10/01/2010

LIASA12 Day 3 - The Patron Saint

If librarians in South Africa were to have a patron saint it would be Judge Albie Sachs.
And not for the reasons you think.
He’s not a huge donor. He’s not the head of some multinational. He’s not a philanthropist, even though his good deeds number in the ....well ...lots of tons.
No, Judge Albie Sachs is the librarian patron saint because he loves books, AND a librarian saved his life.

The story is lore in our profession. It’s told in offices and behind library desks; In and among shelves; On quick tea breaks; And in passing as you’re rushing from one end of the library.
Its a story of a man, who was jailed for believing that all people were made equal. And that man was locked for no reason other than his principles, for 90 days. He didn’t if he would see those 90 days out whole, as the stories of people “disappearing” were common. Though he never thought that he might be put in this precarious position.

He had on him in that gray cell, a bible. A lifeline in the simple act of reading. An act that reminded him of his humanity and not the creature this gray wall world was forcing him to be. He rationed this bible, two pages a day, each day
  until they finally charged him.
Of course they took the bible away and he was left with nothing again, starved of a vital nourishment.
It took an act of parliament and a supreme court ruling to eventually give him his reading priviledges back.
And it was perhaps the most happiest of days, when he gave the young police a list of all the books he would break his enforced fast on.
This police man went to a library.
We don’t know which library and we don’t know who the librarian was.
But we do know that this librarian did his job and provided these books to the policeman and in so doing saved the life of a man in a gray walled world without him ever knowing.
This is who we are, and this what we do, everyday without fail, without asking.
And so Justice Albie Sachs became the Patron Saint of Librarians.

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