Comedian Paula Poundstone of NPR's "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me," who performed in Park City this weekend, is a card-carrying library lover.
Poundstone is a longtime national spokesperson for The Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF), a national network that promotes libraries as social and intellectual community centers.
"Yeah, isn't that name amazing?" Poundstone quipped during a phone interview from Santa Monica, Calif. "They used to be called Friends of the Library! I play a lot of their conventions and stuff, and every time I do, I can't help mocking them for that. What had to go on in that name-change meeting? Was it a Friday afternoon? Who floated that idea? And then, how many people raised their hand in support of ALTAFF?"
Though Poundstone, professional jokester that she is, goes for laughs when talking about the association's name, she sees the mission of ALTAFF, and of the community library, as a very serious one in today's society.
"Libraries have taken on a different shape than they once did, and I think it is a positive change," Poundstone said.
She notes that her hometown library in Santa Monica still offers books, and quiet places for study, as before. But it also offers a wide variety of programs, such as morning storytime for little citizens, book clubs for teens, homework help groups, tutors for children and adults, and computers for public use.
"The truth is, not everyone has a computer," said Poundstone. "That society, that schools and businesses, presume that everyone does bothers me. For instance, there are jobs that only accept online applications.
"And now, many libraries are also adding classes in resume writing. This is a recent addition -- a need was seen, and this was added."
Poundstone has been most moved when she has witnessed volunteer adult literacy tutors at work.
"Recently, my kids and I were at a sale the library was having on kids books, and we saw this grown person learning to read. You try not to look much, but we did notice, of course. And I was thinking on the way to the parking lot, that usually when you give to different charities, you wonder, 'OK, how much of this donation is actually going to get used to help someone?' But that person who was tutoring, and the library who gave them the space to make that happen? They will never have to wonder for a moment if what they are doing matters, and if they are helping. They are like a pebble dropping into a pond -- making a ripple that will go on forever."