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. =Andrew Carnegie=The first comment stated that "The 'free' public library...[is] an institution that should either evolve with the changes of the times or its own inefficiencies will shutter its doorways."
My friend offered that "The public library of today is known by other names (Project Gutenberg, Google Books, CCEL...and my personal favorite, Archive.org!)."
However, the public library is often the only resource available for local history preservation. It offers services such as Inter-Library Loan (ILL) to access books and microfilmed records from NARA and State Libraries and Archives. But more importantly, the public library's greatest resource is PEOPLE. . .
- children's librarians who open new worlds of exploration to our youngsters through the illustrated word,
- reference librarians who serve on the front lines to answer the public's questions and guide them to the books, periodicals, internet sources, CDs and DVDs made available for free use by means of our tax dollars at work,
- archivists, curators and local historians/genealogists who open a door to both the near and distant past by guiding and mentoring enthusiastic researchers,
- and even administrators who must judge the best allocation of funding.
Special thanks go out today to several of these dedicated
public servants whom I feel privileged to know:
THANKS TO: Elise Bernier-Feeley, of the Hampshire Room for Local History and Genealogy at Forbes Library, Northampton, MA, who first opened the doors of genealogy to me with my initial search for my Russian Jewish ancestors, who later served as my mentor in family history research with the search for my KING ancestors and the descendants of Capt. John KING of Hartford and Northampton, and who wrote letters of recommendation for me on two applications to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Research Fellowship. . .
THANKS TO: Julie Bartlett, archivist of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum, and also of the Hampshire Room for Local History and Genealogy at Forbes Library, Northampton, MA, who continues to assist me in accessing information long-distance, and who advises and encourages me in preparing for a future career in archives technology, and. . .
THANKS TO: Victor T. Jones, Jr., Department Head of the Kellenberger Room at New Bern-Craven County Public Library, New Bern, NC, who opened the doors to researching Free Persons of Color in Craven County (my husband's family history: CARTER, GEORGE, HYMAN, et. al.), and who continues to guide and assist me in my research endeavors.
Presently I do not own a Nook, a Kindle, an iBook, nor a Sony Reader. . . nor do I have plans to purchase one in the foreseeable future. Perhaps if I were able to access rare and out-of-print digital books and manuscripts, textbooks, and digitized collections of local history, I might seriously consider it. But nothing will ever take the place of the public library, nor the people who enthusiastically lead us into new areas of reading and exploration.
To all librarians, archivists and local historians everywhere. . .