M.T. Anderson and young fans at the National Book Festival


John Y. Cole, DirectorPhotograph of John Y. Cole

Librarian and historian John Y. Cole has served the Library of Congress since 1966. In 1976, Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin named Cole chairman of a one-year Library of Congress Task Force on Goals, Organization, and Planning. After the Task Force submitted its recommendations, Dr. Boorstin asked Cole to become the founding director of the new Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

The center was established by Congress in 1977 (P.L. 95-129) as a public-private partnership; its mission is to use the resources and prestige of the Library of Congress to stimulate public interest in books and reading and to encourage the historical study of books and print culture. Its program is funded by private, tax-deductable contributions; the Library of Congress supports its staff positions.

Cole is a graduate of the University of Washington (B.A. in history, 1962, Master’s degree in Librarianship, 1963); the Johns Hopkins University (Master’s degree in Liberal Arts, 1966); and the George Washington University (Ph.D in American Civilization, 1971). His major scholarly interest is the history of the Library of Congress, particularly the development of its national role.

John Cole is a tireless promoter of books, reading, and libraries—and of the Library of Congress. He has been the author coordinator of the U.S. National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library, since its creation in 2001. Under his leadership, the Center for the Book has grown into an office of national and international importance. All fifty states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands have established affiliates of the national center at the Library of Congress. The Center for the Book has encouraged the creation of centers for the study of print culture in the U.S. and inspired the establishment of centers for book and reading promotion in other countries, most notably South Africa (1998) and in Russia (2001). In 2009 in the Jefferson Building, the center opened a Young Readers Center, the first Library of Congress space devoted to the reading interests of young people under the age of 16. In 2013, the Library of Congress transferred responsibility for its Poetry and Literature Center to the Center for the Book.

To honor Dr. Cole’s distinguished service to the profession of librarianship, in 2000 the American Library Association presented him with its prestigious Lippincott Award. His scholarly colleagues honored him in 2010 with a festschrift, “The Library of Congress and the Center for the Book: Historical Essays in Honor of John Y. Cole,” published by the University of Texas Press as a special issue of its journal, Libraries & the Cultural Record: Exploring the History of Collections of Recorded Knowledge.

Cole has published extensively about the history of books and libraries in society and the history of the Library of Congress. With Jane Aikin, he is the co-editor of the Encyclopedia of the Library of Congress: For Congress, the Nation, and the World (Bernan, 2004). He is the author of two popular Library of Congress volumes, Jefferson’s Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress (1993) and On These Walls: Inscriptions and Quotations in the Library of Congress (1995, revised edition 2008). He has edited 14 books published by the Center for the Book, including Television, the Book, and the Classroom (1978), Books in Action: The Armed Services Editions (1984), and Books in Our Future: Perspectives and Proposals (1987).

From March 1990 until February 1992, Dr. Cole served concurrently as director of the Center for the Book and as the Library’s Acting Associate Librarian for Cultural Affairs. From September 1993 until May 1995, and again from January-July 2009, he had the additional duty of Acting Director of the Library’s Publishing Office. From October 1997 through December 2000, he was co-chair of the steering committee for the commemoration of the Library of Congress Bicentennial in the year 2000. He is a Corresponding Member of the Literacy and Reading Section of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA); he served as Section chair from 1997-2001 and as newsletter editor from 1997-2008.

Other Center for the Book Staff

Anne Boni — Program Officer
Guy Lamolinara — Communications Officer
Staceya Sistare Anderson — Program Specialist

Poetry and Literature Center Staff

Robert Casper — Head

Young Readers Center Staff

Karen Jaffe — Head