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Establishing California Center for the Book

January 31, 1987

All hail to the Los Angeles Public Library's successes in its telethon and other ongoing efforts to "Save the Books" destroyed in the tragic fires at the Central Library.

Historically speaking, of course, more than we have saved the book, the book has saved us. Today, in our information-soggy and knowledge-parched society, the Electronic Age militates against reading and we face the twin problems of illiteracy and aliteracy. 1987 has been officially designated, by federal statute, as the Year of the Reader to "encourage efforts aimed at restoring the act of reading to a place of preeminence in our personal lives and in the life of our nation."

Over the past year and more, a library group comprised of members of the L.A. Co-op, the State Librarian and Northern California librarians have been in consultation with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress regarding establishment of a California Center for the Book. These efforts were culminated at a recent meeting at the University Library, Cal State L.A., and it is expected that the California Center will be chartered this coming spring.

The Center for the Book is the legacy of retiring Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin who, in 1977, secured its establishment by congressional action "to keep the book flourishing." Under its slogan, "A Nation of Readers," the center seeks "to organize, focus and dramatize our nation's interest and attention on the book, to marshall the nation's support--spiritual, physical, and fiscal--for the book." Wrote Boorstin, "as the national library of a great free republic, we have a special duty and a special interest to see that books do not go unread, that they are read by all ages and conditions . . . to see that the book is the useful, illuminating servant of all other technologies, and that all other technology become the effective, illuminating acolytes of the book."

The duty of California's libraries is no less special. The California Center for the Book will be incorporated as a broad-based, statewide umbrella entity under which groups and organizations interested in books and reading can make common cause. Independent, and collaborative and consortial programs, activities and projects will be conducted as the California Center extends the reach of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress in fulfilling their joint mission "to stimulate public interest in books and reading and to encourage the study of books in society."

Our aim is to open an umbrella wide enough to include individuals as well as groups who have a commitment to the world of books--publishers, printers, authors, students, book sellers, agents, illustrators, translators and garden-variety readers. Our hope is to include and involve as many of our prospective constituencies as possible in the early, formative and goal-setting stage of our development.

MORRIS POLAN

University Librarian

Cal State Los Angeles

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