Hello, my name is Paulette Dickerson. I am chair of the Chevy Chase LAC, a member of the Silver Spring Library Advocacy Group, former chair of the Noyes Children's Library LAC, former chair of the Montgomery County Library Board, an active parent at the Levine School of Music, mother of a Life Scout who's working on Eagle.
One of my brothers is a retired Air Force Colonel, one is an actor who is also a docent at the main branch of the L.A. Public Library. One sister is the technical services person for a law firm. The other sister is a licensed stockbroker. My father was a civilian employee of the L.A.P.D.; my mom a P.T.A. mother until all of us were out of elementary school. Who do I blame for all this activity? Public schools and public libraries.
One Grandfather was a farmer, the other a Pullman porter--remember them? One of my uncles went to work for the coal mines in West Virginia--remember Matewan? My father was a truck driver during the Battle of the Bulge--remember the Red Ball Express? Two of my uncles helped to build the National Gallery, though neither ever went inside--remember why?
The institutions that whetted my appetite for family history and for the larger context of social history that we are all embedded in, willy-nilly? Public schools and public libraries. The institutions that build future possibilities and safeguard knowledge from the past... Public schools and public libraries. The institutions that made our society what it is whether we use them much or not... Public schools and public libraries.
It is relatively easy to see what happens when a road is built or a skyscraper constructed or a movie theater renovated. These things are big and bold and hard to miss. It is easy to see that they are worthy of our praise. Yet the knowhow that conceives of them, builds them and maintains them comes from somewhere else. Yes, the architects and engineers are right there before us--we can see them, too. But the institutions that begin their training, that keep them on track and up-to-date are almost invisible to most of us.
I'm talking about the same public schools and public libraries. I know that all of you know how important these institutions are.
Commerce is important, too. Tens of millions of dollars of public money have been spent in support of business interests over the last few years. But any particular solution that money can buy for economic gain is subject to the integrity of the businesses we single out and the commercial viability of our business visions. The fact that some companies get millions in tax breaks doesn't obligate them to keep a full complement of employees in the county indefinitely. Nine or ten millions of public money went to American Film Institute for their Silver Theater complex and for that and fifty dollars more any resident of the county can become a member of AFI and reap some of the benefits of that donation.
The only price of using the public library is the cost of transportation and the time it takes to get there. Well, maybe some of us have fines to pay. But what public schools and public libraries build are productive, engaged, creative auto-didacts--self-teachers--people who can figure out how to "figure it out".
The "invisible" effects of libraries and schools are:
You can't get more "bang for the buck."
I'd like to describe one of the most influential structures in the city of Boston. It is the McKim Building. It houses the Boston Public Library, main branch. It is the oldest free library on this continent, one of the oldest in the world. There is an inscription on the pediment that runs around the building--one phrase on each face:
MDCCCLII (1852) FOUNDED THROUGH THE MUNIFICENCE AND PUBLIC SPIRIT OF CITIZENS // THE PUBLIC LIBRARY OF THE CITY OF BOSTON BUILT BY THE PEOPLE AND DEDICATED TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING A.D. MDCCCLXXXVIII (1888) // THE COMMONWEALTH REQUIRES THE EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE AS THE SAFEGUARD OF ORDER AND LIBERTY
And over the entrance, simply the words:
FREE TO ALL
Paulette Dickerson P.O. Box 598 Kensington, MD. 20895-0598
Private Citizen / Library Advocate
Comic Book ESP
Montgomery County Family
Free To All
Chronic Library Users
Send comments or suggestions to:
E-Mail: "pdickerson (at) hers.com"
Paper Mail: Paulette Dickerson, P.O.Box 598, Kensington, MD 20895-0598, USA
Home Page: http://librariesfriend.com/