By JOHN Y. COLE
In 1996 the Center for the Book launched "Books & Beyond," a series of public lectures about recently published books that have a special connection to the Library of Congress. In the 10 years since the series began, more than 50 authors have discussed and signed their books at the Library, and many have explained how the collections and services of the Library of Congress and other libraries and research institutions made their books possible.
The Books & Beyond series features a variety of genres. For example, the series was fortunate to host book talks by renowned novelists William Styron and Herman Wouk and best-selling mystery writers Dana Stabenow and Carolyn Hart, who have both participated in the Library's National Book Festival.
Books such as "Classics Illustrated" by William B. Jones Jr., which was researched in the Library's extensive comic book collections, and "Children of the Depression," produced by photo researchers Kathleen Thompson and Hilary Mac Austin from material in the Library's collection of Farm Security Administration photos, are but a few examples of the variety of formats represented in the works covered by the Books & Beyond series.
A number of lectures in the series focused on biographies of American presidents, many of which draw on the Library's rich collection of presidential papers. These included Henry Wiencek's "An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America" and "Thomas Jefferson: Genius of Liberty," the companion volume to the Library's 2000 exhibition. [Historians Joseph Ellis and Annette Gordon-Reed contributed essays to the book and participated in a panel discussion as part of the Books & Beyond series]. Letters between American presidents and their daughters were the subject of a 2004 book ("First Daughters") and a Books & Beyond lecture featuring authors Gerard Gawalt and his daughter Ann Gawalt. Gawalt, a Library of Congress historian and curator of presidential papers, has written a new book, "My Dear President: Letters Between Presidents and Their Wives" (see page 73), which will be the subject of an upcoming Books & Beyond program.
Biographies, such as Kenneth Janken's book about NAACP official Walter White, Susan Ware's work on radio show host Mary Margaret McBride and Juan Williams' text on Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall were also researched and discussed at the Library of Congress.
Books such as "100 One-Night Reads" by David and John Major, "How to Read and Why" by Harold Bloom and Nicholas A. Basbanes latest work, "Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World" appeal to booklovers, who are, by and large, the audience for the Books & Beyond series. During the inaugural year of the series, Basbanes discussed his 1995 work, "A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books."
The Library's Information Technology Services office has filmed many of the "Books & Beyond" lectures dating back to 1998. As a result, they are accessible on the Center for the Book's Web site at www.loc.gov/loc/cfbook/cyber-cfb.html.
Founded in 1977, the Center for the Book stimulates pubic interest in books, reading and libraries in a variety of ways. The Books & Beyond series is one way for the center to carry out this mission in the Washington metropolitan area. Outside of Washington, the center works through its affiliated centers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and in formal partnership with more than 80 nonprofit educational, book, reading, literacy and library organizations. In addition it has developed informal partnerships with reading and literacy promotion centers in several countries, including Russia and South Africa.
For further information about the scope of the center's activities, publications and upcoming events, visit its Web site at www.loc.gov/cfbook/.
John Y. Cole is director of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.