Dean’s Post

Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury

“Teachers inspire, but libraries fulfill you.”-Ray Bradbury

The other day, a faculty member told me that he makes a point of visiting the Library at least twice a week, even though almost all of the resources he needs for his teaching and research are available online.  “I just like to be there,” he said.  Elsewhere on these pages, we will tell you all that the library can do for you but beyond doing, the library remains a powerful symbol of intellectual inquiry itself-of the perpetual search for knowledge and wisdom.  Authors have waxed rhapsodic about libraries for almost as long as they have existed.  Borges famously said, “I imagine paradise as a kind of library.”

A recent entry in the litany of praise for the library and librarians are these words by Vartan Gregorian, former director of the New York Public Library and now president of the Carnegie Corporation: “In our democratic society, the library stands for hope, for learning, for progress, for literacy, for self-improvement and for civic engagement.  The library is a symbol of opportunity, citizenship, equality, freedom of speech and freedom of thought, and hence, is a symbol of democracy itself.”  Gregorian spoke on the occasion of the announcement of the new Carnegie Corporation/New York Times “I Love My Librarian” award.  My personal opinion is that librarians come and go, but the library remains.

This year, trying to live up to some of those lofty attributes, the Brookens Library contributed several oral history accounts of the 1908 Springfield Race Riots to be used as part of an art installation, designed by UIS faculty member Brian Gillis, at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.  Visitors can sit and listen to accounts of the riots, or read the words of one of these witnesses to this sorrowful part of Springfield’s past.

On September 9, Brookens Library and Friends of Brookens Library will sponsor a lecture by Dr. William Sisler, director of the Harvard University Press, speaking on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the University of Illinois Press.  In addition to celebrating 90 years of scholarly publishing by this sister organization at the U of I, Sisler will address the themes raised in a 2004 report by the National Endowment of the Arts, “Reading at Risk.”

As a response to that report, the NEA decided to partner with libraries throughout the United States in what it calls “The Big Read,” to encourage communities to read and discuss one book.  The greater Springfield area has chosen Fahrenheit 401, the 1953 novel by Ray Bradbury, whose themes ring distressingly true today.  Bradbury was born in Illinois, and the state Center for the Book plans to honor him in a ceremony in October.  Brookens Library will be participating in The Big Read-watch our blog for announcements of upcoming events.

Recognizing the importance of the Brookens Library to the UIS campus, the University of Illinois has authorized a “master plan” study for the future development of the library building.  Right now, the study committee is selecting an architectural firm to work with us on this process.  The report that results from this study will offer many specific recommendations about the building, but in the end, the question for me will be does it describe a place where people simply want to be?

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