Friday, January 18, 2008

Carnegie libraries

Such an amazing story, and I got to know about it only today when I was talking with Prof. Manuela Veloso, a robotics researcher from CMU! The rise from rags to riches of Andrew Carnegie is one of those stories that sound just too mythical to be true. He worked his way from working fulltime as a kid of 12 to support himself, all the way up to creating an industrial empire worth $400 million in the 19th century. And then he gave away almost all his wealth to the creation of over 2,000 libraries across USA, Canada, Australia, and many European countries. He strongly believed in meritocracy, and that if people had access to books and education, and if they were willing, then they could be successful. These ideals clearly resonate with many things. The children's library that Bakul has set up in Orissa, and the establishment of rural kiosks to provide information services to villagers, are two activities that are based on the same principles. Some more comments in the article are interesting. For example, a person who has access to education, and yet he prefers not to make use of it, essentially settles himself down for a lower status in society. Capitalism is also legitimized by saying that those are capable of leading, should be in positions of leadership, but they should eventually give back to society what they have earned, and that everybody should have an equal opportunity of training themselves to get into leadership positions.