Change a Word, Change the World


While I understand the “yay intellectual freedom” underpinnings of the original quote, I’ve never been a big fan of it. The implication that the measure of greatness is directly related to creating repulsion somewhere in the library collection has never sat well with me. I concede that this is not the ultimate grading system for the value of a library, but as this is an oft repeated phrase I think it earns some scrutiny as to what it seeks to convey to the listener.

Inspire is the word I substituted because I feel the emphasis should be on what a library can do for a person rather than how it could drive one away. What word would you have put there? Are there other library sayings that could use a little modification of their own?

10 thoughts on “Change a Word, Change the World

  1. The original quote is effective because it’s unexpected and makes you think. Replacing offend with inspire neuters the quote, changing it from a provocation to a sentiment.

    And offending people does not necessarily drive them away. A sizable percentage of people actively seek opportunities to be offended. I see the quote and think, “I wonder what I can find to offend me today.”

    • This isn’t about replacing a quotation. I’m asking people to re-imagine a quotation. Although, from the comments, it doesn’t appear anyone is interested in that exercise.

  2. I’m offended that you changed the quote! 😉 Seriously, I don’t think it’s an either/or. The original quote is an invitation to the reader to reflect on a deeper truth about the variety of human experience and the limited nature of perception. The world is large and complex and our viewpoint is necessarily limited. It is a truth that makes democratic society possible; a truth that makes libraries possible.

    The revised quote, while also true, has a different effect. It does not provoke deeper thought or disagreement. Each line has its place and its use depending on the audience and speaker’s desired outcome.

    • I’m inviting people to re-imagine something here. So far, I’ve gotten replies that do not. I’m not sure why deeper thought is a prerequisite for a quotation to be “good”.

  3. I agree with the other comments. This is one of my favorite library quotes, and as a public librarian who has had to defend items in the library’s collection, it resonates with me very strongly. Your change to the quote makes it much safer, but I’d stick with the original which is stronger.

    • As I said above, this is not about replacing a quote. It’s about re-imagining it. I didn’t really care for the original that much so I offered another version. So far, no one has been able to take up the challenge.

  4. Andy, I somewhat agree with you. It is like the signs we tend to put all over the library: “No eating” “no cell phones” “no” “no” “no”. We need a little more positive in our lives. Obviously, the word “offend” from the original quote is meant to inspire, but when will we stop beating our patrons over the head with what we feel they need to learn?

    I think the old quote has it’s place, but I feel that should be in the past. We should move on to more positive messages.

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