Still the Best Place to find a Story Part 2

The best place the Morris flock had to find a good story was the library, either Mom’s upstairs or at the Public Library in the Park.   If we had been born 200 years earlier, our story would have been much different.  In the 1700s, educational opportunities for females were few to none.  Unless a family was wealthy or clergy, book ownership was limited to the family bible and perhaps a few other volumes.  And there were no public libraries.  Women who wished to further their learning (usually the wealthy) would meet together to read and discuss books.  Literary salons then, were not only a precursor to today’s public libraries, but also book clubs and literary societies.  Rich men at the same time had subscription clubs.  For a monthly fee, a man could borrow a book to read for a while.  The fee would buy more books and a place to put them.  Closer, but still no Library in the Park.

this photo and the next credit:  https://dp.la/exhibitions/exhibits/show/history-us-public-libraries/beginnings

Benjamin Franklin, United States of America inventor, statesman, ambassador, printer, “Founding Father”, and all around brilliant guy, had a large part in setting up Public Libraries in the USA.  In 1731, he founded the first subscription club in the colonies.  He was a member of a group, mostly merchants, who met to discuss, as he described in his autobiography, “queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy.”  They owned some books and were looking for a way to get more.  So, Franklin used subscription money and a forty-shilling investment from each of the first fifty members to order more books from England.  The next time you think your order from Amazon is taking its sweet time, remember it took anywhere from 47 to 138 days for a ship to cross the Atlantic, if it made it at all.

The greater part of the first books were about education and religion.  As the collection grew, more topics were added.  Members of the club had free use of the books. A non-member could borrow, if he gave some sort of collateral.

Ray Memorial Library in Franklin Massachusetts

Then, in 1790, the town of Franklin Massachusetts (named for him) asked Franklin to donate a bell as a memorial.  He decided that sense was more important than sound and donated a collection of books.  The town voted to have the books available to all town members, thus starting the first Public Library.

As recorded in A History of US Public Libraries, https://dp.la/exhibitions/exhibits/show/history-us-public-libraries/beginnings:  “The first totally tax-supported library was established in Peterborough, New Hampshire, in 1833. While there were many other libraries that met new public-oriented milestones—like the Darby Free Library in Pennsylvania, which has been in continuous service since 1793—the first large public library was the Boston Public Library, founded in 1848. Boston Public Library opened in 1854 and all Massachusetts residents could borrow from its collection, which began with 16,000 volumes.”

It took until after the Civil War before board-governed and tax-funded lending libraries became commonplace in American towns and cities.  Now, Public Libraries have expanded their collections to audio books, movies and e-books all for free.  (Unless one decides to never take the thing back and let fines grow higher than any bookstore price.  Seriously now who would do that?!?)  Plus, most systems have an inter-library loan of some sort so if your neighborhood library doesn’t have the book you want, the one down the street does!  Public Libraries, brick and mortar or www., are still the best place to find a story.

 

Still the Best Place to Find a Story Part 1

Photo credit: http://cdmbuntu.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/Shelley/id/274

Once every two weeks each summer, Mama Duck Morris and her four ducklings would waddle to the park, but not to swim in the pond, because there wasn’t one.  No, we went to immerse ourselves in the waters of literature.  Shelley Public Library, magic land.  Outside, it was a small, one room log cabin, left over I’m sure from when the land was not a park.  It stood behind the swings and slippery slide and under huge shade trees, no doubt as old as the cabin.  Inside it seemed like Doctor Who’s Tardis, bigger on the inside than the outside.

The first thing that hit you was the smell, a lovely, comforting combination of wood, paper, leather and dirt from the plants on the windowsills.  Then you heard the window fan that kept the place a little cooler than the outside.  Then you saw the librarians desk, usually with books on top, and the librarian’s smile.  (honestly, I don’t remember her name or what she looked like, but I remember we knew her from church.  Of course in Shelley, pretty much everybody knew everybody from church.)  Then, you saw books.  Books on shelves lining the log walls, books on shelves between the walls, books on tables wherever they fit.  There was just enough room to squeeze down the aisles and find the magic wrapped in hard cover.

The best part was watching the librarian stamp the card from the book’s front cover pocket.  That meant it was yours for two whole weeks.  The worst part was you could only check out six.  I could read six books in six days.  What was I to do the rest of the two weeks?  So, I read them again.  I wanted to read them all!  I actually did read all the Children’s books about horses.  I came close to reading all the Science Fiction too.

Photo credit as above.

Eventually that stuffed little house became too stuffed for the words.  When the bank moved down Main Street, the Library moved to Main Street.  It lost the atmosphere but gained a whole lot more magic wrapped in hard cover.

Photo credit:  http://www.americantowns.com/id/shelley/organizations/schools-and-libraries

It moved yet again and now it is down the street and around the corner in the old hardware and paint store.  Now instead of decorating your house, you can decorate your mind.  One of Mama Duck’s ducklings is now the Library Storyteller.  Patricia’s handy work, “Barbie” and friends dressed in homemade costumes, illustrate library display cases and story time.