State Historical Library brings NEA's "The Big Read" to Iowa City
Book discussion of Jack London's The Call of the Wild April 23

For immediate release April 17, 2008


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

(DES MOINES) – The State Historical Library is bringing the National Endowment for the Arts’ The Big Read literacy program to Iowa City next week for a discussion of Jack London’s classic novel, The Call of the Wild.

The book discussion will be noon-2 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, 2008, at the State Historical Society’s Centennial Building, 402 Iowa Avenue in Iowa City. More information is available by contacting SHSI’s Iowa City office at 319-335-3916 or Participants are invited to bring a brown-bag lunch.

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Art Midwest. It is designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and bring the transformative power of literature into the lives of its citizens. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment.

SHSI’s Iowa City staff will also highlight Reading Room materials and a display about London and his connections to Kelly’s Army, which marched across Iowa in 1894 to Washington, D.C. to advocate for workers’ rights.

“Jack London joined Kelly’s Army at Council Bluffs to protest for workers’ rights when he was 19 years old,” said Susan Jellinger, SHSI Librarian. “But that’s just part of his Iowa connection. He later visited friends in Newton several times, initially coming to that town to court his future wife, Charmian.”

A limited number of reader’s guides and a CD about this The Big Read selection are available upon request at the State Historical Library in Iowa City for anyone interested in exploring more about this literary master and classic novel.

NEA awarded nearly $1.6 million in grants to 127 libraries, municipalities, and arts, culture and higher education, and science organizations throughout the country to host a Big Read celebration of one of 16 classic novels January-June 2008.

The State Historical Library received a $16,300 NEA grant to promote the program this year in Iowa, choosing London’s The Call of the Wild for a series of events throughout the state April 18-May 28, 2008.

Ten other The Call of the Wild book groups are currently scheduled in Iowa, three showings of a movie version of the book, and a panel discussion about the present state of community and union organizing in Iowa. For a complete schedule, go to

The 2008 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.


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

 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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