SASKATCHEWAN LIBRARY TRUSTEES' ASSOCIATION
Honorary Life Membership
In Recognition of
The SLTA honourary life membership award for 2004, in recognition of service to libraries, was presented to Gloria Mehlmann, who was a member of the Regina Public Library Board from 1985 to 2002. During that time she served in numerous capacities on many RPL committees and as RPL's representative to the SLTA Executive. Gloria captivated the audience at the banquet where the award was presented to her with her thought-provoking acceptance speech. Her speech, which also appears in the June 2004 issue of the SLTA Newsletter, is printed below.
SLTA Lifetime Award Acceptance Speech,
by Gloria Mehlman, May 7, 2004
I am deeply honoured and pleased to be the recipient of this important award. A lifetime membership in the Saskatchewan Library Trustees Association is a major award and, fittingly, held in the highest esteem by all. The meaning of this award is at once comprehensive, and personal.
I want to share a personal perspective on the value of the public library in addition to the one we all hold. I know, as you do, that the value of the public library is found in the freedom of individual choosing. As the rainforests are the lungs of the planet, so is Choice the life-center of the individual.
Like all trustees, my love of libraries is akin to the passion of the blind who wish their sight, the deaf who wish their hearing, the wheelchair-bound who desire the use of their limbs, the house-bound who crave the open air on their faces, the intellectually hungry who long to know, and the mentally challenged who yearn to hold a star. If only because they remember.
They remember that which society can so easily take for granted - they remember the grandeur of personal autonomy.
They recognize the precision of God’s will for their individuality - with its obligation, its dilemmas, and its curiosity.
They hold dear the gracious life available to them in the home of the unbounded imagination, the library - no matter the disability, the limitation, or interest.
From a personal perspective, I think about the Aboriginal people and their lives today. I think about the ancient libraries that pre-existed Christopher Columbus on this continent - Aboriginal libraries that were burned to the ground at the time of contact. I think how only five of their original books wait today in museums, in Europe - missing books that might have lined the book shelves on our reserves, in our towns, and in our cities. The Aboriginal people lost this heritage - and now it’s as if numbers among them recall little of past grandeur - a smaller voice in our midst.
Trustees tell of an ancient text from Mesopotamia, in about 2150 B.C., that speaks for us today: In apart, this reads:
Would that I might make you love books more than your mother, would that I might make their beauty enter before your face.
Trustees take up the call of the centuries in their work. They see to it that political interest and legal persuasion never take a position where a direct application of power upon the library is made possible. They say no to the election of trustees - because as volunteers we come without baggage/without self-interest. We thus free our political leaders and our legislative processes from the scourge of censorship groups: - Might they be anti-gay activists? Or pro-hate groups? - Whatever their case, and whoever their candidate, the simple, direct, and unadorned trustee can, and will, say no. They are entrusted to say no to decisions made for the economic moment, for the single-issue group, for the twinkling fads that only sudden money can buy.
This is accountability in its highest form. In our time, trustees and librarians work together to ensure that all groups use the proper democratic channels and leave the library free - free to ensure society its tallest voice, to ensure every person her book, and every book its man.
Thank you for the honour to stand among you.
Gloria Mehlmann - May 7, 2004