An enduring fountain of knowledge a library offers

Post 10/2023 Cornwall UK Sunday 26 March . . . Advocates for removing certain books from school and public libraries, have a question to consider: why go against the verdict of history? Censorship lasts for a day. The free pursuit of knowledge, while often circumscribed, endures.

My favorite image of a library is that of an essential community resource—be it a building, an institution, a trust–where you lower your voice and raise your mind.

On Saturday we were at the St Ives Library for a noon celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of benefactor John Passmore Edwards. The celebration took place in towns across and beyond Cornwall, places where Passmore Edwards provided the means for 70 major buildings, including libraries, hospitals, and schools.

John Passmore Edwards, philanthropist, journalist, politician.

The St Ives Town Council is undertaking a major refurbishment of the local library aiming to re-establish it as a major community hub. Some time ago the town’s tourist information centre moved into library space.

Let the ballyhooing about what literature should be removed from library shelves be replaced with trust in library boards, librarians, historians, communities and, yes, writers and readers of every kind, who in concert offer books and other resources that further the freedom to be informed, entertained and inspired.

Books that change lives

Yesterday I read reader-selected choices of 37 Life Changing Books You Won’t Be Able To Put Down, featured in Katie Couric Media (March 24, 2023).

The team at Katie Couric Media asked readers of their Wake-Up Call newsletter to submit titles of books that changed their lives. The introduction notes, “There are good reads, there are great reads—and true bookworms always know the difference.”

Further: “Some authors are talented enough to reach through the page, seize a firm grip on our hearts and minds, and make us think about the world in a way we never did before.”

Among the titles are included: Heartwood: The Art of Living With the End in Mind, Barbara Becker; Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail, Cheryl Strayed; I Know Where the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou; The Lincoln Highway, Amor Towles; Small Great Things, Jodi Picoult; All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr; The Kitchen House, Kathleen Grissom; Women Talking, Miriam Toews.

Bravo great read pickers! I have yet to read most of those books.

Excerpts from a 1971 library dedication

I’m taking small excerpts from an address by John A. Lapp, given in 1971, at the dedication of a new library at Eastern Mennonite College (now University), Harrisonburg, Virginia. Lapp’s title was The Symbolism of a Library.

“Libraries in themselves carry many symbols. One need only think of the Carnegie libraries across the United States which symbolize the philanthropic interests and concerns of an enterprising businessman.

“The word ‘free’ attached to many libraries carries the symbolism further. Though originally used to designate a library where membership fees are not necessary, ‘free’ now more importantly means the free flow of information and ideas unencumbered by religious, political or ideological restraints.”

In opening remarks Lapp noted some of the challenges libraries were facing in the 1970s: “Such institutions have been around a long time and have proven to be indispensable ingredients to any form of education. Yet in our day of multi-media and mass-media fewer and fewer would consider with Emerson that ‘in the highest civilization the book is still the highest delight,’ or would say with Richard de Burg, ‘the library is more precious than all riches and nothing can be compared with it.’”

Lapp continued: “Indeed, some persons today are heralding the end of the library. Some radical futurists like Sol Cornberg declare that ‘reading and writing will become obsolete skills.’ . . . When knowledge becomes disposable, according to Alvin Toffler, perhaps the idea of a storehouse of knowledge will be obsolete as well. I think not. But it does mean that the library will have to adapt to modern techniques.”

I’ve barely scraped the surface of Lapp’s address, where at the heart he deals with A Body of Knowledge, A Search for Knowledge, and The Unity of Knowledge, and finally, The  Accumulation of Knowledge.

In his conclusion he said, “Today, then, we are dedicating something more than a building. For every building, and above all every library, carries with it a profound symbolism. The Eastern Mennonite College Library is a symbol that there is a corpus of knowledge that does exist, that here the search for knowledge can be freely pursued; that there is a unity of knowledge that must be recognized and that in a time of overwhelming change the library represents the accumulation of knowledge, a link to the past without which we cannot hope to survive as human beings.”

Timeless! Thank you, John.

Greeters on our way home from lunch today

Heading on

A new week has started. A warm memory from the past week is being part of the small group celebrating Yvonne Con’s birthday. She did not tell us it was her birthday, just that we could pop in to see a few people before we needed to catch the train to Truro. Wonderful visit, if we were a bit chagrined at not knowing about Yvonne’s birthday. She was totally disarming.

Encounters with friends creates highpoints. Thoughts that surface while walking produce a variety of narratives, or none at all. Going for groceries has a pleasure all its own. Visits to the library deliver the goods. Eating out, while it can be pricey, makes for a welcome diversion from cooking. Staying up with the news can be a bit overwhelming, though welcome. Prayers for conflicts and dislocations everywhere. Catching the spirit of people and place nourishes the soul. Lenten activities. Hearing the blackbird sing, spotting the robin.

What I’m waiting for is temperatures to rise. What more to ask? Maybe a waterproofing spray for my waterproof shoes that show their wear but are still doing the job. We’re heading on into a new week!


2 thoughts on “An enduring fountain of knowledge a library offers

  1. Thanks for the list of books to read. I just finished Women Talking, a profound book. Listened to Toews on many podcasts on you tube and watched the movie 2 times. Sarah Polley from Toronto directed it. Also watched countless interviews from the English and Irish actors who performed in it. Just started The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams. Looks like a good read.
    Cornwall spring flowers look amazing. Just a few pussy willows starting to come out.


  2. Hello John & Marty,


    div>   I see you are enjoying spring walks with spring flowers and celebrating books and libraries!  I hope it warms up even more.  Here


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