"Free For Books for All" going going gone

My great grandpa would have remembered when Philadelphia Public Library coined the phrase, “Free Books for All.”  That was 1891 and he would have known. He was proud to witness the driving of the Golden Spike ( now that was progress), the buggy and wagon’s morph to the automobile, the steam locomotive’s morph to the jet plane, the radio’s morph to the  TV. Then there was the magical day when man walked on the moon. One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.   He thought he’d seen it all and he did.   He was well read, though a farmer, and he had ideas of his own.

He would have been proud that Philly put out for its citizens. By 1898 the Free Library had the largest circulation in the world at 1,778,387 volumes*. All of them free to the public. Walk in, get a book, go home and read it. Improve your mind, expand your soul.

It’s all too ironic that after Patriot’s Day, 9/11/09, there won’t be a full book circulation ever again. The library will close its doors for good as of Oct 2, 2009 and until then one can only have the item up to the closing date. In Philly, the city that defined the word Patriot.

All this in the face of a recession, some would call it a depression, especially those who have lost their jobs, their security, even their free public tv. Don’t city founders know that during recessions people flock to libraries?  They need the job resources, the free books, the free ways to keep on going on.

I feel sad, I feel outraged. We should band together to save Philly from their intellectual demise.  With Liberty and Justice for All, the Free Library of Philadelphia needs to live on, to be alive and well in the place that practically started the notion of Free Books for All.

*Source: Wikipedia, retrieved 9/12/09: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philadelphia_Public_Library

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Colleen Eggett

Colleen Eggett is the Library Resources Program Manager for the Utah State Library in Salt Lake City UT.

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