By JOHN Y. COLE
The National Book Festival helps the Center for the Book strengthen its mission of stimulating public interest in books, reading, literacy and libraries. The center plays a key role in developing and coordinating the festival's presentations by authors and illustrators. It also draws on its own networks of affiliated state centers and national partnerships to organize the festival's two popular reading promotion pavilions: the Let's Read America I and the Pavilion of the States. Information about the center's organizational networks is available on its Web site at www.loc.gov/cfbook.
Authors & Illustrators at the National Book Festival
The 2003 National Book Festival featured 85 authors, illustrators, poets and storytellers— a record number, exceeding the 61 presenters in the first National Book Festival in 2001 and the 74 at the second festival in 2002. The emphasis on presentations and book signings by popular authors is a hallmark of the National Book Festival, which celebrates the joy of reading by bringing authors and readers closer together—through presentations, question-and-answer sessions and book signings. Moreover, the experience is made available to a worldwide audience through the Library of Congress Web site (www.loc.gov/bookfest), where many of the individual presentations by authors and illustrators at National Book Festivals can be seen and heard.
The increase in the number of presentations has been possible largely because of venue changes. The first festival, which attracted a crowd of approximately 25,000, took place on the east grounds of the U.S. Capitol and in the Library's Jefferson and Madison buildings on Sept. 8, three days before the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The 2002 festival was held outdoors on the west Capitol grounds and the east end of the National Mall—a larger space, but one divided by the reflecting pool at the foot of the Capitol. In spite of wet weather and a sniper threat in the Washington, D.C., area, the 2002 festival drew a crowd of approximately 45,000.
Relocation to the National Mall between Seventh and 14th streets in 2003 brought the festival together physically and expanded its available space. The weather was cloudy and cool, but approximately 75,000 people attended.
There have been other changes since 2001, including the addition of new pavilions. However, the qualifications for participation in the National Book Festival have remained constant. Publishers nominate winners of book awards at the national level who are nationally known authors or illustrators and who are excellent speakers. Publishers are expected to support the travel and lodging expenses of accepted nominees. In addition to soliciting nominations from publishers, the Center for the Book accepts suggestions from Library of Congress staff members, especially subject specialists and recommending officers, and from the White House, particularly Laura Bush's office. The written invitations to participate are signed jointly by Mrs. Bush and Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.
Let's Read America I Pavilion
The active promotion of reading and libraries has been implicit in the National Book Festival from its beginning. Laura Bush, the festival's host and inspiration, established the Texas Book Festival in 1995 to promote reading and to benefit Texas public libraries. This spirit is carried forward in the National Book Festival, principally through the Let's Read America I Pavilion and the Pavilion of the States.
At the first National Book Festival, the Let's Read America I Pavilion, which highlights the reading and literacy promotion programs of the Center for the Book's national, not-for-profit reading promotion partners, was called the pavilion for "Great Ideas for Promoting Reading, Literacy & Libraries." The pavilion name was changed in 2002, and a second reading promotion pavilion (Let's Read America II) was added to highlight the reading promotion projects of festival corporate contributors. In 2003, 60 of the center's 85 national reading promotion partners displayed and distributed information about their reading and literacy promotion programs, including the American Library Association (ALA), Cartoonists Across America, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the International Reading Association and Reading Is Fundamental Inc.
The Pavilion of the States
Since its debut in 2002, the Pavilion of the States has been a popular site for the 50 states and the District of Columbia to promote their own libraries, book festivals, and reading and literacy promotion activities. They have been joined by four U.S. territories—American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2003 several authors from individual states made appearances at their state tables. The Pavilion of the States is supported primarily by IMLS, which, through the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, makes travel funds available to state representatives. Further funding comes from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which supports the travel of several state center for the book coordinators.
John Y. Cole is the founding director of the Center for the Book and a member of the Library's steering committee for the National Book Festival.