State Librarian and Arts Council Director team-up on National Public Radio

State Librarian of California Susan Hildreth and Director of the California Arts Council (CAC)  Muriel Johnson talked for an hour on “Insight," Sacramento’s National Public Radio (NPR) talk show on March 28, 2005. Hildreth and Johnson showed a discerning Sacramento audience that California’s key cultural agencies are in very capable hands.

Hildreth (who as San Francisco’s City Librarian helped nominate Lawrence Ferlinghetti San Francisco’s first Poet Laureate) and Johnson helped cull California Poet Laureate nominees for Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger. Though they touched on the Poet Laureate process, Hildreth and Johnson spent most of the hour on more complex topics.

After introducing Hildreth and Johnson as “two powerful women in California arts and education,” interviewer Jeffrey Callison shot the agency leaders tough questions about state funding, Internet filtering, censorship, the USA Patriot Act and discrepancies in arts and library services between poor and affluent California neighborhoods: neither Hildreth nor Johnson flinched.

Hildreth astutely turned the popular afternoon show into a vehicle for promoting the excellence of California’s libraries and its librarians. Answering how the Internet “has changed librarianship,” Hildreth said everyone who works in libraries has “embraced” the Internet, yet every library customer with Google thinks himself a librarian. As a result, Hildreth said, the librarian is no longer the “gatekeeper” outside the door of information and research but the facilitator, the “navigator on the sea of information.”

Responding to a question about the funding drop for libraries, Hildreth didn’t bemoan cuts but used the question to highlight the importance of school libraries. California, she said, ranks 48th nationally for public schools with dedicated school librarians. As a result, California “pays the price.” Though public libraries serve “as many children as possible without school library services,” what those young people really need for successful college careers are in-school libraries and librarians, Hildreth said.

Callison asked Hildreth about the value of Internet filtering. Calling it a “tricky issue” and “a local one,” Hildreth said that filters are not “perfect” and that parents must educate their children on inappropriate Internet sites. Callison then hit on the USA Patriot Act, asking Hildreth if the Act is “a threat to people’s privacy.” Hildreth responded that the “United States public really values its libraries and feel strongly that library borrower information should be protected and remain private.”

Wrapping up the interview, the CAC’s Muriel Johnson joined with Hildreth in calling for a better balance in arts and library funding between affluent and impoverished neighborhoods. Johnson enthusiastically concurred with Hildreth’s assertion that something must be done to “level the playing field.”





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