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History of public library advocacy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Public libraries in the American Colonies can be traced back to 1656, when a Boston merchant named Captain Robert Keayne willed his collection of books to the town.[1] Many of the early colonists had brought books with them from England.

Church collections of books used by the public served as early versions of libraries in New England around the 18th century. One such example is the Kings Chapel Library in Boston, which was founded in 1698 with book donations from the Bishop of London.[1]

Reverend Thomas Bray was instrumental in the establishment of libraries for public use. This Anglican clergyman had sponsored several parish libraries in England, and from 1695-1704 he managed to establish 70 libraries in the American Colonies. These included five provincial libraries located in the major cities of time, 39 parochial libraries at Anglican parishes, and 35 layman libraries where ministers were allowed to loan the materials to their local residents. Bray’s provincial libraries in Maryland and South Carolina were both the beneficiaries of the first laws passed by the local legislation to secure and maintain the libraries in their provinces.[1]

In 1731, Benjamin Franklin and his fellow members of the Junto established the Library Company of Philadelphia.[2] This type of subscription library brought access to books for the residents who paid to become a member. It also served as a model and inspiration for many other libraries that began to spring up throughout the colonies. Other types of libraries included commercial circulating libraries, athenaeums, and school-district libraries. The start of the development of the American library as we know it today, however, began in full force between 1850 and 1900.

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