April 8-14 is National Library Week, a great time to observe the many freedoms that libraries give us.
It's no coincidence that Benjamin Franklin, one of our founding fathers, also formed the first lending library in America. Franklin realized the key role that an informed citizenry plays in a democracy. Indeed, there can be no democracy without an educated and well-read citizenry.
Another great contributor to America's - and the world's - libraries was Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American industrialist, who donated money for 2,509 Carnegie libraries between 1883-1929.
The original portion of the current Estherville Public Library was in fact one of those libraries Andrew Carnegie helped build as he envisioned an educated society - rather than one of serfs dependent on despotic rulers. Whether it was Carnegie's memory of the long history of enmity and dominance of England over Scotland or the realization of the role that education played in his own success as a businessman, Carnegie understood that others could benefit by the knowledge free libraries could offer. He even extended his generosity to the South where - tragically - libraries were segregated. Carnegie's solution was to build libraries for African-Americans as well.
So do we still have leaders who want to do these same things today?
Fortunately, yes. Computer giants Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs made education a top priority in their endowment funds. As a result, schools and libraries have benefitted as literacy has taken on a new dimension. Computer literacy has become the new literacy.
Libraries - such as Estherville Public Library - have embraced this technology with eBooks and other online technology.
And yes, this does give us something to celebrate as we observe National Library Week this week.
So visit your local library. And enjoy your freedom.