Public libraries: the most ubiquitous of all American institutions

Still getting back to my routine after having a great time at both MLA and CLA. Will post lsides and comments later, but for a morning pick-me-up, read this article in praise of public libraries. You will enjoy it.

In 1872, the right to know led the Worcester Massachusetts Public Library to open its doors on Sunday. Many viewed that as sacrilege. Head librarian Samuel Green calmly responded that a library intended to serve the public could do so only if it were accessible when the public could use it. Six day, 60-hour workweeks meant that if libraries were to serve the majority of the community they must be open on Sundays. Referring to those who might not spend their Sundays at worship Green impishly added, “If they are not going to save their souls in the church they should improve their minds in the library.”

6 comments for “Public libraries: the most ubiquitous of all American institutions

  1. 04May11 at 11:07

    Sadly, the Worcester Public Library is now closed on Sundays :\

  2. 04May11 at 12:36

    Today, wouldn’t this mean that we (public libraries)should be open from 11am-10pm every day? This, i bet, would get the MOST use by the public.

  3. 04May11 at 2:57

    Great article! The bit about library sponsored “overdue weeks” blew my mind.

    [To keep their doors open, the Cleveland public library sponsored “overdue weeks”, encouraging patrons who could afford it to keep their library books until they were overdue, allowing the library to collect the 12 cents per week fine.]

  4. 06May11 at 10:19

    Wow! I didn’t know that public libraries stood against the blue laws of the era. Green’s argument is sound, and if we follow that policy today, there would certainly be more jobs available for librarians.

  5. 25May11 at 7:29

    Well i really came to know the point today only that, the Public Library’s open its doors on Sunday too.sounds very good!

  6. JJR
    12Jun11 at 6:19

    BTW, in the early days of our Republic, the US Postal Service made deliveries on Sundays as well.
    Imagine THAT!

    In my city, only the main central public library is open on Sunday. The smaller neighborhood branches are all closed.

    It is still a challenge to get atheist/agnostic views represented adequately in library collections, but it’s worth struggling for. My local system hasn’t bought every title I suggest, but they have bought at least SOME of them, including Victor Stenger’s _The New Atheism_ book and Guy Harrison’s more innocently titled _50 Reasons people give for believing in a god_.

    Of course, where I live, we can’t keep enough copies on the shelf of the new Todd Burpo book _Heaven is for real_, about a tween boy’s near death experience, propped up and shamelessly promoted by his evangelical preacher dad….I am regularly turning down ILL requests because our copies have SO many holds on them. People are so desperate to believe that nonsense. There’s a less popular book out there but on the same topic called _The boy who came back from heaven_, by Kevin & Alex Malarkey. I looked at the author’s surname and thought to myself “how hilariously appropriate”. Malarkey indeed.

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