23 Progeny and Counting; Application for Books, Reading, and Libraries Is the Mission. A Nonstop Flurry of Activities Is the Method

Article excerpt

Appreciation for books, reading, and libraries is the mission. A nonstop flurry of activities is the method.

IN MONTANA, AS IN SEVERAL other states around the country, a state Center for the Book has recently opened. "Usually," says Richard Miller, Montana state librarian, "you don't hear about a state like Montana. The center will allow a focal point for Montana's rich literary heritage."

While "the jury is still out" in Alabama, according to Blane K. Dessy, director of the Alabama Public Library Service in Montgomery, on the efficacy of setting up a state center in Alabama, one factor in its favor is the prestige that would conceivably accrue to the book community there.

At present, there are 23 state centers affiliated with the national Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, which was established in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books, reading, and libraries.

The Center's activities-all privately funded-are aimed both at the general public and at scholars studying the history of books. The overall program includes reading promotion projects with six television networks, symposia, lectures, exhibitions, special events, and publications. "Read More About It," the LC/CBS Television project now in its 11th season is probably the Center's best-know promotion.

Center grows arms

The idea for a state center first took hold in Florida, in the early 1980s.

"It seemed we were doing so many things that the Center's mission was about," says Jean D. Trebbi, executive director of the Florida Center for the Book in Ft. Lauderdale. At the time the idea began to jell, Trebbi was program coordination for Broward County Libraries and experimenting with the national Center's promotional themes, for example, "Books Make a Difference." On one occasion, Mary Scott Welch, coauthor of Networking, gave a talk; the book gave Trebbi "an insight into how things can be connected and are connected."

Why not a center in Florida, liking disparate elements of the book culture throughout the state? The idea was tossed around by Florida book people, and the question of affiliating was put to John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book since its inception, and then-Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin.

The Florida center has been going strong since it was started in 1984. "By promoting books and reading, we also promote librarians," says Carol Collins, Trebbi's assistant.

Love me, read to me

On National Young Reader's Day, November 15, 1989, 520 newborn infants and their mothers in more than 60 hospitals in communities throughout Florida received a "Raise-A-Reader" kit as a gift from the state's Center for the Book. The kit contained a teddy bear labeled "Love Me, Read to Me," a paperback copy and an audiocasette of Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd, a coupon for a copy of Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook, redeemable at the local library, an adult size T-Shirt with the Florida Center for the Book logo on it, a magnet for the refrigerator, and a message from Erma Bombeck, "How to Encourage Your Child to Read." Florida conducted a similar campaign in state hospitals last January. The Sun Sentinal Company, a major corporate sponsor of the Florida project, helped in the planning of the "Love Me Read to Me" campaign.

In Seattle, the fledging state center received funding from the Golden Grain Corporation, a division of Quaker Oats, for its "Raise a Reader" promotion and distributed some 200 kits to newborn babies and two adoptees in a pilot project modeled after Florida's. Says Jean Coberly, coordinator of the center and manager of the education, business, and science departments of the Seattle Public Library, the expectation is that the Washington State Center for the Book will "enhance the visibility of the library with the community."

"Each state center," says Cole, "is encouraged to use themes of the national Center to support the |book culture' in its own state. …

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