122. Paper Prepared by Ben Wattenberg of the White House Staff1


If the United States has surplus agricultural capacity to supply food for freedom—so too does it have a surplus capacity in another crop that helps build not only better bodies but better minds as well: books.

I suggest a four-part program.

1) Library Schools. To be built in underdeveloped countries, at the invitation of governments, to be staffed and supplied with U.S. personnel if needed and desired—with the express intent of training native librarians. The theoretical arithmetic is interesting: if a library school turns out 30 librarians a year and each librarian ultimately serves a constituency of 750 persons after graduation, and the United States helps set up 30 library schools throughout the world, then in a decade 7 million people have been exposed to a library, or, figured another way, 35 million people have been exposed to a library for one year. Key to program: schools must be there, not here.

2) Libraries. We will help supply dollars to build and stock new libraries in local communities. Possibly an AID—Peace Corps project.

3) Librarians. We will provide through Peace Corps, until local library schools can provide enough local talent.

4) Books.2 We will supply to existing public libraries and school libraries throughout the underdeveloped world, any book in print in the United States, to a specific dollar amount, upon request from the Government. This would include specifically, the Selected Writings of [Page 381] Karl Marx,3 because we know that when men read Karl Marx and Thomas Jefferson, we come out of it pretty well.

Also: we will provide—on a much expanded basis from what USIA is now doing—kits of paperback books sent directly to schools and libraries for distribution to students. One hundred million paperback books can be purchased for about 10 million dollars at publishers’ cost. If four people read a book, you are contacting about half of the literate people in the underdeveloped world—at a cost of about 2½ cents per person. If the book happens to be “Life on the Mississippi”,4 or “Profiles in Courage”,5 or “Marjorie Morningstar”6—it would seem to be a pretty good investment for America.

This is a program that I think would get good support from American publishers. They are flush now from recent Federal Library expenditures, and the economics of publishing also give a bonus to producing “at cost” if the press run can be increased.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, White House Central Files, Subject Files, Box 23, EX FO 3–2, 11/27/66–5/23/67. No classification marking. Cater sent the paper to Marks under a January 3 covering memorandum, in which Cater noted: “This proposal came from Ben Wattenberg who has been supplying ideas to the White House. I still think we need to develop a coordinated plan to promote the President’s interest in book programs overseas.”
  2. This program can run completely independently of the others. [Footnote is in the original.]
  3. The German 19th century philosopher and economist.
  4. The autobiographical book, published in 1883, written by the 19th century American author Mark Twain.
  5. Reference is to a collection of short biographies, published in 1956, written by President Kennedy.
  6. The 1955 novel by American author Herman Wouk.