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The institution that is most representative of our open society is the library. We must, therefore, acknowledge that libraries are indispensable, no matter what form they take. Libraries have and always will contain our nation's heritage, the heritage of humanity the records of its triumphs and failures, of mankind's intellectual, scientific, and artistic achievements. They are not repositories of human endeavor alone--they are instruments of civilization. They provide tools for learning, understanding, and progress. They are a source of information, a source of knowledge, a source of wisdom, and hence, they are a source of action. They are a laboratory of human enterprise. They are a window to the future. They are a source of hope. They are a source of self-renewal. They represent the link between the solitary individual and humankind, which is our community.
The library is the university of universities, for it contains the source and the unity of knowledge. It constitutes a commonwealth of learning. Libraries, along with museums, are the DNA of our civilization, the building blocks of our culture.
In both my professional capacity as the former president of the New York Public Library and as an educator and private citizen who is a lifelong user and lover of libraries and books, I take great pride in the fact that what comes immediately to mind when I think of libraries are such words and concepts as enlightenment, education, imagination, integration, inclusion, knowledge, wisdom, learning, progress, and, of course, the joy of reading--and rereading--beloved books.
In 2001, the more than 20 organizations that Andrew Carnegie created in the United States and abroad …