Obama reflecting on libraries


Democratic Presidential Nominee, Senator Barack Obama speaks at a rally at the Detroit Public Library in Detroit, MI on Sunday, September 28, 2008. Uploaded by Barack Obama.
Democratic Presidential Nominee, Senator Barack Obama speaks at a rally at the Detroit Public Library in Detroit, MI on Sunday, September 28, 2008. Uploaded by Barack Obama.

From the ALA webite another Barack Obama story. Bound to the word was Barack Obama’s speech about libraries, when he was a humble senator.

President-Elect Barack Obama keynoted the opening general session at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, June 23–29, 2005, while a U.S. senator from Illinois. This article, published in the August 2005 issue of American Libraries, is an adaptation of that speech, which drew record crowds and garnered a standing ovation

He is supportive of libraries and librarians but mostly he related everything back to books and reading, with little acknowledgement of the digital world the libraries now belong to. However much could be applied to the use of technologies as well as books. I particularly like the following, especially when I think about the blocking and filtering that goes on in schools.

More than a building that houses books and data, the library represents a window to a larger world, the place where we’ve always come to discover big ideas and profound concepts that help move the (American) story forward and the human story forward.

Whether it’s the ransacking of the great library at Alexandria, controlling information during the Middle Ages, book burnings, or the imprisonment of writers in former communist block countries, the idea has been that if we can control the word, if we can control what people hear and what they read and what they comprehend, then we can control and imprison them, or at least imprison their minds.

That’s worth pondering at a time when truth and science are constantly being challenged by political agendas and ideologies, at a time when language is used not to illuminate but, rather, to obfuscate, at a time when there are those who would disallow the teaching of evolution in our schools, where fake science is used to beat back attempts to curb global warming or fund lifesaving research.

At a time when book banning is back in vogue, libraries remind us that truth isn’t about who yells the loudest, but who has the right information.

and later….At the dawn of the 21st century, where knowledge is literally power, where it unlocks the gates of opportunity and success, we all have responsibilities ……….

Note he said “Knowledge is power”, not information. You need information to attain knowledge but it is what you do with the information that governs whether or not you have learnt or gained knowledge. My job in our school (and the library) is not to just help students locate information but to evaluate the information they find around them. They will then be more capable of making decisions based on reasoned, and thoughtful, research and critical analysis. They will then be able to truly become citizens of the world


One Response

  1. No small job.

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