Today is, if you believe The Writer’s Almanac, the date in 1731 that Ben Franklin founded the first circulating library. The blurb is neat to read but short on references, so here is me fleshing it out a little.
It was on this day in 1731 that Ben Franklin founded the first circulating library, a forerunner to the now ubiquitous free public library. He started it as a way to help settle intellectual arguments among his group of Philadelphia friends, the Junto, a group of civic-minded individuals gathered together to discuss the important issues of their day.
Each of the 50 charter members bought an initial share into the company (40 shillings), which helped fund the buying of books, and then paid a smaller yearly fee (10 shillings) that went to buying more books and maintaining the library. In exchange, the members could borrow any of the books. Donations of books were gladly accepted.
They called their charter the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the next year, Franklin hired America’s first librarian, Louis Timothee. At first, the books were stored at the librarian’s house, but by the end of the decade, they were moved to the Pennsylvania State House, which is now known as Independence Hall.