Wednesday, April 6, 2005

The Library

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."
Marcus Tullius Cicero (Rome, 106 BCE-43 BCE)

Yesterday the proposed library tax passed here in Randolph County by a margin of about 60%. That makes me very happy. The library's budget has been drastically cut in the past two years. We have had to cut down on the number of books and DVDs we can buy each year. Concievably, if this tax had not passed, we may well have had to shut down branches in the coming years. Worse yet, the entire libary system could shut down. That would be a shame as I consider libarires to be very necessary to the health of any community.

Indeed, I feel that I have learned more at various libraries over the years than I did in school or university. Oh, school gave me the basics. It taught me how to read and write, but with those skills I was able to utilise the library. And it was at the library that I learned about such things as the Anglo-Saxons, the Vikings, television history, the histories of various religions, and so on. I cannot say that libraries are necessarily more important than schools (after all, what use is a library if one cannot read?), but I would say that they are as important. They allow people to continue their education on their own.

Libraries have existed since ancient times. The earliest library is believed to be one that existed in Babylonia circa the 21st century BCE. Libraries existed in ancient Egypt, Ninevah, and Jersualem. In 330 BCE the first public library in Greece opened. Of course, the greatest library of the ancient world existed in Alexandria. It was counted among the Seven Wonders of the World. Caius Asinius Pollio founded the first public library in Rome. Under Augustus, public libraires flourished in the Roman Empire.

In the Middle Ages most monasteries were equipped with libraries. Later the universities would follow suit. Libraries were very much a part of the Arabic world at the time, and the Arabs preserved many classic Greek works lost to Europe. Byzantium also had its share of fine libraries.

In the United States, the Boston Public Library opened in 1653. Benjamin Franklin was key in the founding of a circulation library in Philadephia in 1732. The first Public Libaries Act, passed in 1850, established libraries in teh United Kingdom. Key to the history of the library was philathrophist and millionaire Andrew Carnegie. Throughout his lifetime he donated more than $65 million to establish libraries throughout the United States. Both the Moberly Library (originally Carnegie Library, named for its benefactor) and the Huntsville Library owe their existence to Carnegie. The fact that these two libraries were the cornerstones of the Little Dixie Library System (serving Randolph and Monroe Counties) means he was responsible for it, too.

Libraries have then been around for a long time. And it is through libraries that a good many people have gained further education. I am then very happy that our library tax passed. It means we can continue our mission of serving the community for some time to come.

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