By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that he’s continuing to negotiate with the U.S. Postal Service to prevent it from shredding Imagination Library books delivered to incorrect addresses.
Haslam spoke to reporters following a ceremony celebrating the 10th anniversary of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Tennessee.
Earlier this year, the governor signed a measure lawmakers passed to ban the shredding of the books, and instead direct the U.S. Postal Service to donate them to pre-kindergarten or other programs.
For a while, many post offices had been setting aside the undelivered books until a volunteer could pick them up because the Governors Books from Birth Foundation — a partner with the Imagination Library — wasn’t paying to have them returned to their facility in Nashville.
However, USPS officials said that wasn’t fair to businesses that do pay for the right to get undelivered mail returned.
Haslam said his office, as well as U.S. Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, are still trying to work something out with the postal service.
“We have not had a resolution yet,” Haslam said. “We would like the opportunity to pick them up rather than have them just be destroyed.”
The Imagination Library has mailed over 21 million free books to Tennessee children since it began. The Books from Birth Foundation helps support the program by matching the funds raised by local groups.
On Tuesday, Parton, Haslam and former Gov. Phil Bredesen helped cap a statewide bus tour promoting the program, which started during Bredesen’s administration.
The more than 50-county bus tour that began August 26 included recognizing the work of volunteers and donors, signing children up for free books and building community support for the program. The Books from Birth Foundation provided reading-themed giveaways for children at each stop.
Parton said her main reason for starting the program was to honor her father, who couldn’t read or write.
“This is very personal to me,” Parton said during the ceremony. “I’m just so happy that I can help put books in the hands of children. You can never get enough of that.”
Note: The bill on book destruction was HB2348, one of the very few measures with Democratic sponsors (House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney) to be passed unanimously in the Republican-controlled General Assembly this year.