Is R.I.'s senior senator coveted by librarians in other states?
By Brian C. Jones
Rhode Island Library Report
PROVIDENCE – (Oct. 21, 2012) At first the story that librarians gave for the absence of U.S. Sen. Jack Reed at a reception – honoring his work as a champion of libraries and attended by about 130 members of Rhode Island’s library community – sounded plausible:
But as the reception got underway without Reed at the cavernous Rhode Island School of Design’s library in downtown Providence, alternative theories presented themselves.
One possibility – that Reed faced fines for overdue books dating back to his boyhood visits to his neighborhood library in Cranston – seemed unlikely.
A West Pointer and Harvard Law School graduate, Reed is widely regarded as one of Rhode Island’s most trusted politicians, hardly the kind of library patron to skip a fine, to say nothing of ever having returned a library book late.
Another, more alarming, theory developed as national speakers took the podium: Could it be that Reed is so highly admired throughout the country that librarians from another state had spirited him away to claim him as one of their own?
"HE IS PROBABLY one of a limited number of people in federal service who understands how libraries make a difference and will make a difference” in children’s lives, Maureen Sullivan, president of the American Library Association, told the crowd.
More ominously, Sullivan went on to say that she wished that “every single state” had a Jack Reed of its own, and that “he makes a difference not just for the people of Rhode Island, but the people of this nation.”
The New Hampshire town, Ballard said, still holds a grudge against Rhode Island because a much-prized historic building, dating back to the 1730s and known as the “Ocean Born Mary” house, was suddenly moved to Little Compton, R.I. in the 1930s.*
“Keep the house and give us Senator Reed,” Ballard declared.
No one in the audience – which included Howard Boksenbaum, the state’s chief library officer, plus representatives of every major state library group, including the Rhode Island Library Association, the Coalition of Library Advocates and Ocean State Libraries – seemed inclined to take up Ballard’s suggestion. After all, months of planning had gone into this reception specifically so that Reed’s home state could honor him for his long work on libraries’ behalf.
FINALLY, JACK CASEY, a member of Reed’s staff, set matters straight.
Indeed, mechanical problems on the airliner the senator was about to board had kept him and other passengers at the gate area for hours, Casey said. By the time the plane left the capital about 5 p.m., the reception was halfway over.
Casey, who diplomatically declined to name the airline, said that Reed was sorry to have missed the reception, and was “humbled” by the gathering in Rhode Island.