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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
October 16, 2002

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Mobile Western Regional Public Library Opening
As Delivered
Mobile, Alabama

Thank you, Nan. And thank you Mayor Dow and members of the Mobile City Council and Mobile County Commission for your warm welcome to Alabama's Tricentennial City.

There is perhaps no greater joy for a librarian than to help open the doors to a new home of learning and literature. Today, we celebrate the opening of the West Regional branch and the rich and enduring history of the Mobile Public Library. This is more than one of the oldest libraries in Alabama; it is a haven for words, stories and readers.

As a child, my mother and I would spend afternoons at the Midland Public Library in the Midland County Courthouse basement. I remember the smell of new books and the quiet serenity of the basement and. Here, in this new library, Mobile's children can visit the little house on the prairie. They can sail across the sea on a whaling ship and sing carols with Joe and Marmie. They can read some of Alabama's finest authors - Truman Capote and Harper Lee. And they can experience the enchanting words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who summed up my love for libraries and most of all, my love of reading in a few short sentences. She wrote:

"Books, books, books.piled high, packed large.where like some small nimble mouse. I nibbled here and there at this or that, pulling through the gap, in heats of terror, haste, victorious joy - the first book first. And how I felt it beat under my pillow, in the morning's dark. An hour before the sun would let me read! My books!"

I wish for every child the same love of reading I have. And I wish for the children of Mobile the opportunity to find that love here in the new West Regional Library. I have no doubt that they will. Much has changed here since the doors first opened 100 years ago. But Mobile's commitment to neighborhood libraries that provide families with unmatched educational resources is stronger than ever.

After months of anticipation, this building is ready for learning, reading, and conversation. This library, like thousands across America, stands as a beacon for education and information.

Children know that if they have a question about the world, the library is the place to find the answer. And someone will always be here to help them find the answer - our dedicated librarians.

I want to thank the librarians here today for joining us. Your job is an important one. Our nation runs on the fuel of information and imagination that libraries provide. And librarians are in charge of collecting and sharing this information in a helpful way. Librarians educate and inform the public, and by doing so, they strengthen our great democracy.

Mobile will be strengthened too by this grand addition to the community. West Regional will hold 200 thousand books and will bridge the information highway with a technology center, computers and classes. A special children's reading room will be a welcoming place for kids to spread out and experience the joy of story-telling. These rooms will be part of a living, active library - hosting book discussion groups, exhibitions and citywide cultural events.

I want to thank the Friends of the Mobile Public Library for their support of this great learning institution. Your tireless efforts make the main library and its six branches an inviting place for one million visitors every year - and with the largest summer reading program in Alabama, a great place for children to spend long, summer days. I would also like to commend the city of Mobile and the many private citizens for their generous support.

You should be proud of the investment you have made in your community and your future - especially your children's future. As we open new doors today, we open a new chapter in the history of the Mobile Public Library - and we ensure that this institution continues to be a living repository for information, education and beloved books.

In 1902, the opening of the Mobile Public Library was announced in the Mobile Register newspaper. Today, with those same words, I proclaim with great pride, "The West Regional Library has been thrown open to the general public." I wish you another 100 history-rich and story-filled years here in Mobile.

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