This is Part II of My Thoughts on Libraries. If you missed Part I (horrors!) I am kindly providing a link for you to review Five Fun Facts About Libraries | Library Part I before going on. (Don’t worry–I’ll wait.) Ok, now that you’re caught up.
As you are doubtless without a doubt aware, there are different kinds of libraries. There are personal libraries where people hoard books in the comfort of their own homes (not naming names, but you are related to more than one person with a personal library).
Originally, the purpose of a library was to show personal wealth—in possessions if not in actual knowledge. Ashurbanipal, the last great king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, had the first library we know of. Personally, I’m willing to believe dolphins have figured out a way to share knowledge but then I’m pretty gullible when it comes to dolphins.
It’s unlikely Ashurbanipal sat around in his library flipping through books because A) everything was written on clay and B) it’s not obvious he himself could read. It is also safe to assume his library wasn’t air conditioned.
It is widely accepted among elementary school students that Ben Franklin invented lightening and founded the first US library. It is true that he and his pals founded the Library Company of Philadelphia but there are lots of towns claiming they had a library before Mr. B. F. opened his. Ben’s library wasn’t free (don’t tell the elementary school kids); members had to buy in.
Nowadays (a great word I don’t get to use very often), public libraries are usually lending libraries and if you can sign a library card and prove you live in the area you can borrow a book or whatever (more on the ‘whatever’ tomorrow).
New York lawyer, governor, and bibliophile Samuel J. Tilden left millions to build the New York Public Library (best stone lions ever. Also the setting for a good bit of The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler which can be found at most libraries and is one of my fav books). He believed Americans should have access to books and a free education if desired. He did not, however, offer to pay your college tuition, which I’m sure was just an oversight on his part.
Other important people (and by “important” I mean “wealthy”) have founded or bequeathed money to found libraries.
The Bacon Free Library in South Natick, Massachusetts was founded in 1881 after a benefactor left $15,000 in a will. This of course is the second most important thing about South Natick, the first being that it is the home of BFF Nancy, my Bunny, and the rest of the clan.
On Campus, libraries are hallowed gathering places where learning is revered and groups of students relax the hours away searching for the Meaning of Truth and Obscure Facts.
I think it’s fair to say that college libraries are air conditioned. And that students often go there to find a quiet place to study cram away from the distractions of roommates and television sets. Or to research obscure facts for term papers or Trivial Pursuit the 25th Anniversary Edition.
My advice (which I know you’ve been waiting for):
1Read a book before departing for college because chances of having time to read a book for fun diminish in direct proportion to the length of time left to mid-terms.
2Meet and befriend the librarians (whether or not you can find one named Marian—extra points if you get the reference). It’s amazing how much time, pain, agony, and rework they can save you.
3Tune in tomorrow for Part III of my Thoughts About Libraries. And Whatever.
Marian the Librarian is from The Music Man. Video included for your viewing pleasure.