On Monday, June 25, hundreds of people gathered outside the Library of Congress, in Washington D.C., to celebrate public libraries. For more than 100 years, libraries have played an important role in keeping Americans informed and educated. But how are these book-filled buildings changing with the times? You may be surprised to find out.
A Big Boost for Libraries
Benjamin Franklin famously founded America’s first lending library in 1731 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. But the public library system got its biggest boost in the late 1800’s. Businessman Andrew Carnegie donated millions of dollars to help build free public libraries across the country. Between 1886 and 1919, Carnegie’s donations helped build 1,679 new libraries!
Carnegie believed in the opportunities that libraries could offer Americans young and old. He knew that the more libraries there were, the more people would have access to books, lectures, news and more. "There are now more public libraries in the United States than McDonalds restaurants," said Clara Hayden, of Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library.
More than Books
Chances are, there is a public library in or near your community. After all, the United States is home to 9,225 public libraries. Today, libraries continue to innovate and grow. Seven out of 10 libraries offer free Internet access. This opens many doors for community members who cannot go online at home, including the opportunity to apply for jobs online.
Libraries are also teaching kids about the fun of reading. One new program called Read!Build!Play! combines reading with playtime. As kids listen to a book being read aloud, they use Legos to build images from the story. “Today’s libraries are always looking for creative programming to bring people into the library,” Lego’s Michael McNally told TFK.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “The doors of wisdom are never shut.” As long as the doors of public libraries are open, his statement is most certainly true!