September is Library Card Sign-Up Month, a great time to sign up for a borrower's card at your local public library.
While the American library system traces its roots back to 1656, when a Boston merchant named Captain Robert Keayne willed his collection of books to the town, it was a personage no less illustrious than Benjamin Franklin who really got the first library up and rolling. In 1731, Franklin and his fellow members of the Junto established the Library Company of Philadelphia. Take a Philly city tour on one of the 'ducks', and you'll see that same library still open today.
Andrew Carnegie is the man attributed with making libraries truly public - wherever they might be. A total of 2,509 Carnegie libraries were built between 1883 and 1929, including some belonging to public and university library systems. There were 1,689 built in the United States, 660 in Britain and Ireland, 125 in Canada, and others in Australia, New Zealand, Serbia, the Caribbean and Fiji.
When the last grant was made in 1919, there were 3,500 libraries in the United States, nearly half of them built with construction grants paid by Carnegie.
As little of 200 or 300 years ago, the ability to borrow books from a public library in the way that we can now was totally unthinkable. Now, however, knowledge is available to the masses, whether it's in print online.
We are blessed with great public libraries right here in Emmet County - Armstrong, Estherville, Ringsted and Wallingford. Our libraries have everything from classical literature in traditional format to the world at our fingertips via the World Wide Web. The knowledge to which we have access today right here in our rural libraries far surpasses what anyone could have imagined in the greatest academic libraries in the world 30 years ago.
And all we need is a free library card.
Now that's incredible.