“As the saying goes ‘Google can provide millions of answers, but a librarian can provide the right one!’”- Dee Santoso: Deputy Director at the Manchester City Library (1)
Libraries have played an important role in American society ever since their creation during the Revolutionary War Era. Benjamin Franklin believed that libraries would improve society, so he founded the Library Company of Philadelphia. Franklin stocked the library with educational resources such as dictionaries, atlases, books on science and agriculture. He thought these books would mold the self-made man like himself.
However, this library was for the elite and not for the general public. This changed, with the development in technology during the early nineteenth century, books became cheaper to manufacture. People wanted libraries that were available to everybody, not just the elite. Cities and towns directed funds in support of public libraries: New Hampshire was the first in 1849, followed by Massachusetts in 1851.(2)
Some people might think that libraries are irrelevant and obsolete in light of the digital age. “In the early 2000s, some very vocal legislators thought the Internet had made libraries obsolete. All of a sudden, our legislators were so many Steve Jobs. Another legislator opined that ‘everything was on the Internet so why did our students need a new, big, library building?’”(3) This is not the case, public libraries are a valuable resource to the communities they serve. Over the centuries, American public libraries have adapted to the needs of their communities by providing materials and resources the patrons want. This was not always true, censorship was a problem. Going back to their origins, public libraries promoted educational materials, and not fiction. They restricted what materials patrons could check out, particularly the fiction, often censoring patrons’ selections. As time went on, censorship eased up, often fighting against it. Public libraries have been transitioning into the digital age, by adding audiovisual materials and ebooks. Public libraries provide community support through a variety of programs and give access to the internet for patrons who do not have it. Forming partnerships with other organizations is a priority for public libraries. These partnerships help public libraries stay relevant in the 21st century and meet the patrons’ needs/wants. Partnerships between public libraries, schools and businesses are essential, this will benefit the various communities that are served.
This exhibit will focus on the progression of change and the adaptations that public libraries have gone through, meeting the patrons needs/wants. The Manchester City Library (New Hampshire) will be highlighted in this article as a case study. This exhibit will demonstrate that public libraries are still as important today as they were in the beginning, providing valuable resources to the various communities they serve.
To follow the progression of change and the adaptations that public libraries have gone through click here.