Vartan Gregorian and Andrew Carnegie

In the Postscript of The Road to Home, Vartan Gregorian talks about the job he took on in 1997 as the president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. In comparing himself and his background to Andrew Carnegie's he notes:

We had something else in common, too: we both loved books and libraries. Wen I assumed the presidency of the New York Public Library, I came to appreciate the historical impact of Andrew Carnegie who, in launching public libraries, not only in New York but all over the United States and abroad, must have taken great pride in building libraries and providing books—hence, knowledge—to ordinary citizens eager to read and learn. I certainly was proud and felt triumphant that the boy from Tabriz who was too poor to own his own volumes and was even unable to borrow and rent books ended up lending millions of books to the people of New York, including the multitudes of newcomers who continue to flock here, to the city near the Statue of Liberty.

To this day, the walls of my office are lined with books; people send me books and talk to me about books and I still delight in the weight of a book in my hand. A book, to me, is still one of the most extraordinary creations of man, because it is a gift of knowledge: someone wrote it because he had something he felt was worth sharing with others, including you; someone gave it to you or recommended it to you or your found it by yourself on a shelf in your favorite bookstore. However it came into your possession, a book is a treasure troe that you can carry with you and learn from wherever and whenever you choose. A book contains dreams, ideas, and ideals, it contains notions about reality and utopia, about revolutions and clues about life and freedom and happiness. A library, a place where books can be lent freely to those seeking knowledge, is a testament to men and women's concern and caring for each other and for each other's children—for everyone's children: to construct and cherish a library is to invest not only in ourselves but in future generations. A library is a legacy. A library is a mirror to the past and a window to the future.

Because of the role that books and libraries have played in my life, I am gratified that at Carnegie Corporation, I have been able to help direct one aspect of our focus on international development toward African libraries and librarians, in order to help them create the gateways to tomorrow that will best serve the people of Africa. As someone who has had the opportunity to lie in different countries and different cultures, I know how extensive the cultural divide between different peoples can seem, how exotic differing beliefs and customs can appear to be, so it seems to me that knowledge about the world, both its tangible qualities and ephemeral mysteries, and about each other—about our glories and our follies—is the only way to narrow the great gulfs that divide us. The place where we can all find that knowledge is in books and in libraries as well as in the new technologies that enhance our ability to share the precious "knowledge and understanding" that Andrew Carnegie believed in so deeply and sincerely. The dissemination of knowledge and understanding is, in fact, the mandate he gave the institution I now serve, and I am pleased to be one of those entrusted with the task of carrying out his vision.

(cf. Boston Public Library (2002-06-20), RoomToRead (2004-10-23), EstateTax (2005-05-06), LibraryHistory (2007-02-06), Philanthropy and Charity (2010-03-28), ...) - ^z - 2010-05-05