Celebrating democracy and libraries this Fourth of July | PostIndependent.com

Celebrating democracy and libraries this Fourth of July

Photo Courtesy Jerry Morris
Staff Photo |

The Garfield County Libraries have much cause to celebrate in 2013 during our 75th anniversary. By the end of this year, Garfield County Libraries will have completed its intensive rebuilding project, bringing six new and remodeled libraries to Garfield County — a momentous achievement well suited for such a significant milestone.

This Fourth of July, as the nation celebrates its 237th birthday, the Garfield County Libraries want to take a moment to reflect on public libraries in America. Though many libraries are closed in observance of this holiday, including the Garfield County Libraries, the New York Public Library is making history by exhibiting an original copy of the Bill of Rights and a draft of the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson for the first time ever. This exhibit ties the documents upon which our nation was formed with public libraries, a truly democratic institution.

Regarding the exhibit, NYPL’s president said, “Libraries are the true foundation of our democracy of informed citizens.” This statement and exhibition speak to the important role of libraries in today’s world as one of the few existing institutions where people have free, unrestricted access to information. Public libraries — an establishment we all often take for granted — are a true a symbol of democracy, or as Franklin D. Roosevelt put it, “the great symbols of the freedom of the mind.”

Public libraries have been around in some version or another since the 1600s. The history of American public libraries is a story about democracy and freedom that starts with one of the nation’s Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, who once proclaimed, “I cannot live without books,” was known for his love of books and extensive personal library. After the Library of Congress burned down in 1814, Jefferson, who had acquired the largest personal collection of books in the country, sold his collection to Congress. Jefferson also said, “I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books, to be lent to the people of the country under regulations as would secure their safe return in due time.” If only Jefferson could see public libraries today.

The Garfield County Libraries got its start in 1938 with the opening of the New Castle Library. In 1964, the Carbondale City Library became the first branch of the county library system, followed by the Glenwood Springs City Library in 1969, the Rifle Library in 1976, the Silt Library in 1980, and the Parachute Library in 1982.

Today, new libraries are being enjoyed in Parachute through New Castle. After five years of construction, we are preparing to open the final new libraries in Carbondale, opening later this month, and in Glenwood Springs, which will open in September. What a significant accomplishment to observe on our 75th birthday. Looking forward, the Garfield County Libraries will continue to provide information access in its communities, serving its democratic purpose for the foreseeable future.

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