The Harry Potter Series is 20 Years Old

It’s been 20 years since the British publisher Bloomsbury released J.K. Rowling’s debut novel. It’s unfathomable to recall that the initial print run was only 500 copies, contrasted with the more than 450 million copies sold after the series was complete. Rowling tweeted the following to mark the occasion:

The impact of the arrival of Harry, Ron, and Hermione into our lives not to mention on book publishing trends has been profound. The long duration of Rowling’s books on the New York Times Bestseller list caused the split into adult and children’s titles because of the need for ‘more room’ for other authors.  Despite this new sorting, readers of all ages waited in bookstore lines at midnight for their copies, Amazon promised home deliveries on publication dates, and many families had to purchase multiple copies because sharing would have been difficult. The impending arrival of the ‘next’ book in the series was the closest thing I felt to the Christmas Eve giddiness of my childhood. Twenty years later, we have a wildly successful film franchise, Oscar nominated soundtracks composed by John Williams,  a new film series called Fantastic Beasts, a Harry Potter Theme Park, video games, and a website devoted for fans called Pottermore. To mark this happy occasion, we asked how Nebraska Library Commission staff started reading the Harry Potter books and what Hogwarts House they would belong to according to the sorting hat. Here are our responses:

“It’s not exactly exciting, but my mom checked it out from the North Platte library around the time it came out. It was sitting on the table, I was bored, and I picked it up.” – Holli Duggan, Continuing Education Coordinator – Slytherin

“I apparently had been living under a rock and did not find out about Harry Potter until after the third movie had come out. After I watched that, my friends basically threw the book at my head. By the time I turned the last page of Sorcerer’s Stone I was hooked.” – Amanda Sweet, Reader Services Advisor -Gryffindor

“My mother wanted to review the book for age appropriateness before she would gift it to my younger cousin.  This was shortly after the third book had been released and the hype over the book series had come to a rolling boil.” – Anna Walter, Reader Services Advisor – Slytherin

“My daughter started reading them in 4th grade, and loved them so much I started listening to them on CD.” – Mary Sauers, Government Services Librarian -Hufflepuff

“I didn’t read Harry Potter until I started working in a library; the first book came out as I was finishing high school and I didn’t have time to read much fiction during college, so it wasn’t really on my radar until much later.  I picked up the audio version, narrated by Jim Dale, to listen to while I worked on a home renovation project several years ago, and was instantly hooked.  I listed to all 7 books back-to-back. That was the most fun I’ve ever had refinishing woodwork!” – Aimee Owen, Information Services Librarian – Gryffindor

“I came to Harry Potter by way of a co-worker who was reading the books to her kids. She loaned me the first two in the series and I bought the third and took it on vacation with me. I was transported. Rowling’s characters, setting, language, and story got me through one of the most difficult times in my life. Escaping to Hogwarts was literally a lifesaver. Then I discovered Jim Dale’s amazing narration and my family moved holidays to coincide with movie release dates. In every format, I am grateful for Jo Rowling and Harry Potter.”  Lisa Kelly, Information Services Director – Ravenclaw

“I read the first Harry Potter book as part of a six-person book review event that happened twice a year live via satellite and recorded on videotapes – it was sponsored by the Library Commission.  I was rapidly reading lots of books and I remember my comments about Harry being “it’s a fun fantasy…kids will like it…magic is popular with this age group…” – a rather bland endorsement.  When the second title was released it was in another reviewer’s batch so I couldn’t read it until after the live review session.  By then the third book had just been released.  I took my car during my lunch break and drove directly to the book store and bought my copy of book three, starting to read it that evening.  For some reason, I didn’t get hooked until book 2, but I have been an enthusiastic fan ever since.”  Sally Snyder, Coordinator Children & YA Library Services – Hufflepuff

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