Libraries

“A book is a fragile creature, it suffers the wear and tear of time, it fears rodents, the elements and clumsy hands….So the librarian protects the books not only against mankind but also against nature and devotes his life to this war with the forces of oblivion.” – Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose, 1984)

“A great library contains the diary of the human race.” – George Dawson (Address at the opening of the Birmingham (England) library, October 26, 1866)

“A library is a church with books. It smells musty, fusty. Like a church it holds a hushed approximation to reverence and like a church it accepts all types – the shy, the serious, the desperate, the lonely, the scholarly and the drunk.” – Joe Bennett (Mustn’t Grumble: In Search of England and the English, 2006)

“A library is for books, the books are for you….Read one, read a hundred, a thousand. They are unrationed, and they are fully packed with pleasure and with knowledge, yours free for the reading.” – Lawrence Clark Powell

“A library is not a luxury. It is one of the necessities of a full life.” – Henry Ward Beecher

“A library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where literary incense must be burned or where one’s devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual. A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas – a place where history comes to life.” – Norman Cousins (ALA Bulletin, October 1954)

An Afternoon In The Stacks

Closing the book, I find I have left my head
inside. It is dark in here, but the chapters open
their beautiful spaces and give a rustling sound,
words adjusting themselves to their meaning.
Long passages open at successive pages. An echo,
continuous from the title onward, hums
behind me. From in here, the world looms,
a jungle redeemed by these linked sentences
carved out when an author traveled and a reader
kept the way open. When this book ends
I will pull it inside-out like a sock
and throw it back in the library. But the rumor
of it will haunt all that follows in my life.
A candleflame in Tibet leans when I move.

–Mary Oliver [cited in FamousPoetsandPoems.com]

“But there is no end to the praise of books, to the value of the library. Who shall estimate their influence on our population where all the millions read and write? It is the joy of nations that man can communicate all his thoughts, discoveries and virtues to records that may last for centuries.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (“Address at the Opening of the Concord Free Public Library”)

“Consider what you have in the smallest chosen library. A company of the wisest and wittiest men that could be picked out of all civil countries, in a thousand years, have set in best order the results of their learning and wisdom. The men themselves were hid and inaccessible, solitary, impatient of interruption, fenced by etiquette; but the thought which they did not uncover to their bosom friend is there written out in transparent words to us, the strangers of another age.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Emerson said that if stars only shone once a century everyone would be out there in awe that whole night. Libraries are to me honest to God about that weird, but they’re out there all the time too….You can take out expensive things that do not belong to you and keep them for a month…just by proving that you live where you live – just because you exist essentially.” – Anne Herbert

“Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.” – Anne Herbert

“Every town ought to have a library containing as many volumes as the town has inhabitants.” – Charles F. Richardson (1885)

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” – Jorge Luis Borges

“I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books, to be lent to the people of the county, under such regulations as would secure their safe return in due time.” – Thomas Jefferson

“I saw the Carnegie Library as a kind of shrine to culture….It held everything from books written centuries ago to those published only a few weeks before….A great masterpiece might sit there beside some obscure and shoddy effort. Schools and universities told you what books were great and worthy and famous; a library sat there mutely and let you decide….There was something terribly moving to me about all that, all those obscure books and forgotten authors. I could bring them to life again.” – David Guy (“The Reader Behind the Writer,” The Sun, October 17, 1986

“If this nation is to be wise as well as strong,…public libraries…shold be open to all – except the censor.” – John F. Kennedy (Saturday Review, October 29, 1960)

“In libraries the lamp of learning should be kept always lighted, that here men of study and reflection may relight if need be their several torches.” – John Cotton Dana

“It is not observed that…librarians are wiser men than others.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (Spiritual Laws, 1841)

“Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark. The pleasure they give us is steady, unorgastic, reliable, deep and long-lasting. In any library in the world, I am at home, unselfconscious, still and absorbed. – Germaine Greer (Daddy, We Hardly Knew You, 1990)

“Medicine for the soul.” – Inscription over the door of the Library at Thebes

“Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library.” – Barbara Tuchman (The New Yorker, April 21, 1986)

“Our whole American way of life is a great war of ideas, and librarians are the arms dealers selling weapons to both sides.” – James Quinn

“Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.” – Lady Bird Johnson

“Take books out of libraries, and they won’t need librarians for what’s left. Curled up films in cans, spools of wire and wheels of tape, shining disks and glassy slides – all the so-called nonbook material has its place in the modern library, yes, but not in the center.” – Lawrence Clark Powell (Books in My Baggage, 1960)

“The library is for books, the books are for you….Read one, read a hundred, a thousand. They are unrationed, and they are fully packed with pleasure and with knowledge, yours free for the reading.” – Lawrence Clark Powell (Books Are Basic, 1985)

“The library is my favorite place. It always was. I remember the incredible thrill of learning to read – when marks on paper suddenly, miraculously, became words. And I remember the wonder of going into the local library for the first time with my mother, and discovering that they would give you any book you wanted! Sometimes I fear for libraries because I fear for books. Will they vanish along with big movie theatres, glass bottles, trees, and songs without prepackaged visuals? Libraries should have stained glass windows.” – Renais Jeanne Hill

“…The library is one of our few remaining sanctuaries for the individual who when he enters wants to be together with books and not with people.” – Lawrence Clark Powell (Know Your Library, 1959)

“The only treasure-house open to all comers is a library.” – J.A. Langford

“The public library has the great advantage over the bookshop that it does not have to get rid of its books as quickly as possible because of economic pressures.” – Peter H. Mann (Books: Buyers and Borrowers, 1971)

“What is more important in a library than anything else – than everything else – is the fact that it exists.” – Archibald MacLeish (“The Premise of Meaning, ” American Scholar, June 5, 1972)

“Whenever I need comfort, whenever I need some faint ray of hope, some desperate distraction from sadness, the library is where I find it.” – Miv Schaff

“Without libraries, my brain would be a cold, empty room.” – Myla Goldberg (Bee Season)

“Library or bookstore, the principle is the same: the ineffable attraction of serious reader to book, an elective affinity untouched by marketing or psychology. A reader and his book is a sovereign country, open to treaties but jealously autonomous. Only such autonomy permits the paradisiacal pleasure one knows in libraries….” – Patrick Kurp (From a January 30, 2011 posting to the blog Anecdotal Evidence)

“It was through public libraries that I found my way into reading – real reading – and as often as not it was a book picked off the shelf on little more than a whim that changed everything, opening up a new path that would enlarge my mind and soul and become part of my life.” [From a posting to the blog Nigeness]

“A library is a metaphor for human beings and what’s best about human beings . . . A Library is total generosity.” – Roberto Bolano

“[A library] isn’t just a library. It is a space ship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future, a teacher that knows more than any human being, a friend that will amuse you and console you–and most of all, a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life.” – Isaac Asimov in a March 16, 1971 letter to children at the newly opened Troy, Michigan public library, as posted on lettersofnote.com

“The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history.” – Carl T. Rowan

“In the library everyone was rich.” – Naomi Shibab Nye (Never in a Hurry)

“If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries.” – John F. Kennedy

“Libraries are what is best about us as a society: open, exciting, rich, informative, free, inclusive, engaging.” – Susan Orlean

“Access to knowledge is the superb, the supreme act of truly great civilizations. Of all the institutions that purport to do this, free libraries stand virtually alone in accomplishing this.” – Toni Morrison

“Book lovers…know that part of the pleasure of a library lies in its very existence.” – Jan Morris

“What is more important in a library than anything else – than everything else – is the fact that it exists.” – Archibald MacLeish

“When I…discovered libraries, it was like having Christmas every day.” – Jean Fritz

“…A library…is a space ship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future, a teacher that knows more than any human being, a friend that will amuse you and console you – and most of all, a gateway to a better and happier and more useful life.” – Isaac Asimov

“When live seems not worth living, ten minutes in a library proves otherwise.” – Miv Schaaf

“Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism.” – Neil Gaiman

“The humble little school library…was a ramp to everything in the world and beyond, eveything that could be dreamed and imagined, everything that could be known, everything that could be hoped.” – Lee Sherman

“I rarely feel happier than when I am in a library – very rarely feel more soothed and calm and secure; and there in the soft gloom of the stacks, I feel very much in my element—a book among books, almost.” Randall Jarrell (from an unpublished talk to librarians excerpted by Stephen Burt in Randall Jarrell and His Age (2002); quoted by Patrick Krup in his blog Anecdotal Evidence)

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