Since it’s National Library Week and a time to break librarian stereotypes, I’ll break an annoyed librarian stereotype by posting more than twice this week.
As you might know, the first National Library Week was in 1958 with the theme Wake up and Read. This was during the Cold War, in the wake of Sputnik and the Red Scare, back when the danger of nuclear attack caused schoolchildren to learn useful defensive moves like crawling under their desks and holding their knees together.
From North Carolina during the first NLW, we hear about how reading is the best way to beat the commies.
We have cheaper books and more books than ever before in our history. Still, in the past eight years the Gallup Poll never has found more than one-fifth of our adult population curled up with a book — trash or treasure — at any one time.
Experts on communism have warned that education in Russia is spurting ahead at a jet speed. Will the Russians catch up with us in education, then leave us far behind. Much depends upon how much we read, what we read and how well we read.
I imagined the last couple of sentences being read by a stereotypical soap opera announcer. WILL the Russians catch up with us? Find out next week! We also discover from that paper that recent anti-segregation Supreme Court decisions were bad for the “negro,” so it was probably a reliable authority on the Russians as well.
Back to Kentucky, we read the following:
Russia has over 390,000 public libraries compared to 12,000 in the United States and Canada. The United States has one Library of Congress while Russia has 40 such libraries.
These are just two of the facts made public today at the beginning of National Library Week by Mrs. E.B. Warrener, head librarian at the Bowling Green Public Library.
Those scary Russians sure did have a lot of libraries! The avid readers could fill their minds to the brim with Pravda and socialist realism. I’m not sure how a government that had no congress or parliament could have 40 libraries of congress, but that’s a heck of a lot of libraries for a country with so much censorship.
We find out more about what big readers those Russkies are in Reds Use Their Libraries, Do You? Gallup Polls had suggested that 61% of Americans hadn’t read a book in the previous year other than the Bible. That was back in the golden years of reading before television rotted our brains.
The gist of these articles about National Library Week is that the Russians read a lot, so we should to, because of course Sputnik was the result of Russian reading habits and not an enormous state-funded science education program focused on creating military technology and enslaving the world.
One would have thought that Americans wouldn’t want to ape those commies and read books other than the Bible, ironically a book that was banned in the Soviet Union until 1956. If we have Bibles, then God is on our side, so who needs other books?
Fortunately, the ALA saw through that faulty reasoning and started National Library Week so that we would “Wake up and Read.” We would protect freedom and defeat the Soviet Union with a hearty diet of Grace Metalious and Art Linkletter.
Apparently, it worked, for the Soviet Union and the communist menace are no more.
Though National Library Week hasn’t killed the stereotypes about libraries and librarians, it has magnificently succeeded in destroying the Soviet Union by making us read more. For that, we should all be thankful.