A story for South African librarians who feel unrecognised and unrewarded! This is a powerful testament to the difference libraries and individual librarians make and can make.
The OCLC Newsletter (Issue 6, April 2007) http://www.oclc.org/nextspace/006/advocacy.htm carries a story about South African yachtsman, Neal Petersen, who learnt navigation and boat design from books in the library, and went on to take part in the Around Alone (formerly BOC Challenge) Race and become the first black man to race solo around the world.
Quoting from the article:
" He quickly read everything available in the "colored" library*libraries were segregated under Apartheid*and he had to go to the "white" library to continue to learn about sailing.
One brave white librarian, Letta Naudee of the Wynberg Public Library, risked everything to provide Neal with access to the knowledge he craved. She would sneak books out the back door for him, bravely defying the social and political laws at that time. At the library, he learned the principals of navigation, how to design and build a racing boat, and the technical aspects of sailing. He took that knowledge to the marina, convinced a few wealthy, white yachtsmen to take a chance and let him crew on their boats, and he was on his way to fulfilling his dream of sailing around the world in a race. "
In answer to a request for advice for libraries, he responded :
" If librarians succeed, it will be felt for generations. They have such a powerful impact on society*and there’s strong ripple effect for that, too. With all the technology and information options these days, libraries and librarians must have the courage to risk and focus on the end game. Educators are the cornerstone of free society. Sometimes I wonder if the libraries don’t realize they’re an essential part of the educational ecosystem."