Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thursday Thirteen 126: The Library

September is Library Card Sign-Up Month. Public libraries are a vital service to any community, granting access to many materials and resources—not just a variety of books on a vast array of subjects, but also computer access, research databases, job and business resources, free movies and music, and much more.

1. The first libraries open to the public were collections of Greek and Latin scrolls found in dry sections of Roman baths during the Roman Empire. Though anyone could access them, they were not lending libraries.

2. During the 9th century, “halls of science” run by varying Islamic sects of North Africa and the Middle East were open to the public. The libraries had strict policies, and few were allowed to remove books from site.

3. The oldest European libraries date back to around 1600, with claims of being the oldest made by the Bodleian Library, Norwich Library, and Francis Trigge Chained Library. Other early libraries of Great Britain include Bristol (1613), Ipswich (1612), and Leicester (1632).

4. Williams James Sidis claimed that the public library was an American invention, and cites The Boston Public Library as the first town library in the States, established in 1636.

5. In 1731, Benjamin Franklin and friends established The Library Company of Philadelphia as a means of settling arguments. It was a “subscription” library, which allowed people to buy shares, the money from which went to purchase books for the library. Only members or shareholders were allowed to use the library, and could actually remove books from the premises. The Library Company is now a nonprofit, independent research library.

6. The first public library of the United States is believed to be the Franklin, Massachusetts Public Free Library. When town founders decided to take the name of Franklin, he was asked to donate a bell for the church steeple. Franklin instead made an offer of books for use by town residents.

7. More than 2,500 public libraries owe their existence to Scottish-American businessman Andrew Carnegie, who donated money for the building of both public and university libraries across the United States (1,689) and other English-speaking countries during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

8. Carnegie considered books and libraries an integral part of his life, beginning with his childhood in Scotland where he attended readings and discussions at the Tradesman’s Subscription Library, which his father helped establish.

9. As an immigrant in the United States, Carnegie worked for the local telegraph company in Allegheny, Pennsylvania and frequently borrowed books from his employer, Colonel James Anderson. Anderson allowed access to his personal library by workers every Saturday in order to improve themselves.

10. It was his personal experience as an immigrant, as a man who gained knowledge and wealth through the help of others, that reinforced his belief in a society based on merit, where anyone could become successful through hard work. It also reinforced his belief of giving back to the community.

11. Understanding the racial and economic biases of his time, particularly in southern communities, Carnegie did not insist that his libraries be racially integrated. Instead, he founded libraries of equal standing for African Americans—for example, the Colonel Carnegie Library in Houston, as blacks were prohibited from using the Carnegie Library there, thus reinforcing his belief that all people, no matter what their station in life, should have access to books and the means of improving their lives.

12. According to Walter E. Langsam, one of the important aspects of Carnegie libraries was that they contained “open” stacks, allowing patrons to browse the shelves and choose books for themselves. Before the “Carnegie Formula,” people were required to ask clerks to retrieve books for them from closed stacks.

13. Though hundreds of Carnegie library buildings have been converted to museums, community centers, office buildings and even residences as communities built newer and bigger facilities, more than half of those built in the US still serve their original communities as libraries, though many are now in middle-to-low income neighborhoods. For a list of Carnegie libraries in the US, CLICK HERE. (There is also a link at bottom of the page to view libraries built in other parts of the world, including Canada, Australia and the UK.)

(Please leave your link if this is your first visit!)

Cambria Dillon * Ella Drake * Lucy Woodhull * Adelle Laudan
CM Torrens * Elise Logan * Mary Quast * Alice Audrey
Jeanne St James * Flicka Holt * Cassandra * Shelley Munro
Ms Menozzi * Inez Kelley * Stephanie Adkins
Paige Tyler * Janice Seagraves * Sophia Parkwood
Jennifer McKenzie * The Bumbles * Colleen * Raven

You can find more Thursday Thirteen participants HERE


Shelley Munro said...

This is a really interesting TT. I LOVE my local library. Libraries are also great places to write.

Alice Audrey said...

Sounds like Roman baths were a lot more than a place to get clean.

Heather said...

Shelley - Thank you. This was, obviously, a fun topic to research. *g*

Alice - That was an interesting tidbit, wasn't it? LOL

Ella Drake said...

Wonderful list. I love libraries. Probably no surprise, as most of us writers probably do. I live in the Boston area and the Boston Library is gorgeous and HUGE. It's also so neat to go to other local libraries that still use names like "The Concord Free Public Library." Wonderful reminder that libraries weren't always free and we should appreciate and support them.

Ms Menozzi said...

I wuv libraries! I even enjoy them here, where I can't read half of what's on the shelves! LOL!

Fascinating stuff, here.

Happy TT!

Inez Kelley said...

I did not know that about Roman Baths, either. Huh, learn something every day.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. This must have been fun to research. Happy T13.

Stephanie Adkins said...

I love libraries! Great information! Happy Thursday!

Cassandra said...

I didn't know that about Carnegie! Awesome and what a neat T13.

Last month there was a flood in the Louisville's Downtown and University areas, and the main free Public Library in Louisville was decimated.

All those records and books destroyed by flood water. And the city decided to cut some of their funding the year before. ugh. Tragic.

Adelle Laudan said...

Who knew about Ben Franklin. Great list. Happy T13!

Paige Tyler said...

Cool facts!


Heather said...

Ella - It is indeed important to remember that public libraries are free for a reason, and that they still serve a purpose. Here, They are haggling over building a new main library as the current building is old and outgrowing its space. Amazing how many people no longer see their value.

Ms Menozzi - What isn't there to love about being surrounded by books, in any language? *G*

Inez - That fact was new to me as well. The things you learn, eh?

Chris - Definitely fun to research. And just think of all the facts I didn't include! *G*

Heather said...

Stephanie - What's NOT to love? *g*

Cassandra - I remember hearing about the Loiusville flooding. Definitely a HUGE loss suffered by the library and community in genreal. I hope they will be able to build a new and better library!

Adelle - I had actually heard of the connection between Ben Franklin and the library before. Probably back in HS when we had to read his autobiography.

Paige - Thank you! ;)

Elise Logan said...

what a great list. thanks for sharing.

The Bumbles said...

Did you know Franklin was a drop-out? I guess he figured he could learn more in the real world! And then he donates books to further self-education. I love the library.

Heather said...

Elise - Thank you!

Bumbles - Yes, I did actually know that. Some of the smartest people have been self-taught drop-outs. Look at Edison and Einstein!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting facts! I still love going to the library and checking out books. We go as a family once a month. Happy Thursday!

Flicka Holt said...

Yeah, libraries are wonderful. I'm spending the day writing at my local one tomorrow. Looking forward to it already!

Heather said...

Sophia - I used to practically live at the library growing up, but confess I have not been a patron in many years. There are a lot of branches in our city, none of which are that convenient to where I currently live. I heartily believe in supporting them, though!

Flicka - Sounds like fun. Here's wishing you a productive writing day at the library!

colleen said...

And now you can borrow Sex in the City videos. Libraries rock.

Janice said...

Wonderful I didn't know as much about libraries as I thought I did. *grin*

Happy TT.

Raven said...

Wow, I had no idea that there was so much to know about the public library! Very interesting.

Have a great weekend!


Heather said...

Colleen - Vidoes, DVDs, CDs...libraries definitely rock!

Janice - Always fun to learn something new, eh? *G*

Raven - Glad you learned something new. Thanks for visiting!