District Essay.pdf - Kranich Nancy Interview by Cecilia M...

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Kranich, Nancy. Interview by Cecilia M. Orphan. American Democracy Project Blog. American Democracy Project, 4 January 2011. Web. 27 June 2014. The following is an excerpt from an interview with Nancy Kranich, former president of the American Library Association (ALA), the main professional organization for librarians in the United States. An informed public constitutes the very foundation of a democracy; after all, democracies are about discourse—discourse among the people. If a free society is to survive, it must ensure the preservation of its records and provide free and open access to this information to all its citizens. It must ensure that citizens have the skills necessary to participate in the democratic process. It must allow unfettered dialogue and guarantee freedom of expression. All of this is done in our libraries, the cornerstone of democracy in our communities. Benjamin Franklin founded the first public lending library in the 1730’s. His novel idea of sharing information resources was a radical one. In the rest of the civilized world libraries were the property of the ruling classes and religion. The first significant tax-supported public libraries were organized in the mid-19th century, conceived as supplements to the public schools as well as “civilizing agents and objects of civic pride in a raw new country.” (Molz and Dain 1999, p. 3). . . . Sidney Ditzion (1947, p. 74) noted that late nineteenth century public libraries continued “the educational process where the schools left off and by conducting a people’s university, a wholesome capable citizenry would be fully schooled in the conduct of a democratic life.” By the 1920’s, Learned (1924) popularized the idea of libraries as informal education centers, followed by an American Library Association (ALA) report establishing a Board on Library and Adult Education (Keith 2007, p. 244). During World War II, President Roosevelt (1942) equated libraries and democracy, heralding their role in creating an informed citizenry. After the war, librarians joined civic groups, politicians, and educators to rejuvenate the democratic spirit in the country. The New York Public Library, describing itself as “an institution of education for democratic living” (“Library Bill of Rights” 1948, p. 285), led a nationwide program of discussions about the meaning of the American democratic tradition and actions on issues of local concern. These programs were described by Ruth Rutzen, Chair of ALA’s Adult Education Board, as ideal opportunities for libraries to assume a leadership role in their communities, proclaiming, “Let us all make our libraries active community centers for the spread of reliable information on all sides of this vital issue and for the encouragement of free discussion and action” (Preer 2008,p. 3). In 1952, ALA joined a national effort to increase voter turnout by distributing election information and organizing

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