Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 2, 2019


A writer without a library is like a warrior without a sword. Libraries have been a sacred haven for most of us since childhood. But historically, libraries did not exist except for the wealthy or well connected. Americans owe a debt of gratitude to Benjamin Franklin who founded the Library Company of Philadelphia in 1731, the first lending library and predecessor of the free public library. Supported by United States taxes, the Boston Public library was established in 1848 as a free public library and opened to the public in 1854.

Benjamin Franklin

Librarians and Library Paraprofessionals are civil servants governed by a board to serve the public interest.

Free services are provided to the public such as story times for children to promote early literacy, also libraries are a place for quiet study, with work areas for students and professionals, and book clubs to encourage reading literature for adults.

Typically, the libraries lend borrowers books, other materials such as popular newspapers and periodicals, and CD’s as well as videos for a certain period of time. All that is needed is a library card to access whatever a public library has to offer. Library cards are free and easy to obtain. If a borrower goes beyond the determined period of time, they must pay a small late fee.

In recent times libraries have evolved to include time on computers and the internet and 91% of libraries offer free wireless internet. The librarians teach people how to use computers and help people access the internet and assist with e-government services on local, state, and federal levels with documents, information forms, and services.  This addition of technology for free to the public has been a great help to people applying for jobs or services on line. Libraries even give classes for free to the public to help them learn not only computer skills, but also to teach literacy. Today, two-thirds of all libraries offer the lending of e-books.

There are special books offered through the Reader’s Advisory Services such as large print books and Braille materials. Also, if a particular library doesn’t have a book, they can get that book from another library for anyone who asks for it through inter-library loans.

For the privacy of patrons, any materials they check out is private with no fear it will be revealed later even if it is controversial or embarrassing. Good news for writers who might be researching this information for their work, right?
Libraries provide rooms for classes, meeting places, or to function as community centers or for reading, study, and formal as well as informal meetings. I took some classes at the library on writing newspaper articles and proposals to news editors.

Here is something I did not know, but it certainly makes sense: Public libraries are the guardians of the First Amendment to the Constitution—the right to freedom of speech and information.

Andrew Carnegie

Here’s an interesting fact: In 1898 Andrew Carnegie built a library in Homestead, Pennsylvania that not only loaned books, but had a bowling alley, an indoor swimming pool, basketball courts and other athletic facilities, as well as a music hall, and numerous rooms for local organizations. Wow! I’d like to see that. 

Carnegie's Library in Homestead, Pennsylvania

He is responsible for the widespread establishment of free public libraries all over the United States of America. He was a Scottish-American industrialist who believed strongly in public libraries and uplifting the knowledge of all people. Here is a famous quote by Andrew Carnegie about his support in free public libraries:

Libraries also provide free lectures, events, and cultural performances.
Some libraries keep historical documents specific to their locale and serve as a resource for historians. Urban libraries have collections of photographs and digital images.

Here is something else I didn’t know, but certainly shows the care and concern library officials have established for citizens: sensory story times which have ways of processing information with particular consideration to autistic patrons who are concrete thinkers. They also consider those who have sensitive issues to things like fluorescent lighting or ambient noise from other patrons. I had no idea such considerations were in place.

Most of us know about mobile libraries especially in the summer months when school is out in order to promote literacy and learning, but those mobile libraries can also include not only buses, but pack animals like donkeys to reach into remote areas.

The Children's Section of Plaza-Midwood Library in Charlotte, North Carolina

For a time many of us were concerned for the future of libraries when many libraries were shutting down in some communities, mostly due to the lack of funding. But the spirit of Ben Franklin lives on. Citizens rose up to defend our libraries, signed petitions, made donations, volunteered, and pressed the government to keep our free public libraries. As a consequence libraries evolved to accommodate a more modern and technological age. I was fortunate that my community library, the Plaza-Midwood Public Library survived. They now offer digital books and wireless service and free internet access. They update me about events and new services through emails. This library is where I registered to vote. Now what’s more American than that?

Did the libraries where you live shut down? What is the name of your favorite Library? Has your library changed with the times? Does it offer digital books and internet? Is there a service you wish your library offered, but doesn’t?


  1. I well remember going to the library when I was a child. And when I was a young married woman living in Pittsburgh, I got all my romance novels from the nearby branch of the Carnegie Library. Who knew Andrew Carnegie was behind the big push for public libraries. Wonderful post, Sarah!

    1. Until I researched this piece I had no idea how involved Andrew Carnegie was in establishing libraries, Kristy. I used to do the same thing as you with getting my romance novels at the library. I remember waiting for a new one to come out and be available. The library was my special place.
      Thank you for your very kind words and thank you so much for visiting my blog.

  2. The public library in my home town was an important part of my childhood. I wanted to work in a library when I grew up. Lo and behold, in my late twenties to early thirties, I worked at the librarian for the children's area of that very library. :-)

    1. Kaye, how wonderful to fulfill your dream like that. I'm certain librarians have their own kind of job stress, but when I think of them, all that comes to mind is peace and the glorious presence of books.
      Thank you so much for coming and leaving a comment.

  3. Sarah, I live at our public library, so much so most know me by name. We have three Carnegie Libraries in our Pike Peak Library District. They also do a yearly "Pikes Peak History Symposium" that they stream world wide on the day of the event. You can even access some of the past presentation online without being a member of the library system. (Can you tell I'm impressed with the direction this library is headed). And the above list is just the tip of the iceberg of what they do. Doris

    1. Doris, it is so exciting to see how libraries adapt to keep up with technology and our changing society. I totally agree with you--it IS impressive and exciting. I realize because we are writers, we have an innate love of words and the use of language. For us,libraries are practically temples and sacred places, but libraries have come to address the needs of people for many practical reasons as well. They help people so many ways.

      Thank you so much for your comment, Doris.