Where the Wild Things Are Shelved

Posted November 3, 2009 at 4:43pm

The Library of Congress has always been a guardian of the country’s cultural heritage, but it has never had a place just for youngsters — until now. Last week, the LOC’s literary outreach arm, the Center for the Book, opened the Young Readers Center, the Library’s first dedicated space for children and young adult readers.

LOC spokesman Guy Lamolinara said the Young Readers Center is “a welcoming space for young people. We’ve never really had a place in the Library of Congress where young people could go.—

In an official opening ceremony Oct. 23, Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) and their families joined Librarian of Congress James Billington and young adult author M.T. Anderson to celebrate the center’s opening.

According to a press release, Billington spoke to the assembled crowd, saying, “We want you and the other young readers to have a place where you can gain an introduction to the wonders of your nation’s library.—

Located on the ground floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, the center has been in the planning stage for about a year. According to Lamolinara, Billington was instrumental in pushing for a dedicated space for children and teens. Minor construction was then needed to convert the space.

Jane Gilchrist, the center’s only full-time professional staffer, said reaction to the project has been positive so far.

“The kids are enthusiastic about reading,— she said. “We have some interesting conversations about books, reading and libraries. It’s been a very pleasurable experience personally and professionally to me.—

The Young Readers Center has about 850 noncirculating books that cannot be checked out. “They’re mostly current and classic children’s books,— Lamolinara said. “They’re books that we’ve gotten through donations.—

Most of the donations came from book publishers and library staff, he added.

The Young Reader Center is the latest in a broader attempt by the Library to appeal to children and teens.

“We have some special outreach for young people,— Lamolinara said. “Kids do read books like ‘Harry Potter,’ but we also know that a lot of kids aren’t reading.—

In late September, the Library launched the Web portal read.gov to help encourage reading among children and adults. Part of the Web site launch included the start of a collaborative, serialized online work, with different authors and illustrators taking turns creating and illustrating the narrative.