Missouri Center for the Book

Timeline of Events


The Missouri Center for the Book celebrates Missouri’s literary heritage and promotes the vital role of books and reading in the cultural life of the state.



  • Center for the Book in the Library of Congress approved a proposal for the establishment of a Missouri Center for the Book. Governor Mel Carnahan issued a press release about the Center’s establishment, noting that First Lady Jean Carnahan would serve as honorary chair of the Center. Missouri was the 28th state to establish a Center for the Book. Articles of incorporation were approved for the Missouri Center for the Book on September 20, 1993.


  • The Inaugural Gala: “Missouri Authors Recognition Day” took place on September 23, 2003, at the Missouri State Capitol. This event attracted more than 200 authors, featured readings, an author roll-call, an exhibit of books by Missouri authors in the House Lounge, and a reception for authors and guests at the Governor’s Mansion. Attendance numbered more than 300. No such comparable event had ever been held in the state.


  • Missouri Authors Collection: The collection was established shortly before the inaugural event when authors were asked to donate a book to the Missouri Center. Many of these books have been autographed by the authors. The University of Missouri Press also donated 60 books to the collection. Housed at the Missouri State Library, the collection now includes approximately 1,000 volumes.


  • Compilation of the Missouri Community of the Book, was also begun in 1993. The author database of the state’s living authors, includes the author’s genre, contact information (when provided), a list of the author’s works, and the author’s preferences regarding speaking engagements and travel. A survey of the state’s bookstores, publishers,  and literary organizations was also begun at this time, with the intention of including that information in the same database.


  • Bylaws were developed in consultation with a representative from the Attorney General’s Office.



  • An advanced graphics class at the University of Missouri School of Journalism agreed to work with the Missouri Center on the development of a logo. The teacher, Dr. Birgit Wassmuth, was a nationally known graphic arts specialist.


  • Missouri Center received a $5,000 grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Foundation to develop projects or publications for promotion of Missouri’s literary heritage and half of the project funds were used to print a poster listing more than 400 Missouri authors and to design and produce a Missouri authors t-shirt for sale at conferences and exhibits.  The poster was distributed to all Missouri libraries and schools.



  • Application for nonprofit status submitted to the Internal Revenue Service.


  • Co-sponsored (with the Missouri Humanities Council) a grant from the National Book Foundation (NBF) to conduct book discussion programs in five Missouri public libraries. This project was part of the NBF’s “Writing Life” series and focused on family issues.



  • Internal Revenue Service approved Missouri Center’s application for nonprofit status.


  • Missouri Center sponsored an exhibit on censorship, “The Bonfires of Liberties,” at the State Capitol from October to December.


  • Writing and research for Missouri’s Literary Heritage by Dr. Thomas F. Dillingham, Rebecca Schroeder, and Madeline Matson. The Missouri Division of Tourism collaborated with the Missouri Center on this project by contributing $5,000 for artwork from its advertising agency.


  • Three logos from Dr. Wassmuth’s class presented to the Missouri Center board. The winning design was created by Brooke Vangel, daughter of the principals of the Vangel advertising agency in Columbia.


  • Demonstration of the Missouri Center’s pilot author database debuted at the Missouri Library Association annual conference.


  • Missouri author t-shirts, mugs, and canvas bags featuring the Missouri Center’s logo produced for sale at literary and library events.



  • Completion of Missouri’s Literary Heritage, a 36-page booklet describing the state’s literary tradition from early settlement days to the present and including 60 photos of authors and literary sites. Generous grants from a number of state organizations enabled the Missouri Center to print 7,500 booklets. The booklets were distributed to the seven state tourism centers and to libraries, bookstores, authors, and schools.


  • Sponsored student essay contest for “Thomas Jefferson Days” in Jefferson City middle schools.


  • First Celebration of the Book was held in November. The two-day program encompassed lectures, panels, workshops, demonstrations, storytelling, readings, and book signings. It featured 65 Missouri authors (or those with ties to Missouri) and the involvement of 10 Columbia businesses. Total attendance was approximately 300, with an additional 200 participating in the downtown “Author Walk.”



  • All-board retreat held in January.


  • Popularity of Missouri’s Literary Heritage resulted in an additional printing of 10,000 copies, with costs shared by the Missouri Center and the Missouri Division of Tourism.


  • General brochure produced detailing the Missouri Center’s mission and activities.


  • Co-sponsored (with the University of Missouri School of Journalism) “An Evening with Mary Kay Blakely” (author and founding editor of Ms. magazine) in October. Theme was “The Art of Memoir Writing.” 



  • Co-sponsored (with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress) the Midwest “launch” of the Favorite Poem Project in St. Louis. The Missouri Center was one of five centers for the book to work on this project, which was poet laureate Robert Pinsky’s national outreach effort. Thirteen Missourians, including the mayor of St. Louis, read their favorite poems and were videotaped for the Library of Congress archives. The Center worked with the Creative Writing Program at Washington University to select readers and to publicize the event, which attracted an audience of 125.


  • Second Celebration of the Book was held in April with the theme “The Literary v. The Commercial: Books & Bucks.” Keynote speakers included Jane Smiley and Paul Nagel. Thirty-five authors, editors, publishers, and bookstore owners served on eight panels or made special presentations during the two-day event. Attendance topped 500.


  • First issue of BookMarks, the Center’s newsletter, published.


  • Missouri Center’s website debuted. Three years in the making, the website offers detailed information on more than 400 resident authors as well as Missouri publishers, literary organizations, and bookstores. Also included are links to other book-related sites, a listing of Missouri newspapers, the full text of Missouri’s Literary Heritage, and general information about the Center. The website has been praised by the national Center for the Book for its comprehensiveness.



  • Missouri Center received the Daniel Boorstin State Award of $5,000 in recognition of its programming and collaborative efforts. Award conferred at the annual meeting of state centers for the book at the Library of Congress.


  • Third Celebration of the Book was held in November with the theme “Books & Bytes: The Future of the Book.” Key presenters included authors Sven Birkerts and Clifton Taulbert, NPR book reviewer Alan Cheuse, and library visionary Clifford Lynch. Six panels featured Missouri authors who discussed how technology affects writers, archivists, book publishers, booksellers, and libraries. The Celebration also featured an exhibit by Missouri publishers, book signings, and an evening of readings by 12 Missouri authors. Attendance numbered 250.



  • Revision of the Missouri Center’s general brochure and development of a bookmark.


  • Through an anonymous donation, the Center embarked on a five-year compilation of winning letters from the state Letters About Literature contest.


  • Increased the Missouri Authors Collection through efforts of board members.


  • Fourth Celebration of the Book—“Meet Missouri Authors”—was held in November and included several components: a book fair featuring 100+ Missouri authors and nine author “conversations” (panels) on biographical and historical writing, mystery, science fiction, local history, sports writing, romance, translation, and Missouri’s literary journals. A special lecture and book signing by Calvin Trillin concluded the Celebration along with a reception sponsored by the University of Missouri chancellor. The Celebration attracted 450 attendees.



  • Books Change Lives, a 78-page book of student contributions from the state Letters About Literature contest, was published in the spring with financing from an anonymous donor. The book was distributed to all public libraries in the state, to the students and their teachers, and to school libraries at the students’ schools. This book became a model for other state centers.


  • The Missouri Center president and other board members researched and prepared background materials on state poet laureate programs. The Center was the lead organization for the planning of this project. However, this project is at a standstill.


  • The Missouri Center’s website was moved to the Columbia Online Information Network (COIN), a community information network.



  • Poetry in Missouri Public Libraries—a one-day conference held in March and conducted by staff from the Poets House in New York City. The Missouri Center sponsored this conference with the Missouri State Library. Also involved as a key presenter was a Missouri poet who served on the Center’s board of directors. Several other Center board members and the coordinator consulted on the project and made presentations at the conference.


  • The Missouri Center’s board initiated a membership drive, with a selection of Missouri literary journals as a membership “hook.” Editors from five literary magazines donated current back copies for this project. A board member designed a membership flyer, which was distributed at conferences, arts festivals, and other events.


  • Fifth Celebration of the Book—“Missouri Authors Read” featured 13 distinguished authors from all parts of the state who presented readings every half hour during the day. The Celebration was held in November at a coffee house/cultural center, which was well suited to the program format. Attendance ranged from 150 to 200 throughout the day.



  • Why I Read Statewide Poetry Contest—This statewide contest was extensively promoted in print and online during one month in the summer. The contest drew more than 300 entries, some of which were compiled into a 24-page chapbook, Missourians Write About Reading, for distribution at the book festival and to Missouri public libraries. Contest judges were three Missouri Center board members (two well-known poets and a professor of English). The winning poet received an all-expense-paid trip to the National Book Festival.


  • Board members and MCB coordinator developed a series of bookmarks featuring Missouri authors that were distributed at the Second National Book Festival. Categories included fiction, nonfiction, poetry, state history, folklore, biography, and children’s literature. The State Library financed the printing of these bookmarks.


  • The State Librarian, MCB coordinator, and a State Library staff member (a former MCB board member) staffed the Missouri exhibit at the Second National Book Festival. Missouri’s exhibit was “content rich” compared to other states’ exhibits.



  • The Missouri Center inaugurated a new electronic project, Missouri Author E-views,” on the Web. Each month, a different author is interviewed by a board member or someone familiar with a particular author’s work. The interviews are published on the Center’s website along with a photo of the author and a listing of his/her works.


  • Sixth Celebration of the Book, was held in St. Louis with the co-sponsorship of St. Louis Public Library. Eight Missouri authors read from their works, answered questions from the audience, and signed books. More than 500 people attended the event.


  • The Missouri Center’s general brochure was redesigned into a large bookmark.



  • To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Missouri Center for the Book, two author celebrations were held in September and November. The Kansas City Public Library cosponsored an author celebration that featured ten Missouri authors and was held in conjunction with the annual Thorpe Menn awards luncheon and the Maple Woods Community College Writers’ & Readers’ Conference.  The St. Louis Public Library cosponsored the other author celebration, where eight authors read from their works and signed books for the audience at the Schlafly branch location.


  • The Center staffed the Missouri exhibit at the 2004 National Book Festival in Washington D.C. The State Library invited a St. Louis area public library director to attend and promote Missouri’s various “one book” programs at the exhibit. The MCB coordinator and vice president also attended. Materials promoting Missouri’s libraries, authors, and literacy efforts were distributed to the thousands who participated.





  • Since 1995, 11,987 students have participated in Missouri’s Letters About Literature contest.


  • Throughout the years, board members have staffed exhibits at annual conferences of the Missouri Library Association, Missouri Association of School Librarians, Missouri Folklore Society, and at the Columbia Festival of the Arts.


  • The Missouri Center’s Web site averages more than 15,000 “hits” per month.


  • The Missouri Center continues to co-sponsor the Missouri Heritage Readers, a series of books for adult new readers published by the University of Missouri Press. To date, more than 50,000 books in the 19-book series have been sold.


  • Over two hundred authors have participated in the Missouri Center’s programs during this 11-year period (This does not include the authors who participated in the inaugural event).




*Original timeline prepared by Madeline Matson