Art Works Blog

Ken Brecher on the Power of Libraries in the 21st Century

Ken Brecher is one of those people you really want to sit next to at a dinner party. He's well-traveled, well-read, loves culture, and is a fantastic storyteller to boot. He continues his long career in arts education--he once ran the Sundance Institute and the Boston Children's Museum, respectively--as the President of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. But Brecher's path hasn't been the most, shall we say, conventional. As a Rhodes Scholar, he did field work in social anthropology with a tribe in the Mato Grosso area of Brazil. In fact, he was the first non-Indian to live with the tribe and the first non-Indian to speak their language (Wausha). He's a deeply inquisitive human being and he's taken his thirst for knowledge and poured that into his life and his work. He's currently writing his second book, In Denial, where he's tackling some of the questions that drew him to anthropology and also that drew him to people like the chief of the Brazilian tribe or a South African poet with whom he walked across KwaZulu-Natal (formerly Zululand). Brecher says, "My interest is in answering certain basic questions, which I think are the questions of our times, but I mean, our personal times. I'm interested in the question of whether friendship is more durable than love, and I'm fascinated by the idea that friendship is a kind of love." At the heart of all these big questions, curiously, is a place that is central to the lives of so many big thinkers, writers, and citizens: the public library. Here is Ken Brecher, in his own words, on why the library is vital to the fabric of American culture and why this great equalizer is not going anywhere anytime soon.  

 If you liked this story, check out this interview with Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, from the latest issue of NEA Arts. 


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