Georgia Center for the Book
The Georgia Center for the Book is the state affiliate of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Based at the DeKalb County Public Library in Decatur, the Georgia Center provides collaborative support and focus for the state's literary community of libraries, authors, educators, publishers, booksellers, and readers, with a particular emphasis on promoting the rich literary heritage of Georgia. Since receiving its affiliate charter in 1997, the DeKalb County center has presented dozens of well-known authors in public forums around the state; inaugurated two statewide literary programs for students; created an "All Georgia Reading the Same Book" program in 2002, which brought thousands of readers to a discussion of one book; developed a "Georgia Top Twenty-Five" reading list; and assisted with the debut of a biannual state literary award.
The Georgia Center for the Book—one of fifty-one centers hosted by an academic or public institution in each state and Washington, D.C.—was the brainchild of Darro C. Willey, the director of the DeKalb County Public Library. The center was formally named an affiliate of the Center for the Book in 1997 and held its first meeting at the DeKalb library in early 1998. It is overseen by an executive director and an advisory council consisting of fifteen members from the worlds of academe, publishing, and libraries, along with three notable Georgia authors: Terry Kay, Tina McElroy Ansa, and Janisse Ray.
The center's most widely known activity is the "All Georgia Reading the Same Book" program, which was held in 2002. A panel of literary authorities, with public input, selected a list of twenty-five books that every resident should know by Georgia authors. From that list Janisse Ray's 1999 memoir Ecology of a Cracker Childhood was chosen to be read statewide. Bookstores provided support for the program, and Ray made appearances in half a dozen cities during the year. In 1999 the center cosponsored the first Stanley W. Lindberg Award at the University of Georgia, which was presented to Pat Conroy, a native of Atlanta. The award, named for poet and Georgia Review editor Stanley Lindberg, recognizes the distinguished literary accomplishments of Georgia authors.
Through its first six years, the center has collaborated on literary programs with a number of regional libraries and organizations as diverse as the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, the Little White House in Warm Springs, the University of Georgia at Athens, and the DeKalb History Center in Decatur. It sponsors two literary competitions for middle and high school students: "Letters about Literature," in which students write essays to their favorite author describing the impact of the author's work on their lives, and "River of Words," an environmental essay contest developed with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Future projects include the creation of a literary map of Georgia and sponsorship of the annual Georgia Literary Festival.