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Setting the record straight, I, for one, was transformed by Arkansas' public libraries and public schools.

The dedicated professionals who silently toiled in near obscurity in the libraries and public school classrooms of the last half of the last century perhaps more than any other group influenced today's adults to love books.

And that was a hallmark for me.

This is, of course, that one week a year (April 10-14) of National Library Week, when some quiet, yet meaningful celebrations of these worthy institutions will be honored.

So help me celebrate National Library Week by focusing forward to the importance of libraries in our free society as well as personally glancing back at librarians and libraries that have changed our lives.

Quoting from the National Library Week boiler-plate of the importance of these days in honoring libraries comes such as this:

"Librarians have long been trailblazers when it comes to issues like equity of access and intellectual freedom; beyond that, their services and expertise help lead people to achieve their goals and improve their quality of life."

Amen to that statement brothers and sisters of the printed word.

A small contingent, I hold in such esteemed reverence that each and every one over my sixty-plus years remains a saint.

Every community has these librarians who transcend generations. The names of these people are imprinted on our brains as those who helped us find the most precious of gifts -- books that gave us broader horizons than ever felt possible.

As a young man I stumbled into the Library every chance I got. The friendly librarians put classics in my hands and gently derided me for my pulp comic book fascination with Archie and the gang, Sgt. Rock, Superman, Batman and a cast of other superheroes and super villains.

Looking back these women (and a few men, even back then) did tremendous things in our small community.

These librarians did things that mattered.

It was here I first saw and discovered the power of a book club. I stumbled into the tiny library where five women -- three of whom I would later find to be among some of the finest classroom teachers in the small world to which I was privileged to attend public school, sat discussing a recent "Best- Seller."

The library, I recalled had two copies of this book, they all had waited their turn to get the book, check it out, take it home and promptly read and return it for another soul awaiting its return on the Waiting List.

I was profoundly impacted by their discussion, I was, you see, on this waiting list.

Wow. I thought, others in my community are reading this book and they have differing, but interesting comments on a book, I was destined to read.

Wow.

Ms. Hilda, who was both running the library and the discussion group, quickly filled by double-lined paper grocery sack from the Mad Butcher and ushered me out the door, as the book club rambled on about Thor Heyerdahl's new book "The Ra Expedition."

I read that book three weeks later.

Today, as many of you may scoff those libraries are passé. That books are in decline and the internet or some streaming services has all the books and articles you will ever need to read.

You are wrong and I feel you have missed the entire purpose of this posting.

Books, that physical compound of paper, ink, and cardboard -- is a magical combination that has thrilled mankind since the first papyrus scrolls were written.

But today's libraries are filled with more than books, the library buildings are more destination places to learn, either by on-hands demonstrations, talks or actual "maker spaces," of the future.

Please sponsor and support your local library.

And remember National Library Week this week and every year. It is an important week in our state and nation.

Arkansas is at a crucial juncture in its educational and economic future, Libraries in every community play a critical role, more than computer coding, more than complex tax incentives. Learning to read and finding out the ways to access information is not a Google away -- it is at the local public library.

• • •

Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at maylontrice@yahoo.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 04/11/2018

Print Headline: Librarians and libraries to change Arkansas's future

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