Anna Clark – “America’s network of public libraries is older than America itself. You can make a strong case that the precursor to our modern book-lending system was developed in Boston in 1636, in Charleston in 1698, by Benjamin Franklin and his Philadelphia cohort in 1731, or in the Massachusetts town that named itself after Franklin in 1790. But what is indisputable is that this “amazing decentralized mutual aid” creation, as one librarian described it, was founded on a radical belief that all citizens have a right to information, art, and literature. That these things are not a luxury, but a necessity, is an idea that turned the old elite concept of private libraries and ivory towers on its head…By being responsive to the unique needs of their communities, libraries have taken on sometimes surprising roles. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, for example, the central branch of the City-County library has a case worker from the state’s Family and Children Services agency on hand four hours a day, five days a week. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, you can check out musical instruments, microscopes, telescopes, and home tools. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, New York libraries offered direct assistance to residents who needed help rebuilding. The Sacramento Public Library in California hosts Punk Rock Aerobics, led by one of its librarians. Outside Rochester, New York, you can check out fishing poles. In Dallas, Texas, a public library facilitates Coffee and Conversations, one-hour sessions for the homeless; more than 70 people attended the second meeting. And in Woodbine, Iowa, you can borrow cake pans.”
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