What they say about the library: provocative quotations

library door, quotations on librariesWhen I graduated from library school, I went on a lot of informational interviews. One librarian told me, “Libraries have changed a lot since you were in library school.”

When I reminded her that I had graduated only two weeks earlier, she replied, “Like I said, libraries have changed a lot since you were in library school.”

Few modern institutions are more ancient than the library, and few are as consistently on the cutting edge of change.

So naturally people have talked and written a lot about libraries over the centuries.

Cicero, the Roman orator, said, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” But what about now?

Quotations on libraries and pleasure

Bookmobile--quotations on libraries

Bookmobile. Monterey (California) Public Library

Libraries still give people the same pleasure they gave Cicero.

  • One of the greatest gifts my brother and I received from my mother was her love of literature and language. With their boundless energy, librariesopen the door to these worlds and so many others. I urge young and old alike to embrace all that libraries have to offer. – Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy
  • The world is full of magical places, and the library has always been one of them for me. A library can be that special place for our children. –– singer and actress Julie Andrews
  • A sanctuary, a mine of treasure, a house of maps to secret lives in secret world . . . the library became my other home. –– children’s author Joy Cowley
  • I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library. – poet and essayist Jorge Luis Borges

Quotations on libraries and opportunity

Queens Teen Library. quotations on libraries

Queens Teen Library

Not too long ago, only the wealthy could enjoy a library. Public libraries have served us as a great social leveler.

  • Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries. –– author Anne Herbert
  • When I was young, we couldn’t afford much. But my library card was my key to the world. –– actor John Goodman.
  • It was from my own early experience that I decided there was no use to which money could be applied so productive of good to boys and girls who have good within them and ability and ambition to develop it as the founding of a public library. – industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie

Quotations on libraries and education


Reference librarian and patron. quotations about libraries

Reference librarian helping a patron

Most libraries offer lots of novels, magazines, and other pleasure reading. Not to mention all manner of recorded music, movies, and videos.

But regardless of the entertainment value of the collection, libraries at heart are educational institutions. Carnegie hinted as much when he explained why he funded so many libraries.

The educational aspect is fairly recent, though. Libraries have long held books of great interest to scholars and intellectuals. They just haven’t cared about helping to educate scholars and intellectuals, let alone anyone else.

Perhaps we can paraphrase the first quotation here as, ” libraries have changed a lot since you were in library school.”

  • The time was when a library was very much like a museum, and a librarian was a mouser in musty books… The time is when a library is a school, and the librarian is the highest sense a teacher. – librarian Melvil Dewey
  • In my day the library was a wonderful place . . . We didn’t have visual aids and didn’t have various programs…it was a sanctuary… So I tend to think the library should remain a center of knowledge. – novelist Norman Mailer
  • The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history. – columnist Carl Rowan
  • My alma mater was books, a good library. I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity. – civil rights advocate Malcolm X
  • Basically I was a rebel growing up. I got kicked out of six schools. But I don’t think that it makes you less of an intellect. You know, if you ever crave knowledge, there’s always a library. – actress Michelle Rodriguez
  • I’m not comfortable being preachy, but more people need to start spending as much time in the library as they do on the basketball court. – basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Quotations on threats to libraries

Elementary school library--quotations about libraries

Elementary school library

  • What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it thinks about education. –– educator Harold Howe

And unfortunately, judging  by how many school districts have decided to cut school librarians or eliminate them all together, it appears that too many don’t think much of it at all. Other government entities besides school boards

  • One of the funniest lines we hear when we visit with people in the Capitol and talk to the decision-makers is, ‘Well, the Internet has pretty much made the library obsolete. – for some reason, this quotation is frequently attributed to band leader Glenn Miller, who died long before the Internet existed. The correct Glenn Miller is Pennsylvania State Librarian
  • Three years of reduced funding of public libraries have taken a toll. We agree that local municipal funding is our weakest area, but only state incentives can improve local support in a long-term, consistent manner. – librarian Glenn Miller
  • Libraries are the one American institution you shouldn’t rip off. – writer Barbara Kingsolver

But let’s not assume that all of libraries’ problems come from lack of funding. Some people apparently don’t like libraries.

  • Dynasty was the opportunity to take charge of my career rather than waiting aroung like a library book waiting to be loaned out. – actress Joan Collins.
  • I wanted to be in a band that gave bang for the buck. I wanted to be in the band who didn’t look like a bunch of guys who, you know, should be in the library studying for their finals. – singer Gene Simmons
  • The pride and presence of a professional football team is far more important than 30 libraries. – football owner Art Modell

How much influence do people like these have? And what can we do to counter it?

Photo credits:
Library, the original search engine. Some rights reserved by Enokson
Bookmobile. Some rights reserved by Monterey Public Library
Queens teen library. Queens Library for Teens Facebook page
Reference librarian helping patron. Some rights reserved by AASU Armstrong University Archives.
Elementary school library. Some rights reserved by bestlibrarian

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