Puerto Rico Center for the Book Opens

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Library Comes to Puerto Rico

Download the full gazette here: Library of Congress Gazette Volume 30, No. 5 February 8, 2019 | A weekly publication for staff

On Jan. 25, the Library of Congress came to Puerto Rico. Through its affiliate Centers for the book, the Library reaches all 50 states, the District of Columbia and even the U.S. Virgin Islands, which acquired a center in 2009. One nearby U.S. territory was missing. That situation has now changed with the launch of the Puerto Rico Center for the Book — known locally as El Centro para el Libro. The mission of the Center for the Book is to promote books, reading, literacy and libraries nationally.

Through its network of affiliates, the center co-sponsors events and programs that bring the work and mission of the Library to places outside Washington. At the University of Puerto Rico campus in San Juan on Jan. 25, Luisa Vigo-Cepeda, the center’s new director, welcomed an enthusiastic audience of university officials, students and librarians to the installation ceremony for the center, to be housed at the university’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

She beamed as she introduced Margarita Benitez, director of the Puerto Rican Endowment for the Humanities, which will work closely with the new center on projects and initiatives. The Puerto Rico Center for the Book will embody “the most wondrous places in the world — libraries — and the possibility of discovery” they offer, she said. “Part of the wonder is to be recognized by the Library of Congress. We are so honored.” Those sentiments were echoed by José Sánchez-Lugo, director of the library school. He added that the center “acknowledges … the right to access information and the quality that all of us aspire to.”

Vigo-Cepeda recounted receiving the official letter welcoming the new Puerto Rico center. “It filled us with joy and highly honored us,” she said. “We will foster knowledge of the center to libraries everywhere. We will support books. Excitement rules!”

She noted that the center already has a YouTube channel and a Facebook page. Adding to the festivities was the presence of U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. She helped to draw a crowd that included not only lovers of poetry, but also writers of poetry, such as students from the Poetry Out Loud program, which is featured each year at the National Book Festival. Smith has been bringing poetry to rural America with her project “American Conversations” (read.gov/americanconversations), whose website chronicles her first-term trips to New Mexico, Kentucky and South Carolina and second-term trips to Alaska, South Dakota, Maine and Louisiana.

“Poetry is a universal language,” she said. “It is such a joy and honor to be here.” She read several poems in both Spanish and English, including selections from her recent collection “Wade in the Water.” Smith told the audience that her poem “The Universe as Primal Scream” was inspired by her time living in Brooklyn downstairs from an apartment of screaming kids. After she finished reading it, she joked, “I now have three kids of my own. I realize these were really well-behaved kids!”

Later, someone in the audience asked her about the time she learned she would be poet laureate. “I remember Rob Casper, head of the Poetry and Literature Center, telling me, ‘Remember, this is not about you. It’s about poetry.’” Indeed, Jan. 25 was not about any of the event’s participants: It was about reading, literacy and the empowering nature of books.

Guy Lamolinara, communications officer for the Center for the Book, represented the Library at the installation ceremony. ▪

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