By JOHN Y. COLE
More than 40 states were represented at the Center for the Book's annual "idea exchange" for affiliated state centers early this month, which featured discussions led by state center representatives and the center's annual Library Legislative Day reception. The approximately 150 people attending the reception, which was funded by the Center for the Book, included many state librarians, several of the newly appointed commissioners from the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, and American Library Association Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels, who joined this writer in welcoming attendees.
Idea exchange meetings were devoted to discussions about Reading Powers the Mind and Letters About Literature, two projects in which state centers are involved, and to an orientation for new and recent state center coordinators.
Because of the gradual but continued growth of state centers, many of the same topics are updated at each year's idea exchange. The major administrative subjects are membership, publicity, communication and fundraising (especially important because the national center and all 50 state centers are public-private partnerships) and Web site development. State center representatives exchange ideas on the Letters About Literature project (established in the early 1980s as the Books Change Lives project); state book awards (a late-1980s development); state literary maps (early 1990s); state book festivals (mid-1990s), communitywide ("One Book") reading initiatives (late 1990s); and, since 2002, the Pavilion of the States at the Library of Congress National Book Festival. Each year state center coordinators, many of them newly appointed, bring fresh approaches and ideas to share about these established initiatives.
Ruth Boorstin, whose husband, Daniel J. Boorstin, former Librarian of Congress, established the Center for the Book in 1977, donated $5,000 earlier this year to encourage innovative reading promotion projects among the state centers. The projects were to be potential models for other affiliated state centers. At this year's meeting, five states each received $1,000 Boorstin Awards for their innovative projects. The states and the citations describing their accomplishments follow.
Massachusetts. The 2004 Massachusetts Book Awards ceremony, held at the state capitol in Boston, continues the Massachusetts center's effective use of statewide book awards as a year-round reading promotion activity that unites the "Massachusetts community of the book."
Michigan. The Michigan Center for the Book recently developed an innovative statewide affiliates program that has enlisted new partners, provided new income and greatly increased public awareness of the Michigan center and its activities.
Montana. The annual Montana Festival of the Book, started in 2000, successfully highlights the Montana Center for the Book's mission of promoting Montana literature, libraries and literacy. The Montana center is now a program of the Montana Committee for the Humanities, and the Boorstin award also recognizes the center's successful transition from the state library to the Lewis and Clark Public Library in Helena and most recently to the Montana Committee for the Humanities in Missoula.
Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Center for the Book's innovative online Pennsylvania literary map (demonstrated at the May meeting) is wide-ranging in scope and historical depth. It is a rich resource for information about the literature, history and culture of the entire state and a possible model for other states.
Texas. The Texas Center for the Book is recognized for its energetic and innovative statewide author programming, particularly its new project, "Texas Latino Voices," a series of free presentations in Spanish and English by Texas Latino authors in public libraries throughout the state.
John Y. Cole is director of the Center for the Book.