About Us: Mission & Purpose
The Literary Presenters Technical Assistance Program (LitTAP) benefits the public and the art of writing by networking organizations and building and sustaining their capacity to foster, promote and present the literary arts. LitTAP's expanded network also creates greater visibility for the writing arts and helps embed literature into the fabric of American culture. Founded by arts management consultant Debora Ott, Principal, Smart Solutions, in 2001 as an initiative of the New York State Council of the Arts’ Literature Program, LitTAP was a first response to needs identified by leaders from among the nation's most respected literary organizations to professionalize the literary arts field.
The New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) seeks to support organizational development and ongoing professional development, continuity of leadership, and improvement of professional conditions for leaders within cultural organizations. It is dedicated to preserving and expanding the rich and diverse cultural resources that are and will become the heritage of New York's citizens. NYSCA supported LitTAP at its inception allowing it to help literary arts presenters access the tools and resources they needed to succeed and survive. Continued NYSCA support has enabled LitTAP to connect individuals of shared interest and purpose and increase the capacity of literary organizations to serve the public and become self-sustaining.
In addition to the resources provided on its website, LitTAP has offered consulting hours to individuals and organizations that present writers and writing programs to the public; facilitated workshops and seminars on nonprofit management and administration; coordinated FACING PAGES, a statewide literary arts convening for literary arts presenters, writers, presses and independent publishers; and sponsored the Strategic Technology Project re-grants as a follow-up to the FACING PAGES 2009 Statewide Convening – Beyond the Tangled Web: Envisioning A Comprehensive Technology Strategy for Your Literary Organization.
LitTAP is administered by Just Buffalo Literary Center, Inc. Laurie Dean Torrell, Executive Director. The organization provides leadership and fiscal agency for LitTAP as an extension of its mission to create and strengthen communities through the literary arts. Questions and comments are encouraged and should be addressed to: Laurie Dean Torrell, Executive Director, Just Buffalo Literary Center, Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org and Debora Ott, LitTAP Founder email@example.com.
In April 1998, prior to LitTAP's emergence, the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund (now The Wallace Foundation http://www.wallacefoundation.org/) invited eight US literary centers to participate in the Audiences for Literature Network (ALN), a one-year planning process to develop audiences for literature in local communities. Along with project support that extended ALN for an additional two years, came a series of network-wide activities, convenings, publications and communication strategies to facilitate shared learning and infrastructure enhancement so that each center could meet the challenges and demands of increased program and service delivery.
Not since the early 1990's – when a record number of literary arts organizations were accepted into the Advancement Program of the National Endowment for the Arts – did a project so comprehensively address the audience development, stabilization, planning and infrastructure needs of literary centers. Intent on sharing this knowledge with the literary arts field at large, leaders from some of the nation's most highly-regarded literary organizations spent a year researching, polling and vetting a Network Blueprint. At an ALN-hosted conference at the Open Book Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota in October, 2000, these individuals were joined by others to identify common needs, specify how to meet those needs and reconsider and expand upon the traditional definition of a literary presenting organization.
The meeting re-confirmed the need for a "voice" for the literary community, and a new vision for ALN was crafted that combined the activities of a network and a literary service organization. ALN program growth and service was to be managed through existing ALN organizations and administered through Writers & Books in Rochester, New York. In time, the ALN Network planned to reach the entire field of literature – writers, publishers, printers, distributors, bookstores, libraries, readers, audiences and presenters – through programs that encouraged, promoted and celebrated the literary arts. Sadly, this vision was not realized nationally due in part to a redirection of funding priorities at the foundation and the daily demands on literary professionals from within their own organizations.
Kathleen Masterson, Literature Director, New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and Joe Flaherty, Executive Director, Writers & Books, were at the meeting in Minneapolis in 2000. Working together, they began to consider field-wide needs raised at that meeting in terms of service to literary presenters in New York state. Debora Ott was invited to give form to LitTAP and its initiatives as its first director. Writers & Books administered LitTAP until 2006.