ERIC Number: ED315093
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1988
Reference Count: N/A
Books and the World. Center for the Book Viewpoint Series No. 22.
Billington, James H.
The most ambitious connection that libraries can make in our time is the link between an individual and the rest of the world. Libraries are the places where books and other records of human memory and imagination are transmitted from one group of people to another, and librarians are the impresarios of the process. Personal experience and long study of Russian culture have shown that the answer to an important question is often more likely to be found in yesterday's book than in today's newspaper; deifying some books while denying access to others can be dangerous; and libraries can provide a quiet refuge for scholarly integrity. The American experience and example may be increasingly relevant to the world because: (1) the evolutionary American model may have more to offer than the absolutist models; (2) their various religious beliefs enable Americans to identify with a dimension of human experience that is incomprehensible in an atheistic society; (3) the maintenance of a civil, civic unity among diverse communities is an American aspiration that is becoming increasingly relevant as the world grows more diverse culturally, even as it becomes more interrelated technologically; and (4) Americans are strongly committed to higher education at a time when education and intellectual leadership in world politics are becoming increasingly important. The American type of democracy has depended on knowledge and grown through books, which are the individual's portable, affordable link with the memory, mind, and imagination of the rest of humanity, and the best guides we have for the exploration of our own basic humanity. Because the American example is so relevant, and because deepened and broadened knowledge has been so central to it, the necessity of getting more of our young people into creative contact with books and reading is an urgent concern for all American libraries. (SD)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: Library of Congress, Washington, DC. Center for the Book.
Note: Paper presented to the Mellon Bank and Friends of Libraries U.S.A. (Philadelphia, PA, September 13, 1988).