“The Island Reader” Goes to the Library of Congress

by | Oct 29, 2022 | News

In 2006, a thinly bound, black and white collection of pages was stapled together, and copies were given out. Inside the cover, beautifully crafted poetry, stories, and artwork leapt off the page. What today looks strikingly similar to a ‘zine, The Island Reader began as an opportunity for artists on four of Maine’s unbridged islands to share their work. Over the years, The Island Reader evolved into a beautifully produced, perfect bound publication featuring the work of artists and writers from 16 unbridged islands. The Island Reader serves as a meditation on islanders and their creative spirits. 

As of this fall, all 16 editions are archived in the physical collection of the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov

Abby Yochelson, reference specialist for English and American Literature at the Library of Congress, shared, “I had just returned from a lovely vacation in Maine when I was asked about adding The Island Reader to our collections. I’ve always been impressed that Maine is one of those states where visual artists and writers seem to grow from the soil! Along with the Maine State Library, the Library of Congress is pleased to be a repository for these examples of creativity from a special corner of our country.”  

The Library of Congress’ archives contain millions of books, films and videos, audio recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps, and manuscripts in its collections. For any piece of American media to be preserved with this federal institution, the material must document American history and culture. Mission President, John Zavodny says, “This is a special moment for the Mission and the islanders who design and contribute to the journal. The poems, stories, words, images, drawings, and paintings of Maine islanders will be archived for years to come not only in The Island Reader, but also in this country’s most important cultural institution.” 

Douglas Cornman with a copy of the Island Reader

The Mission’s Director of Island Outreach, Douglas Cornman, one of The Island Reader’s editors, shares, “I am over-the-moon with excitement, and so full of gratitude, knowing that The Island Reader is now housed in the Library of Congress. I have always thought that The Island Reader is a sweet collection of island stories and experiences. Having it accepted into the Library of Congress’ collection confirms that my feelings are not simply biased, but truth.”   

In 2021, 69 artists and writers submitted work to be included in the 16th edition. Once the submission deadline closes each year, the publication’s editors—who are also islanders—create the layout aboard the Sunbeam. Printed in small print runs each year, the Mission receives requests from across the state and the U.S. Now The Island Reader has come to reside in Washington, D.C., too. 

The editors of The Island Reader are now accepting submissions for the 17th edition. Anyone who lives on one of Maine’s unbridged islands can submit their work by December 31, 2022. The theme of the edition is “Our Island Families.” For more information on how to submit poetry, prose or artwork, click here

To receive a printed copy of the publication, please complete the form here. A digital edition is available at the same link. To learn more about the Mission’s Island Outreach program to understand the depth of work Douglas does with islands and aboard the Sunbeam, click here

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