Forty years after its founding, Library of America was recognized last month for its unique role in preserving and celebrating the nation’s literary heritage when it received the 2018 Innovator’s Award, one of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival.
In making the award, the Times praised Library of America “for the invaluable work it has done over nearly four decades to preserve our nation’s rich written heritage by showcasing literature in all its forms from classics to lesser-known texts; poetry, fiction and memoir to journalism and speeches; crime writing and science fiction to children’s literature, music and dance writings, and so much more.”
Library of America president and publisher Max Rudin accepted the award at the festival in Los Angeles on April 13.
In his acceptance speech, Rudin told the audience, “Our vision for Library of America has been to create a series of essential American writing—essential and also surprising—that honors the democratic inclusiveness of our literary culture. . . . acknowledged masterpieces, neglected gems, and the eloquent witness of ordinary Americans facing extraordinary circumstances.”
“We have much work ahead to curate and renew this precious tradition—our American contribution to the deepest human expression. This award means so much to us because it marks how far we’ve come,” Rudin continued.
The following afternoon, Rudin joined Glory Edim, founder of Well-Read Black Girl; Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation; and the editor and critic David L. Ulin in the festival panel discussion “What It Means to Be a Reader,” moderated by critic Heather Scott Partington.
Instituted in 2009, the Innovator’s Award honors “the people and institutions that are doing cutting edge work to bring books, publishing and storytelling into the future, whether in terms of new business models, new technologies or new applications of narrative art,” as per the book festival website. Previous winners have included Margaret Atwood, Dave Eggers, Powell’s Books, and Glory Edim.
Read the text of the Innovator’s Award below:
A vibrant nonprofit organization, Library of America champions the nation’s cultural heritage by publishing our greatest writing in volumes that encourage readers to explore America’s rich written legacy. From the writings of the Founders, the poems of Frost and Whitman, the novels of Twain and Wharton, the slave narratives of Douglass to the essays of Emerson, Baldwin, and Sontag, America’s multi-faceted identity is revealed.
Encompassing all periods and genres, well-known and lesser-known works, as well as historically important documents and texts, the organization continues to dig deeper and deeper into America’s written history while expanding its scope by publishing great writing found in journals, newspapers, diaries, letters, articles and song lyrics. This writing can be both harder to find and easier to lose and Library of America is committed to preserving and sharing all of it.
Through its public programs, digital resources, and community partnerships, Library of America helps readers make meaningful connections with America’s literary legacy. The organization donates works to the incarcerated, to schools and libraries, and to cultural centers around the world, providing nearly 1,000 sets to countries on every continent.
Library of America’s distinct black volumes are a sure signal to readers that they are getting the very best. In honor of their commitment to preserving the nation’s writing in all its forms and making it widely available, we are honored to present the 2018 Innovator’s Award to Library of America.