I was very honored and lucky to be part of a wonderful celebration last week at the Library of Congress. Librarians and university presidents from across the country gathered to commemorate two great institutions: libraries and land grant universities.
Pratt CEO Carla Hayden was part of a great discussion, Andrew Carnegie and the Public Library System. The panel included New York Public Library President Anthony Marx, Librarian of Congress James Billington, Harvard University Library's Robert Darnton, and Carnegie Corporation President Vartan Gregorian.
Everyone discussed Carnegie's contribution and impact on the public library system. Dr. Hayden was able to share with the audience the friendship between Carnegie and Enoch Pratt. "Mr. Carnegie considered Enoch Pratt a pioneer," said Hayden. "He donated $500,000 to the EPFL system." The money was used to built many of the branches that was enjoyed by generations of Baltimoreans.
The discussion quickly turned into the importance of libraries today and the future. "There are more public libraries in the United States than McDonalds," said Hayden. Dr. Hayden also explained to the audience the contributions the EPFL and other library systems to the lives of our patrons. "Libraries now provide variety of services: job application service, free Internet, flu shots, etc.," said Hayden.
However during these challenging fiscal times, many library systems across the country are facing budget cuts. One is the New York Public Library system. "If libraries go out of business, the American dream goes out of business," said Marx.
The discussion at the Library of Congress was spotlighted by Time magazine in a wonderful article, Why Libraries Are a Smart Investment for the Country's Future.
Later that afternoon, all attendees had a special wreath ceremony on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, signed by President Lincoln, which established land-grant universities.
Learn more about Public and Land-grant Universities at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC, running until July 8 on the National Mall.