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Highlights in Calendar Year 2007

  • In partnership with the Children’s Book Council, development of the new post of National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. On January 3, 2008, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington named children’s book author Jon Scieszka as the first National Ambassador.

  • Through coordination of the author program and the Pavilion of the States, a major contribution to the success of the 2007 National Book Festival. On September 29, the festival drew an estimated crowd of 120,000 to the National Mall.

  • A key role in the Library of Congress’s participation in BibliObraz 2007, an international book festival hosted by Russian First Lady Ludmila Putin and held in Moscow, Oct. 9-11, 2007.

  • Another record-breaking year for Letters About Literature, the center’s reading and writing program for young people. Approximately 59,000 children and young adults wrote letters to their favorite authors; Target, the program’s sponsor, brought the six national winners and their families to the 2007 National Book Festival.

  • With the University of Massachusetts Press, co-publication of Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies After Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, an important contribution to book history studies.

  • Sponsorship, at the Library of Congress, of more than 20 presentations and book signings by authors whose new books related to Library of Congress collections or programs. All of these presentations may be seen on the center’s Web site.

  • Launching of a one-year study about the center’s future.


At the urging of Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin, Congress established the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress by statute (P.L. 95-129) in 1977. The center’s purpose was to use the resources and prestige of the Library of Congress to stimulate public interest in books and reading. Through the years the center’s mission has expanded to include literacy and library promotion and encouraging the historical study of books, reading, and the printed word. The center’s audience always has included readers and potential readers of all ages.

The catalytic function of the center has grown steadily since 1984 with the establishment of affiliated centers for the book in 50 states and the District of Columbia and the creation of a reading promotion partners program that today includes more than 80 national civic and educational organizations and federal agencies. The center also has developed a broad, informal network of organizations--national and international--that promote books and reading; the network includes several centers for the study of the history of the book located in academic or research organizations. On the international side, the center also has inspired the creation of reading promotion centers in several countries, most recently South Africa and Russia.

The Center for the Book is a partnership between the government and the private sector. The Library of Congress pays its four staff salaries, but it depends primarily on tax-deductible contributions from foundations, individuals, and corporations to fund its projects, publications, and reading promotion events and programs. For support, the center is especially grateful to the Annenberg Foundation and the Viburnum Foundation; to the late Robert Frase, Brian and Darlene Heidtke, and the late Daniel J. Boorstin and Ruth F. Boorstin; and to the many corporations that have supported its activities during the past three decades. Current corporate donors include Target, Random House, Inc., Hachette Book Group USA, and John S. Wiley & Sons. On occasion, federal agencies have made interagency grants to the center for specific projects; these federal partners have included the Head Start Bureau, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The center’s Web site,, is a unique resource directory with links to more than 250 organizations that promote books, reading, literacy, and libraries. The site includes information about forthcoming Center for the Book events, webcasts of past events, and a list of the center’s publications. Three prominent Center for the Book projects are described in detail: Letters About Literature, River of Words, and the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Links exist to information about the National Book Festival (, One Book community reading projects (including Big Read promotion projects), and literary events taking place across the country.

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  October 3, 2008
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