Newsmaker: Arne Duncan

American Libraries, August-September 2009 | Go to article overview

Newsmaker: Arne Duncan


It's not about being selfish or self-serving; it's about demonstrating the difference that you're making in our students' learning." That's how Arne Duncan advises librarians to advocate for library services in tough economic times. In a June 22 telephone interview, the U.S. secretary of education told AL that the federal government is adamant about keeping libraries open as an important component in seeing the nation through its current financial crisis. Part of the effort involves the "United We Serve" volunteerism project launched that day. The 44-year-old former leader of Chicago Public Schools and father of two believes that expanding early childhood education is imperative for the American education system, and libraries, both school and public, have a major role to play. Read a transcript of the entire interview with Duncan at www.ala.org/alonline.

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American Libraries: What can the federal government do to help libraries make it through the financial crisis?

ARNE DUNCAN: In the stimulus package there is a historic level of support for education coming from the federal government and over $100 billion of new money for education. We recognize the dire straits of tough economic times and the stress the states are under; however, it's just so important that we keep our libraries--both school and community-based--open and providing resources for families. This is an investment.

You visited the Fanwood Public Library in New Jersey for the June 22 launch of the "United We Serve" volunteer initiative. What did you observe? It's a great library, and I met with librarians from all over the state and a few other places, and what I saw is what I saw in my neighborhood library back home in Chicago and in our neighborhood library now in D.C.: wonderfully committed staff, tremendous demand, a real willingness to reach out to the community and to reach out to the population, family literacy nights or families that are learning English for the first time, folks helping with resume writing, with job hunting, on issues around foreclosures. It's just this phenomenal resource.

You've said that schools should be utilized more by the community. …

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