Interviewed by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem
Even in the digital age, public and school libraries remain an institution in modern society. Mississippi writer and artist Rob Kuehnle has long loved and respected libraries. We asked him this: How important are public libraries and school libraries in the lives of students today?
“Libraries are the repositories of the accumulated knowledge of human beings throughout history. Every subject a student must take in order to graduate will require research from time to time. Often, there is a book report or a term paper assigned by a teacher, and sometimes students need to probe deeper than merely typing something into a browser. Multiple cited sources for information gathering are frequently a requirement as well.
“That’s where the brick-and-mortar library comes in, staffed by people who make their living as information specialists. Their profession requires a liberal arts view of the world in which we live; they are there to guide and open up lanes of learning. Never to censor and restrict.
Libraries help students prepare for the real world in which many different values compete for attention and loyalty. Education is a process of exposure to the eclectic universe we all share, and libraries are the cameras that help students take snapshots, not only of the past and present but of the future as well.”
Rob Kuehnle is a graduate of Sewanee (University of the South), a native of Natchez, now living in Oxford for the past 17 years. Kuehnle writes cozy mysteries with bridge as a background for Kensington (Bridge To Death Mysteries) under the pen name of R.J. Lee. He also does original art, using acrylics on corkboard as his unique medium. For many years, he represented several publishers to public libraries across the states of the Deep South and counts hundreds of librarians as his friends.