In Gratitude For Public Libraries


Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.  —Anne Herbert

I would like to take a moment to say thanks… for public libraries. Public libraries give all people access to the wealth of human understanding without asking anything in return. Obscure and out of print books, books too expensive for most people to own, books on any and every subject one could desire to learn about are freely lent for only a promise to bring them back. This is extraordinary! The support of a public library is one of the most important things a community can do and thankfully is a high priority. The existence of such wonderful places, though, seems to imply a responsibility for those of us blessed enough to have access to the books, music, journals, museum passes and such that the library provides. We have no excuse for not continually seeking self improvement. If we fund libraries through our taxes and then never use them we are impoverishing ourselves on a human level.

 A man who I belive to be a hero of educational philosophy, Mortimer Adler, educated himself at the New York Public Library after dropping out of school to go to work at the age of fourteen. He went on to become the only person to earn a doctorate degree from Columbia University without having the benefit of a bachelor’s degree, and then went on to dedicate his life to making a liberal education as widely possessed as possible. He founded the Great Books movement and contributed to the compilation of the Great Books of the Western World series, which put most of the most influential western books up until his time in one set– many of them accessible to the masses for the first time. None of this would have happened without the public library.

Residing quietly in our cities are repositories of the seeds of greatness. Libraries are unassuming places, never ostentatious, not resorting to flashy lights and catchy jingles to lure patrons. The library is there waiting to welcome all who desire knowledge and to share freely the wealth contained therein; jewels laid bare for the taking– jewels with the remarkable property of belonging to all who desire them and having the capacity to be possessed fully by many at once. There is great treasure available to us for the asking, the only price being the effort we put forth to acquire this treasure. Thank you, fellow citizens, for funding the public library. You are doing an immeasurable service to humanity.

 

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