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Oak Park library marks 110 years on the books

It’s your anniversary.

Wait, wait, don’t panic.

It’s not your wedding anniversary. You didn’t miss it.

This year marks the 110th anniversary of the Oak Park Public Library and the 10th anniversary of the current main library building.

One-hundred-and-ten years of a public library in Oak Park is indeed cause for celebrating. Few institutions are more important than public libraries.

Libraries are profoundly democratic. Way back, Americans decided that unlike most good things, knowledge should not cost money but be free to all. It is impossible to calculate the importance of libraries for generations of children, and thus on America itself. Kids whose parents had a hard enough time making ends meet didn’t have to pay to walk to London with Oliver Twist, wouldn’t be charged to paint Tom Sawyer’s fence or to search for treasure with Jim Hawkins.

No, there would be public libraries where all children – regardless of how much money their parents didn’t have – could learn, explore the world, go on adventures. All they had to do was walk into the library.

And not just kids.

There is so much for everyone at the library. And today, the library offers more than ever.

But for me, and I hope forever, the core of the library, the pearl in the oyster is the legacy of the minds of great human beings, men and women who with grace and precision bequeathed to us truth and beauty.

In this world of prosaic texting and 140-character tweets, the library offers us riches: the novels of Austen and Dickens, Dostoevsky and Hemingway; the poetry of Whitman and Dickinson, Shakespeare and Yeats; the philosophic constructs of Plato, and Kant, Thomas Aquinas and Hume; the music of Beethoven and Wagner, Berlioz and Verdi.

Books. And more books.

Books on every topic – with pictures and without, hard books, books about real things and invented things, books that quench and books that make you thirst for more, books to grow your mind. Wonderful, wonderful books.

The Oak Park Public Library should celebrate and be celebrated.

Such a celebration should be ongoing.

But, to mark these particular anniversaries, the library is holding several events on Oct. 5.

A complete schedule is available in the latest village OP/FYI newsletter, or on line at oppl.org/anniversary.

But the best way to celebrate the jewel that is the Oak Park Public Library is to use it.

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