Important People, Places
and Events in Library
by: Denise Tabscott
Collecting Written Knowledge
The collection of knowledge in its written form
is a practice that is old as civilization. People
have always strived to record their knowledge
and keep it to pass along to future generations.
Clay tablets and papyrus scrolls have been
found dating back to 1300 and earlier.
Eventually the name for this collection of works
became the library. The library’s long history
and its survival through time, wars and
destruction has shown that society has valued
and always had a thirst for knowledge.
The First Public Library
The first public library appeared in the fourth
century bc when there was an Athenian degree
that called for a repository of “trustworthy”
copies of books or scrolls. Still, the private
library was more prevalent. (Krasner-Khait,
Great Library of Alexandria
Aristotle amassed a great personal library
which became the start to what is now known
as the Great Library of Alexandria. This was a
public library open to those who had literary
qualifications and was founded in 300 bc.
Questionable Library Practices
The Great Library had a few unorthodox acquisition
methods. In addition to traditional book purchases
Egypt’s King Ptolemy is rumored to have confiscated
any book not in the library from passengers arriving in
Alexandria. Ptolemy III deceived Athenian authorities
and borrowed original manuscripts only to return
copies instead (Krasner-Khait, 2001)
Destruction of the Great Library
During the Roman period, fire and depredations
gradually led to the destruction of the Great
Library. It is said that Cleopatra allowed Julius
Caesar to help himself to books and he shipped
tens of thousands to Rome. Because of the Great
Library, Alexandria became known as the
intellectual capital of the world and became a
model for future libraries (Krasner-Khait, 2001).
Aristotle's book collection eventually became
part of Rome’s library resources. In Rome’s
libraries books were no longer read in an atrium
away from the rest of the collection; Rome’s
books were placed along the walls and readers
were able to consult them in the center of the
Books in the Baths?
Rome’s libraries were, for the most
part, still for the learned community.
The common folk did not have a place
to go to read. In the third centuries
libraries began to be added to the
Imperial Baths where the rich and poor
could both bathe and read a book KrasnerKhait, B. (2001).
The Fall of the Roman Empire
As Rome fell, so too did the number of libraries
in existence. It seemed to be that libraries
were headed to extinction.
Monasticism and its Ties to the Library
Pachomius, a monk in Egypt in the early 500s,
insisted that his monasteries have monks who
were literate. As libraries were vanishing from
the western empire, the spread of Christianity
and monasticism gave way to a thirst for
knowledge that was ultimately found in the
Krasner-Khait, B. (2001)
The First Lending Library
Monasteries began loaning their books to other
monasteries which became the first instance of
Krasner-Khait, B. (2001)
Gutenberg Changes the World
In the 1400s the world was revolutionized by
Gutenberg's press and movable type. This
made bookmaking much easier and the days of
handwritten manuscripts were over. In the
1600-1700s books saw a rise in popularity and
in 1850 Parliament passed the Public Library
Act and libraries began to spread through the
Some Famous Libraries
Bodlean Library (2nd largest in country) Oxford
British Library (largest in country)
Bibliotheque Nationale de France (National Library of France) Paris
Laurentian Library, Florence
Vatican Library, Vatican City
National Library of Spain, Madrid
German Library, Frankfurt
Harvard Library (Oldest in America), Boston
Libraries Come to America
Ben Franklin and friends started a library
system where people paid dues to belong to a
library, this was called a subscription library.
This library was called, The Library Company of
Philadelphia. Immigration and the ideas of
public education, however, brought about the
need for free public libraries in America.
The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress (LOC) is the world’s largest library.
It contains over 100 million items which includes over
books (29 million), pamphlets, manuscripts, maps, atlases,
prints, photos, musical works, microfilms, sound recordings
and films. All of these are housed on over 532 miles of
shelving in 3 different buildings. The library adds over 1
million items a year.
The Founding of the LOC
James Madison created the LOC as a library
for use by the members of congress. The
official date of founding is Apr. 24, 1800. On
Aug. 24, 1814 the British invaded and burned
the LOC down and the library collection was
lost (Sakuri, 1998).
Rebuilding the LOC
Thomas Jefferson sold his personal library
collection as a replacement to the LOC. He
sold roughly 6500 books for $23,950. His
collection had much more varied interests than
that of the previous collection. The books were
organized into 3 categories: memory, reason,
and imagination (Sakuri, 1998).
George Watterson, librarian
Watterson encouraged authors to donate
copies of books to the Library of Congress. He
took great pride in promoting the LOC as a
national library (Sakuri, 1998).
The Iron Room
After another fire decimates the Library of
Congress on Christmas Eve, 1851, the Library
Hall is fireproofed with iron and called The Iron
Room (Sakuri, 1998).
The Copyright Act of 1870
The Copyright Office becomes a part of the
LOC and the Copyright Act of 1870 now
requires that the LOC is given 2 copies of all
new copyrighted works (Sakuri, 1998).
Andrew Carnegie, Philanthropist
In 1881 Andrew Carnegie began to promote his
idea of free public libraries so anyone could
have a free education through the use of
books. He used his considerable wealth from
selling his business, JP Morgan and over the
years spent $56 million dollars building over
2500 libraries (Columbia University, 2014).
Expansion of the LOC
In 1886 the LOC begins running out of room for
all of its holdings. The new building takes 11
years and over $6 million dollars to build. It
now has a reading room, art gallery, hall of
maps, copyright office and law library (Sakuri, 1998).
But What About Dewey?
The LOC has its own classification system of
20 categories of letters and numbers for each
subject area. This classification system is still
Library of Congress Legislative Reference Service
Created in 1915, this service prepares reports
on any topic at the request of members of
Congress. Today this staff of 900 specialists
get 600,000 inquiries a year (Sakuri, 1998)
Other Important Library People
Anne Carroll Moore: Born in Limerick, Maine. She lived in
1870’s at a time when children were not allowed in most
libraries. She grew up to become a librarian who fought for
children’s rooms in libraries and became the first Children’s
Librarian at the historic New York Public Library in 1911.
Lived in 19th Century Boston, created the
Cutter system of classification, on which the
current LOC Classification system is based
* Invented the Dewey Decimal Classification
* Known as the Father of Modern
*Helped to establish the American Library
Association (ALA) in 1876.
* In 1900 she was the first high school librarian
at Erasmus High School in Brooklyn. (ALA, 2014)
* Created the Colon Classification system
which is widely used in research libraries.
* Wrote the Five Laws of Librarianship
* Considered the Father of Librarianship in
(Encyclopedia Britannica, 2013)
American Library Association (2014). First school library? Retrieved February 10, 2014, from http://www.ala.org/tools/first-school-library
Columbia University Libraries (2014). Philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie. Retrieved February 11, 2014, from http://library.columbia.edu/locations/rbml/units/carnegie/andrew.
Encyclopedia Britannica (2013). Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan (Indian librarian). InEncyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved February 13, 2014, from http://www.britannica.
Krasner-Khait, B. (2001). Survivor: The history of the library. History Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.history-magazine.com/libraries.html
OCLC (2014). Melvil Dewey biography. Retrieved February 10, 2014, from http://www.oclc.org/dewey/resources/biography.en.html
Pinborough, J., & Atwell, D. (2013). Miss Moore thought otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore created libraries for children. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Books for
Sakurai, G. (1998). The Library of Congress. New York, NY: Children's Press.
Storyyeller (2009, March 10). The Dewey Decimal rap [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHiUQb5xg7A
Stromgren, P. (2004, June 26). Library systemizer extraordiaire. Daily Hampshire Gazette[Hampshire]. Retrieved from http://www.forbeslibrary.org/cutter/cacutter.shtml
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