Library a great asset to the U

By By John Stafford

By John Stafford

Monday’s rededication of the Marriott Library had one underlying theme: Knowledge is power, and libraries are the flagship of this knowledge.

The illustrious gathering of guest speakers8212;from Gov. Gary Herbert to former first lady Laura Bush8212;spoke of the positive roles libraries have played in their own lives while highlighting the vibrant past and radiant future of our own library.

Marriott librarian and director Joyce Ogburn said the rededication was a “renewal of principle” for a “place where ideas can live quietly for years, waiting to touch a mind or start a revolution.”

Herbert spoke of the more than $70 million provided by the state for the library as a “necessity.” He said education, especially higher education, is essential to combating our nation’s economic challenges. The $70 million from the state, he said, “represents our dedication.”

Although Herbert makes an excellent and idealistic point about the necessity of education, lately it has been hard to stretch this point into reality. In the perpetual belt-tightening precipitated by the worst economic recession of our time, education has consistently been one of the first issues to be lined up for the guillotine. Utah state legislators cut education by 3 percent earlier this year. This is, however, small change compared to California’s $4.8 billion cut in public school funding.

Legislators around the nation, especially in California, could have learned a thing or two at the library’s rededication ceremony. Introduced as the “most famous librarian in the world,” Bush, who holds a master’s degree in library science, spoke of how the development of democracy worldwide has coincided with the global expansion of public libraries.

She spoke about when the library was first built in 1968, saying that during the Civil Rights Movement, libraries provided information essential for activists looking to challenge the status quo. Forty-one years later, she said, “We have an African-American president.”

She went on to say, “Our nation runs on the fuel of information libraries and librarians provide…(this) strengthens our great democracy.”

The library provides invaluable information to more than 1.5 million visitors per year. U President Michael Young put this into perspective by saying this is “three times the population of Wyoming or six football seasons worth of fans.”

These enlightened patrons are fortunate to have free rein to access the more than 3 million volumes and 100 million items in digital collections that the library places at their fingertips. I also consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to hear some inspiring words from our former first lady, who has made global literacy a personal crusade.

Bush helped launch the first National Book Festival, has been a staunch proponent of teacher recruitment programs such as Teach for America and has served as honorary ambassador for the United Nations Decade of Literacy since 2003. It is only fitting that such a distinguished savant would usher in the new era for an institution as esteemed as the Marriott Library.

In his speech, Young quoted Dionysus when he said, “The foundation of every state is the education of its youth. It starts in this building.”

The rededication of the library promises that though budget cuts threaten the education of our nation, people can always find refuge within the four walls that form the repository of knowledge: libraries.

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