My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK—All Americans who realize that changes must be made in education to meet the challenges of this modern world should take a critical look at the library situation in their communities during the observance of National Library Week April 8 to 14.

It is impossible to better educate our children without greatly increasing not only the number of libraries themselves but the library services and personnel without which the books frequently remain unused.

This is a fact that I would like to spread as widely as possible to thinking Americans—the parents of children who will not live in this world successfully without a better education and a greater knowledge than we, their elders, have had.

Twenty-five million Americans in the United States today have no library service, and the library service to 50 million more Americans is very inadequate.

It is even more surprising that 10,600,000 children in our public schools are without public libraries, and 66 percent of the elementary schools do not have school libraries.

We would expect our colleges to fare better because by the time a child gets into higher education his need for independent work requiring the use of books becomes greater. Yet one of out of five college libraries has fewer than 25,000 volumes. The minimum for a college of 600 students should be 50,000 volumes, with 10,000 additional volumes for each increase of 200 students.

We are shortsighted in looking toward the future and particularly in estimating what an increase in population will mean in any particular area of our national life.

We expect, for instance, an increase of 32 million persons to a total of 210 million from 1960 to 1970 in the United States. The estimated increase in public and non-public school enrollment during this increase has been set at: in the elementary schools, 16.4 percent; in the high schools, 39.6 percent, and in higher education, 61.9 percent.

This means that we are becoming increasingly conscious of the fact that our young people need a college education to succeed in a competitive world, and there is a greater emphasis in education on academic excellence and independence in study.

Books are more essential now than they ever were to an education, and we must replace many of the obsolescent books in our school and community libraries. Progress in science demands new books, and since our world is drawing closer and closer together, we must have new books on Asia and Africa. The changes in these parts of the world are great, and we should become aware of these changes through reading of books.

It is shocking that 23 of our states do not have a qualified person at the state level to direct the development and improvement of public school libraries. For all of the schools in our country, there is only one library for each 1,740 pupils, and more than 47,000 pupils have no qualified librarian at all.

It is not only for our children that good libraries will become increasingly important. The shorter work week gives adults more time for reading. Their leisure becomes more valuable if they use their public libraries under guidance to improve their knowledge.

Early retirement means more time to read and sometimes training for new and different job opportunities. Automation will bring a need for books to help people understand the new situations in which they find themselves and the need for retraining.

Libraries, in fact, were never more important than they are today, and the training of librarians able to help make us better citizens of the world is one of our most pressing problems and can no longer be ignored.

E.R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL