TRAVERSE CITY — Move over, National Writers Series. Traverse Area District Library welcomes a literary heavyweight of its own.

New York Times best-selling author Andre Dubus III, whose novels include “House of Sand and Fog” (a finalist for the National Book Award) and “Gone So Long,” is the keynote speaker at a Jan. 11 gala to celebrate 20 years at TADL's main library building.

Planning for the event began last spring — around the same time that Alison Ernst moved to town and started her position as the library’s assistant director for public service.

Ernst first connected with Dubus at an annual writing conference in Vermont, which she has frequented since 2010. Dubus, who lives in Massachusetts, also attends almost every year, acting as a faculty member and speaker.

“He’s a very down-to-earth, gregarious, really great guy,” Ernst said. “He’s a big deal in the literary world.”

She said she knew immediately she wanted to bring Dubus to Traverse City, so she took a chance and wrote to him asking about his availability. When Dubus replied that he was interested, Ernst was thrilled.

“It all came together,” she said. “People are excited. It’s going to be beautiful and a lot of fun. I hope people come celebrate with us.”

Matthew Wiliford, the library’s marketing and communications manager, worked with Ernst to plan the event.

Wiliford said they asked Dubus to speak about the role of libraries, rather than his novels.

“It’s an opportunity for him to talk about the strong library system and what it means to the community,” he said. “It’s going to add a lot to our celebration. This community supports and responds positively to author events.”

The decision to host a cocktail-style party goes back to 1999, when the Woodmere library was new.

“Twenty years ago — before this building opened to the public — the library threw a gala premiere party,” Wiliford said. “So we thought it was fitting to throw a gala. It’s a nod to the opening party.”

This event is also called a “party with a purpose” because of the fundraiser aspect, Wiliford said. Proceeds from the auction and raffle ticket sales help fund future improvements to the library building.

The Traverse Area District Library closes its main branch at 3 p.m. Jan. 11 to prepare for the gala, which begins at 6:30 p.m. The evening includes a strolling appetizer dinner, live music, silent auction and recognition of the 2018 volunteer of the year. Attendees can also purchase signed copies of Dubus’ books.

Guests should wear cocktail attire. Tickets are $50 at tadl.org, the main library welcome desk or at the event.