Sorry I went all history nerd today but I love the story of the network of Centers for the Book and talk about it fairly regularly when I am raising friends or funds. The CfB in LOC was established, as Rocco and Guy said, by an Act of Congress. A pdf
of the typed then photocopied and etc (and so blurry!) Act is available here:
As I understood it from John Cole, the founding ideas for the Center were twofold: one was that it would become an outreach mechanism for the Library of Congress and two was that it would stimulate interest in books and reading, by which was meant interest
in the book as a material object and reading as a lifelong cultural activity. At the time, John told me, the thinking was that video was displacing reading and some advocacy for book culture was necessary. Again, this was not a sense only in the US. Other
nations (primarily in Europe) were establishing national centers for the book to understand the heritage of the written word in their languages and cultures, as well.
Initially the CfB in LOC was advised by a 100 member board, with two representatives from each of the 50 states. John worked with that model for 5 to 6 years, but he told me that it was impossible to get into the states through that tructure, and the
board was so large that it was not easy to focus attentions, etc and so on.
At any rate, at a library conference somewhere, he was talking with a colleague from Florida, Jean Tebbe, about this conundrum, and it was she, as John told me, who said, "I think I can help you." It was her idea that instead of a centralized board, an
affiliate network of state-based organizations could bring LOC initiatives in to states and combine them with home based projects all in service of the broad mandate to promote books, reading, literacy and libraries. The Florida CfB was established in 1984.
Daniel Boorstin was still Librarian of Congress when I first started attending the annual LOC meetings. He and his wife, Ruth, would come to the meeting for an hour, most usually right after the luncheon. He was someone whose histories I had read while
an undergraduate and so meeting him and getting to talk to him made an impression, for sure.
At the time, the Center for the Book office in LOC was staffed by John Cole, Maurveen Williams, Anne Boni, and Pat White (whom Staceya later replaced when Pat retired). The Center was responsible for raising the funds to cover some of those salaries,
though. When Dr Billington came to LOC he agreed to pay the staff salaries but John had to commit to establishing a CfB in each of the 50 states ... I believe it was 2003 or 2004 when the network was fully formed.
Massachusetts was the 38th Center for the Book, affiliated officially on Jan 1, 2000. When I first came to the meetings, the founding director/coordinator for nearly all of the centers was still active and so there was a lot to learn those folk. Some
of the standouts were Nancy Pearl (WA), Sally Anderson (VT), Frannie Ashburn (NC), Kat (surname escapes me!, CT, then at Hartford PL), Glenda Carlile (OK), Mary Kay Dahlgreen (OR), Gail Bialas (TX, then at Dallas Public), .... the list goes on. Steve Herb
(PA), Sid Berger (CA), and I all started in the same year, 2000. Susan Coleman (VA) arrived at just about this time, IIRC. Renee Schwartz (NJ) and Mary Russell (NH) joined the fold fairly early in the 2000s, as well.
It would be good to try to capture a history of the CfB network before memory fades too much in our states, commonwealths, districts, territories and/or protectorates.
I'll return to my rocking chair now ...
Sharon Shaloo, Executive Director
Mass Center for the Book