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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
August 21, 2003

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Centennial Celebration of the San Antonio Public Library
San Antonio Public Library
San Antonio, Texas

Thank you, David and members of the San Antonio World Affairs Council for welcoming me to historic San Antonio. Thanks also to the staff of the San Antonio Public Library and members of the Library Foundation for your warm welcome. There is perhaps no greater joy for a librarian than to commemorate a century of learning and literature. I'm thrilled to be here to celebrate the enduring history of the San Antonio Public Library, one of the oldest libraries in Texas.

Maybe it's the heat that drives us Texans to take refuge in our libraries - but oh the refuge we find in books and reading - and how mystery, history and intrigue draw us back again and again. As a child, spending quiet summer afternoons with my mother at the Midland Public Library was my favorite thing to do. I loved the smell of books and the anticipation of stories and characters yet to be discovered.

Beloved Texas author, the late A.C. Greene, grew up in Abilene where his grandmother was the librarian. He wrote about the joy of going to the library and captured my sentiments perfectly. He wrote: "I was raised in a library, brought up one book at a time, a page at a time, a word at a time - raised from a hot, dry West Texas town to a world which time, travel and age have never yet combined to better - the world of the printed page."

There's nothing quite like a trip to the library, especially for the nine thousand San Antonians who visit a branch of the library every day. Whether strolling through the aisles or speeding along the information superhighway, libraries enable us to journey as far and wide as our imagination will allow.

I wonder if Andrew Carnegie imagined how much the San Antonio Public Library would change when it opened a century ago. There were only about seven thousand books in the beautiful Carnegie Building. Today, the Central Library is a modern architectural masterpiece that inspires readers of all ages. And it continues to fulfill its founder's vision that libraries foster the mind, the body, and the spirit. The beautiful Chihuly sculpture delights and nurtures the spirit of all who visit the Central Library. And soon, the Julia Yates Simmons branch will open in Comanche Lookout Park. This new branch will be surrounded by 80 acres of trails and parkland, providing a welcome retreat for readers and nature lovers.

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. Your job is an important one. Our nation runs on the fuel of information and imagination that libraries provide. Librarians educate and inform the public, and by doing so, they strengthen our great democracy.

As the San Antonio Public Library has grown, so has its community of readers. From long-time residents to newborns, generations of lifelong learners continue to be nurtured at the library. The Born to Read Program is a great example of how the library is preparing tomorrow's readers. Teaching children to love books and reading is one of the greatest lessons we can share.

When children love to read, they will read for a lifetime - just like Mary Anne Guerra, who has been coming to the San Antonio Public Library for more than 70 years. Mary Anne, thank you for being here and for your support of the library. As a child, books and reading provided Mary Anne with an escape from the Depression. As an author, she's spent hours researching Texas history. Today, visitors to the library can read Mary Anne's books.

And they can read about their own history. Mary Anne believes that the job of a library is to inspire people to learn about their culture and heritage. She says, "As a nation and a community, we demand to know who we are, where we came from, and what our forefathers have done. The library provides this for every San Antonian."

Mary Anne's husband, Henry, also loved the library. He may even have surpassed her record of the most books checked out at one time. As a San Antonio historian and author, reading and books were Henry's passion. He was not only one of the libraries greatest patrons, but also one of its biggest supporters. And soon more readers will discover Henry's love of books when they visit the new Henry A. Guerra library this fall.

Considering her library attendance, nine year-old Desiree Dear may be one of the first to visit the new library. Desiree has been going to the library every week since she was six years old. She says, "It's a good thing when you get your library card because the library is a place where you can get your questions answered."

Desiree finds the answers to her homework at the library and because she spends so much time there, she's ready to start fourth grade at Somerset Elementary this fall. She recently read About Kay, an All American Girls Book. She really hopes her mom will let her check out the next book in the series during their upcoming visit. Do you think we convinced her, Desiree? Desiree is such a fan of the library that she speaks before the City Council on the importance of supporting public libraries.

And she has a lot of help from the Library Foundation. Thank you to the members of the Library Foundation for your support of the San Antonio Public Library. Your tireless efforts make the central library and its twenty branches an inviting place for three million visitors every year - and with a large summer reading program, a great place for children like Desiree to spend long, summer days.

I also commend the city of San Antonio, the World Affairs Council and the many private citizens for your generous support. I know you are proud of the investment you've made in your community and your future - especially your children's future. A century ago, private citizens came together to fund and support the San Antonio Public Library. This tradition must be continued to support and expand public libraries in the future.

Claiborne Carrington believed in this tradition and he believed in the power of books and reading. He loved literature and by supporting the library, he shared this love with so many. He was instrumental in raising funds to build the Central Library and for the commission of the Chihuly sculpture. Claiborne insisted that the Foundation raise private funds for the sculpture, rather than sacrifice a single dime that could go towards books.

He was the driving force behind the Centennial Campaign, which raised eight million dollars for books. With his creativity and good humor, Claiborne dubbed the effort, "Mission Possible" and even sent out camouflage invitations to team meetings. Members of the Foundation remember him as the cheerleader of the group who rallied enthusiasm with his energy and humor. They often would argue over who got to sit next to Claiborne during meetings because he was so funny and so much fun to be with. That is how I remember Claiborne.

As his best friend and biggest supporter, his wife Alice often laughed the hardest at his jokes. And he admired her just as much. Whenever Claiborne came up with an idea, he would tell his fellow board members, "I have to run this by Alice first." Besides his work with the Foundation, Claiborne supported the United Way of San Antonio, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and the San Antonio Museum of Art. He was a devoted civic servant and I'm proud to be here to honor my good friend.

Congratulations again to the San Antonio Public Library on 100 years of reading and learning. Today, as we celebrate the past, we mark a new chapter in the history of the library - and we ensure that this institution continues to be a living repository for information, education and beloved books. With devoted patrons and book lovers like Claiborne, Mary Anne and Desiree, the library is sure to have another 100 history-rich and story-filled years here in San Antonio. Thank you.


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