Philadelphia Libraries Staying Open

Budget passed. Libraries are staying open.

I have mixed feelings about this “unless you pass the budget, we will close the libraries!” sort of PR move, but I have to admit that I didn’t follow this last one as closely as I have followed these things in the past. I am, as always, happy that libraries are staying open. That said, I honestly didn’t think this wouldn’t pass. I don’t want people to feel threatened to vote for things — more cops, more fire fighters, more librarians — I’d like them to vote for things because they’re a good idea. Budgets are terribly complicated and we’re all making tough choices about money. I’d like to think that we could, possibly, trust our elected representatives to stand by their words, as when the Philadelphia mayor said “We will not close facilities that serve our most vulnerable populations, such as libraries, health centers, or recreation centers.” I realize that the final decision is not his alone, but I did feel like folks had our back on this one.

today is one of those library firsts days

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.