Actors, Writers, Sports Stars Agree: Libraries Do Change Lives

American Libraries, April 1993 | Go to article overview

Actors, Writers, Sports Stars Agree: Libraries Do Change Lives


"The library saved my life," says author Malcolm Boyd. "I found a creative home in the Iibrary; I was awakened as a human being, and can never say 'thank you enough."

As the Rally for America's Libraries continues around the theme "Libraries Change Lives," real-life stories like Boyd's about how libraries make a difference are pouring into ALA Headquarters. And the word is that libraries not only change lives, they save them as well.

President Bill Clinton was among the first to respond when ALAs Linda Wallace posed the question: "Did the library change your life?" with a letter voicing his support (AL, Dec. 1992, p. 966). His and other "testimony" will be used to bolster ALAs legislative and public-awareness efforts. Support roll call Celebrity tales of how libraries made a difference in their lives are as vaned as the writers and performers who lived them. A: of the support that has come in to date:

* Bil Keane, cartoonist of "The Family Circus" fame: "One public building had more to do with my development as a creative cartoonist than all the state capitals, city halls, courthouses, police stations, etc., combined: the library. It was a font of information, inspiration, and entertainment--and it still is! let's steer our little people to its wondrous treasures."

Erma Bombeck, America's Favorite mom: As a child, my number-one best friend was the librarian in my grade school. I actually believed all of those books belonged to her. I would take a paper bag with me and fill it up. When she warned that some of those books were too old for me, I told her they were for my mother. I have never regretted my dishonesty. Today the habit of reading still remains. I read no less than three books at one time. I have passed on to my children my impatience, my love of pasta--and my excitement for reading books."

* Ray Bradbury, novelist: "Libraries are absolutely at the center of my life. Since I couldn't afford to go to college, I attended the library three or four days a week from the age of 18 on .... When I speak with students I tell them, 'It's no use going to school if the library is not your final goal.' That's how important it is for everyone and has been for me."

* Stefanie Powers, television and motion-picture star: "I cannot stress enough the importance of libraries and the treasures they contain. I consider reading among the greatest pleasures of life and my books are my prized possessions. May you spread the faith in this world where reading is fast disappearing from our lives."

* Vincent E. "Bo" Jackson, baseball player: "The library is a place that we can go and get the answers to virtually any questions we may have. It is a place that everyone should utilize frequently during their lives. People need to support their public libraries in any way possible."

* James A. Michener, novelist: "Public libraries have been a mainstay of my life. They represent an individual's right to acquire knowledge; they are the sinews that bind civilized societies the world over. Without libraries I would be a pauper, intellectually and spiritually. I cherish libraries."

* Edward Asner, actor: "Libraries are a vast gold mine of education! The free access to information is not a privilege but rather a necessity for any free society .... And of course, libraries are a lot of fun. One of my favorite things to do as a young man was wander through the stacks of my hometown library. I'd just browse until I found something interesting. One week it might be birds, the next Robinson Crusoe. In fact, a number of the interests that I have today began with a visit to my library many years ago. Libraries have definitely changed my life."

* Gloria Esterart, singer: "I believe the library takes a very important place in everyone's life. The part of my education that has had the deepest influence wasn't any particular essay or even a specific class, it was how I was able to apply everything I learned in the library to certain situations in my life . …

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