A Nation of Readers
The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress
"Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the deveopment of civilization would have been impossible. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.".1 Barbara W. Tuckman
The Center, 1984
The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress | How the Center Works | Promoting Books and Reading
Books in Contemporary Society | The History of Books | Looking to the Center's Future
In response to a proposal from Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin, the U.S. Congress established the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress in I977. Representative Lucien N. Nedzi of Michigan and Senator Ho- ward Cannon of Nevada, the chairman and vice-chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library, sponsored the legislation. With enactment of Public Law 95-I29, approved on October 13, 1977, the Congress affirmed its belief in the importance of the book and the printed word and endorsed a program "to investigate the transmission and diffusion of human knowledge." President Jimmy Carter approved the legislation as an indication of his "commitment to scholarly research and to the development of public interest in books and reading." At the first gathering of the Center for the Book's National Advisory Board, Librarian Boorstin introduced the new Center by saying:
The Center for the Book serves as a catalyst in focusing national attention on the importance of books, reading, and the written word. It is a cooperative endea- vor between the public and private sectors of American society. As indicated by the slogans of its reading promotion projects, slogans such as "Books Make a Difference," "A Nation of Readers," and "Readers are Leaders," it attempts to reach the largest possible audience.The Center for the Book is:
butions from individuals, corporations, and foundations
* nonpartisan, with no official connection to the publishing
community and no official government policy role
* project oriented but dependent on other organizations to turn
its ideas into programs
* wide ranging and interdisciplinary in its interests, drawing on
the resources of the Library of Congress and other organiza-
tions for a varied program of activities for both general and
The Center's staff consists of only an executive director and a staff assistant, but it draws on the specialists and collections of the Library of Congress whenever appropriate. Another unique resource is the Center's National Advisory Board, whose volunteer members contribute ideas, participate in projects and symposia, and on occasion represent the Center for the Book at events outside Washington, D.C. The current chairman is Simon Michael Bessie, director, Harper & Row Publishers.
In carrying out its mission, the Center for the Book brings together members of the book, educational, and business communities for projects and symposia. It also sponsors publications, lectures, visiting scholars, exhibits, and events that enhance the role of the book in our society.____
Using television and radio to encourage people to read has been one of the Center's major motifs. The Center, with help from its National Advisory Board, is continu- ally seeking ways to make other media "the appetizer for the library and for the whole world of books."
"Read More About It," a joint endeavor of the Library of Congress and CBS Television, was the first result of this new alliance. Inaugurated in the I979-8o television season, "Read More About It" has recruited more than seventy well- known stars of major prime-time CBS Television specials to pre- sent thirty-second messages promoting books and reading at the end of their shows. Millions of viewers have seen and heard such stars as Cicely Tyson, Christopher Reeve, Helen Hayes, Johnny Cash, Mickey Rooney, Jean Stapleton, Henry Fonda, and even Mickey Mouse and Charlie Brown invite viewers to visit local libraries and bookstores to read books on the show's subject, books suggested by the Library of Congress. CBS provides air time for the spot messages and promotes the project nationally through film clips, posters, and bookmarks. The Center for the Book coordinates the project, which has as its slogan: "Linking the Pleasure, Power, and Excitement of Books and Television."
A 1983 symposium on "Radio and Read- ing" led to the expansion of "Read More About It" to sports broadcasts on CBS Network Radio. More than 20 million base- ball fans tuned to the All-Star game heard sportscaster Brent Musberger's first 6o-second message, which sent listeners to their local libraries and bookstores to "Read More About" base- ball. Other messages were heard during the World Series. Books about football are suggested during broadcasts of professional football games, including the Super Bowl.
Cap'n 0. G. Readmore, an animated, smart cat who knows a lot because he reads a lot, is the Center's reading promotion personality made public in cooperation with ABC Television. Cap'n Readmore, who promotes reading and the pleasure of good books during ABC's children's and family____
programming schedule, premiered in September 1983. He also appears on posters, bookmarks, and other print materials pub- lished for schools, libraries, and bookstores.
"Books Make a Difference," another Center for the Book national reading promotion project, strengthens the book connection-but on a more personal, in- trospective level. Three hundred residents of fifty different com- munities across the United States were interviewed to determine what books had played a role in shaping their lives. Thought- provoking responses provide ample evidence of the importance of books and reading to citizens at every level of American society. The Center is now encouraging libraries and schools to incorporate the Books Make a Difference idea into their own activities. In 983 Xerox Education Publications received a grati- fying response from schools around the country when it spon- sored, in cooperation with the Center for the Book, a national Books Make a Difference essay contest for grade-school students. In 1984, the 86-branch Toronto (Ontario) Public Library system is using Books Make a Difference as its central theme in publiciz- ing library services. The Ventura (California) County Library's Books Make a Difference program, launched during National Library Week, included a slide-tape presentation at the 1984 Ventura County Fair.11
Books, reading, and education have been recurrent themes in several national symposia sponsored by the Center with assistance from other organizations. "Television, the Book, and the Classroom" featured board members Mor- timer Adler and Frank Stanton discussing uses of television in the classroom and its more general effects on culture and learn- ing. "Reading in America 1978" was a forum to discuss the findings of a study of American reading and book-buying habits sponsored by the Book Industry Study Group. The survey is being updated in 1984. Textbook authorship, adoption, and cur- rent issues in textbook publishing were central topics at a sympo- sium on "The Textbook in American Society." A program enti- tled "The State of the Book World" featured talks by critic Alfred Kazin, publisher Dan Lacy, and former U.S. Commissioner of Education Ernest L. Boyer. Advisory Board member Barbara Tuchman's lecture "The Book" was cosponsored by the Center and the Authors League of America, as was another lecture, "The Book Enchained," by Harrison E. Salisbury.
In September 1983, the Center for the Book brought authors, librarians and government officials to- gether for an objective discussion of public lending right-the notion that authors are entitled to be compensated for the multiple use of their books in libraries. The symposium explored how public lending right works in the ten countries in which it is in effect and ways in which the concept might or might not be workable in the United States.
Publishing, book production, and libra- ries are natural concerns of the Center for the Book. RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE AMERICAN BOOK COMMUNITY (1981) brings together papers presented by publishers, book- sellers, and scholars at two Library of Congress seminars. Another Center publication, IN CELEBRATION: THE NATIONAL UNION CATALOG: PRE-1956 IMPRINTS (1981) marked the completion, in 754 volumes, of that monumental publishing project. The Center is also working with the Library of Congress Preserva-____ 13
tion Office to increase awareness of the serious problem of deteriorating book paper and bindings. Two forums with Friends of Libraries U.S.A. have explored "Good Ideas for Friends Groups."
In what activities is it most likely that the book will be supplemented or even supplanted by new technolo- gies? What are the unique functions of the book and how will they be perpetuated? What new roles are likely to be created for the book by new technologies? These are the key questions being explored in a one-year study of tie role of the book in the future being undertaken by the Center for the Book in response to a concurrent resolution approved by the U.S. Congress in the fall of 1983. Drawing on the ideas and knowledge of a national advisory committee of experts in education, publishing, librarian- ship, and the new technologies, the Center will present a report to the Congress by December 1984. A second but related re- search study, sponsored by the Center for the Book in response to a request from UNESCO's Division for Book Promotion and International Exchanges, concerns the effects of new technolo- gies on book distribution.
Children's literature is a lively, vital sector of the book world. In cooperation with the Children's Literature Center in the Library of Congress, the Center for the Book has sponsored programs on "Broadcasting Books to Young Audi- ences," Scandinavian children's books today, and the audience for children's books. Authors who have presented the annual Children's Book Week lecture include Jill Paton Walsh, Elaine Konigsburg, Peter Dickinson, Natalie Babbitt, Astrid Lindgren, and Madeleine L'Engle.
The family-school partnership was the subject of a 1981 conference-"Reading and Successful Living"- hosted by the Center for the Book. Speakers included Robert Andringa, Executive Director of the Education Commission of the States; Mrs. George Bush, wife of the Vice President of the United States; and representatives from the National PTA, Inter-15
national Reading Association, American Association of School Administrators, and American Association of School Librarians, which cosponsored the meeting.
The role of books in promoting interna- tional understanding has been reflected in several Center for the Book activities. The Library's Asian Division and the Center co- sponsored an international symposium, "Japanese Literature in Translation." With the U.S. Information Agency, the Center sponsored a three-week program on "The International Flow of Information: A Trans-Pacific Perspective." Seventeen guests from twelve East Asian and Pacific countries participated. The results of an inventory of book programs sponsored by U.S. government agencies, intergovernmental organizations, and U.S. private or- ganizations were published by the Center in U.S. INTERNA- TIONAL BOOK PROGRAMS 1981.
Why has the role of U.S. books abroad diminished since the 1960s and what can be done about it? Pub- lishing consultant Curtis G. Benjamin addressed these questions in U.S. BOOKS ABROAD: NEGLECTED AMBASSADORS, published by the Center in early 1984. Mr. Benjamin concluded that a greater national effort to fulfill the need for U.S. books in developing countries is imperative, for reasons "both of societal morality and of enlightened self-interest." In his view, American policymakers "must be shown that the U.S. book abroad is far more than an ordinary commercial commodity-that it is, in fact, in the van- guard of all our battles to improve our nation's present position and its future relations with all countries of the world."____ 17
The history of books, which has devel- oped into a distinct field of study in the past two decades, merges traditional bibliographic studies with social history, drawing on all aspects of the book, physical and intellectual. The Center for the Book encourages the historical and interdiscipli- nary study of books through symposia, projects, and lectures. Most of its projects naturally focus on the rich collections of the Library of Congress, collections that reflect both the importance of books in all cultures and the relationship of books to other means of communication.
The Engelhard Lecture Series on the Book, a commissioned series of public lectures by prominent scholars, deals with the historical relationship of books, reading, and the printed word to society. Engelhard lecturers have in- cluded Nicolas Barker, Philip Hofer, Elizabeth Eisenstein, Edwin Wolf 2nd, Ian Willison, Robert Damton, Dan H. Laurence, James D. Hart, and William P. Barlow, Jr. Publications of special interest to historians include Ian Willison's ON THE HISTORY OF LIBRARIES AND SCHOLARSHIP (1980) and THE 1812 CATALOGUE OF THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS: A FACSIMILE, which includes an essay by Robert A. Rutland on the importance of books to America's first Congressmen. THE EARLY ILLUSTRATED BOOK: ESSAYS IN HONOR OF LESSING J. ROSENWALD, based on a 1980 symposium sponsored with the Library's Rare Book and Special Collections Division, was cited by the American Institute of Graphic Arts as one of the best-designed books of 1982. LITERACY IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE (1983), based on presen- tations at another Center for the Book symposium, was edited by historian Daniel Resnick.____
The Center's plans range from a sympo- sium on "Book Reviewing in the Electronic Age" to a guide to resources for the study of the history of books in the Library of Congress. A national, public service advertising campaign to encourage reading and the reading habit is being planned, along with annual "Celebrations of the Book." The 1983 celebration explored the genre of biography. The use of cable television to promote reading is being explored. In October 1984, with the Library's Geography and Map Division, the Center will sponsor a major international symposium entitled "Images of the World: The Atlas Through History."
The principal challenge for the future is to carry the Center's program to a larger and more varied audi- ence. In an age dominated by information and electronics, we must continually remind ourselves that ours is a Nation of Readers, built on words and ideas communicated mostly through the printed page. New technologies must be combined with older traditions to keep the book flourishing. Above all, in the words of Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin, we must "raise a citizenry who are qualified to choose their experience for themselves, from the books past and present, and so secure the independence that only the reader can enjoy."
The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress is a cooperative effort between the public and the private sectors. The Library of Congress provides administrative support, but approximately two-thirds of the Center's current annual operating budget of $175,000 must come from private, tax-deductible gifts. The Center's first activities were supported primarily by generous gifts from Mrs. Charles W. Engelhard, McGraw-Hill, Inc., Time, Inc., and the Franklin Book Programs, Inc. Since then individuals, corporations, and foundations have joined the initial donors to make possible the diverse program and publications described in this brochure. Additional sup- porters are needed, however, to continue the present program and especially to initiate new and innovative projects.____
READING IN AMERICA 1978.
A NATION OF READERS.
READING AND SUCCESSFUL LIVING-
BOOKS THAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE:
GRESHAM'S LAW: KNOWLEDGE OR INFORMATION?
THE STATE OF THE BOOK WORLD 1980.
THE WORLD ENCOMPASSED.
THE TEXTBOOK IN AMERICAN SOCIETY.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE
THE INTERNATIONAL FLOW OF INFORMATION:
U.S. INTERNATIONAL BOOK PROGRAMS 1981.
U.S. BOOKS ABROAD: NEGLECTED AMBASSADORS.
THE BOOK ENCHAINED.
THE CIRCLE OF KNOWLEDGE.
ON THE HISTORY
THE 1812 CATALOGUE OF
THE EARLY ILLUSTRATED BOOK:
A PORTRAIT OF THE AUTHOR
A ROUNCEVAL INDULGENCE:
Simon Michael Bessie, Chairman
Mary M. Bellor
Ernest L. Boyer
Reginald Brack, Jr.
T. F. Bradshaw
Jacob L. Chernofsky
Barbara D. Cooper
William H. Crouse
Robert B. Downs
John K. Doyel
Ann Heidbreder Eastman
Thomas J. Galvin
Elizabeth A. Geiser
Erwin A. Glikes
David R. Godine
Robert D. Hale
Irwin T. Holtzman
Carl A. Kroch
George M. Kroloff
Robert F. Lauterborn
Clare Boothe Luce
Gene P. Mater
Virginia H. Mathews
Marcus A. McCorison
George C. McGhee
Eliot A. Minsker
Maurice B. Mitchell
Charles M. Monell, M.D.
Effie Lee Morris
Andrew H. Neilly, Jr.
Lawrence Clark Powell
John S. Robling
Squire D. Rushnell
Harrison E. Salisbury
Leonard B. Schlosser
Jerry N. Showalter
Dams C. Smith, Jr.
Gary E. Strong
Henry E. Taylor
William B. Todd
Esther J. Walls
Betty M. Wooldridge
Ella G. Yates
John S. Zinsser, Jr.
Action for Children's Television
American Booksellers Association
American Institute of Graphic Arts
American Library Association
Association of America
Association of American
Association of American
Authors League of America
The Children's Book Council
Children's Television Workshop
Council on Library Resources Inc.
Friends of Libraries U.S.A.
International Reading Association
Modern Language Association
National Commission on Libraries
National Council of Teachers of
National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the
National Humanities Center
The National PTA
P.E.N. American Center
Poets and Writers
Reading is Fundamental, Inc.
Special Libraries Association
Television Information Office
U.S. Department of Commerce
U.S. Department of Education
U.S. Information Agency
The Baker & Taylor Company
The Book-of-the-Month Club
CBS Educational and Professional
CBS Television Network
R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company
Doubleday & Company, Inc.
Exxon Education Foundation
Gale Research Company
Ginn and Company
Grolier Educational Corporation
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.
Harper & Row Publishers, Inc.
Houghton Mifflin Company
Ingram Book Company
Marquis Who's Who
The New York Times Company
Prentice-Hall International, Inc.
Random House, Inc.
Book Companies, Inc.
Simon & Schuster, Inc.
The Times-Mirror Company
The Washington Post Company
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Xerox Publishing Group
Walter H. Annenberg
1Barbara Tuchmann's quote, which appeared on the cover of the print edition of this work, is from her Center for the Book lecture, THE BOOK, presented in 1979.
2The other quotations which appear at the beginning of each section were gathered as part of Books Make A Difference, a reading promotion project sponsored by the Center for the Book.
This online version of the print publication A Nation of Readers (The Center for the Book, Washington, The Center, 1984, 24 p. Catalog Record 84005859) was produced under the auspices of the Bibliographic Enrichment Advisory Team (BEAT) of the Library of Congress as part of the BeCites+ Project in October 2003.
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November 25, 2003