Shirley Hazzard won the 2003 National Book Award for The Great Fire: A Novel. She has been a Library trustee since 1974.
The following excerpt comes from addresses to Library trustees, staff and friends at an event launching the anniversary celebration on November 5, 2003.
Of course I regard the Library as a refuge and a treasure house. But I also regard it as a powerhouse. I think it is real life and I fear for people who miss this because they are missing a great energizing force, even something frightening. For instance, when I look at the novels of Thomas Hardy on the shelf, I fear if I see Tess of the d'Urbervilles that I will read it again and have to suffer so much and have to understand so much more than I am willing to understand. These things go on in libraries.
A library should be a place where you go into your own heart, into a heartland of understanding. It's also a place where you don't necessarily feel comfortable because of what you read. There may be something that you had hoped not to have to learn about. George Orwell said, "If freedom means anything, it means the right to tell people what they don't want to hear," and every good library should have a fair amount of that in it.
The book is a thing irreplaceable, not because every book is a good book or should even exist, but it is one of the best things invented by man, I would say, and these walls are full of them. A library has to be somewhere where every book can be a potential explosion.