Dr. Thomas D. Clark is considered the dean of Kentucky historians. The Kentucky General Assembly named him Kentucky’s Historian Laureate for Life. He was primarily responsible for the establishment of the Kentucky State Archives and the building of both the Department for Libraries and Archives Building and the Kentucky History Center in Frankfort which were named in his honor. He died in 2005 at the age of 101.
Dr. Clark was the keynote speaker for the annual meeting of the Kentucky Citizens’ Library League (the organization which became the Friends of Kentucky Libraries) in 1942. There is no text of Dr. Clark’s remarks, but the League’s Secretary included some quotes from Dr. Clark’s remarks in her minutes of the meeting. Even though his speech was almost 80 years ago, many of his comments are relevant today.
Among his remarks which were made during the midst of World War II:
- “The safest arsenal in this country is the great storehouse of knowledge, and it is in our libraries we find this great storehouse.”
- “We find an informed democracy in an informed citizenry.”
- “Communities are starved for reading matter. Circulating libraries could use ten times the number of books available. A hopeful sign is this awakening of library consciousness.” (At that time, 80% of Kentucky’s rural areas had no library service and the existing libraries were limited and underfunded.)
- “We have had a good crop of authors in Kentucky in the last few years. This is a great step forward.”
- “You can always tell a community by its general tone. Poor library facilities – poor community.”
- “If there is no demand on your library, you will not get tax support. You cannot have a democracy until you have an informed citizenry.”
- “When this war is over and even before it is, the citizens will turn more and more to libraries.”
- “Libraries can reach people from the cradle to the grave.”