The Transylvania Times -

Libraries And Freedom


October 5, 2017

Early in his presentation last Thursday evening, historian Jon Meacham praised libraries and the critical role they play in a free society, stating, “It’s not a mistake that the root word for library is ‘free,’ and that’s not a commercial point. It’s that we are liberated from ignorance and superstitution.”

Indeed, libraries are repositories of knowledge, knowledge from the distant past to the present, covering every discipline known to mankind, from philosophy and history to computers and cooking. The information contained in libraries provide not only knowledge, but also inspiration and creation, all of which are essential. As Meacham said, Thomas Jefferson could not have written so eloquent and inspirational a document as the Declaration of Independence if he were not a man with a broad range of interests and knowledge.

On the other hand, it is no secret that authoritarian societies do not want people to be knowledgeable, curious or creative. They simply want obsequious followers, functioning cogs in a machine.

To obtain that goal they seek to not only shut down the free press and burn books, but also to shutter libraries. (Conversely, it is no surprise political prisoners covet books and correspondence.)

But libraries can also fall into disuse. In today’s technological world, too many people believe they can find everything they need to know on the Internet. While the Internet provides a wide breadth of information, it is often quite shallow. That is true in regard to both information and discussion. Yet, many wrongly believe that libraries are passé; they are not.

The Transylvania County Library is an excellent library that goes far beyond being a repository of books, magazines, newspapers, movies and historical documents. Many libaries are more than just repositories of books and magazines.

In addition to its annual J.R. McDowell Speaker Series in conjunction with Brevard College that has brough such luminaries as Meacham, Platon, David Gergen, Robert Reich, Douglas Brinkley and others to town, it also offers a Bag Lunch series at which state and regional experts discuss local and regional topics. The library also has started a recent series of program entitled “Discover Natural Transylvania.” These are just a few of the informative programs the library offers, and that does not include the other numerous events, such as candidate forums or the upcoming Community Conversation on Suicide Prevention that the library co-sponsors.

In addition to these informative programs, the library also has several book discussion groups, such as “Wonderful Wednesday” and “Great Books,” that give residents a chance to discuss literature.

This short listing does not include all of the other activities the library offers to interest children and teenagers in books and the arts, and gives them a chance to be creative.

Libraries are critical to the development of individual minds and our freedom as a society as a whole. Just as they support us in our endeavors to become more thoughtful and creative beings, we need to support them.

(The Friends of the Library will hold its annual book sale Saturday, Oct. 7 through Satuday, Oct. 14. Proceeds are used to provide various programs at no cost to the public.)


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