More than a building that houses books and data, the library represents a window to a larger world, the place where weíve always come to discover big ideas and profound concepts that help move the American story forward and the human story forward. Thatís the reason why, since ancient antiquity, whenever those who seek power would want to control the human spirit, they have gone after libraries and books. Whether itís the ransacking of the great library at Alexandria, controlling information during the Middle Ages, book burnings, or the imprisonment of writers in former communist block countries, the idea has been that if we can control the word, if we can control what people hear and what they read and what they comprehend, then we can control and imprison them, or at least imprison their minds.
Obama's 2005 speech to the American Library Association
Please read the full text of the speech.
picture source: Pundit Kitchen
footnote: Here are some bits from Obama's answers to an interview conducted just before his speech. (American Libraries; Aug2005, Vol. 36 Issue 7, p48-52, 5p - accessible full text via our Masterfile subscription)
Can you tell us more about the effect libraries have had on you? Here's another interesting fact: People always mention libraries in terms of just being sources for reading material or research. But I probably would not be in Chicago were it not for the Manhattan public library, because I was looking for an organizing job and was having great trouble finding a job as a community organizer in New York. The Mid-Manhattan library had these books of lists of organizations, and the librarian helped me find these lists of organizations, and I wrote to every organization. One of them wound up being an organization in Chicago that I got a job with.
Tell us something that you're not going to say in your speech. You know, I have a soft spot in my heart for librarians. Although I'll probably mention this in my speech, I have been known to misbehave in libraries.
What's your main message to librarians? That our prosperity as a nation is directly correlated to our literacy.