By JENNIFER GAVIN
As the torch of knowledge hovered over the nearly silent Library of Congress Main Reading Room a few blocks away, a shiny white tent hovered over a happy cacophony of discovery and noise on the National Mall—the Library of Congress Pavilion, taking several Library programs to the people.
This year’s theme was “The Library of Congress and You.”
In the Library’s pavilion, fascinated children and adults alike crawled the World Digital Library website (www.wdl.org), which is available worldwide in seven languages and visited by 12 million people from every nation on earth.
A three-sided kiosk shared photos, videos and memories of the National Book Festival’s “Decade of Words and Wonder.”
Author Larry Minear spoke about his book “Through Veterans’ Eyes” at the section of the pavilion dedicated to the Veterans History Project, which is also celebrating a decade in existence this year. (See Information Bulletin, January/February 2010.)
Bob Patrick, director of the Veterans History Project, said the day went “swimmingly,” including the taking of 300 pledges from attendees who promised to interview the veterans in their families. Patrick said it was effectively a “soft launch” of a pledge program VHP is doing, titled “Preserve American History.”
“Larry had a great turnout for his two presentations,” Patrick said, “and we thought on this 10th anniversary we’d do a push around Veterans Day this year. Our hope is that 10,000 people will make a pledge to interview the veteran in their life.”
Patrick said the book festival “was a great place for us, because there were so many people from different backgrounds and places. We got to talk to scores of people” beyond the 300 who pledged to do veteran interviews, he said.
In one corner of the pavilion, a large screen displayed a “Twitterfall” of messages about the Book Festival, including pithy quotes from authors and exclamations from book-lovers. Small, ticket-like pads hung from the tent’s ceiling, offering passers-by the chance to tear off a hashtag or information about other Library-related social media.
The Library’s Preservation Directorate showed festivalgoers how to preserve everything from old books and photos to CDs, while the Local History and Genealogy Division gave passers-by access to the Library’s special expanded version of Ancestry.com.
One special hit was a flier titled “Kids Create at the National Book Festival,” which featured an “Eye Spy” game based on this year’s official poster by illustrator Peter Ferguson and creative writing and illustration tips from festival authors.
“Kids have a great time coming in and doing their puzzles, the “Eye Spy”—families can see the possibilities,” said Gail Petri of the Library’s Educational Outreach Division, who produced the “Eye Spy” and this year’s web-based “Kids & Teachers Online Guide.”
Petri, who has attended every book festival save the first one in 2001, said she was “delighted” at the response to this year’s festival. “Something for kids and their families—I think that’s what’s important,” she said.
Jennifer Gavin is the senior public affairs specialist in the Library’s Office of Communications and project manager of the National Book Festival.