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Take it from McNair

Ronald McNair's Portrait

We have free access to a wealth of information through print, audio and online.  At your library your children can develop their interests and dream of their future.  It wasn't always so.

The boy walked to the counter of the Lake City Public Library through a gauntlet of stares in 1959.  Ronald E. McNair, then 9, wanted to check out books on advanced science and calculus, but the librarian wouldn't release them.  "We don't circulate books to Negroes," she told him.

Library patrons laughed at McNair's behaviour, and the librarian threatened to call the police - and his mother, Pearl.

McNair didn't budge.

Instead, he hoisted himself onto the counter, his spindly legs dangling, and waited, because he wasn't leaving without the books. After two police officers determined that McNair wasn't causing a public disturbance, and when Pearl said she would pay for the books if McNair didn't bring them back, the librarian acquiesced.

"Thank you, ma'am," McNair, prompted by his mother, said before he walked out of the library.  McNair, always a precocious student, would become an astronaut and a hometown hero.

Then, 26 years later, Ronald McNair, the second African-American in space, died at age 35 in the Challenger explosion on January 28, 1986.

Your imaginings, your dreams and your aspirations can all come alive at your public library.  Take it from McNair.