Acclaimed Author Rebecca Solnit Sets the Stage for Library’s Reopening

Friday, May 28, 2021

Rebecca Solnit is, in her words, “a person who lives by books, in books, for books, who makes books, who searches for the words, stories, meanings, patterns that end up in books, or can be found in books.” 

No surprise, the renowned author, historian, and activist has a passion for libraries. 

She set the stage for the Kansas City Public Library’s wider reopening of its 10 physical locations, delivering a special online presentation May 24 – a week before the Library was scheduled to open its doors on Tuesday, June 1. Speaking from her home in San Francisco, Solnit reflected on the impact of libraries on her life and career and extolled their indispensable role throughout history. 

“Libraries now are the great equalizers for those on the wrong side of the digital divide, the place where they have access to computers and the internet for free and also librarians to guide them,” Solnit said during the 58-minute program. “… They are temples of openness and equality. They feed hungers that are very real, for practical survival but also for imaginative joy.” 

People, she said, “want to be in libraries. And just as I think the paper books we hold in our hands and carry with us will never entirely go out of use no matter how digital we get, so I believe libraries will serve us beautifully for the foreseeable future.” 

Solnit recalls falling in love with books as a first grader, when as a self-described misfit and unpopular child she took refuge in reading and “the world through books got bigger, deeper, better than I had imagined.” She riffs on “the physical beauty of books” and shows off some of her favorite titles. And she looks back on some of the libraries she has known and loved, one most strikingly in a Buddhist temple she visited on the Tibetan Plateau – “several days’ walk from the nearest road.” 

As we welcome you back into our physical spaces, we invite you to take in this enthralling presentation by the author of Men Explain Things to Me and River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West