16 August 2011

Pierre Trudeau's Letter to the Children of Troy

At a time when our libraries are under assault by those who would deny others the advantages they themselves have enjoyed, considerable comfort can be found in this month's news out of Troy, Michigan.

Thanks to the efforts of a lady named Marguerite Hart, I'd heard of this small city and its public library long before the recent trials and tribulations. Forty years ago, as the building reached completion, she'd asked leading figures of the day to share their thoughts on libraries with the children of Troy. Ninety-seven answered the call, among them Kingsley Amis, Neil Armstrong, Pearl Bailey, John Berryman, Helen Gurley Brown, Pat Nixon, Vincent Price, Neil Simon, Benjamin Spock and E.B. White.

Ronald Reagan, a hero to so many leading today's charge against public libraries, contributed this:
A world without books would be a world without light – without light, man cannot see. Through the written word a world of enlightenment has been created and had taught us about the past to enable us to build for the future.
Without spending a penny, one can travel to the ends of the earth, the depths of the oceans and now, through the infinity of space. One can learn a new trade or improve his skills in an old one, and the list is endless.
Fine words, as are those of Pierre Trudeau, but my favourite come from Isaac Asimov:

The letters to the children of Troy - all ninety-seven - can be seen here.


  1. A good day for libraries. I only wish the Chicago Public Library could get as much attention. I haven't a clue what happened to readers in our city (and our state). Our library system - one of the largest in the country - is a sad state of affairs with a huge reduciton in their workforce and little money to buy new books. Books can't even be returned to the shelves. You can barely find anything anymore. And don't get me started about the loss of bookstores. Used bookstores luckily continue to stay open and survive, but just barely. As for independently owned bookstores that sell primarily new books? The city has less than ten that I can count. In the entire city! That's not including the few Barnes & Noble stores still lingering. It's makes me want to go back east where I grew up and where I know people care more about libraries and bookstores than they do out here in a supposedly sophisticated and cosmopolitan city. Restaurants and sports teams are more important to Chicagoans. They can't even save their failing public transportation system. Enough of my rant.

    OH! I might also add -- relative to this very interesting post -- that I once had several typed and signed post cards from Isaac Asimov. He loved his readers, loved to talk to them about his books. If you sent him a letter and included a self-addressed, stamped post card he'd answer you. I note that the Asimov "letter" above is actually a post card just like the ones I used to receive from him when I was a teen in the 1970s.

  2. Is there a place where public libraries aren't under threat? I'm beginning to wonder. Not even Library and Archives Canada is safe. And the Toronto Public Library, which so often succeeds where LAC fails, is at the mercy of a mayor who struggles with the pronunciation of the word "library".

    It was nice to learn of Asimov's generosity toward his fans. As an 11-year-old I send off a number of letters asking comic book writers for their autographs. SAEs were included, along with American coins to cover postage (being in Canada, I couldn't provide US stamps). I'm still awaiting responses. I imagine they all pocketed the change.