The Public Library - The Pivot of Democracy 1944

March 2, 2017 | Vickery Bowles

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I received a very touching email yesterday from Christine Kujawa, the Director of the Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library in North Dakota:

“…This year marks our 100 year anniversary, and we've been going through archives and records. We came across annual reports written during WWII, and in July 1944, the Toronto Public Library director was quoted.

I thought you might like to read it.  It's quite moving, and certainly still rings true over 70 years later.”

Letter: In conclusion, I should like to reaffirm our faith in the work of the public library in this community and for this purpose I borrow the words of Charles R. Sanderson, Librarian of the Toronto Public Library: “In our annual report of a year ago we presented a statement of our faith in the public library as the pivot of democracy. That faith remains. It can be restated by saying that if a community is permitted to think (and democracy rests its case on this) it must have books; and books mean libraries; and libraries, for most of us, mean public libraries. We still believe with full sincerity that the job of book provision for the fundamental purpose of making it possible for ourselves to think, to think with intellectual honesty, to think with informed minds, remains the primary job of public libraries --- even in the wartime.”

Charles Sanderson was Toronto Public Library’s Chief Librarian more than 80 years ago and his words about the importance of public libraries in supporting democracy, intellectual honesty and informed minds are more relevant than ever today.

Happy Freedom to Read Week, everyone!