Library open to the public
How important are public libraries (not university libraries) in the days of the Internet? When I was a kid I went mostly for school papers (evenings/weekends, when the School Library wasn't available!), and most of that was based on starting with the encyclopedia. Between Wikipedia and Google, much of that seems pointless. Certainly authoritative books out-do most of what you can find online, but how many kids use such things?
In summer'2004 I went to the local branch (at its 1pm opening time) to donate some books. There was a line of (~10) people waiting for it to open, and I was impressed/amazed. But once the doors opened, 90% of them turned out to be waiting for the free computers. And my non-current non-fiction didn't interest them: "I'll put these in our book fair."
cf Open Library
*There are disputes about which was the first public library in the nation. Early American cities such as Boston and Philadelphia and New York had the first organized collections of books, but which library was truly "public" is subject to dispute. Sidis claims the first public library was Boston's in 1636, although the official Boston Public Library was organized later in 1852. In 1698, Charleston's St. Philip's Church Parsonage had a parish library.
In 1731, Ben Franklin and his friends, sometimes called "the Junto Meeting", operated the Library Company of Philadelphia partly as a means to settle arguments and partly as a means to advance themselves through sharing information. Franklin's subscription library allowed members to buy "shares" and combined funds were used to buy more books; in return, members could borrow books and use the library. Today, the Library Company continues to exist as a nonprofit, independent research library.* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_library#United_States
Around the turn from the 19th to the 20th century, Scottish-American businessman Andrew Carnegie donated over $60 million, which was a vast fortune in 20th century dollars, to build over 2,811 free public library buildings in the United States. They were often known as Carnegie libraries. Carnegie envisioned that libraries would "bring books and information to all people."
- When the last grant was made in 1919, there were 3,500 libraries in the United States, nearly half of them built with construction grants paid by Carnegie.
- *Nearly all of Carnegie's libraries were built according to "The Carnegie Formula", which required matching contributions from the town that received the donation. It must:
- demonstrate the need for a public library;
- provide the building site;
- annually provide ten percent of the cost of the library's construction to support its operation; and,
- provide free service to all.
- The amount of money donated to most communities was based on U.S. Census figures and averaged approximately $2 per person.*
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