Quick Take: American Library Association staffer compiles interviews and speeches by notable Americans about the importance of reading and librares.
Makes Me Want To: Share with everyone who think libraries aren’t needed anymore and work even harder for my hometown public library
My Thoughts: I saw this on the shelf at the Maine State Library and thought it would be a nice, fun, light read. The book is an ode to libraries, librarians and reading. It is comprised of speeches by, interviews with, or essays about the following people: Barack Obama, Julie Andrews, Bill Gates, David Mamet, Laura Bush, Ken Burns, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Cokie Roberts, Ron Reagan, Garrison Keillor, Ralph Nader, Jamie Lee Curtis, Al Gore and Oprah Winfrey.
I am of course extremely biased, but the Barack Obama chapter was my favorite. It was his speech to the American Library Association at their annual conference in 2005. This was a year after he electrified the country with his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The ALA speech, Bound to the Word, is another example of what a gifted orator he is. I found it courtesy of the Boulder Public Libary, and if you want to be reminded of the importance of librarians and libraries, I highly recommend it:
At the dawn of the 21st century, where knowledge is literally power, where it unlocks the gates of opportunity and success, we all have responsibilities as parents, as librarians, as educators, as politicians , and as citizens to instill in our children a love of reading so that we can give them a chance to fulfill their dreams.
Beautiful. The section on Julie Andrews was also practically perfect in every way. “Libraries have always been places of opportunity, places where everyone–regardless of age, race, or income–can come together, whether for research, entertainment, self-help, or to find that one special book” (16). How could it be anything less from the woman who brought Mary Poppins to life?
Here are some of my favorite quotes from Reading with the Stars:
Libraries and the Pursuit of Knowledge
- Every advance, every innovation in industry, science, or art, builds upon the work of those who have gone before, which is the common store. That worth, that common store, is the library. –David Mamet
- Thomas Jefferson said in his famous second sentence of the Declaration of Independence that we were entitled to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” and for most people that means a pursuit of material goods. I know that Jefferson, by saying capital-H “Happiness,” meant a kind of lifelong learning, an improving of oneself in the marketplace of ideas, and that any citizen first given life and liberty was then obligated to continue to improve oneself, to work on oneself, for the rest of one’s life. It is the pursuit of happiness—not something that we’d actually achieve—and so it suggets a lifelong quest for self-improvement, which, to my mind, is not just physical, but alos mental and emotional. –Ken Burns
The Library as Place
- Librarians should rejoice in the great tradition out of which they come, dating back at least to Alexander, if not before, and the wonderful, wonderful place that they’ve made in the world and in the country, places where people can find not only wonderful things to read but a sense of belonging and comfort. When you say the word “library,” it conveys a sense of a place, a good place, a place with meaning, and I think that is a wonderful tradition to be part of. –Cokie Roberts
Libraries and Community
- A library takes the gifts of reading one step further. In this day of standardized and homogenized education, a library offers individual and personalized learning opportunities second to none. Perhaps most importantly, libraries offer a powerful antidote to the isolation of the Web, providing connection, support, and community. –Julie Andrews
And a Final Quote from now-President Obama
Libraries have a special role to play in our knowledge economy. Your institutions have been and should be a place where parents and children come to read together and learn together. We should take our kids there more. We should make sure our politicians aren’t closing libraries down because they had to spend a few extra bucks on tax cuts for folks who don’t need them and weren’t asking for them.
Now, please, go visit your local library.