Thoughts from the Ex-Librarian of Congress, Daniel J. Boorstin

Last week I found and purchased online at Better World Books a used book that captured my attention: The Republic of Letters: Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin on Books, Reading, and Libraries 1975-1987 (Washington: Library of Congress, 1989). It contains various speeches and essays Boorstin wrote while he was the nation’s librarian during the above-mentioned years (You may also find it online here). And it is fascinating reading! Boorstin I knew was an historian, for I had read one of his history books before (on the history of Western Civilization), but I did not know he was Librarian of Congress. In fact, he was nominated to the position by President Gerald R. Ford on June 20, 1975 (that great Grand Rapidian, now buried along the Grand River next to the museum that bears his name.). Boorstin was subsequently confirmed by the Senate on September 26 and installed as head Librarian on November 12, 1975 in a ceremony in the Great Hall of the LOC. In attendance was President Ford (for the first time in LOC history!), the Vice-President (do you remember who that was?), three members of Ford’s cabinet,  and two former Librarians of Congress. It truly was an historic event for our nation.  How I wish I could have been present! Alas, I was just a poor college student at Calvin College working in the Produce Dept. of a local food chain. 😦

But last night I was there! I was seated in that Great Hall and I was privileged to “hear” the new Librarian of Congress speak! What a speaker! And what a talk he gave! About the significance of the LOC and all the nation’s libraries! What dignity and devotion he brings to his new office! I have some memorable quotes to share with you today. In reality, you understand, I was only present in spirit. And what I “heard” was the printed copy of Boorstin’s speech, found in the opening chapter of this book. The title of his induction speech was “A Wellspring of Freedom”, and it is a fine description of what our nation’s library is and must remain in this free land – indeed, of what every library must be, including the Seminary’s.

So, here are a few snippets of what Boorstin had to say:

Mr. President, I would like to thank you for having nominated me for this high position and also to thank you for honoring the Library and for symbolizing its national significance by your presence here today. This is, I believe, the first time that a President has so personally and so dramatically expressed his support for all of us who work here.

…A happy providence of history has made the Library of Congress our nation’s library. Our first duty is to serve our country’s Senators and Representatives. But this Library is a place of congress in other senses too. Here gather the thoughts and words of earlier Americans, and of spokesmen for all mankind. Here we gather the present to help the future meet in congress with the past (That is a great line! – CJT).

Until recently, libraries – and this Library too – have been monuments almost exclusively to the Word. As monuments to the immortal written or printed word, our libraries are ‘the tombs of such as cannot die.’

Within the last century, however, and especially within the last few decades, this Library has come to bear vivid witness, in quite new ways, to the power of the Machine (and here he speaks especially of rise of images and sound recordings – and the use of the computer to track the Library’s huge collections – CJT).

…But we must not allow ourselves to forget the reasons for all this movement. We must preserve opportunities for the Exploring Spirit. We must keep open those avenues for bold scholarship and adventuring thought which mankind has made and preserved in books. The computer can help us find what we know is there. But the Book remains our symbol and our resource for the unimagined question and the unwelcome answer.

I pledge myself to try to meet this challenge, to try to keep alive and flourishing the tradition of the Book (a man after my heart! – CJT).

…To keep this Library strong, the whole American community of libraries must be strong. To keep other libraries strong this Library must be strong. And I am happy to see here representatives of the library community in strength. We must rally enlightened citizens everywhere to save and improve our libraries.

…I pledge myself to see that our Library remains what Ira Gershwin was moved to call it on a recent visit here – ‘a shining star and inspiration, worthy of a mighty nation!’ Today, when freedom is retreating in other parts (and even in our on country – CJT), the whole world needs this Library of Congress for a Wellspring of Freedom. With the encouragement of our President, …and above all with the devotion and enthusiasm of our 4,600 fellow workers, we will keep this wellspring flowing (pp.3-6).

To these words I say a hearty Amen! And I hope someday to visit this marvelous bastion of our nation’s freedom. Yes, free access to books and knowledge is part of the foundation of our freedom. The freedom of the Christian man and woman and child too. For God has given us the best and greatest Book, His Word. And true and complete freedom is found in the Christ of that Book. Keep reading that Word and finding that Freedom.

PR Seminary Graduation 2012

For our Protestant Reformed Seminary feature this week we focus on the commencement exercise which was held this past Tuesday night, June 19,  at First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI. Our lone graduate this year was special student Vernon Ibe of the Berean PRC in the Philippines, who was converted later in life, was gradually led to the Reformed faith, and has spent five years with us training for the ministry (with a couple of trips “back home”). Vernon is married to Melody, a godly sweetheart the Lord provided him on his native soil, and together they now have two boys: “M.J.” and “L.J.” (I am not going to try and spell their names, since I would butcher them! And, since they are American citizens, they receive these nice initials.). Vernon is a fine young man, and it has been a pleasure getting to know him in this last year since I came on board at the Seminary. He is going to be, by God’s grace and gifts, a wonderful preacher and pastor in whatever capacity he serves in the Philippines.

Prof. Ronald Cammenga, currently serving as the rector at the Seminary, also gave (by rotation) the commencement address. From the powerful passage in Jeremiah 1:4-10 he spoke on “The Commission of the Prophet/Preacher”. Before a crowd of preachers, Synodical delegates, Sem. and pre-Sem students and interested saints, Prof. Cammenga gave a stirring message on the calling and work of the minister of the Word.

In a brief ceremony Vernon Ibe received his diploma from the President of the PR Theological School Committee, Rev. Ken Koole, and after the closing of the program, was congratulated by the audience. It was a blessed night – a cause for deep gratitude and thanksgiving to our faithful God – for giving the professors grace to perform their task for another year, and for giving us men like Vernon (and there are others coming up!) to become fit for the ministry, so that the gospel can go out for the gathering of Christ’s elect church. May God continue to bless our Seminary for the good of His church and for the coming of our Lord Jesus!

To see more graduation pictures and to view the program, visit this new page on the PRC website.

Published in: on June 21, 2012 at 12:33 PM  Leave a Comment