Ode to a Librarian
Nikki Giovanni, University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech since 1987, has stirred hearts and minds for decades as a poet, writer, activist and teacher. She was born in Knoxville, Tennessee (1943), and raised in Cincinnati. She is the recipient of several awards including the Langston Hughes Award, the NAACP Image Award, and has been named as one of Oprah’s Living Legends. Her books are available at the Eugene Public Library.
Giovanni was one of several professors at Virginia Tech who tried to warn authorities about and get help for Sueng Hui-Cho, the South Korean student who in the spring of 1987, killed 32 people on campus. She delivered a moving address at the memorial for the victims.
Giovanni and her sister spent summers in Knoxville visiting their grandparents, where Giovanni found solace and inspiration at the beloved local library.
A POEM FOR MY LIBRARIAN, MRS. LONG
(You never know what troubled little girl needs a book)
At a time when there was not tv before 3:00 P.M.
And on Sunday none until 5:00
We sat on the front porches watching
The jfg sign go on and off greeting
The neighbors, discussion the political
Situation congratulating the preacher
On his sermon
There was always the radio which brought us
Songs from wlac in nashville and what we would now call
Easy listening or smooth jazz but when I listened
Late at night with my portable (that I was so proud of)
Tucked under my pillow
I heard nat king cole and matt dennis, june christy and ella fitzgerald
And sometimes sarah vaughan sing black coffee
Which I now drink
It was just called music
There was a bookstore uptown on gay street
Which I visited and inhaled that wonderful odor
Of new books
Even today I read hardcover as a preference paperback only
As a last resort
And up the hill on vine street
(The main black corridor) sat our carnegie library
Mrs. Long always glad to see you
The stereoscope always ready to show you faraway
Places to dream about
Mrs. Long asking what are you looking for today
When I wanted Leaves of Grass or alfred north whitehead
She would go to the big library uptown and I now know
Hat in hand to ask to borrow so that I might borrow
Probably they said something humiliating since southern
Whites like to humiliate southern blacks
But she nonetheless brought the books
Back and I held them to my chest
Close to my heart
And happily skipped back to grandmother’s house
Where I would sit on the front porch
In a gray glider and dream of a world
I love the world where I was
I was safe and warm and grandmother gave me neck kissed
When I was on my way to bed
But there was a world
And Mrs. Long opened that wardrobe
But no lions or witches scared me
I went through
Knowing there would be
Reprinted with author’s permission
Invest Early for Equal Opportunity
There is perhaps no more heartbreaking demonstration of the importance of libraries than the work by statistician and sociologist Sean Reardon of Stanford’s Graduate School of Education. After Reardon distilled the standardized test results of 200 million reading and math scores, one statistic stood out: the richest school districts are outperforming the poorest by almost four grades.
Over the past thirty years, this gap has widened by almost 40 percent. The takeaway is that It is important to invest in our children early, and deeply. Most libraries, including ours, stand as a bulwark against this trend, prioritizing early and equal opportunities for children. This was the impetus behind Imagination Library, which delivers books into homes and hands of children from birth to age five, free of charge, to anyone who signs up. Story times, reading programs, music, art and technology activities, all are vital library services, available for everyone. Outreach to low income communities, services and organizations ensures that everyone who needs these services can take advantage of them. The upcoming purchase of a bookmobile van, will extend that reach even more.
The Library Foundation plays an important role in the health of these programs. The Foundation secured funding for the van, initiated the Imagination Library, and raises the funds for it as well as a host of other cherished library programs. We hope you consider becoming more involved as a donor or volunteer. If you are already a donor or volunteer, our deepest thanks.