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Commentary Detail

Commentary by: Nancy Kranzberg
Aired November 02, 2012

St. Louis certainly has an abundance of libraries. Some are architecturally significant. Others have quite a history, but most are keeping up with the times technologically and have wonderful educational opportunities and programs.

Most of us are aware of the fabulous new face lift on the St. Louis Public Library, but I bet few realize that it is considered the number two urban library in the nation. Here are some other fun facts about our city library:

1)The oldest document in the Library's collection is a clay tablet dating from 2375 BCE. Its message, written in cuneiform in the Sumerian language, is an economic text dealing with measurements of fields.
2)The smallest book in the Library's collection is "The Twelve Horary Signs-Chinese Zodiac". A micro book, it measures only 0.95mm square and "looks like a speck of sand with corners. This was a gift to the Library from Hope and Julian Edison and is now a part of an extensive Rare Books and special Collections area.
3)During the restoration and renewal of Central Library, the building's 3.5 million-item collection was moved off-site. It took nearly 25 miles of shelving to hold Central's collection-enough to stretch from the Gateway Arch to Chesterfield.

In our metropolitan area we have the St. Louis County Library System which was the busiest library in Missouri in 2011. The system circulated over 12 million items last year. 50,000 kids enrolled in SLCL's summer reading club program in 2012, a 30% increase over last year. Over 6 million people visited the library last year, thatís more than the total attendance of all St. Louis pro-sports teams combined.

Of course Washington University and St. Louis University have incredible research libraries. Recently retired Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Olin Library System has taken the library from the days of the card catalogue to the development of the online catalog, the total renovation of the John M. Olin Library, the evolution of the library's system into a networked hub serving users on and off campus, and continual efforts to improve library services and strengthen staff skills.

Dean Baker was on the Today Show talking about Washington University's recent discovery, which made national headlines. She appeared with Monticello scholar Ann Lucas Birle to talk about the university's recent discovery of 74 books once owned by Thomas Jefferson that were in the Rare Book Collection.

St. Louis University is home to one half the Vatican Film Library in the Pius XII Library. The Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library is an outstanding research collection for medieval and Renaissance manuscript studies. Only Rome has the same materials. The library was opened in 1959 and has recently had a full renovation.

The St Louis Mercantile Library located on the campus of U.M.S.L It was established in 1846 by civic leaders and philanthropists and exists today as a vibrant community and cultural asset. It is the oldest library west of the Mississippi and the grandparent of all cultural institutions in St. Louis.

The task of the Mercantile Library as a research library is to make its collections, which have come to concentrate on Western Expansion and the history, development and growth of the St. Louis region and of the American rail and river transportation experiences available to the widest number of local and national users.

There are wonderful municipal libraries not connected with the St. Louis County Library System such as the University City Public Library, The Kirkwood Public Library and the Ferguson Municipal Public Library. Each has its own fascinating history and in many cases were begun by community volunteers.

St Louisans certainly have every opportunity to be literate in many fields with all of these wonderful institutions available to them.

(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Nancy Kranzberg

Nancy Kranzberg

Arts Aficionado Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some thirty years. She serves on numerous arts affiliated boards, including The St. Louis Art Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park where she is the Co-Chair, The Sheldon Arts Foundation and the Sheldon Art Gallery Board, Jazz at the Bistro, The Missouri Mansion Preservation Inc., The Mid American Arts Alliance, and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Nancy was named Women of Achievement and was awarded the Distinguished Alumnae Award at Washington University Nancy is a docent at the St. Louis Art Museum and is an honorary docent at Laumeier Sculpture Park. At age 60 she became a Jazz singer. She performs with the Second Half which features Chancellor Tom George on the piano.

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