This video contains highlights from the 2011 Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award ceremony, which featured keynote speaker Caroline Kennedy and Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
The program is administered by the American Library Association's Campaign for America's Libraries.
The 2012 winners will be announced in two weeks.
The 2011 event honored 10 librarians who were recognized for service to their communities, schools and campuses. More than 1,700 library patrons nominated a librarian. The event also was part of Carnegie Corporation's Centennial Celebration.
Kennedy said, "One of the hallmarks of a great civilization is the preservation of and access to information - libraries. We all know that the library at Alexandria was one of the Wonders of the Ancient World. And we have all learned that our founding fathers believed that libraries were essential to the growth of America. Benjamin Franklin helped to found the Library Company of Philadelphia, and Thomas Jefferson‘s personal library became the library of Congress."
She talked about attempts to suppress libraries, noting that, "In times of great political turmoil, libraries are a bastion of civil liberties," but added that "in calmer times, they are integrated into every aspect of our lives. One of the most exciting rituals of childhood is getting your first library card, and last year, one-third of all Americans over the age of 15, or 77 million people, used a public library.
However, she also noted that libraries today are also under attack, "this time from an insidious adversary- indifference and lack of funds. New York, one of the more generous states, allocates only $6.25 per student for library books, not enough to buy even one book and Congress allocated ZERO to the Improving Literacy through School Libraries Office. When times are tough, access to knowledge is seen as a luxury not a necessity, though in a difficult economic climate, we know that people need and use libraries more than ever."
Gregorian said 2011 was a special year for the Carnegie Corporation of New York, because it marked the 100th anniversary of "the foundation Andrew Carnegie created to carry out his philanthropy during his lifetime and to carry it forward into the future.
"During our century of work, one of our proudest achievements is the part that Carnegie Corporation played in the first major cause that Andrew Carnegie supported, and the one that was always closest to his heart: helping to build public libraries.
"Mr. Carnegie believed that libraries are essential to the strength and progress of American society because there are three critical purposes they serve. They democratize access to information and knowledge. They empower local communities. But most importantly, they empower individuals to fulfill their aspirations and their potential."
Gregorian pointed out that libraries are among the first and most important institutions in all of civilization to embody the concept of lifelong education.
"After all, nobody can graduate from a library—or wants to! Libraries do not give out diplomas. Libraries have no graduation ceremonies and they do not give exams. The only condition a library asks its users to honor is to do justice to their own imagination, their own curiosity and their own thirst for knowledge, and in the process, to achieve their own independence of mind and spirit."