We’re spoiled, in this country. We’re spoiled by lots of things, but the point of this post is that we’re spoiled by the public libraries that dot the country, thanks in large part to Benjamin Franklin.
Most Americans in the 1730s had limited access to books. Books, in early America, were rare and expensive. There were no public libraries. Only the very wealthy and the clergy had access to large numbers of books. Even men of moderate means could not readily afford books. Enter Benjamin Franklin.
On July 1, 1731, Franklin and a group of members from the Junto, a philosophical association, drew up “Articles of Agreement” to form a library. The Junto was interested in a wide range of ideas, from economics to solving social woes to politics to science. But they could not turn to books to increase their knowledge or settle disputes, as between them they owned few tomes. But they recognized that via the Junto’s combined purchasing power, books could be made available to all members.
So it was that 50 subscribers invested 40 shillings each to start a library. Members also promised to invest 10 shillings more every year to buy additional books and to help maintain the library. They chose as their motto a Latin phrase which roughly translates as “To support the common good is divine.” Philip Syng, a silversmith who would one day create the inkstand with which the Declaration and Constitution were signed, designed the Company’s seal.
We’ve had the luxury and privilege of the access to a public library in this country since before it was a country. Not so in much of the rest of the world, as is evidenced by a rather poignant editorial in a Bangladesh newspaper. (Emphasis mine.)
To educate the nation in the truest sense, the establishment of public library is a must. In order to remove the curse of illiteracy from our beloved motherland, public library can also play a very important role. If the authority concerned provides essential infrastructural facilities and recruits trained and experienced manpower, public libraries can be used as mass education centres, especially in rural areas. Poor students of the rural areas (and even urban areas) can be benefited by borrowing books from public library.
Read the whole thing. And then thank the Founding Fathers – Ben, especially – for having the foresight to provide this country with a wealth of information, available and accessible to all.