There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.
These are the words of Andrew Carnegie, at one time the richest man in the world. Carnegie believed so strongly in libraries that he donated money to build over 2,500 public libraries. As a small child, I climbed the steep steps of the Carnegie Library in Tampa on weekly visits with my parents, breathed in that heady aroma of knowledge, and headed for the Zane Grey books.
For me the library has always been a world of wonder – a world of possibilities where each book is a doorway to another time or place, another life. When my husband and I moved to Madison County in 1975 to live on our mountainside farm, gardening, growing tobacco, and raising cattle, one of the first things I did, right after opening a bank account, was to get a library card. My mother, back in the suburbs of Tampa, might think that we had moved to a howling wilderness but I knew otherwise – there was a library and where there’s a library, there’s civilization.
My love affair with books is unending but the library offers more than books, even more than CD’s and DVD’s. There are learning programs and materials for children and adults, including much-needed help for job seekers. Public computers and Internet access are a boon to those who can’t afford them at home.
Look around – there’s story time for pre-schoolers, crafts classes, lectures and discussions, comfy chairs to relax and read a magazine or newspaper. There are microfiche archives of county newspapers as well as a whole room devoted to genealogy and local history. There’s a meeting room available to community groups. There’s even a phone number to call to ask a librarian whatever you need to find out about.
The library is the place for on-going learning and community involvement. Everyone is welcome --there’s no admission test, no fees It’s small wonder that dictatorships and repressive regimes don’t fund libraries -- a vibrant library grows good citizens, informed citizens, citizens who can think for themselves.
How alarming to think that some of our legislators would seek to make deep cuts in library funding just at a time when libraries are most needed!
I have to agree with well known scientist and author Carl Sagan, when he said:
“I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries. “