Excerpt from "A Twenty-Five Year History of the Public Library of Des Moines System, 1966-1991"
"In 1977, a national Center for the Book was established in the Library of Congress, and a decade later, Iowa became the eleventh state to qualify as an affiliate. John Cole, director of the Library of Congress Center, participated at the official opening. The Iowa Center for the Book, located at the Public Library of Des Moines, serves the entire state and supports lectures, symposia, and special events in a continuing effort to promote reading. The Green Foundation provided initial funding and a steering committee seeks financial support for continuing projects. The Library of Congress declared 1987 "The Year of the Reader," and in October of that year, the Iowa Center for the Book sponsored a statewide observance by libraries, schools, and communities called LAGBRAI. This was modeled after the state's successful river-to-river bicycle ride called RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa). The Center proposed a statewide "read together" over the noon hour on a given date and named it LAGBRAI (Libraries Annual Great Book Read Across Iowa). In Des Moines at the Main Library, city officials, business leaders, and local celebrities were invited to read aloud selections from their favorite books.
"In 1988, the second LAGBRAI observance, again celebrating the nationally designated "Year of the Reader," featured a run/walk for all ages, cosponsored by the Greater Des Moines Volkssport Association.
"The Iowa Center for the Book's long-term goal is for every child under sixteen in the state of Iowa to have a library card. A statewide campaign in 1989, "The Year of the Young Reader," resulted in 45,512 new registered Iowa borrowers in grades K-6: a respectable advance toward this goal. National library publications used a photograph of the Public Library of Des Moines' youngest card holder under the "Year of the Young Reader" banner. "Get up on your Soapbox" was the theme for LAGBRAI III in 1989. In the Main Library rotunda and other public sites throughout the city, singers, rappers, and readers gave individual expression to topics of social concern.
"The 1990 LAGBRAI theme was "Read With a Friend," and elementary school students were invited to appear at the Main Library dressed as their favorite book characters. Two professional actors became Mark Twain and William Shakespeare and read from their works. Skits, contests, and refreshments were part of the celebration.
1991 is designated "The Year of the Lifetime Reader," and First Lady Barbara Bush is National Honorary Chair. LAGBRAI V will be a Festival of Iowa Authors to celebrate the library's 125th anniversary. Over twenty Iowa authors will sign books, and visit with the audience. Two individuals who have kept records of their lifetime reading will receive copies of Thomas Jefferson's works from the Library of America project sponsored by the Library of Congress Center for the Book. Maureen Williams, Library of Congress State Center officer, will participate. A program of entertainment and author readings and an ice cream social will be part of the celebration. The internationally-known artist Amy Worthen of Des Moines created a poster, "Celebrate Iowa Authors," for the occasion."