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Library community loses public service advocate Charles Benton

Charles Benton
Philanthropist and library champion Charles Benton

It is with a heavy heart that I share news of the passing of Charles Benton—activist, philanthropist,founder and former CEO of the Benton Foundation. Charles was a long-time leader in the library field who served as the former chairman and chairman emeritus of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science and served on the National Museum and Library Services Board.

Charles was a leader ahead of his time—seeing the interconnection points of media, information policy, telecommunications and libraries. I saw this on a monthly basis as we both actively participate in the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition that ALA and the Benton Foundation helped co-found. Charles’ energy and enthusiasm for our shared work never seemed to flag, and his optimism and passion after decades of hard-fought battles has been inspiring.

As the leader of the Benton Foundation, Charles was committed to ensuring telecommunications services served the public interest and enhanced our democracy. In the past 30 years, the Benton Foundation has advocated (pdf) on behalf of diversity, universal access to and adoption of broadband, preservation of public media in policy debates on critical policy issues, creative media production, and public access to government information.

We will greatly miss his strong commitment to libraries and the roles they play in ensuring opportunity and progress for millions of people every day. No one can fill his shoes, but we can advance his vision by bringing our own fierce determination and voices to vital policy debates ranging from Universal Service to privacy to network neutrality.

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Larra Clark

Larra Clark is the deputy director of both the Public Library Association and Washington Office’s public policy team. Larra received her bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Arizona and has a M.S. in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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