In mid-March, representatives from more than 40 of the Center for the Book’s reading-promotion partners gathered to display their materials, share resources, exchange ideas and report on their programs to promote reading and literacy. Established in 1987, the partnership program’s mission is to share information and join forces in promoting books, literacy, reading and libraries.
“Our partnership program recognizes that reading promotion in the U.S. is primarily a nonprofit, nongovernmental activity; indeed in a democracy, it is citizen responsibility,” said John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book. “This network has grown enormously since 1987, when the center launched “The Year of the Reader,” the first of our national reading-promotion campaigns. It now includes more than 80 nonprofit organizations, as well as several government agencies.”
New partners participating in the meeting were Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas, an organization that matches children age 7 through 14 with mentors; Romance Writers of America, which promotes the genre; and School Biz Match, which encourages private companies, government, community and nonprofit organizations to support public or private schools on the local, state or national level. Potential reading-promotion partners represented at the meeting were the Mercantile Library Center for Fiction, My Own Book and Read it LOUD! Foundation.
Barbara Conaty, an information resource officer in the Department of State and a special guest at the meeting, brought two projects to the attention of the group, suggesting that they might also be of interest to the center’s network of affiliated state centers. Sister Libraries is an initiative of the American Library Association that encourages U.S. libraries to form partnerships with libraries in other countries. The American Corners program is a State Department-sponsored initiative inaugurated worldwide to make information about the U.S. in a variety of formats available to foreign publics at large. Nearly 400 American Corners operate in more than 60 countries throughout the world.
David Kipen of the National Endowment for the Arts, the sponsor of “The Big Read” project, briefly described this innovative reading-promotion program that encourages citizens to read and discuss a single book within their communities.
The program was launched on a pilot basis in 2006 with 10 communities featuring four books. By 2009 approximately 400 communities in the U.S. will have hosted a Big Read since the program’s inception. Kipen acknowledged its partner, the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), for its significant financial support of the program.
Other supporters include the Center for the Book, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the Children’s Book Council, the Church and Synagogue Library Association, Friends of Libraries USA, the Junior League of Washington, the Mercantile Library Center for Fiction and the Phi Beta Phi Fraternity.
Cole also noted a number of events that the Center for the Book had sponsored jointly with its reading-promotion partners in recent years. In 2006, the Center for the Book hosted an event that featured First Lady Laura Bush, honorary chair of “The Big Read.” Since then, “Big Read” projects have been sponsored by state centers for the book or their institutional hosts in Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Virginia and Wyoming.
In 2007, the Center for the Book sponsored a talk by mystery writer Sara Paretsky with the Mystery Writers of America; a literacy awards ceremony with the National Coalition for Literacy; an anniversary program with the National Literary Society for the Deaf; a book talk by cultural anthropologist Richard Kurin with the Smithsonian Institution Libraries; a program on the state of the book industry with the Book Industry Study Group; and announced the appointment of the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a major two-year partnership project cosponsored with the Children’s Book Council.
Cole also thanked a number of partners for their support of the Library’s annual National Book Festival. These included the Junior League of Washington, which provides approximately 400 volunteers for the event and the National Basketball Association/Women’s National Basketball Association, which features its “Read to Achieve” program in the Children’s Pavilion.
Cole also acknowledged three partners that made substantial financial contributions to the 2007 National Book Festival: the National Endowment for the Arts, which sponsored the Poetry Pavilion; IMLS, which sponsored the Pavilion of the States and supported the travel of many of the pavilion representatives from state libraries and state centers for the book; and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which sponsored the participation in the Pavilion of the States by the nine state centers for the book that are hosted by state humanities councils.
For a current list of the Center for the Book’s reading-promotion partners, go to www.loc.gov/cfbook/.