Let us now praise libraries, librarians

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1. Fridays after school, especially when the weather was lousy, Mom would take me to the library. She’d let me check out whatever I wanted, and I checked out a lot. Some of my choices were predictable ones like Stephen King or Beverly Cleary or Charles Schulz. But other Fridays I checked out writers I doubt more than three souls in the whole county had heard of, writers like Italo Calvino or Tadeusz Borowski or Chinua Achebe. Often their books were too weird for me, and I’d only manage to stagger through their landscapes for a few pages. But sometimes I fell in love.

I read Stephen Crane’s ‘‘The Open Boat’’ when I was 11. (‘‘Mom, what’s a dingey?’’) I read Paul Bowles’ ‘‘The Sheltering Sky’’ when I was 12. (‘‘Mom, what’s hashish?’’)

Who Needs Archives Anyway?

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Timothy W. Rybac became distressed when he learned that Adolf Hitler’s personal copy of a city and state guide to the location of America’s Jewish population was going on the auction block in early December.  The existence of such a book, in particular when imagined in the hands of the man responsible for the genocide of six million Jews, is distressing, without a doubt.  But Mr. Rybac’s agitation came not from considering the nature of the book and imagining Hitler’s intentions. He was concerned, rather, that the book might wind up in the hands of someone not inclined to donate it to a publically-accessible archive.

Students hear from musician about the importance of libraries

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Several students at Central Cabarrus High School said that when they attended an event about libraries at the school on Friday, they did not expect a musician to be the speaker.

Beaux Foy, lead singer of the band Airiel Down, is this year’s spokesman for the State Library of North Carolina’s Smartest Card campaign. He visited the school on Friday to talk about the resources libraries offer and encourage students to get a library card or use theirs more often.

The presentation began with a commercial about the campaign, starring Foy.

Getting an Education

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The Chicago Public Library Foundation marked its 20th anniversary in 2006 with a fundraiser honoring David Mamet that garnered a record $525,000 in support for the library. Presented with the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, Mamet credited the library and the education he received in the reading room of the old central library (now the Chicago Cultural Center) for his accomplishments as a writer. Some 500 library supporters attended the bash in the Harold Washington Library Center’s grand Winter Garden atrium, including Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who received a Library Champion Award for “his strong personal commitment to and advocacy for Chicago’s libraries and reading.”

From Hoops to Ink: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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“Going to the library helped me understand how big the world was and the incredible amount of possibilities that you had for your life.”

During an interview at the American Library Association’s 2008 Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told me, “I’ve been an avid reader my whole life and spent a lot of time in the library when I was a kid. It’s nice to be associated with an organization like ALA.”

Reading for Life: Oprah Winfrey

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“I don’t believe in failure,” Oprah Winfrey has said, and when you talk about celebrities who influence reading, who among them has had more of an impact on American reading habits than this extraordinary television talk-show host? The ways Oprah Winfrey has supported the programs, the mission, and the success of libraries in the United States are legion.

Librarians have been connected to Oprah’s Book Club since its inception in 1996. Publishers of the chosen titles have sent approximately 10,000 copies of each Oprah-selected book to some 3,560 public and high school libraries and other institutional members of the American Library Association. Depending on its size, each library receives up to five copies. The publishers of Oprah’s Book Club selections have distributed more than 600,000 free books to member libraries. Winfrey has made this distribution a central part of her book club, providing libraries across the country with new ways to increase the circulation of good books.

What’s So Special About the Missouri Botanical Garden Library?

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The story of the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) Library in St. Louis, Missouri, begins with Henry Shaw, an entrepreneur who built his wealth selling wares on the St. Louis riverfront during the trade boom of the French Colonial age. A keen investor, Shaw acquired much land and built a country home on 80 acres in what is now the Tower Grove Park area in South St. Louis. Inspired by a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew near London, Shaw dedicated his retirement years to building a public garden and park on the land which would grow to rival the greatest of English gardens. As the garden grew, so to speak, Shaw was convinced to build a botanical garden, where facilities for scientific inquiry would stand alongside pleasure grounds. Naturally, he would need a library. Even before the garden opened in 1859, the first book was purchased for this library in 1856. Doug Holland is Library Director for the MBG Library, a truly special library with a rich history. Holland came to MBG with a background in history and archaeology. He gravitated toward historical agriculture while working at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, where he did fieldwork in historic landscape ecology and studied the science of plant taxonomy. He arrived at MBG on a grant funded archives project and stayed on to wear several hats. Holland has worked in the herbarium, the archives, and of course, the library. Holland’s background, as well as his Library Studies at the University of Missouri, Columbia, prepared him well for his current position, where he is now in charge of eight full-time library and archives staff and six full-time grant funded scanners.

Libraries Fostering 21st Century Skills: The Pueblo of Pojoaque Public Library & Miami-Dade Public Library

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The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) 21st Century Skills project underscores the critical role of our nation’s museums and libraries in helping citizens build such 21st century skills as information, communications and technology literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, civic literacy, and global awareness.