State Historical Library receives NEA Big Read grant
Jack London's The Call of the Wild focus of state-wide events

For immediate release November 14, 2007


Contact: Jeff Morgan,, (515) 281-3858

(DES MOINES) –The State Historical Library announced today it has received a $16,300 National Endowment for the Arts grant to bring the Big Read to Iowa.

The Big Read is a NEA initiative designed to restore reading to the center of American culture and is presented in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest. With the announcement, NEA is awarding grants totaling nearly $1.6 million in its drive toward making the Big Read the largest federal reading program in U.S. history.

“We are absolutely delighted to bring the Big Read to Iowa,” said Cyndi Pederson, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. “It is an exciting program that encourages citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment, and revitalizes the role of literature in American culture and brings the transformative power of literature into the lives of Iowans.”

The State Historical Library is one of 127 libraries, municipalities, and arts, culture and higher education, and science organizations throughout the country to receive a grant to host a Big Read celebration of one of 16 classic novels January-June 2008. The State Historical Library will feature Jack London’s The Call of the Wild in a series of events throughout the state next year.

“In selecting The Call of the Wild for the Big Read program in Iowa, we have chosen a work that addresses numerous universal themes such as what it means to be a family, self-sufficiency, the search for acceptance, honor, loyalty and trust,” Pederson said. “It will also appeal to readers who enjoy adventure, and others may enjoy learning about the social aspects of wolves and competition to be the Alpha male. And, Jack London’s historical tie to Iowa as part of Kelly’s Army makes The Call of the Wild a good fit for the Big Read in Iowa.”

The latest Big Read grantees represent 38 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The NEA inaugurated the Big Read as a pilot project with 10 communities in 2006. By 2009, approximately 400 communities in the U.S. will have hosted a Big Read since the program’s launch.

“In just two years, the Big Read has grown from 10 communities to include nearly 200 towns and cities nationwide,” NEA Chairman Dana Gioia said. “Although each of these communities celebrates its Big Read program in its own way, one theme we consistently hear back is that the Big Read is not just bringing citizens back to the joy of reading, but also reinvigorating the very idea of community. I am delighted to announce the newest round of Big Read communities in this program, which is about so much more than reading.”

The organizations selected to participate in the Big Read for the first half of 2008 will receive grants ranging from $2,500 to $20,000 to promote and carry out community-based programs.

Participating cities and towns also receive reader’s guides and teacher’s guides for each novel, audio guides that also can be used as radio programming, publicity materials, an online organizer’s guide for running a successful Big Read program, and access to a comprehensive Big Read Web site. Each local program will include events, such as read-a-thons, book discussions, film screenings, and library and museum exhibits aimed at avid and lapsed or reluctant readers alike.

“The Big Read is reaching across state and international borders,” said Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the NEA’s lead federal partner for the Big Read. “As director of the IMLS, the federal agency that funds libraries and museums, I am pleased to support this initiative that is creating a new generation of readers. The sky is truly the limit with this partnership.”

The next Big Read application deadline is Feb. 12, 2008, for communities wishing to host a Big Read from September 2008-June 2009. For more information on the Big Read, including program FAQs, the complete list of Big Read novels, and application deadlines, please visit

A listing of all the Big Read grants awarded for programming in January-June 2008 is available at

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is responsible for developing the state’s interest in the areas of the arts, history and other cultural matters with the advice and assistance from its two divisions: the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Iowa Arts Council. DCA preserves, researches, interprets and promotes an awareness and understanding of local, state and regional history and stimulates and encourages the study and presentation of the performing and fine arts and public interest and participation in them. It implements tourism-related art and history projects as directed by the General Assembly and designs a comprehensive, statewide, long-range plan with the assistance of the Iowa Arts Council to develop the arts in Iowa. More information about DCA is available at

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The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts—both new and established—bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases. For more information, please visit

 The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. For more information, please visit

 Arts Midwest connects people throughout the Midwest and the world to meaningful arts opportunities, sharing creativity, knowledge, and understanding across boundaries. Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six non-profit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 25 years. For more information, please visit

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