Announcement of a new Connecticut state center, the awarding of $5,000 Boorstin Center for the Book awards to Florida and Nebraska, and a lively discussion of current and future reading promotion projects were highlights of the annual state center "idea exchange day" held at the Library on May 5. Twenty-nine state centers sent representatives or delegations; in all, 60 enthusiastic reader promoters from around the country participated in the May 5 conference and in follow-up meetings the next day.
"These annual meetings are both inspiring and extremely useful," said Center for the Book Director John Y. Cole. "The resourcefulness of our affiliated state centers never fails to amaze me. They are our grass-roots connection, and each year the national center learns a great deal from their discussions."
The new Connecticut Center for the Book is located at the Hartford Public Library. Chief Librarian Louise Blalock is serving as interim coordinator until the full advisory board has been named. On Aug. 15-17, the Connecticut Center for the Book will participate in Hartford's citywide International Mark Twain Days Celebration. It also will be part of the Second Annual Wallace Stevens Birthday Party on Oct. 3, which will begin with a marathon reading of Stevens's poems and essays and conclude with a dinner at the Hartford Public Library featuring poet John Hollander. One of the Connecticut Center for the Book's first projects will be a "Guide to Connecticut's Printers and Presses," an exhibition and publication project that will be developed in cooperation with the Connecticut State Library, the Connecticut Library Association, and the Southern Connecticut Library Reading Council.
During the May 5 meeting, Librarian of Congress Emeritus Daniel J. Boorstin presented the first two Boorstin Center for the Book Awards to the Florida and the Nebraska Centers for the Book. Each of the annual awards includes a cash prize of $5,000. The National Award, won by Florida, the first state center (1984), recognizes the contribution a state center has made to the Center for the Book's overall national program and objectives ("to stimulate public interest in books, reading and libraries.") The State Award, won by Nebraska, recognizes a specific project. In this case, the Nebraska Literature Festival, inaugurated by the Nebraska Center for the Book in 1990.
"I am enormously proud of the Center for the Book and its crucial role in promoting books and reading throughout America," said Dr. Boorstin, who created the center in 1977, early in his career (1975-1987) as Librarian of Congress. "My wife, Ruth, and I are delighted to provide financial support for the center's national program, and we invite others to join us through their tax-deductible gifts."
The discussions on May 5 were organized around two major topics: organizational issues such as staffing, advisory boards, fund-raising, relations with other organizations, Internet sites and programming.
Prior to the discussion, Mr. Cole spoke about the "state of the Center for the Book," emphasizing the continued growth of the state center program (there currently are 32 state centers) and the strengthening of relationships in many states between state centers and state humanities councils. He also outlined the national center's plans for 1997 until 2000, briefly describing five projects in which state center participation was both needed and welcome. The projects are: "Building a Nation of Readers," the national reading promotion campaign; "Literary Heritage USA," which includes the development of literary maps and the recognition of literary sites; "Rivers of America," which examines and celebrates the literary, historical and environmental heritage of America's Rivers; "The Alphabet Project," which focuses on the importance of letters, language and design in promoting books and literacy; and "Libraries and American Culture," which encourages the historical study of libraries and their role in American intellectual, social, cultural and political life.
Pat Bates, coordinator of the Maryland Center for the Book, began the discussion of organizational issues by reporting on a survey regarding advisory boards, staffing, financial status and related matters that she had conducted among the state centers. The size of boards and staffs varies considerably, as do methods of operation. Seven state centers now have full-time coordinators and two of these states (Colorado and Vermont) have several paid staff members. Most states rely heavily on part-time help and volunteers. Nebraska recently held a "retreat" to help its volunteer board of officers sort out their roles and functions. Approximately half of the state centers have nonprofit, 501 (c)(3) status, and all of them are involved in fund-raising activities. Half of the state centers are located in state libraries. Seventeen of the centers now have Web sites.
John Cole explained the approval process for state centers. When its proposal is approved, a center is granted affiliate status for a three-year period. Renewals also are for three years.
The discussion about programming and projects was lively and informative, with each state center presenting highlights of its activities and often trying to enlist other states in specific projects. Book festivals, book awards and author and book discussion programs are especially popular program ideas. John Cole announced that the "Letters About Literature" student essay contest, in which 20 states participated last year, would be continued. Florida and Washington reported on the $15,000 "Audience for Literature" planning grants they had received from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund. Consultant Virginia Mathews discussed early-childhood projects. Vermont presented a marketing proposal for its "Babies Need Books" campaign and on May 6 hosted a planning meeting for its "Mother Goose Asks Why?" science books for children project.
For information about the Center for the Book and its state center program and for the Web site addresses of state centers for the book, contact the Center for the Book, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington DC 20450-4920, (202) 707-5221 (telephone), (202) 707-0269 (fax) or visit the Center's Web site at http://www.loc.gov/loc/cfbook/.