

The film features the music of Dolly Parton and is narrated by actress and author, Danica McKellar. It is produced by Land Grant Films, directed by journalism professor Nick Geidner, edited by video instructor Clinton Elmore and crewed by 15 University of Tennessee students.

Team DollyThe Passion Behind The Imagination Library

Dolly Parton Talks About Documentary Featuring Her Imagination Library

Published December 4, 2020 / Last Updated December 4, 2020
Team Dolly is a collaboration of writers, editors, and publishers assembled by Dolly Parton Productions. Each member is dedicated to accurately publishing the latest news and historical archives of the living legend that is Dolly Rebecca Parton.

Managing Editor - Jacob Timmons
Senior Editor - Amanda Webb
Creative Director - Sarah Chapman
Team Dolly
Latest posts by Team Dolly (see all)

Dolly Parton and the extraordinary people who help make the Imagination Library possible are now the focus of a new feature-length documentary.

When Dolly Parton launched her Imagination Library near her home in Sevier County, Tennessee, she dreamed of creating a program to inspire children to love reading and books. Along with her team at the Dollywood Foundation, she designed a way to make each book special for each child. Also, she was determined to offer this program to all children regardless of the family’s income. High standards for book quality and content was another feature developed in the early stages. With these guidelines, Dolly established the building blocks of the Imagination Library.

Today, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is the subject of a new feature-length documentary called, The Library That Dolly Built. It will make its worldwide premiere on Dec. 9, at 7 PM EST, exclusively on Facebook. Just like the program itself, the film has been years in the making. And now, finally, the complete story will be told including many of the stories of the people who share Dolly’s dream and…try each day.

“I think people are going to be real interested in seeing how it started, why it started and all these wonderful people all over the world that have gotten so involved in it to make it really what it is.” –Dolly Parton

150 Million Books

It began in 1995 and since then has gifted nearly 150 million free books to children around the world. Today Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library operates in all 50 US states. It’s well established in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Most recently, the program began in the Republic of Ireland. In speaking about the impact of this documentary David Dotson, Chief Executive Officer of The Dollywood Foundation said,

“I think people know the Imagination Library but they never, never seem to fully understand how big it is.”

This unique book gifting organization is made possible by thousands of people around the world who live out the lyrics of Dolly’s inspirational song and the anthem of the Imagination Library, “Try.”

“So try to be the first one up the mountain
And try to be the first to touch the sky
And try to be one that makes a difference
Try to put your fear and doubt aside

And try to make the most of every moment
‘Cause if you never try you never win
So try each day to try a little harder
And if you fall, get up and try again

–“Try,” Dolly Parton

Exclusive Facebook Premiere

Dollywood and Abramorama in association with The Dollywood Foundation have partnered to present a free one-night-only live streaming world premiere event for The Library That Dolly Built, a behind-the-scenes look at Dolly Parton’s non-profit program, the Imagination Library. The world premiere event is a free live stream screening of the film, exclusively on Facebook, available nationally on Wednesday, December 9, at 7 PM EST / 6 PM CST / 4 PM PST. The screening will be followed by a conversation with, and an acoustic performance, by Dolly Parton. Viewers can tune into the live screening and conversation on Facebook.com/dollysimaginationlibrary.

In addition, the European premiere will be Thursday, December 10 at 7 PM GMT. Renowned actress, writer and politician, Baroness Floella Benjamin, DBE, will be on hand to kick off the evening.

The Australian premiere will be Friday, December 11 at 7 PM AEDT, with the multi-award-winning husband and wife duo Mark and Jay O’Shea introducing the film. Dolly Parton will also host fan Q&A and give a special acoustic performance following both the European and Australian premieres.

The film features the music of Dolly Parton and is narrated by actress and author, Danica McKellar. It is produced by Land Grant Films, directed by journalism professor Nick Geidner, edited by video instructor Clinton Elmore and crewed by 15 University of Tennessee students.

Team DollyDolly Parton Talks About Documentary Featuring Her Imagination Library

Live Premiere Of “The Library That Dolly Built”

Published November 23, 2020 / Last Updated November 23, 2020
Team Dolly is a collaboration of writers, editors, and publishers assembled by Dolly Parton Productions. Each member is dedicated to accurately publishing the latest news and historical archives of the living legend that is Dolly Rebecca Parton.

Managing Editor - Jacob Timmons
Senior Editor - Amanda Webb
Creative Director - Sarah Chapman
Team Dolly
Latest posts by Team Dolly (see all)

Dolly Parton’s The Library That Dolly Built premieres exclusively on Facebook Live, Wednesday, December 9, 2020.

Following the screening, Dolly Parton will be live for fan Q&A and for a very special acoustic performance.

Dollywood and Abramorama in association with The Dollywood Foundation have partnered to present a free one-night-only live streaming world premiere event for “The Library That Dolly Built,” a behind-the-scenes look at Dolly Parton’s non-profit program, the Imagination Library. The world premiere event is a free live stream screening of the film, exclusively on Facebook, available nationally on Wednesday, December 9, at 7 PM EST / 6 PM CST / 4 PM PST. The screening will be followed by a conversation with, and an acoustic performance, by Dolly Parton. Viewers can tune into the live screening and conversation on Facebook.com/dollysimaginationlibrary.

The European premiere will be Thursday, December 10 at 7 PM GMT. Renowned actress, writer and politician, Baroness Floella Benjamin, DBE, will be on hand to kick off the evening. The Australian premiere will be Friday, December 11 at 7 PM AEDT, with the multi-award-winning husband and wife duo Mark and Jay O’Shea introducing the film. Dolly Parton will also host fan Q&A and give a special acoustic performance following both the European and Australian premieres.

The film features the music of Dolly Parton and is narrated by actress and author, Danica McKellar. It is produced by Land Grant Films, directed by journalism professor Nick Geidner, edited by video instructor Clinton Elmore and crewed by 15 University of Tennessee students. In talking about the documentary Dolly said,

“I am so excited that we can finally tell the whole story of the Imagination Library. It is certainly not just about me. Our story is the story of children, of families and communities who all share the dream to inspire kids to love to read and to love to learn. My hope is this documentary will encourage more towns, more states and even more countries to jump onboard. One thing is for sure, I think this is the best investment I have ever made!”

Official World Premiere Trailer

Dolly created the Imagination Library to inspire a love for books and reading amongst the nation’s preschool children. Since its inception in 1995, the Imagination Library has grown into a global endeavor and recently hit a new milestone, gifting its 150 millionth book. The Imagination Library is currently gifting books to 1.7 million children around the world each month. This spring, Dolly participated in a weekly bedtime reading series, “Goodnight With Dolly,” presented across Facebook and YouTube which garnered more than 15 million views, exceeding all expectations.

About The Documentary

The Library That Dolly Built, directed and produced by journalism professor and director of Land Grant Films Nick Geidner, and narrated by Danica McKellar, goes behind the scenes of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, to show how one of the most famous and beloved performers in the world has partnered with thousands of local community organizations to develop an efficient and effective program for spreading the love of reading. Imagination Library started as a gift for the children in Dolly’s hometown, Sevierville, Tennessee, and is now active in all 50 states, and 5 countries, gifting 1.7 million free, age-appropriate books to children every month. The film also provides a glimpse of the profound impact the Imagination Library has on the people through original interviews with authors, policymakers, Imagination Library staff, recipients, and the legend herself, Dolly Parton. Woven throughout the film is a biographical sketch of Dolly Parton, featuring rare photos and films from her childhood. Unlike most biographies of Dolly, it doesn’t focus on her music. Instead, it demonstrates that at every point in her career, any time she has had success, Dolly Parton has come back to Sevierville to give back to her people.

Evan Saxon, Head of Music at Abramorama stated,

“Dolly Parton is an amazing human, extremely generous in her time and resources, and the world is in a much better place because of her. Everybody at Abramorama is honored to be part of the team to bring this heart-warming documentary about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to fans around the world.”

On December 11, the film and the conversation with Dolly Parton will be released nationwide as a Watch Now @ Home Cinema Release, and in early 2021 across multiple digital platforms.

Team DollyLive Premiere Of “The Library That Dolly Built”

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Goes Statewide In Delaware

Published August 17, 2020 / Last Updated August 17, 2020
Team Dolly is a collaboration of writers, editors, and publishers assembled by Dolly Parton Productions. Each member is dedicated to accurately publishing the latest news and historical archives of the living legend that is Dolly Rebecca Parton.

Managing Editor - Jacob Timmons
Senior Editor - Amanda Webb
Creative Director - Sarah Chapman
Team Dolly
Latest posts by Team Dolly (see all)

Delaware’s Governor Carney announced the statewide expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Governor John Carney and First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney today joined American icon Dolly Parton to announce the statewide expansion of her namesake Imagination Library book gifting program and to encourage parents of young children across Delaware to participate. Dolly said,

“I am so excited to be working with Governor and First Lady Carney to bring my Imagination Library to children and families across Delaware! It takes visionary leaders to make this possible, and I can’t thank them enough. It is such an important time to share the gift of books and reading with as many children as we can, and I know Delaware families will love receiving a specially selected book in the mail each month.”

Children whose parents enroll them in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library through Delaware libraries receive one new book in the mail each month from birth until the child’s fifth birthday at no cost to the family, creating a personal library of as many as 60 books that can help form the foundation of a child’s early reading experience. Information and registration are available online via the Delaware Division of Libraries.

Books are selected by a national panel of early childhood literacy experts who review hundreds of children’s books each year and choose those that best fit the needs of children as they learn and grow.

“A healthy reading habit motivates, inspires and encourages creativity among children and adults alike,” said Delaware Governor John Carney. “One of the most important things we can do to improve childhood literacy is to give our children access to books, especially during this challenging time. It’s a simple but powerful idea. That’s why Delaware is proud to partner with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to improve literacy in our state. I want to thank our state librarian, Annie Norman, and my wife, Tracey, for spearheading this important effort in Delaware.”

Governor Carney announced a pilot launch of the Imagination Library program in five Delaware school districts in his 2020 State of the State address. Beginning in February, the Division of Libraries partnered with 13 local public libraries to make the program available to families within the pilot districts. So far, more than 3,800 children have been enrolled in the program and received more than 16,000 books.

First Chance Delaware

The Imagination Library program is also an important component of the First Chance Delaware initiative for children, led by First Lady Carney. The mission of First Chance Delaware includes promoting learning readiness through literacy and parent-child engagement.

“It’s a great privilege for me to serve as the honorary chair of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program in Delaware,” said First Lady Carney. “The quantity and quality of early language experience, starting at birth, correlates to children’s academic success at ages nine and 10—the target of our state’s grade-level reading campaign—which then correlates to the likelihood of high-school graduation, which correlates to virtually every positive life outcome from then on. Expanding the Imagination Library program in Delaware is a great investment in our families and in our future.”

For public libraries across Delaware, the Imagination Library program will serve as a springboard for children and parents to engage with their local libraries, participate in library programming and take advantage of the many resources libraries have to offer.

“It’s never too early to start reading to children,” said Delaware State Librarian Dr. Annie Norman. “Kids who read succeed! Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library helps develop the reading and library habit, a foundation for success throughout life.”

Parents who enrolled their children with the Imagination Library earlier this year through pilot school districts have already reported positive results, especially in light of the changes to daily lives and routines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The books we have received have helped a lot with his vocabulary and his ability to express himself,” said Lewes mom Ashely Durden about her son Quentin, who has been enrolled in the Imagination Library Program for the last two years. “Thank you for bringing reading to everyone in our district and our state; it’s a really great resource to get new books to children at a very young age.”

Visit Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library 

Team DollyDolly Parton’s Imagination Library Goes Statewide In Delaware

Tune In Alert! Watch Dolly Parton On “CBS This Morning” on Monday, Aug. 17

Published August 14, 2020 / Last Updated August 14, 2020
Team Dolly is a collaboration of writers, editors, and publishers assembled by Dolly Parton Productions. Each member is dedicated to accurately publishing the latest news and historical archives of the living legend that is Dolly Rebecca Parton.

Managing Editor - Jacob Timmons
Senior Editor - Amanda Webb
Creative Director - Sarah Chapman
Team Dolly
Latest posts by Team Dolly (see all)

Dolly Parton will appear on “CBS This Morning” on Monday, Aug. 17 to talk about the importance of education and her Imagination Library.

As part of CBS’s new School Matters series, Dolly Parton will be on “CBS This Morning” on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, during the 8 AM (EST) hour. Dolly will talk about her Imagination Library and how the program’s efforts contribute to education and learning.

 

Each month Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library gifts a free, high-quality book to registered children. Once a year, a specially selected panel of early childhood literacy experts reviews hundreds of potential titles for inclusion in the Imagination Library. This panel takes great care in choosing books that meet the different needs of children as they progress from birth to age five. To date, the Imagination Library has gifted over 140 million free books to children around the world.

Recent studies suggest participation in the Imagination Library is positively and significantly associated with higher measures of early language and math development.

CBS This Morning – School Matters Series

Team DollyTune In Alert! Watch Dolly Parton On “CBS This Morning” on Monday, Aug. 17