Libraries are the mainstays of democracy. The first thing dictators do when taking over a country is close all the libraries, because libraries are full of ideas and differences of opinion, all the things we say we want in a free and open society. So keep 'em, fund 'em, embrace and cherish 'em.
We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future. We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves. Use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside.
It's funny that we think of libraries as quiet demure places where we are shushed by dusty, bun-balancing, bespectacled women. The truth is libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy and community. Librarians have stood up to the Patriot Act, sat down with noisy toddlers and reached out to illiterate adults. Libraries can never be shushed.
I have always had a special affinity for libraries and librarians, for the most obvious reasons. I love books. (One of my first Jobs was shelving books at a branch of the Chicago Public Library.) Libraries are a pillar of any society. I believe our lack of attention to funding and caring for them properly in the United States has a direct bearing on problems of literacy, productivity, and our inability to compete in today's world. Libraries are everyman's free university.
When the function of libraries is put in terms of their contributions to the community, people see their centrality. The challenge to us is to continue to help them see it in those terms to describe our larger purposes. We must assert that libraries are central to the quality of life in our society; that libraries have a direct role in preserving democratic freedoms. Free access to information and the opportunity of every individual to improve his or her mind, employment prospects, and lifestyle are fundamental rights in our society.
As a shy, introverted, scholarly child (long ago) I don't know what I would have done without libraries! My family moved often. I was always the new kid in town. The library always offered me my first and most important friendship: the place where I felt right at home. I still feel that way today, about libraries.
Today, if you have an Internet connection, you have at your fingertips an amount of information previously available only to those with access to the world's greatest libraries - indeed, in most respects what is available through the Internet dwarfs those libraries, and it is incomparably easier to find what you need.
Libraries are at a cultural crossroads. Some proffer that libraries as we know them may go away altogether, ironic victims of the information age where Google has subverted Dewey decimal and researchers can access anything on a handheld device. Who needs to venture deep into the stacks when answers are but a click away?
Libraries are not just for reading in, but for sociable thinking, exploring, exchanging ideas and falling in love. They were never silent. Technology will not change that, for even in the starchiest heyday of Victorian self-improvement, libraries were intended to be meeting places of the mind, recreational as well as educational.
Andrew Carnegie loved libraries; he knew their importance to an educated society and as anchors to our communities. And so, just as some loyal baseball fans travel to attend games at all 30 major league stadiums, over the last decade or so, I have slowly, casually, visited Carnegie libraries whenever I am on the road.
Libraries really are the gates to the future. So it is unfortunate that, round the world, we observe local authorities seizing the opportunity to close libraries as an easy way to save money, without realising that they are stealing from the future to pay for today. They are closing the gates that should be open.
NC LIVE has the potential to give citizens across North Carolina immediate access to the rich array of information resources housed by the libraries on UNC's 16 campuses. It will allow unprecedented collaboration and sharing of resources among sister UNC institutions, the community colleges, and the state's public libraries.
Molly Corbett Broad
The American Library Association (ALA) is saddened by the tragic loss of life and widespread damage to homes and communities by Hurricane Katrina, ... Libraries are an indispensable part of their communities, providing support and resources for everyone. Dozens of libraries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama need our assistance so they, in turn, can meet the many needs of their communities.
In 2002, Google began an ambitious project to digitize every book in the world. It was intended as a search project: type in a query, and Google would show you snippets. They asked university libraries for books, which they would scan for free. At Harvard we didn't permit them to take works under copyright, but other libraries gave them everything.
All over the world, there are libraries of a sort. They are among the most beautiful places on the earth, and they hold more information than the Library of Congress. Within these libraries are millions of books, each a uniques masterpiece to see and touch. They are teaching this language to scientists. However, so far only one percent of the books have been deciphered. Some tell how to find new medicines; others reveal new things to eat... These treasure houses of knowledge are the ancient forests of our planet.
It is fascinating that Baghdad had more than 100 public libraries in the year 891, Cordoba had 70 public libraries at the end of 10th century, while the royal library of Caliph al-'Aziz, in the year 988, of the Fatimids in Cairo perhaps had more than 100, 000 volumes collection arranged in classified order.
In a library, you can find small miracles and truth, and you might find something that will make you laugh so hard that you will get shushed, in the friendliest way. I have found sanctuary in libraries my whole life, and there is sanctuary there now, from the war, from the storms of our families and our own minds. Libraries are like mountains or meadows or creeks: sacred space. So this afternoon, I'll walk to the library.
If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all""except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.
John F. Kennedy
If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all-except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty. [Response to questionnaire in Saturday Review, October 29 1960]
John F. Kennedy
But I loved the library simply because it was a library. I love libraries. I like reading, but I love libraries. Being surrounded by books makes me feel safe, the way some people need trees or mountains around them to feel secure. Not me - nature's not what I cling to. I cling to books.
Emily Wing Smith
I claim that this bookless library is a dream, a hallucination of on-line addicts; network neophytes, and library-automation insiders...Instead, I suspect computers will deviously chew away at libraries from the inside. They'll eat up book budgets and require librarians that are more comfortable with computers than with children and scholars. Libraries will become adept at supplying the public with fast, low-quality information. The result won't be a library without books--it'll be a library without value.
Children have to have access to books, and a lot of children can't go to a store and buy a book. We need not only our public libraries to be funded properly and staffed properly, but our school libraries. Many children can't get to a public library, and the only library they have is a school library.
Massive changes may have occurred in libraries in recent years, with new digital resources and services supplementing the old traditional resources and services, the dog-eared card catalogues ripped up and destroyed, workstations suddenly everywhere, but one essential aspect of 'libraryness' has not changed: libraries remain places dedicated to storage. Books continue to be published in greater and greater numbers - so great in fact that there are no accurate figures as to exactly how many are published: some say one every thirty seconds, others four thousand per day, others a million per year - and somehow, whether through the off-site storage of the physical books themselves, or microfilm copying, or digital scanning, we remain obliged to keep up with or afloat in this vast deluge of paper. Even the new, high-tech rebranded libraries opened to great fanfare in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in the 1990s could not get away from this essential fact of paper hoarding: they were called 'Idea Stores.' - p.56
The thing is, someday the sun is going to die and everything on Earth will freeze. This will happen. Even if we end global warming and clean up our radiation. The complete works of William Shakespeare, Monet's lilies, all of Hemingway, all of Milton, all of Keats, our music libraries, our library libraries, our galleries, our poetry, our letters, our names etched in desks. I used to think printing things made them permanent, but that seems so silly now. Everything will be destroyed no matter how hard we work to create it. The idea terrifies me. I want tiny permanents. I want gigantic permanents! I want what I think and who I am captured in an anthology of indulgence I can comfortingly tuck into a shelf in some labyrinthine library.
On to the library. And all through his time at the card catalog, combing the shelves, filling out the request cards, he danced a silent, flirtatious minuet of the eyes with a rosy-cheeked redhead in the biology section, pages of notes spread before her. All his life, he had had a yen for women in libraries. In a cerebral setting, the physical becomes irresistible. Also, he figured he was really more likely to meet a better or at least more compatible woman in a library than in a saloon. Ought to have singles libraries, with soups and salads, Bach and Mozart, Montaignes bound in morocco; place to sip, smoke, and seduce in a classical setting, noon to midnight. Chaucer's Salons, call them, franchise chain.
Speaking of libraries: A big open-stack academic or public library is no small pleasure to work in. You're, say, trying to do a piece on something in Nevada, and you go down to C Floor, deep in the earth, and out to what a miner would call a remote working face. You find 10995.497S just where the card catalog and the online computer thought it would be, but that is only the initial nick. The book you knew about has led you to others you did not know about. To the ceiling the shelves are loaded with books about Nevada. You pull them down, one at a time, and sit on the floor and look them over until you are sitting on a pile five feet high, at which point you are late home for dinner and you get up and walk away. It's an incomparable boon to research, all that; but it is also a reason why there are almost no large open-stack libraries left in the world.
Libraries are a force for good. They wear capes. They fight evil. They don't get upset when you don't send them a card on their birthdays. (Though they will charge you if you're late returning a book.) They serve communities. The town without a library is a town without a soul. The library card is a passport to wonders and miracles, glimpses into other lives, religions, experiences, the hopes and dreams and strivings of ALL human beings, and it is this passport that opens our eyes and hearts to the world beyond our front doors, that is one of our best hopes against tyranny, xenophobia, hopelessness, despair, anarchy, and ignorance. Libraries are the torch of the world, illuminating the path when it feels too dark to see. We mustn't allow that torch to be extinguished.