Books That Inspire

Books That Inspire 2001

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There is a three-fold purpose underlying this exhibit. First, it recognizes National Library Week, April 1st – 6th; second, it calls attention to the important role that books have played in the lives of University of Oklahoma faculty; and third, it hopes to motivate all its viewers -- students, faculty, staff and the general public -- to read these and other books of their choice.

Few inventions have had a greater impact on human society than the book. The development of the printing press made books one of mankind’s first mass-produced products and contributed significantly to the diffusion of knowledge. While they have undergone changes in production methods, the concept of the book is much the same as it was five hundred years ago. Books have remained a preferred vehicle for transferring information and ideas from one person to another. 

One reason that books have continued to be so useful is their ability to connect us with the thoughts of others. By so doing, they tend to influence our own thoughts either positively or negatively. We all have read books by authors with whose ideas we disagree. We tend to place those books back on the shelves not to be read again. Conversely, we encounter books in which the author’s message has a profound influence upon our thinking or the way we view other events or other people. We treasure these books and enthusiastically recommend them to others. Books that fall into this latter category form the selections in this exhibit. Those viewing it will find books that have enlightened, inspired, or influenced the lives and careers of the readers. 

There are fifty participants in this exhibit composing a representative cross section of academic disciplines from the arts, sciences, and humanities. Interestingly, only one book is mentioned more than once. The participants’ statements about their books indicate that some were influenced quite early in life, while others were influenced as adults. Common to all is the realization that the contributor, as a reader, was impressed by the book’s author to the point that the reader’s life was altered to some degree. Changes such as those described by contributors to this exhibit are compelling tributes to the power of books and reading. Calling attention to this power to change and influence lives is one of the underlying motives for staging this exhibit. Another is to observe National Library Week and to note that libraries hold these and many other books that contain equally forceful messages for those who read them. Thirdly, we hope that this exhibit will inspire those who view it to make reading a frequent activity. Books make a difference in our lives, and it is part of the library’s teaching mission to help people realize their importance. 

Sul H. Lee 
Dean, University Libraries
The University of Oklahoma