UPR Launches First Center of the Book in Puerto Rico

    On January 25th, the University of Puerto Rico hosted the launch of the Center for the Book in Puerto Rico, the 53rd affiliate center of the Library of Congress, which will be in the Jose M. Lazaro Library (one of the UPR’s own libraries!). This is a historical moment for Puerto Rico, seeing as this will be the first Center for the Book in the island-- but what exactly is a Center for the Book?

    The Center for the Book was founded in 1977 by librarian Daniel Boorstin with the purpose of using the US Library of Congress to promote literacy, education, reading, libraries, amongst other things. Through programs and partnerships with libraries throughout the U.S. and abroad, The Center strives to bring a love and appreciation of literature to various communities around the world.

    How did the Center for the Book in Puerto Rico come to be, then? During the launch event, Dr. Noraida Dominguez-Flores, the Acting Director of the university’s Library System, spoke of the occurrence of this grand opportunity. During a summer internship in the Library of Congress last year, recent UPRM graduate Carlos Carrero-Sepulveda noticed the stark absence of Puerto Rico in the list of Center for the Book affiliates. He took action, discussing this with his mother and librarian, Aida Sepulveda Ruiz, and through collaboration with other members of the University and the Library of Congress, the Puerto Rican Center was finally established.

    A highlight of the event was U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith, who conducted readings of a few of her poems during the ceremony. This is yet another historic moment, given that it’s the first time an active poet laureate visits the island. She read excerpts from her 2012 Pulitzer Prize winning poetry book Life on Mars and her newest collection of poetry, Wade in the Water. Throughout her readings and the rest of the event, the excitement in the room was palpable: despite the difficult times the island is facing as of late, we still continue to work towards a brighter future through education, creativity, and literature.

U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith (right) and Cindy Jiménez-Vera (left), who read Spanish translations of Smith’s poems.

    As an aspiring writer and passionate reader, I believe the launching of this center is an incredibly important moment for the UPR and for Puerto Rico. For the UPR, this is yet another testament to the importance of this university as a cultural and literature hub; this center will not only be an accessible literary and educational source to the community, but its place within the university gives it the opportunity to stimulate research about the history and culture of Puerto Rico found in the production of Puerto Rican literature. For Puerto Rico, this center will help further enhance a culture that celebrates its literary heritage, creativity, and innovation, and it will help highlight the importance of libraries as a center for education, history, and culture.

Image Credit: 1. Other images provided by author.