Thank you. Sincerely, wholeheartedly, enormously, thank you.
I’ve always been a librarian devotee, but about twenty-five years ago, I was invited to be on the Board of Trustees of Nantucket’s library, the Nantucket Atheneum.
I was charged with starting a Friends of the Library group, because our new library director, Charlotte Maison, wanted to open up our fusty, dusty library to the entire island population. Working with Charlotte and the other librarians, I learned what a complex mix of talents librarians have. They are extroverts and introverts; I mean at the same time. They are wise and witty and they know everything. They are organized, and they are kind.
Nantucket at that time had a divided community of locals, washed-ashores, and summer people. Charlotte and the Trustees and Friends raised money, held programs, installed new technology—I mean, for example, lights over the stacks that until 1993 had been dark unless you pulled a cord which turned on one bulb, illuminating only your row. The other rows of shelves loomed darkly around you. The restoration changed that.
One day I was in the post office, and I overheard two older men who were fishermen. They were rough and tough and, to me, a bit frightening. One man said to the other, “Look what I got.” The other said, “What?” The first man said, “A library card.” He pulled it out of his wallet and showed the second man. The second man said, “How can I get one?” I didn’t intrude on them, but left the library smiling.
We all need libraries. We need them for research and for inspiration, for pleasure and for knowledge. Sometimes we don’t even know exactly what we need, and so we ask librarians, who always know.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, ever since my mother took us to the library in Wichita, Kansas when I was a little girl. If I hadn’t been a writer, I would have been a librarian. Libraries are the true democratic institution, and librarians are their protectors and their leading lights.
Thank you all so very much.