The Center for the Book was 25 years old on Oct. 13. This is the 11th in a series of articles that summarizes the center's activities during its first quarter century.
The Center for the Book was established in 1977 by Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin to stimulate public interest in books and reading—primarily at the Library of Congress, but with occasional programs to be co-sponsored at other institutions. With Boorstin's support, in 1984 the center's National Advisory Board urged and approved two significant changes: the creation of affiliated state centers and the active promotion by the Center for the Book of "libraries," as well as books, reading and literacy (the first program on literacy was held in 1980). The two changes complemented each other, as libraries soon became the dominant "homes" of affiliated state centers. Florida (1984), located at the Broward County Library in Fort Lauderdale, was the first. Of the 12 state centers for the book approved by the Library of Congress between 1984 and 1987,10 had their institutional home in libraries (six of them in state libraries, four in large public library systems).
The addition of library promotion to the Center for the Book's mission also gave the Library of Congress an "outreach office" that would promote the Library and its activities. Moreover, many library-related organizations such as the American Library Association (ALA) and the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS) joined the Center for the Book's national "reading promotion partnership" network. Thus, the Center for the Book frequently became a Library of Congress contact point and often its representative in annual campaigns and events such as National Library Week and Banned Books Week. In 2001, the Center for the Book became a founding partner in the ALA's "@ your library ™" promotional campaign for America's libraries. Using the private funds it raises to support its program, the center also has hosted special events at the Library of Congress to honor prominent citizens in the library community.
Library Promotion Highlights
April 23, 1980. In Columbia, Mo., the Center for the Book co-sponsors its first event with a state library association, a program titled "The Book is Back: Reading Promotion for Librarians," hosted by the Missouri Library Association.
Feb. 2, 1981. The center begins its continuing partnership with Friends of Libraries U.S.A. through co-sponsorship of a program held at the Library of Congress, "Good Ideas for Friends' Groups."
1985. The American Library Association chooses "A Nation of Readers," a Center for the Book promotion theme, as its theme for National Library Week and the name for its traveling photography exhibition co-sponsored with the center.
April 7, 1986. The Center for the Book hosts its first annual reception at the Library of Congress to celebrate National Library Week.
April 7, 1987. R. Kathleen Molz, Melvil Dewey Professor of Library Service at Columbia University's School of Library Science, presents an Engelhard Lecture on the Book, "The Knowledge Institutions in the Information Age: The Special Case of the Public Library."
Oct. 29-31, 1987. At the Library of Congress, Columbia University's School of Library Service and the Center for the Book co-sponsor the scholarly conference, "Libraries and Scholarly Communication in the United States: The Historical Dimension."
Nov. 15-16, 1988. The Association for Library Service to Children and the Center for the Book co-sponsor a conference at the Library of Congress: "Learning Opportunities for Children: The Library Connection."
May 1992. In cooperation with the Head Start Bureau of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and the American Library Association, the Center for the Book launches the five-year "Library-Head Start Partnership Project."
Feb. 11, 1993. The Center for the Book, in cooperation with the United States Information Agency (USIA), and the Public Diplomacy Association, hosts "USIA Libraries Abroad," a program that addresses proposed future changes in the USIA library program.
1994. To mark the centennial of the District of Columbia Library Association, the Center for the Book commissions and publishes a 76-page illustrated booklet, "Capital Libraries and Librarians: A Brief History of the District of Columbia Library Association 1894-1994."
Dec. 14, 1995. The Center for the Book hosts a reception and program at the Library of Congress marking the 20th anniversary of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science.
April 30, 1996. The Library's Preservation Directorate and the Center for the Book host the first Library of Congress "Preservation Awareness Day."
1998. "For the Love of Libraries: A Book of Postcards," with photographs and anecdotes by Diane Asseo Griliches, is published by Pomegranate Books. Based on Griliches' "Library: The Drama Within" (University of New Mexico Press and the Center for the Book, 1996), the book includes an introduction by Center for the Book Director John Y. Cole.
June 27, 1998. At the Library of Congress, the center hosts a symposium marking the 50th anniversary of the American Library Association's Library History Round Table.
Oct. 23-24, 2000. The Center for the Book organizes and funds "Interpreting the Past: Libraries, Society & Culture," the first two days of the Library of Congress Bicentennial Conference, "National Libraries of the World: Interpreting the Past, Shaping the Future." Twenty-five library historians from 12 countries participate.
March 2001. The Center for the Book, in cooperation with the Open Society Institute (OSI, Soros Foundation-Moscow) launches "Reading in the New Millennium," an international project to encourage the creation of "reading centers" in libraries throughout Russia.
John Y. Cole is director of the Center for the Book.