Allan MacDougall, founder and former CEO of Raincoast Books, loves to talk about his passion for reading. He believes that reading is infectious and, as the original Canadian publisher of the Harry Potter series, he should know.
Allan’s love of books and reading springs from a real-life love of learning and adventure. After travelling the world and working in a variety of odd jobs, Allan fell into publishing, apprenticing under the legendary Jack McClelland and forming Raincoast Books in 1979. Reading was as central to Allan’s home life as it was to his work: he and his wife Angie, a former library technician, both brought books on their first date! From the beginning, books and reading were an important part of Allan and Angie’s lives together, and a joy that they shared with their three children as their family grew.
Allan deeply values the role that public libraries and librarians play in popularizing books and reading, and believes that enthusiastic recommendations from librarians helped turn the millennial generation into Harry Potter fans. In 1997, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, said “at the first reading I ever did, there were two people who’d wandered into the basement of Waterstones by mistake and were too polite to leave.” Three years later, she gave the largest book reading on record: 20,000 people at Sky Dome Stadium in Toronto. So when J.K. Rowling returned to Canada for her last Harry Potter signing in 2007, Allan distributed 900 tickets to library staff across the country.
The Vancouver Public Library has been the MacDougall family’s local public library for nearly 40 years, and Allan has been giving back to his library for most of that time, including serving as a director on the Vancouver Public Library Foundation Board from 2002 to 2011. Upon his retirement from Raincoast Books, the Allan MacDougall Legacy Fund was created to help fund VPL programs like Alligator Pie, which provides early literacy support to daycare centres in the Downtown Eastside, Strathcona, and Mount Pleasant neighbourhoods.
“The library is at the very centre of literacy and this is why the Alligator Pie program is so important. I believe that once a reader always a reader, and that everyone deserves access to books throughout their lives.”
- Allan MacDougall
Much of the success of the Harry Potter series in Canada can be credited to Allan MacDougall’s belief that books and reading can bring people together. Now, thanks to Allan’s conviction that reading enriches everyone’s life, daycare centres across Vancouver have the tools they need to instill a love of reading from the earliest childhood years.