I'm not a banker or a farmer; I'm a librarian. I don't know how to distribute micro-loans in Chad, or tinker with a heartier species of millet. I know books. Can libraries really save worlds? I want to believe it.
What can libraries do?
. Get the information to the people -- broadly and universally.
. Fend off censors -- be they religious or political.
. Support literacy -- for all ages, across any medium.
. Preserve cultural history -- we're the information bank, and we are long-term memory.
. Spur trust -- mix readers with programs and events.
If we can do that in every country, we can make headway in defeating evil in this world. Evil? I'm a pragmatist. Whatever the root causes may be, evil occurs. Libraries represent a universal ethos of liberalism, pluralism, discovery, and the conservation of knowledge. Libraries work for good, or they should.
The long term plan? Sustainability? 10,000 years ahead? We're part of that. You do it every day.
I keep coming back to the question, despite or because of the hunger and the war and the rape: how do we put a library in every village in Africa?
And I must be embarrassingly naive. I've e-mailed librarians in Sudan and Egypt and elsewhere, asking questions, seeking contact. They don't write back. They're busy with bigger problems. Libraries in every village? How about clearing the flies out of our children's eyes first.
This is going to take legwork.