September 23, 2021

National Book Festival: A Storied Past, Innovative Present, and Promising Future

By Dennis Nangle, Senior Program Officer for the Grants to States Program

National Book Festival 2019 IMLS Booth
IMLS staff members interact with festivalgoers at the IMLS booth during the 2019 National Book Festival.

The National Book Festival has been a flagship event for the Institute of Museum and Library Services since 2002, when the Pavilion of States first presented an opportunity for thousands of festivalgoers to get a first-hand glimpse into the critical work State Libraries and State Centers for the Book do to support and preserve the literary heritage of every state and territory.

IMLS’ participation in the National Book Festival is an annual highlight for the agency. The IMLS presence at the festival affords us the opportunity to connect with hundreds of thousands of book lovers, as we help them connect their love of reading with the critical work their local State Libraries and Centers for the Book do to help literacy thrive in their communities.

Over the last 19 years, the festival has grown exponentially, adapting to offer engaging virtual activities while we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 National Book Festival reflects the need to continuously adapt to the ever-changing world we live in. In lieu of an in-person festival, this year’s National Book Festival is an exciting 10-day virtual experience, complete with exclusive author interviews, podcast content, and a PBS special hosted by LeVar Burton.

IMLS is a proud sponsor of podcast interviews and videos on demand in the genres of Children, History & Biography, Science, and Teens.

IMLS Dennis Nangle at National Book Festival
Dennis Nangle, IMLS Senior Program Officer for the Grants to States Program, introduces a panel discussion on Storytime For All at the 2019 National Book Festival.

Since the National Book Festival is unable to hold a physical “Parade of States” environment this year, IMLS has collaborated with state libraries and State Centers for the Book to develop local events that celebrate the book festival in your backyard. Click here to find a list of events near you.

IMLS Director Crosby Kemper remarks on the 2021 National Book Festival, the agency’s history of support, and what the festival’s theme “Open a Book, Open the World” means to libraries across the country. Whether it’s in person or virtual, IMLS’s participation in the National Book Festival endeavors to present a balance of State literary heritage topics, as well as informing the public of impactful and important services provided by the Nation’s State Libraries.

Are you a library that is holding a literacy event during the National Book Festival period (9/17-9/26) or did you attend a local event? There’s still time to tell us all about it using the #NatBookFest hashtag on social media.