Norman Public Library Central will be designated a national Literary Landmark in a ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 3, at the library.
The library will be added to the list of more than 130 sites across the United States that have special literary significance. Norman Central receives its Literary Landmark designation for having on display the 1958 Newbery Award medal presented to the library by author Harold Keith.
The Newbery has been awarded annually since 1922 for the most distinguished contributions to American literature for children. The Newbery on display in Norman was presented to Keith for his Civil War novel “Rifles for Watie.” Keith’s Newbery medal has been in the Gallery Room.
The popular bluegrass band Byron Berline will underscore the event. Berline is the founder of the annual Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival and he is widely recognized as one of the world's premier fiddle players. In his days at OU, Berline was befriended by Keith who mentored him in cross country running.
The official Literary Landmark dedication ceremony will begin at 3 p.m. Special guests will be members of Keith’s family including his niece Lynn McIntosh and his grandson Duke Keith along with his publisher and long-time friend Molly Griffis who reprinted many of Keith’s early works through her Norman publishing house Levite of Apache. Michael Wallis will serve as Master of Ceremonies.
Although Keith published more than twenty books for children and adults, he was better known locally for being the first sports information director for the University of Oklahoma. In that role he pioneered the use of a game highlight reel and was a master of the feature story about particular athletes or games. He wrote several sports history books including “47 Straight” which documented the winning streak of the Oklahoma Sooners under Bud Wilkinson.
The Literary Landmarks project began in 1986. It is an ongoing project of the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations, ALTAFF), the division of the American Library Association.
With the addition of Norman, the state of Oklahoma has twelve Literary Landmarks located in the communities of Okemah, Oklahoma City, Claremore (2), Marshall, Stillwater, McAlester, Sallisaw, Pawhuska, Talequah, and Stroud. Keith joins Oklahoma Literary Landmark authors Woody Guthire, Ralph Ellison, Lynn Riggs, Angie Debo, John Berryman, Sequoyah, Will Rogers, John Mathews, Wilson Rawls, and Wilma McDaniel.
Copies of “Rifles for Watie” and “47 Straight” will be available for purchase at the event.
Sponsors for the Norman Public Library Central Literary Landmark celebration include the Pioneer Library System, Friends of Libraries in Oklahoma (FOLIO), and the University of Oklahoma Athletic Department, Friends of the Norman Library and the Oklahoma Humanities Council.