Last October, we celebrated the arrival of the Texas Center for the Book at the Texas State Library and Archives with an event on the front portico of our building. It was a nice event during the Texas Book Festival and we were joined by writers Carmen Lomas Garza, Sarah Bird, and Pat Mora. The Texas Center for the Book, an affiliate of the National Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, had been operated by the Dallas Public Library since 1987, but by mutual agreement, we and DPL felt that it more rightly belonged with a state agency. We took on the work of the Center for the Book to support our broader agency interests of encouraging reading, literacy, and library use.
But to tell the truth, we were a bit unsure what we were getting into. We set modest goals and thought that during the first year, we might promote Letters about Literature, a statewide reading/writing contest for school students, and perhaps one or two other projects. We greatly underestimated two factors: the intense interest that the program would generate among librarians, teachers, authors, and the public, and also the creativity and determination of our Center for the Book Coordinator, Rebekah Manley, who joined our staff in December 2015. Over the last eight months,
fueled by Rebekah’s energy and supported by Communications Officer Stephen Siwinski and many other TSLAC staff, and encouraged by active librarians, community members, and others, the Texas Center for the Book has accomplished far more than we expected.
The Texas Center for the Book continued the Letters about Literature project, increasing participation by 10% over the previous year. In this project, school children in grades 4 to 12 write letters to their favorite authors—living or dead—about a book that has changed their lives. Our three winners read their essays at the Texas Library Association annual conference in April.
The Center also sponsored Lone Star Día, the Texas celebration of the 20th anniversary of Children’s Day, Book Day / El día de los niños, el día de los libros, supporting programs in Austin and at the TLA conference, and distributing posters about the event to every public library and thousands of school libraries across the state. The Center partnered with Little Free Libraries to hold builds of the tiny libraries in four cities as a way to highlight the positive work of libraries and engage a new audience in the work. The Center held meet-ups in Austin and other cities to bring librarians and others together to network and share ideas. The Center has launched a $1,000 award to honor literacy organizations in the state with an emphasis on library partnerships.
The Center has networked with Texas writers groups to engage them with the work of the Center and TSLAC. Rebekah has opened dialogues and partnerships with a wide range of organizations such the Texas Book Festival, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, BookSpring, Society of Book Writers and Illustrators, Literacy Texas, and the Texas Veterans Commission.
For the next year, in addition to continuing these activities, Rebekah and the Center are planning to roll out a statewide reading program featuring books that explore the topic of veterans’ experiences. We will release information on that program this fall.
And in September, Rebekah and Stephen will represent Texas at the National Book Festival in Washington. For this event, each year, every state selects a “Great Reads” book that highlights their state. For Texas this year, the book is Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin. This magical book for young adults is set in the Central Texas hill country and Ms. Loftin has been very supportive of the Center, as the excellent video featured above indicates.
So it has been a successful first year and we very much appreciate the active participation in activities of our Center for the Book by so many librarians and educators and authors and community leaders statewide, and by our always-supportive Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas.
It is more important than ever to develop strong reading and library habits, literacy skills, and a love of books. We think we are off to a great start in using the Texas Center for the Book to help Texans discover the joy and benefits of reading.
For more information, see the Texas Center for the Book page on the TSLAC website:
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