Ronald Clark: As a child, I
always thought I was rich, and one day at the dinner
table, I said something like, “I’m so glad we’re rich.” And my father almost choked. My mother said, “Well,
honey, we’re not exactly rich.” And Dad said, “We’re poor! You understand? We’re poor!” And then they offered
my dad the position as the library custodian. And my father was the keeper
of the temple of knowledge. In some libraries, it’s all
chewing gum wrappers and dust. My dad’s library, you
saw nothing but wax. He would even wax the
tops of the bookshelves. And when you walked up
those stairs and looked down on the book stacks,
they gleamed. Jamilah Clark: Did you realize
how different your home was from your friends? Ronald Clark: At first, I was
kinda ashamed of it as a child because you always
want to be normal. I would never invite any
of my friends to visit. They would always say,
“This guy lives in a library. I mean, he literally
lives in the library!” You know, but nobody else
had as many books as I had. You had to be very
quiet during the day. But, once the library closed, I was the only kid
in the building! I could run and
scream and jump and yell. And if I had
any question about anything, I would get up in the
middle of the night, go down, get out
a book, and read until 3 o’clock
in the morning. I began to realize how great
I had it because the library gave me the thirst of learning. And this just never left me. Coming from a family in which
nobody had ever graduated from high school, much
less gone on to college, I was the first one. After I graduated, I got a
position teaching at a college. And, I took my dad, and I
showed him the classroom and my name on the door. Professor Clark. He just nodded. You know how Daddy is, quiet. But… I saw the way he looked at it. He wanted me to
have higher horizons. And, I can hardly even imagine
what my life would’ve been like had I not lived in the library.