The New Jersey Center for the Book, recently established at the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies (SCILS), opened with a gala reception May 22 at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum on the New Brunswick campus. A project of the national Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, the New Jersey chapter will promote books, reading, libraries and literacy throughout the state.
Speakers at the reception, which was hosted by SCILS, included New Jersey's first lady, Dina Matos McGreevey; Joseph J. Seneca, university vice president for academic affairs; and SCILS Dean Gustav W. Friedrich. Floyd Cooper, a well-known children's author and illustrator, was honored with the Rutgers Award for Distinguished Contribution to Children's Literature.
"We are here today to affirm the power of writing and reading and the importance of our individual and collective experiences as embodied in the book," Seneca said in his remarks to the group of nearly 200 librarians, authors and academics.
"We speak at this place of the power of the word to speak to each of us. As an academic officer of the university, I had to be here to celebrate the academic value of the book."
One important mission of the New Jersey center is to draw attention to the state's authors and literary landmarks, said Renee B. Swartz, the center's chair and volunteer coordinator, pointing to such literary figures as Stephen Crane, Philip Roth, Allen Ginsburg and William Carlos Williams, all born in New Jersey.
"New Jersey is such a literary center," said Friedrich. "It seemed like a natural synergy for the state's Center for the Book to be associated with the strengths that we have at SCILS."
The center will conduct academic forums, poetry readings, book and author discussions and storytelling events, said Swartz. Plans also call for producing a "literary map" highlighting authors' homes and book settings, and Swartz hopes the center will designate New Jersey's first "literary landmark" this fall.
SCILS will provide space for the center's headquarters in the school's professional development office. But, said Swartz, the Center for the Book is "not a room. It's not a building. It's a concept. It's a conduit to celebrate the literary landmarks and literary heritage of New Jersey."