Focus on Libraries—Public, University, Presidential.
My first experience with a public library happened at the Freemason Lodge in Santiago de Cuba, in Cuba, where my late father, Dr. Roberto Hung, J.D. used to meet with his Freemason brethren. While my father held the general meeting with the other Freemasons, I was asked to wait in the library. One of the elder Freemasons would select a book for me to read and browse while I waited for my father’s meeting to end, in the evening. I was the only child in the Lodge and the elder Freemason was kind to me. He would check on me, now and then, and would ask me, “Are you finished reading the book yet?” Since, I was not halfway through the book he had given me, I would answer, “Not yet”. So, the elder Freemason would say then, “our meeting is not done yet, either.” I found easier to wait while I read with a book in hand, browsing and reading along the pages and photo captions.
At home, my late father would often allow me to look at his books and browse through Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain. Then, as I became older, I could open his cherry wood barrister bookcase and find Shakespeare’s leather bound volume and turn the rice paper pages, as I read through Miranda’s adventure in the play, “The Tempest”. I became an avid reader.
While my mother was studying at Loyola University, Lewis Tower, in Chicago for her Master’s degree in Spanish literature, I would also wait for her at the library, looking through her Cervantes’ copy of Don Quixote and other Spanish literature anthologies that she would often allow me to keep with me while I waited for her, during evenings graduate courses.
I began to love public libraries at an early age. When I used to live in Chicago, my parents introduced me to the Logan Square Library on the Northwest side on weekends. There I would have my reading list, which my late father had suggested for me, and then I would select the books I could borrow to take home for two weeks. The back porch was one of my favorite reading spots and hideaways in the summer, overlooking Mrs. Palmer’s garden in the backyard. Our German landlady did not mind talking to me when she passed by me to go upstairs, since I used to help her carry her groceries and with her gardening.
During my Catholic high school years at Madonna High School, I spent all my study halls hours in the school library or at the Learning Resource Center. Then at Northeastern Illinois University, the library became one of my favorite hangouts, when I was not working as a student aide at the Financial Aid office or working another part-time job for college money.
At the University of Illinois at Chicago, I practically lived at the library when I became a graduate researcher and Illinois scholar sponsored by an Abraham Lincoln Fellowship grant studying rhetoric and historical speeches by famous rhetoricians like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Clarence Darrow, John F. Kennedy, and other famous presidential speakers and political figures. I also visited often the Chicago Tribune archives on Michigan Avenue researching historical background on the speeches and the speakers within the context of their times and events. Books and archives became my best and closest friends and allies while writing rhetorical criticism and historical ethnographies. The long hours, days, nights, and weekends spent on my own visiting Chicago public libraries, the Newberry library, and other university libraries have been all part of my love for libraries experience throughout my learning life.
U.S. Presidential libraries became all the more familiar to me when my late father donated funds to the Richard Nixon Library and the Ronald Reagan Library. Dr. Roberto Hung, J.D. has been acknowledged for helping and contributing to preserve U.S. Presidential history in the making.
While reading an article about U.S. Presidential libraries last Spring 2002, I read that until 1939, these did not exist nor were presidential documents preserved after the U.S. president left office—Home & Away, AAA Chicago Motor Club, Illinois/N. Indiana, March-April 2002. The first U.S. President to donate his presidential documents to the government was the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who also contributed 16 acres of his family estate in Hyde Park, New York, as a location to preserve U.S. government history.
In 1955, the U.S. Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act whereby it was established to maintain private and federally funded libraries for U.S. presidents to preserve their historical documents and memorabilia. Among current and existing U.S. Presidential libraries, we have:
The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum in West Branch, Iowa
The Truman Presidential Museum & Library in Independence, Missouri
The Eisenhower Library & Museum in Abilene, Kansas
The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts
The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum at U of Texas in Austin, Texas
The Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California
The Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum at the U of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan
The Jimmy Carter Library & Museum in Atlanta, Georgia
The Ronald W. Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, near L.A. in Simi Valley, Calif.
The George Bush Presidential Library & Museum in College Station, Texas
The William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas
The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois
Last week, Tuesday, 19 November 2002, Springfield, Illinois inaugurated the Abraham Lincoln Library to preserve and study the former president’s historical documents, Civil War records, and Lincoln era memorabilia in the Prairie State where he lived from 1837 to 1861. Local news on TV featured Lincoln’s shiny copper plate profile made from copper Lincoln pennies, as well as the former president’s personal belongings, artifacts, sculptures, and presidential heirlooms collected and compiled over the years.
The life and times of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth president, will be researched and scrutinized as a sign of the American Civil War period. The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum is still under construction in downtown Springfield, Illinois—general completion is expected to be in 2004.
Before Abraham Lincoln became the 16th U.S. President, he was elected to the Illinois state legislature, studied law, and was licensed to practice in Sangamon County, Illinois. He had been also a deputy county surveyor in Petersburg in 1836. Prior to Lincoln’s life in Washington, D.C., he practiced law in Springfield with his partner William Herndon, from 1843 to 1852. The Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices is an Illinois State Historic Site in Springfield. As a lawyer, Abraham Lincoln practiced in the Eighth Judicial Court in Illinois—at the Mount Pulaski Courthouse State Historic Site, northeast of Springfield, and at the Metamora Courthouse State Historic Site, (1845-1857), 15 miles northeast of Peoria.
The 2001-2002 Illinois Handbook of Government features and highlights the Illinois State Library’s Internet portal, Find-It! Illinois, your best source of information for State library, education, and government introduced by the Secretary of State, Jesse White at http:/www.finditillinois.org The library network system links all the Friends of the Library in Illinois and nationwide.
Editor’s Notes by Gardenia C. Hung, M.A., B.A.
–2002 Friends of the Helen M. Plum Library Winter Newsletter