When we enter the library we may well feel a touch of humility and reverence, as when we go into a company of select people. They wait with modest and quiet dignity to hold converse with us. A library is very democratic, and though in life they may have been unapproachable, hedged about my conventions, the authors now stand side by side on the shelves. Plato by Mr. Dooley, John Milton and John Bunyan together and Shakespeare is not supercilious to Mother Goose. They dwell together without question of precedence. Here is gathered a company of the wisest and wittiest of men you could pick out in a thousand years, and the thoughts which they did not uncover to their bosom friends are written out to us, the strangers of another age.
There is no more notable characteristic of community life than the multiplication of libraries.
If we go back to the boyhood of Benjamin Franklin we may compare the poverty of the eighteenth century with the wealth of the twentieth. Such a thing as a circulating library was unknown in the country. Today the most interesting map of Massachusetts is that that exhibits the boundary lines of the cities and with the boundaries pictures of the public libraries, and there is not a city or town in Massachusetts that does not possess a library.
It is not personal caprice, but a deep seated conviction, that has led men to give so generously of their fortunes to build libraries, leaving the maintenance to those who will reap the benefit of them...It is the office of the library to mark as far as possible the line between good literature and that that is not good. It can hardly be doubted, however, that any book, so far as it leads the mind out of its ordinary thought, is of real service to the reader, even if it be not of the highest order. It cannot be doubted that some novels are of real merit, but instead of snatching at the newest novels we should be content to read those which have outlived the clamor of the advertisers. Scott, Hawthorne, Dickens, Jane Austen, Thackeray, George Eliot - no one can ever be ashamed of being found in their company. The will serve as touchstones to test the quality of the lesser ones. He who knows Shakespeare, Motley, Milton - will not be easily be beguiled into accepting that which is not good. In the choice of books to read we may follow that simple rule of selecting the books we like the best. If we are not interested we shall not open our minds, and if we do not open our minds then we shall take in no new ideas. The thing to aim at is to cultivate a taste for the best, and it certainly can be cultivated by those who desire it.
The library which we dedicate today will surely be an object of pride to the community, as well as a minister of good. The books will be friends to you, to enrich and make your lives serene and happy."
The Kennebunk Free Library is as impressive today as it was back then. It is a valuable asset to the entire community. I am very proud to not only claim it as my home town library, but also as the place where I got my start as a librarian. Thank you, Mr. Parsons, for your generous gift and to all those who have come after you to support the library, keeping it strong and vibrant.