Week 6

History of Libraries

"My library was dukedom large enough" (William Shakespeare. The Tempest, 109).

"Come and take choice of all my library, and so beguile thy sorrow" (William Shakespeare. Titus Andronicus, IV.i.34).

History of Libraries History Magazine, Oct-Nov 2001. Read this first as an overview of libraries from ancient times to the Renaissance and early American libraries.


The Origin of Libraries

"The origin of libraries, like the origins of speech and of writing, is not known. Unlike speech and writing, however, the beginning of libraries came after the end of the prehistoric era, since the preservation of written records is considered to have begun the historic age" (Harris, p. 3).

"In order to discuss the history of libraries, it is necessary to have a working definition for the term library... a library is a collection of graphic materials arranged for relatively easy use, cared for by an individual or individuals familiar with that arrangement, and available for use by at least a limited number of persons... The distinction between a library and an archive is relatively modern, and for historical purposes the two can be considered together" (Harris, p. 3-4).

"...libraries... flourish generally in those societies where economic prosperity reigns, where the population is literate and stable, where the government encourages library growth, where large urban areas exist, and where the book trade is well established" (Harris, p. 5).

"Although early libraries were often associated with religious edifices... there seem to have been at least three, if not four, types of graphic collections that contributed to the general development of the early library form. The first of these was the temple collection; the second the governmental archive; the third, organized business records; and the possible fourth, the collection of family or genealogical papers" (Harris, p. 5).

"The temple collection... was kept in a sacred place and presided over by a priest. Only the most important of the temple officials might have access to this library... The temple library may have been of the few... and for the few, but it preserved the most important literature of a given religion, which was a basic cultural heritage for that particular group" (Harris, p. 6).

"To support the government, taxes or tributes were necessary, and to make these sources of income reasonably accurate and honest, property ownership has to be guaranteed and tax records compiled and kept. Deeds and property transactions had to be recorded and a graphic representation of their legality filed in some government office. Laws and decrees had to be published and preserved. On a wider scale, agreements, treaties, and understandings between rulers had to be put down in some permanent form... [all these] became government archives" (Harris, p. 6-7).

"As business went beyond the barter stage, records and sales, taxes and tributes had to be preserved and arranged for ready use. Reports from and instructions to employees or agents in distant towns had to be recorded and kept. Such records, of course, formed a business archive" (Harris, p. 7).

"Some of the earliest known examples of written records relate to private matters... Property ownership and inheritance... wills, deeds, sales forms... inventories of [property owned]... genealogies... works of astrology and divination... The family archive is thus the ancestor of the private library" (Harris, p. 8).

"One other factor in the early development of libraries was the official or "copyright" collection of manuscripts... in ancient Athens in the days of Sophocles and Euripides, official copies of plays were placed in a public collection to guarantee that any person might have access to the correct texts...

"Egypt had a similar practice in connection with religious scriptures. The official, or orthodox, scriptures would be kept under guard as a guarantee of the authenticity or authority of their contents. The Ark of the Covenant of the early Hebrews is also an example of this" (Harris, p. 8-9).

"Organized archives existed in both Egypt and Baylonia before 3000 BC, and before 2000 BC there were insitutuions in both countries that were libraries in the true sense of the word... since the beginning of recorded history it has served a vital purpose as a main communicative link in both time and space. A written record, on reasonably durable material, can immortalize the ideas or actions of a given generation" (Harris, p. 13).

Babylonian and Assyrian Libraries

"It is difficult to say whether the first library in the western world was located in Egypt or in Mesopotamia, but it is certain that in the civilizations emerging in those two areas in the fourth and third millennia BC, writing produced "books" and these were preserved in sufficient numbers to form libraries" (Harris, p. 14).

"... by 3600 BC the Sumerians in the lower valley were developing a cuneiform script... In the next few centuries, libraries were fairly widely established throughout the valley. Thanks to the durable qualities of baked clay, we know of these libraries" (Harris, p. 15).

"Assurbanipal (ca. 668-627 BC)... developed the library into one of the greatest of the ancient world... in his palace [was] accumulated a library of over 30,000 tablets... was open to scholars... In fact, many scribes and scholars were employed by the king to revise, compile, and edit the thousands of texts brought together in his library" (Harris, p. 17).

"Assurbanipal's library was kept in many rooms in his palace, and apparently there was some subject arrangement by rooms... One important room was given over to clay tablets containing legends and mythology, the basis of the religion of Assyria. Included were the accounts of the Flood, lists of the gods, their various attributes and accomplishments, and the hymns of praise dedicated to them" (Harris, p. 17).

"The clay tablets inside the rooms of Assurbanipal's library were kept in earthen jars, and the jars in turn were kept in orderly rows on shelves. Each tablet bore an identification tag, indicating the jar, shelf, and room of its location. On the walls of each room, beside the door, was a list of the works to be found in that room... something like a subject catalog, or a descriptive bibliography, has been found on tablets that were apparently kept near the door in each room. These tablets include entries giving titles of works, the number of tablets for each work, the number of lines, opening words, important subdivisions, and a location or classification symbol. The worn condition of some of these "catalog" tablets indicates that they were well used" (Harris, p. 17-18).

"The Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, was preserved on twelve tablets in Assurbanipal's library" (Harris, p. 18).

"The librarian, or "keeper of the books," was of necessity a well-trained person. First of all, he had to be a graduate of the school for scribes, and then he had to be thoroughly trained in the literature or type of records that he was to keep. After this, he served an apprenticeship for a number of years, learning the trade of librarian and several languages at the same time... On of the earliest Babylonian librarians known by name was Amit Anu, who was "Tablet Keeper" in the royal library at Ur nearly 2000 years BC" (Harris, p. 21).

"... no region in the ancient world had such well-developed libraries as those of Babylonia and Assyria. It can well be argued that the continuity of Sumerian-Babylonian-Assyrian civilization for 3,000 years, despite many wars and conquests, can be largely attributed to its method of writing and its means of preserving records" (Harris, p. 21).

Egyptian Libraries

"The earliest known libraries in Egypt... were connected with palaces and temples... at least... 3200 BC. The earliest form of writing by the Egyptians was pictographic... known by the Greek term hieroglyphic, which means sacred stone writing... as it came to be written widely on papyrus, leather, and other materials, it was modified into a cursive script known as hieratic. Both forms were used for more than 2,000 years, and a third form was added by 700 BC. This... was the demotic script, a kind of shorthand developed from the hieratic, and widely used in business and commerce" (Harris, p. 23).

"Although we have reliable evidence that libraries did exist in ancient Egypt, the archeological evidence for specific collections is much scarcer than in Babylonia... The palace library about which most is known was that at Tell-el-Amarna (Akhetaton)... consisted of clay tablets--or at least all that has survived are the clay tablets--written in Babylonian cuneiform characters, cuneiform [being] something of an international diplomatic language at various times in the ancient world" (Harris, p. 24-25).

"To become a scribe, the Egyptian boy began serious study at an early age and then served many years of apprenticeship. He had to learn as many as 700 different hieroglyphic characters in order to write proficiently, and many of those characters had two or more meanings, while many words could be written in two or more ways" (Harris, p. 26).

"Finally, under Alexander the Great in 332 BC, Egypt was conquered by the Greeks, and its subsequent culture was to be more Hellenic than Egyptian for several hundred years. The result of these invasions was the near obliteration of ancient Egypt. Palaces, temples, even tombs were sacked and razed. The hieroglyphic, hieratic, and demotic forms of writing were forgotten, to be replaced ... by Greek, Latin, and finally Arabic" (Harris, p. 30).

Greek Libraries

Knowledge of the Minoan period, 1400 to 1100 BC, has come from 20th century archeological digs at Pylos and Mycenae on the mainland and at Knossos on Crete. "Both at Mycenae and at Pylos, special rooms have been found in the palaces with large numbers of clay tablets in them, some in jars neatly arranged in rows on shelves." Clay tablets were only dried, instead of baked, and so most have deteriated badly (Harris, p. 33).

"By the 12th century BC, the Minoan-Mycenaean civilization had been overrun by the less-civilized Dorians from the north, and their literary culture disappeared. Several centuries followed in which the peoples of Greece and the nearby islands seem to have had little or no written language. This period includes the era of Homer, when the Iliad and the Odyssey were composed and transmitted as oral epics for many generations before they were written down" (Harris, p. 34). "The Iliad and the Odyssey, the two great Greek epics, and the greatest of all epic poems, belong to the earliest Greek literature that has been preserved" (Pharr p. xxxix). "The poems represent a very unsettled condition of society in the Greek world, corresponding in many ways to the Middle Ages in Europe [300-1050 AD]. Preceding this period, there had been a brilliant civilization in the Greek world in the Aegean basin" (Pharr p.xli). "Herodotus informs us that Homer and Hesiod were the chief sources of the Greek popular religion" (Pharr p. xxx).

"By the 7th century BC, bowever, a literate society again emerged, and once more the appearance of a written literature was accompanied by the rise of archives and libraries" (Harris, p. 34).

"Actually, the libraries of classical Greece... have left us few physical remains. Instead we must rely on references in ancient Greek and Roman literature... The survival of that literature is in itself fair proof that Greek libraries existed, but references to specific libraries are few and scattered. Moreover, these references are sometimes contradictory. For example, there are at least two accounts of the ultimate fate of Aristotle's library" (Harris, p. 34).

"Plato (427-348 BC)... must have had a private library of consideable size... [He] was widely traveled and well-read, and he must have had access to many volumes for his education, writings, and lectures... The two Greek historians, Thucydides and Herodotus, must have had many written sources from which to compile their works.

"Aristotle (384-321 BC) founded a school of philosophy or lyceum known as the Peripatetic school... His library of several hundred volumes was acquired by purchase and gifts from his many followers, and was apparently available for use to his pupils and friends" (Harris, p. 35).

Many stories were told about what happened to Aristotle's library, but it "goes down in history not only as one of the greatest ancient private libraries but also as an example of an early academic library" (Harris, p. 36).

"The most famous Greek library of all, indeed the most famous of all antiquity, was not in Greece but in Egypt... In lower Egypt, after 305 BC, a series of [Greek] rulers known as the Ptolemies created a nation [Egypt] that was strongly Greek in population and culture. Ptolemy I (Soter), a tough-minded soldier-king, characterized by an unusual sympathy for the life of the mind, attracted scholars and scientists from all over the Greek world with his interest in learning" (Harris, p. 37).

Demetrius of Phalerum was attracted to the culture of Egypt and became a court favorite and the person who suggested creating a museum (meaning then a house of the arts and sciences). Demetrius became the guiding hand of the museum.

"One of the major functions of the scholars seems to have been that of revising, collating, and editing the works of earlier writers, beginning with Homer. In fact, the division of Homer's works into individual "books" is thought to have taken place here, with each "book" being an appropriate length to fill one roll. Most of the scholars were Greeks, but some were natives of other countries... Also, according to tradition, seventy Hebrew scholars were engaged to translate the Old Testament into Greek (the Septuagint) at the Alexandrian Library" (Harris, p. 38).

"To enlarge the Museum Library, copies of all known books in the city of Alexandria were added to the collection, and since Alexandria was then the largest city in the world, this must have been a large number. In addition, agents were sent to all parts of the known world in an effort to acquire other texts. Ships arriving in the harbor of Alexandria were forced to lend any books they might have aboard to be copied... according to some stories... the originals [were] never returned" (Harris, p. 39).

Of the scholars in residence, the most famous was Callimachus who "compiled a catalog of the famous Library... Callimachus' catalog is usually called the Pinakes, from the word meaning tablets. Callimachus is also credited with devising the system of dividing longer works into "books" or parts in order to make the rolls more even in size and more easily handled and stored... Recent scholarship demonstrates that Callimachus was involved in a number of significant bibliographical projects in addition to his famous Pinakes, and that he now seems to merit fully the title of "father of bibliography" (Harris, p. 40).

"The Alexandrian Library flourished for several hundred years" (Harris, p. 41). Ptolemy VIII, burned much of the city and scattered the scholars. The library was rebuilt. But several hundred years into the Roman rule of Egypt, "in 47 BC, when Julius Caesar was conquering Egypt, the Library is thought to have been at least partially destroyed" (Harris, p. 41).

"In 273 AD, the Roman Emperor Aurelian, conquering Egypt once again, burned much of Alexandria, including the Brucheion area, but it is possible that a library and museum may have been rebuilt on a smaller scale. The Serapeum is thought to have survived until 391 AD, when it was destroyed by the Christian Bishop Theophilus because of its presence in the pagan Temple of Serapis. Finally, anything left of a major library is supposed to have been destroyed by the Moslem conqueror Omar or his armies in 645 AD" (Harris, p. 42).

"The Romans were a notoriously practical culture. In comparison the Greeks were highly inquisitive of the world about them almost to the point of being interested in the mathematical method of this or that problem rather than its actual result. Great deals of knowledge were also amassed in Egypt which with its thousands of years of investigation had gathered a considerable body of knowledge in a number of scientific areas, including the heavens. The greatest library of the age was at the famous city of Alexandria in Egypt (see image) (from Maria Milani, at http://www.mariamilani.com/ancient_rome/ancient_roman_libraries.htm).

There are many questions about where the Library of Alexandria actually was located and exactly when and how it was destroyed. It "was one of the wonders of the Ancient World, and it has haunted Western culture for over 2,000 years" (Canfora, cover).

"Among all the libraries established by Alexander's successors... that at Pergamum was second only to Alexandria... The ruins of the Temple of Athena in Pergamum have been excavated, and from them we have our best example of an Hellenic library. The plan of the library may have been adopted from that of Aristotle's in Athens, with the library rooms located off a colonnade, in this case the north colonnade of the Temple. The largest library room, some forty-five by fifty-five feet in area, had a narrow platform about three feet high around three sides. Behind the platform the walls had holes that could have held shelf brackets, or served to anchor book cases" (Harris, p. 44).

Images of Pergamum Library

Library of Pergamum

"... [In Greece] books themselves were plentiful. More than a thousand authors are known to have written during the classical period of Greek literature and the collection of Greek writers alone would have been a major occupation for a wealthy bibliophile" (Harris, p. 45).

"Physically, the typical library in classical Greece was usually associated with a school or temple, with special rooms off colonnaded approaches to the temple itself. Inside the library rooms, the rolls were kept in pigeonholes or on shelves on the walls... the writing material was largely papyrus, although parchment was coming into wider use after 200 BC. Librarians during this period were usually scholars, often outstadning ones" (Harris, p. 45).

Roman Libraries

"The libraries of ancient Rome were directly inherited from those of Greece, in types, organization, and contents. In fact, many of the actual manuscripts from the Greek libraries found their way into Roman collections... Rome's first major libraries were acquired as spoils of war from Greece and Asia Minor" (Harris, p. 48).

"... the first public library in Rome, like so many of the private collections, came into being as the result of spoils of war. G. Asinius Pollio, who had amassed a fortune in his conquest of Dalmatia, used his wealth to consolidate several collections already in Rome, possibly including those of Varro and Sulla, to form a library in the Temple of Liberty (Atrium Libertatis) on the Aventine Hill. Public archives had already been housed there, but Pollio re-organized the collection, added the libraries he had acquired, and opened the whole to the public about 37 BC, making it the first-known public library in Rome" (Harris, p. 50).

Images of Atrium Libertatis

"Beginning with Augustus, the Roman emperors took over the task of building libraries in Rome" (Harris, p. 50).

"Probably the greatest of the Roman libraries was the Ulpian Library, founded by the Emperor Trajan in 114 AD in his forum. This collection may have been based on the 30,000-volume private library of Epaphrodites of Cheronea and, like other Roman libraries, was divided into Greek and Latin sections" (Harris, p. 51).

Ancient Libraries Including Ulpian

"The public libraries were by no means the only sources of literature available to the wealthier Romans... Seneca (d. 65 AC) wrote that [private libraries] had become as necessary in the homes of the wealthy as baths with hot and cold water" (Harris, p. 52-3).

"With the recognition of Christianity by the Roman Emperor Constantine (ca. 288-337)... the remainder of the 4th century saw the rapid spread of Christian churches and the establishment of many Christian libraries" (Harris, p. 54).

"The temple libraries, in whatever part of the Empire, usually followed the same general plan, being adjacent to or over a colonnade leading to the main structure of the temple. There were often two divisions of the library, Greek and Latin, with sometimes a third division for archives. There were rooms for the storage of books and also rooms for reading, although the colonnades lent themselves to reading or discussing books while walking. Some of the libraries were associated with meeting rooms where public readings of an author's works could be given. Quite often there was a statue connected with the library, as for example that of a bronze Apollo, some fifty feet high, in the Temple of Apollo in Rome. On the walls above the books were paintings, semi-reliefs, or sculptures of famous writers. The organization, format, and handling of the rolls were similar to that in the Greek libraries, but the Romans added the armarium or chest for keeping more valuable rolls. Then, as the codex replaced the roll, the shelf replaced the pigeon-hole, but the armarium continued to be generally used for storing books well down into the Middle Ages" (Harris, p. 55).

"The early Roman librarian was often a highly educated slave or prisoner of war from Greece or Asia Minor, like many early teachers and scholars. Later on in Roman history, the librarian was a native scholar, often an author as well. Still later, however, the position became more that of a civil servant" (Harris, p. 56-7).

"While the Romans did not invent censorship, it is obvious that they did control vigorously the kinds of reading material made available to the people" (Harris, p. 58).

"Between the activities of the Christians and non-Christians in burning books, and the later censorship by the Moslems after the 7th century, many works of classical authors that might have otherwise survived, were lost forever... the Dark Ages had begun" (Harris, p. 59).

The Pergamum Library An example of an ancient library.

The Library of Pergamum is founded

Library of Celsus at Ephesos Another example of an ancient library.

Ephesus, the Ancient Library of Celsus

Ephesus: Celsus Library

Library of Celsus

The Library of Hadrian in Athens Another example of an ancient library.

Library of Hadrian click on the "Browse the Image Catalogue" link at the bottom and link on each of the thumbnails pictures.

Library of Hadrian read through the INFO tab and then go through the PHOTOS tab.

Library of Hadrian nice photos and note the quote from St. Jerome.

Library at Thamugadi Located in Algeria. Check the photo gallery at the bottom.

Ancient Roman Libraries

Roman Public Libraries

Library at Caesarea (on coast of Palestine; city of 40,000 designed by Herod, had sidewalks, sewers, fresh water supply and many amenities of modern cities, circa 200 AD)

"Late in the third century, a wealthy Christian presbyter, Pamphilus, settled in the city [of Caesarea on the coast of Palestine] and began to accumulate a library of sacred works. The collection that he built, and that his protege Eusebius, the eventual bishop of the city, presumably continued to expand, became so famous in later antiquity that it was described, with some exaggeration, as the Christian equivalent of the library of Alexandria... Eusebius... transform[ed] Caesarea into a new center of Christian scholarship" (Grafton & Williams, 179).


Byzantine and Moslem Libraries

"Of all the libraries of antiquity, those in Constantinople came nearest to surviving intact through the Middle Ages. In particular, the Imperial Library, founded by Constantine the Great in the 4th century" (Harris, p. 63).

Images of the Imperial Library at Constantinople

Imperial Library of Constantinople

"Essentially, the Byzantine culture was more Greek than Roman... more Greek writings than Latin were preserved in Constantinople, as Greek was the dominant language in the eastern area. A thousand years after Constantine, in the 14th and 15th centuries, copies of these manuscripts found their way to Italy and western Europe, heralding the dawn of the Renaissance" (Harris, p. 63).

"Monastic life flourished in the Eastern Empire even earlier than it did in the West and many monasteries were founded in Asia Minor and Greece before 500. For several centuries these monasteries followed the laws of monastic life laid down by St. Pachomius of Egypt (d. 346) which encouraged study but did not insist on the formation of libraries. About 825 at Studium, a monastery near Constantinople, the Abbot Theodore produced a new set of monastic regulations that emphasized the scriptorium and the library and outlined the duties of the librarian. After this, each monastery was encouraged to form a library of its own. The monastic libraries on the Greek peninsula of Mt. Athos are particularly notable for their longevity, some of them surviving down to the modern era" (Harris, p. 65).

Guide to the Manuscripts in the Monasteries of Mt. Athos skim the writing and click on the picture for a larger version.

"The Moslems, close neighbors and frequent enemies of Constantinople for 800 years before its fall, borrowed not only literature but art, education, political science, and philosophy from the Byzantines. Their influence was strong in Sicily and southern Italy, where an 11th-century monastery library contained Greek classical authors that were virtually unknown in the rest of western Europe" (Harris, p. 67).

"The significance of Constantinople in western civilization is great... because it preserved so much of classical literature through the Middle Ages when it was virtually lost in the West. Of the Greek classics known today, at least seventy-five percent are known through Byzantine copies" (Harris, p. 68-9).

"Before the coming of the Prophet Mohammed... there was little literature or literacy among the Arabic peoples. Instead, an oral literature of tales and poetry was handed down from generation to generation, much as in Homeric Greece. The first major item of written literature among the Moslems was the Koran itself. This collection of sayings of the Prophet came to represent both the "Bible" and the philosophical base of Mohammedanism... the Moslems sprang into prominence in the 7th century... the Arabs developed both a military power and a literary culture that was to flourish for several hundred years" (Harris, p. 69).

"... the world of Islam in general was a book-loving society... The first center of the Moslem world was Damascus, where the Umayyid dynasty ruled from 661 to 750. These rulers promoted learning and established a royal library that also included the archives of the church and state. About 690, the archives were separated from the literary and religious works, the latter forming a palace library, which was open to use by serious students and scholars, copies of books from all parts of the known world were obtained" (Harris, p. 70).

Muslim Libraries

Umayyad Royal Libraries

"The great period of Moslem literature and learning came under the Abbasid rulers... from about 750 to 1050. These Caliphs moved the capital of the Moslem world to Baghdad... [They] encouraged learning and debate, promoted the establishment of universities and libraries throughout their realm... [Their] books were culled from the accumulated scholarship of a dozen languages... The libraries were open to scholars from all over the world, whether their interests lay in religion or science, poetry, or medicine. Scholarly relations were maintained with all civilized countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa" (Harris, p. 71).

"By 900, Baghdad was a center of learning that rivaled if it did not exceed Constantinople. Its schools and libraries were models for similar institutions throughout Islam. It was said that Baghdad alone had over one hundred booksellers in 891, and that at the height of its cultural glory it had some thirty public libraries. Other university and public libraries were located all the way from Bokhara and Merv, deep in the heart of Asia... to Spain in the west" (Harris, p. 71).

A Moslem renaissance in Egypt during the 10th to 12th centuries resulted in many libraries there... "Established in Cairo in 972, the mosque-university Al-Azhar survives to the present day... Unfortunately the combination of Mongol conquerors and Christian Crusaders was to end abruptly this Egyptian renaissance" (Harris, p. 72-3).

"Another place in which Moslem scholarship and learning reached high levels was Spain, where the followers of Mohammed prevailed for several centuries" (Harris, p. 73).

Probably at few times in the history of the world have private libraries reached such size and elegance as under the Moslems... the collecting of libraries both for use and for show, became common among the wealthy. Many of these private libraries reached remarkable size... The library of one Baghdad scholar of the 10th century was reported to require 400 camel loads to move it... It was not uncommon for wealthy bookmen to leave their libraries to the people, and to endow these libraries thus ensuring their continued growth and usefulness" (Harris, p. 73-4).

"One interesting aspect of the Moslem libraries is the wide variety of subject matter they contained. With the exception of religious works of other faiths, the Moslems gathered, copied, and translated everything they could, in all subjects, of all times, and in all available languages. Greek and Latin classics, Sanskrit philosophy, Egyptian history, Hindu epics, and medieval French love poems" (Harris, p. 74).

"The larger libraries seem to have been cataloged as a matter of normal procedure... the arts of illuminating and binding reached a high level among the Moslems. Calligraphy itself was an art, and the cursive Arabic script lent itself to beautiful productions" (Harris, p. 75).

"After 1100, reactionaries gained control in most of the eastern Moslem world, and the fortunes of Moslem libraries declined sharply. Those that survived tended to center on theology. Learning continued to flourish in North Africa and Spain for two more centuries" (Harris, p. 76).

As in Egypt, the Moslem libraries were destroyed by Mongols, Christian crusaders, and natural disasters. As an example, "In 1258 [the Mongols] destroyed Baghdad. In one week, libraries and their treasures that had been accumulated over hundreds of years were burned or otherwise destroyed. So many books were thrown into the Tigris River, according to one writer, that they formed a bridge that would support a man on horseback. Students and scholars were considered particularly useless to the victors and they were killed by the hundreds" (Harris, p. 77).

"...in any study of library development in the West, it is necessary to remember that for 1,000 years much of the best in our literary heritage was preserved in the East--in the libraries of Byzantium and Islam" (Harris, p. 78).

Monastic and Cathedral Libraries

The Monasteries -- "The dissolution of the western Roman empire during the 5th century, and the consequent dominance of marauding barbarians, threatened the existence of books. Fortunately the Church withstood the assaults and remained as a stable agency which could provide the security and interest in tradition required by a bookish scholarship. Books found refuge in monasteries. The 6th-century rule of St. benedict enjoined monks to read books at certain times [each day]. The surrounding social chaos placed upon monasteries the responsibility for making books and creating libraries in order to implement [the Benedictine rule]" (Winger, p. 873).

Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus, about 540, founded a monastery in a remote location in southern Italy. His library contained a lot of Greek and Latin classics as well as the standard Christian writings. "His most important writing, from the standpoint of library history, was the Institutiones Divinarum et Saecularium Litterarum, a lengthy guidebook for everyday living in a monastery. Along with detailed instruction for a relgious routine, the author told how manuscripts should be handled, corrected, copied, and repaired, and included what amounted to an annotated bibliography of the best literature of the time. Cassiodorus is also credited with having introduced the idea of intellectual as well as manual labor into the duties of the monks, and hence is largely reponsible for the origin of both scriptorium and monastic libraries" (Harris, p. 82).

"Following the early examples, monastic houses throughout the middle ages characteristically had libraries and scriptoria where they copied books to add to their collections" (Winger, p. 872).

"According to legend, either St. Peter founded the papal library or St. Clement did so, in 92 AD... However, the first known library for the Church at Rome was that of Pope Damasus in the late 4th century" (Harris, p. 87).

"The modern history of the papal library, however, begins with the establishment of a collection in the Vatican by Pope Nicholas V in the 15th century" (Harris, p. 88).

"The 10th and 11th centuries marked another low period in the development of libraries and literature in western Europe except for a few bright spots, such as Cluny in France and St. Gall in Switzerland" (Harris, p. 88).

Cathedral Libraries -- The cathedrals, which were the headquarter churches for bishops or archbishops, were far more than merely large churches; they were also religious schools... [They] had book collections from the first, but they often differed from the monastic libraries in several ways. Designed for educational rather than inspirational reading, the cathedral libraries generally contained more secular books than the monastic collections. They usually had more consistent means of support, and hence grew steadily and maintained current writings more often than the monastery libraries. The book collections came in time to be larger, more complete, and better organized. Some of the better-known cathedral libraries were those at York, Durham, and Canterbury in England; at Notre Dame, Orleans, and Rouen in France; at Bamberg and Hildesheim in Germany; and at Barcelona and Toledo in Spain" (Harris, p. 89).

"The average monastery or cathedral library contained mainly religious volumes. The core of the collection was the Bible, often in large script and in many volumes. Next in importance came the works of the early church fathers with later commentaries on them, the lives of the martyrs and saints, and the service books of the church. Finally, there were Latin Textbooks and grammars, a few of the Latin classics, and perhaps a few works of local literature and history. Greek authors were unknown in most of western Europe" (Harris, p. 90).

"Interlibrary lending was not unknown in the Middle Ages. Books were loaned to be copied and also just for reading, usually between neighboring collections, but sometimes between libraries as far apart as France and Greece or England and Austria" (Harris, p. 91).

"When the size of the medieval library warranted it, the books were roughly classified by subject, and sometimes by size or acquisition... The secular works, particularly in the cathedral libraries, might be divided according to the teaching subjects of the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy" (Harris, p. 91-2). The trivium is the three arts of language pertaining to the mind: Logic (the art of thinking); grammar (the art of inventing and combining symbols; and rhetoric (the art of communication). The quadrivium was the four arts of quantity pertaining to matter: arithmetic (theory of number); music (application of the theory of number); geometry (theory of space); and astronomy (application of the theory of space). If you are interested in exploring the trivium further, I recommend a book by Sister Miriam Jospeh, The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric.

"The librarian, or custodian of the library, was usually one of the monks assigned by the abbot or bishop. Sometimes the position rotated... since the duties were simple, owing to the small size and infrequent use of the collection, the position of librarian was often combined with some other duty" (Harris, p. 92).

"The custom of chaining books to the desks [and later, shelves] began not with the most valuable ones, but with the ones most used. Later, after the coming of the printed book, many manuscript volumes were chained simply for safekeeping" (Harris, p. 93).

"... generally speaking its [Monasticism's] libraries represented the heart of western learning for more than 1,000 years. Then, as the cathedral libraries grew and as the universities developed and emerged as full-blown educational centers, the monasteries declined and their cultural significance faded" (Harris, p. 94).

Canterbury Cathedral Library click on the pictures and explore


Chained Libraries explore all seven

Hereford Chained Library

Twelfth Century--The Rise of the University

"Although the cathedrals with their attendant schools put their libraries to work to a certain extent, it remained for the medieval univerity to develop libraries that would not only preserve the heritage of the past but also open it up to general use" (Harris, p. 97).

Most universities were an outgrowth of the cathedral schools. Students gathered in large towns and hired faculty to teach them. "For many years there was no prescribed curriculum nor any specific course or degrees. Gradually, however, rules and regulations were adopted, charters were obtained from king or pope, and formal universities were recognized" (Harris, p. 98).

"For many years the universities did not have libraries as such. The teachers or masters had small book collections of their own, and these were sometimes lent to favored students. The students copied the lectures and thus secured textbooks, or bought or rented them from booksellers. The booksellers (stationarii) became numerous around the universities, and their bookstocks were essentially rental libraries" (Harris, p. 99).

"... more than seventy-five universities were established before 1500... the formation of central university libraries was often delayed for several hundred years after the formation of the separate college or institute libraries; in fact, the central library is still not a major entity in some European universities" (Harris, p. 102).

At first, university libraries were similar in physical condition to monastic libraries. "By the late 13th and early 14th centuries [books] came out of the armaria onto a desk-shelf combination called pulpitum. Each of these could hold about eighteen or twenty books, frequently chained... Inside the rooms, the book-desks were located between the windows, so that the light fell directly on the reading-shelf" (Harris, p. 103).

Contents of these libraries were almost entirely in Latin. "Local classification systems were devised in some cases, but for the most part they were little more than a location symbol" (Harris, p. 104).

"Librarians did not emerge as a professional class in the early universities. Instead, the keeper of the books was usually a minor faculty member or even a student... charged with their physical care. In some cases the library caretaker was personally responsible for every book in his charge and liable for their costs if any were lost or damaged. Inventories were usually made annually and often carried out in the presence of a high college official" (Harris, p. 105).

Book Collectors -- "Petrarch (1304-74) was one of the earliest... book collectors. He collected manuscripts from all parts of Europe and devoted himself particularly to the classic Latin authors. While the reputation of some of his precursors--such as the Paduan judge and lover of classical poetry, Lovato Lovati--has grown in the light of recent research, Petrarch remains the unrivaled champion of the early Renaissance.

Images of Petrarch

"From the 14th century through the 16th, Italian merchants, princes, and religious leaders... succeeded in bringing to light the majority of the Greek and Latin Classics now known to the western world. [The majority] came from Constantinople, Greece, and the Moslem countries. For centuries these had been lost to western Europe and might have been lost forever if they had not been rescued at that time" (Harris, p. 111).

For a list of the classical authors, and dates, see the Loeb Classical Library.

The Emergence of National Libraries -- In England, King Alfred the Great in the 9th century collected books, but also "translated Latin works into Anglo-Saxon, including the writings of Bede and Boethius... Not until the 18th century was England to acquire [a national library], the British Museum" (Harris, p. 115).

"All told, the 15th century was remarkable from the standpoint of library development" (Harris, p. 116).

Most national libraries came out of the collections of royalty. One of the most notables was King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary.

"The invention of printing may be said to have given birth to modern librarianship, in the sense that the ever-increasing size of library collections made possible by the printing press stimulated the emergence of a profession charged with the responsibility of organizing and directing these at once large, complex, and valuable national resources.

Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries

"Surviving letters and bills from tradesmen to the great families with whom they dealt are extant from the 15th century. The cities had begun to collect guildhall libraries" (Winger, p. 873).

"As printed texts multiplied the book ceased to be a precious object consulted in a library. People wished to take a book with them and to be able to transport it easily, to read or consult at any time; hence the growing success of the 'portable format' which also dates from the first half of the 16th century" (Febure & Martin, p. 88).

"..the book trade in this period was, more than anything, characterised by the division between ponderous, learned tomes intended for use in libraries, and small size literary or polemical works for a larger public. Such a contrast continued to dominate the history of the book in the 17th century" (Febure & Martin, p. 55).

"Toward the end of the Middle Ages, in the 14th and 15th centuries, there were many physical changes in the monastic and cathedral libraries. The number of books increased in most cases from a few hundred to a few thousand. the armaria, or book-chests, had given way to book closets and then to small library rooms. By the 15th century, some religious institutions were constructing separate library buildings" (Harris, p. 93).

Medieval Libraries Note the picture of chained books at the bottom of the page. Read all the links which are not ads.


"The period 1600 to 1650, the age of the Counter-Reformation, was one in which France was covered with monasteries which were also libraries, in which Protestant theologians fought a battle of erudition with the Jesuits, and in which lawyers, imitating the ecclesiastics, collected great libraries of religious works. The bourgeois classes, apparently, lost the taste for reading they had possessed in the 16th century" (Febure & Martin, p. 65).

Ancient and Medieval Libraries A good review. Read the entire text.

Hypatia of Alexandria


The Vatican Library and Humanism On this single page, read only the following: Humanism; Seeking the Wisdom of the Ancients; Costanzo Felici Historia...; Scholarship Challenges Tradition; the three sections entitled Congregation of the Index...; Filippo de' Barbiori, OP, De discordantia inter...; Henry VIII of England; Confronting the Original Texts; and Herodotus, Historiae.


17th and 18th Century Newspapers and Broadsides read the summary at the top

Broadsheets: History of Crime and Punishment

Brief History of London Newspapers

The English Common Reader read the abstract; look up Caxton and read about him


Latin American Library Beginnings

"Long before the establishment of the Jamestown Colony in Virginia... there was already a highly developed Spanish culture in parts of Latin America. A number of the earliest explorers of that area are known to have packed a few precious books among their belongings when making the hazardous journey to the New World. However, by far the most bookish of the early settlers were the churchmen--especially the Jesuits and Franciscans--who lived and worked in parts of Latin America as early as the middle of the 16th century.

"Scholars have provided us with detailed studies of the rather extensive development of libraries in colonial Latin America" (Harris, p. 151).

"The 18th century, however, represents a troubled time for most parts of Latin America... [there is] scant evidence of a "public" library development during this period... Latin American library history for the most part begins with the 19th century and the end of colonialism" (Harris, p. 151).

"Most of the Latin American countries that achieved independence formed national libraries early in their existence... [But] throughout much of the 19th century they remained more like museums than libraries" (Harris, p. 152).

North American Library Beginnings

"Small private libraries existed from the very first in the Pilgrim and Puritan colonies in Massachusetts... [they] were generally small and "purposive" in nature... the ministers and doctors usually had small private libraries, ranging from a dozen volumes to as many as several hundred" (Harris, p. 153).

"The three largest classes of colonial printing were theology (37%), law (19.5%) and literature (19.5%)... The colonial book, made in America, played a definite role in fabricating a colonial mentality from various European backgrounds" (Winger, p. 877).

"To aid the buyers of books, there were booksellers in Boston by the 1670s, and... many New Englanders ordered books from England. In addition, itinerant book hawkers visited the small towns, carrying a few books in their packs and taking orders for others" (Harris, p. 154).

The Growth of Reading -- "A great expansion in the reading public during the 17th and 18th centuries came from the increasing literacy of women. Girls had attended the vernacular schools during the 16th century, and by the 17th century a woman such as Aphra Behn could attain fame as a writer. Much of the prose fiction which became popular in the 18th century was addressed to women and circulating libraries catered to their tastes. Sermons castigating women for wasting their time reading light novels were common.

"In the 18th century there was great faith in the ability of the common man to educate himself by reading. Concrete expressions of that faith were the encyclopedias, expensive publishing gambles that were successful. Diderot and the French Encyclopedists were most famous, but the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the German Brockhaus and other national encyclopedias date from the late 18th century. The many subscription libraries which grew up in England and America were another demonstration of the force of the idea of self-education through the use of books" (Winger, p. 876).

"In the 18th century the private library became more common, particularly among professioanl people, government officials, and large plantation owners in the South. In New England there were such noted private libraries as that of Thomas Prince, a Boston minister whose avocation was the study of New England history... These books later became the property of the Boston Public Library" (Harris, p. 155).

"Probably the most important private library of the middle colonies was that of James Logan of Philadelphia. This Quaker gentleman... collected more than 3,000 volumes before his death in 1751... Benjamin Franklin also had a notable private library of his own... At the time of his death in 1790, Franklin owned more than 4,000 volumes, covering a wide range of topics" (Harris, p. 156).

"Many of the private libraries built up in the colonial period were dispersed or destroyed during the American Revolution" (Harris, p. 158).

"President Thomas Jefferson, who was to gain a reputation as the greatest bibliophile ever to occupy the White House" (Harris, p. 159). His first library, inherited from his father, was destroyed in a fire. "He immediately began building up another library that... numbered 5,487 when he sold it to the Library of Congress in 1815. Between 1815 and his death in 1826 he collected yet a third library of nearly 1,000 volumes"(Harris, p. 159).

College Libraries -- "The history of the college library in America stretches back into the 17th century, nearly as far as that of the first private collections. Indeed, America's first college could be said to have begun with a collection of books. Harvard had been founded in 1636, so that young men could be trained for the Puritan ministry without returning to England, and it acquired its name in 1638 when the Reverend John Harvard gave the college some 280 books and a small endowment. Other gifts followed..." (Harris, p. 160).

Early Harvard Library

"Virginia did not acquire a college until William and Mary was founded in 1693... the private library of the Reverend Blair provided most of the reading for the first few decades" (Harris, p. 161).

"New England's second college also began with a collection of books. The eleven ministers who in 1700 organized a society for the formation of Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut, each donated a few books, and in the next decade other donations increased the collection to nearly 1,000 volumes" (Harris, p. 161).

"By 1790, [Harvard's Library] had reached the place it was to keep as the nation's pre-eminant academic library" (Harris, p. 163).

"By the middle of the 19th century, hundreds of colleges had been established in the country, with libraries which varied greatly in collection size and the nature and extent of services" (Harris, p. 167).

"No matter where it was located, the typical college library before the Civil War was small, usually having fewer than 25,000 volumes, made up almost entirely of gifts, with little or no direct financial support from the college administration. Open to students only a few hours per day, or even per week, its bookstock consisted almost entirely of old books... Little attempt was made to make the library attractive or inviting to students, and in fact the student was not expected to use it very much" (Harris, p. 168).

"Generally, a member of the faculty was charged with responsibility for supervising the library, a task one was expected to assume with no reduction in other duties and no increase in pay... Some few librarians, like Charles Coffin Jewett of Brown, were dedicated and informed professionals, but such men were rare indeed in antebellum America" (Harris, p. 168).

"If the collection was classified, it was usually by a locally devised system" (Harris, p. 168).

"Fortunately, students had recourse to the literary society libraries that developed on most college campuses... These societies were primarily debating societies... as these debates were expected to be learned, as well as rhetorically correct, the students immediately recognized the need for substantial libraries from which to mine their material" (Harris, p. 156).

Literary Society Library

Predecessors of the Public Library -- Probably the first attempt at a public library in the colonies came in 1656, when Captain Robert Keayne, a merchant of Boston, willed his book collection to the town for a public library, stipulating that the town build a suitable building to house it. Boston at least partially met this condition, building a Town House with a room for the books, but it is doubtful that they were used much. A catalog was made in 1702, a few other books were added, and the collection met its end in a fire in 1747" (Harris, p. 169).

"As conditions grew more stable in the colonies, and as the people gained increased leisure for recreation and study, many bookish individuals began to cast about for a way in which the increased demand for books might be satisfied. The solution--the social library--seems to have been the child of the fruitful mind of one of America's greatest intellects, Benjamin Franklin" (Harris, p. 171).

"... the intelligence of "clubbing" as a means of providing increased access to books was readily obvious to Franklin, who in 1731 "set on foot my first Project of a public nature, that for a Subscription Library." This library, founded in 1731, and chartered in 1742 as the Library Company of Philadelphia, was the first established in this country... Once established, the social library form became a popular means by which local communities could supply their reading needs... the larger ones had more or less full-time "librarians." As early as 1793, a pamphlet had been written to advise the book selectors for social libraries on the best methods of obtaining books and the best books to be chosen. This was the Selected Catalogue of Some of the Most Esteemed Publications in the English Language Proper to Form a Social Library, written by Thaddeus Mason Harris, who had served for a short time as a librarian at Harvard. His booklet was one of the earliest American works on book selection" (Harris, p. 171-3).

Library Company of Philadelphia

"The social library... was characterized by a fatal flaw--the principle of voluntary support..." (Harris, p. 174).

"The public's voracious appetite for romance was filled by libraries designed as commercial ventures and aimed at stocking only the most popular and exciting of the new fiction. The libraries, called "circulating" libraries, made their first appearance just prior to the American Revolution.

"Maintained usually by printshops or bookstores, these "libraries" made available rental books for a small fee, either a book at a time or a number of books over a given period of time. Possibly the first of these rental collections was opened by William Rind in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1762... While the purely commercial circulating library increased in numbers after the Revolution, its cultural importance was probably negligible when compared to the social libraries. For one thing it was restricted, as was the bookstore of which it was usually a part, to the larger towns. It depended on a reading public somewhat different from that of the social library--more on the casual reader than the serious one" (Harris, p. 175-6).

"... it is important to note that another significant forerunner of the public library was the school district library" (Harris, p. 176).

Horace Mann, then Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, asked what people were to read while they were being educated and after their education was complete. He pointed out that knowing to read was useless if you had nothing to read. This question "prompted educators, intellectuals, and eventually legislators to seek for a way in which such reading might be furnished to adults as well as children... This type of library apparently originated in New York state but spread widely throughout New England and the Middle West" (Harris, p. 176-7).

"The school-district libraries were a failure partly because of their contents and partly because of the way in which they were handled. They usually consisted of textbooks, general works, and a smattering of inspirational literature, with little attention paid to their selection... an investigation of the New York school district libraries in the 1850s found many of the books molding in closets, cellars, and attics... It was premature, poorly supported, and consequently unsuccessful, but it established the precedent of public support for library services and paved the way for better school and public libraries at a later date" (Harris, p. 177-8).

Special Libraries -- "... we tend to consider special libraries to be relatively small collections with carefully defined clienteles, with an explicit and sharply focused mission... medical librar[ies]... theological libraries... The legal profession was an early developer of special libraries... historical libraries... scientific libraries" (Harris, p. 180-83).

Libraries Serving Government -- "As the national libraries in Europe are among the major libraries of the world, so in the United States the nation's greatest library is a government agency, the Library of Congress. Originally intended as the reference library for the nation's legislative body, this institution has had a long and varied history" (Harris, p. 183).

History of the Library of Congress

Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress

"George Watterson was appointed as the first full-time Librarian of Congress... At mid-century... was to come under the persistent and enlightened leadership of Ainsworth Rand Spofford, who served... from 1864-1897...

There was another library in Washington at mid-century that was billing itself as "national" in scope. That library, which constituted part of the newly formed Smithsonian Institution, was directed by America's most prominent librarian, the determined and controversial Charles Coffin Jewett.

"When Jewett was appointed librarian... he fully intended to make the Smithsonian Library the national library of the United States. However, he reckoned without the influence and eventual victory of the secretary of the Smithsonian, the prominent scientist Joseph Henry, who was determined to allocate the Institution's limited resources to the support of scientific research and publication programs.

"...Jewett pioneered a number of venturesome cooperative cataloging programs. Finally, he published his famous Notice of Public Libraries in the United State of America (1851), which is now recognized as the pioneer attempt to survey and assess the Nation's library resources" (Harris, p. 184-5).

Jewett eventually resigned from the Smithsonian and "became the first superintendent of [Boston's] new public library. Secretary Henry promptly proceeded to dismantle Jewett's national library plans, and in 1866 the Smithsonian's 44,000-volume collection was transferred to the Library of Congress, making the LC collection the largest and most impressive in America" (Harris, p. 185).

European Libraries: Expansion to 1917 -- "The growth of libraries in Europe since 1500 has been enormous... Of all the libraries of modern Europe, the most outstanding have been the national libraries... dedicated to preserving every book and manuscript which in any way related to the national heritage" (Harris, p. 121).

"The French national library in Paris, the Bibliothéque Nationale, ranks among the finest of European libraries... In the 19th century... the Bibliothéque Nationale was one of the foremost libraries in the world... by 1908 there were more than 3,000,000 printed volumes" (Harris, p. 122). Doubling the size of the collection in 40 years created enormous organizational problems. Leopold Delisle (1874-1907) modernized the library and made it available to scholars from all over the world.

"Equal to the Bibliothéque Nationale in international importance is the British Museum... the first elements of the British Museum began taking shape in 1700... In 1823 the library of George III was added to the Museum, literally doubling the size of its printed collection. Plans for a new building were begun, and a first wing of this structure was completed in 1828, at which time the library had over 200,000 volumes. The new building was planned originally as a huge quadrangle surrounding an open court, but in the 1850s the Museum was converted into a solid square by making the center court into a bookstack surrounding a circular reading area" (Harris, p. 125).

"The British Museum has had many outstanding librarians and directors, but probably the most significant was Sir Antonio Panizzi... His leadership in library areas was widely acknowledged, and must be considered the most influential librarian of his time" (Harris, p. 125).

"There are also national libraries in Scotland and Wales. The National Library of Scotland, renamed in 1925, was formerly the Advocate's Library, founded in Edinburgh in 1682 [as a] legal library" (Harris, p. 125).

"Possibly the largest national library in the world today is that of Soviet Russia, the Saltykov-Shchedrin Library in Leningrad, formerly the imperial Russian Library of St. Petersburg. Like the British Museum, this collection had its beginning in the 18th century, and like the Bibliothéque Nationale it owes its origins to the spoils of war" (Harris, p. 126).

"Another late comer in the national library field in Europe was the German Imperial Library in Berlin... until 1831 the national library served also as the library of the University of Berlin... The political unification of Germany in the 1870s brought new importance to the former Prussian national library" (Harris, p. 127).

"Italy, like Germany, has several national libraries, including two with the title of National Central Library, at Rome and Florence... The Victor Emmanuel Library at Rome is also designated a national Central Library, and there are six other national libraries located at Bari, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Turin, and Venice" (Harris, p. 128).

The Emergence of Public Libraries in Europe -- "While academic libraries underwent a rather steady development from "houses of treasures" to utilitarian research centers all over Europe, little of this consistency of development can be discerned for public libraries during the same period.

"What we mean today by the public library is the general library that is not only publicly owned but also open to any citizen who desires to use it. More particularly, we mean by the public library the municipal or regional circulating library. In this restricted sense, the public library does not appear on the European scene until the late 19th century, and in many respects it is a 20th-century development" (Harris, p. 138-9).

European, like American, libraries began as private research libraries. Then subscription libraries and commercial circulating libraries emerged in the 1800s. Modern public library history in England, for instance, began in 1847 [with the passage of] the Public Libraries Act... allowed cities with populations exceeding 10,000 to levy taxes for the support of public libraries... subsequent laws extended the act to Scotland and Ireland and to smaller towns" (Harris, p. 143).

Public Libraries in Great Britain were poorly supported until after WW I, but as school children became accustomed to depending upon their resources, more and more support emerged (Harris).


Late 1800s and the Formation of Modern Librarianship

The late 1800s were seminal for American libraries; a fertile period in America for all professionals and the idea of professionalism. Almost all the professional organizations--like the AMA and APA, including librarians, were formed during this period. An amazing number of brilliant librarians became leaders and innovators in the library profession in America. Read the following links to get an idea of the highlights of the period.

History of the ALA Read this page only. Note the divisions of the ALA.

Melvil Dewey

How One Library Pioneer Profoundly Influenced Modern Libarianship Be sure to read the links for the timeline, his life, and DDC 23 Introduction.

Dewey Decimal Classification read the Preface and skim over the numerical categories

Charles Ammi Cutter

Famous Librarian: Charles Ammi Cutter

William Frederick Poole (1821-1894)

Richard Rogers Bowker: September 4, 1848 - November 12, 1933

Charles Coffin Jewett Founder and first librarian of Boston Public Library, "Charles Coffin Jewett is remembered as one of the greatest bookmen in American library history, and his leadership in cataloging practice has led experts on this subject to label the third quarter of the 19th century the "Age of Jewett" in American cataloging history" (Harris, p. 228).

Justin Winsor Second librarian of Boston Public Library, Winsor focused on getting books used. He wanted to "implement Ticknor's concept of the library as a great civilizing and stabilizing force in America. His establishment of branches, utilization of selected reading lists, and provision of popular reading fare attest to his commitment to the popular nature of public library service" (Harris, p. 228).

George Ticknor a member of the first board of trustees of the Boston Public Library. His influence on Jewett and Winsor was considerable.

Also at the end of the 19th century, the most voracious and enthusiastic presidential reader and user of the LC, Teddy Roosevelt, took office. Each evening he would send a list of books to the Library of Congress to be delivered the next day for his reading. The lists were so long that sometimes a horse-drawn wagon had to be used to deliver the reading materials to the White House. "Reading with me is a disease," he said. "... peering through his one good eye (the other is blind) at the book held inches from his nose, flicking over the pages at a rate of two or three a minute" (Morris, p. 28).

Theodore Roosevelt

Modern Libraries

"Since about 1850, American libraries have grown significantly in number and scope [due to] a number of positive factors: enormous natural resources and great wealth... rapidly increasing population... amazing industrialization... the democratic cast of American life which encouraged the free flow of information" (Harris, p. 224).

Public Libraries -- In 1852 the Boston Public Library issued its now famous Report, "which articulated, perhaps better than any document before or since, the ideal conception of public library service:

"Reading ought to be furnished to all, as a matter of public policy and duty, on the same principle that we furnish free education, and in fact, as a part, and a most important part, of the education of all. For it has been rightly judged that--under political, social and religious institutions like ours--it is of paramount importance that the means of general information should be so diffused that the largest possible number of persons should be induced to read and understand questions going down to the very foundations of social order, which are constantly presenting themselves, and which we, as a people are constantly required to decide, and do decide, either ignorantly or wisely" (Harris, p. 226-7).

"To these men, steeped in enlightenment principles, there was a direct connection between knowledge and virtue, and in their report they stated the very heart of what was to become the public library creed: the future of a democratic republic is directly dependent upon the education of its citizenry, and the library is an important element in the educational process" (Harris, p. 227).

"... it was the founding of the Boston Public Library that really gave impetus to the public library movement. Boston was the leading social and intellectual center in the country, and other cities watched jealously for new developments in Boston, and quickly followed its lead" (Harris, p. 228).

"By 1913 the US Office of Education could report that the process had advanced to the stage where the nation boasted some 3,000 public libraries containing over 1,000 volumes each" (Harris, p. 228).

"In the last quarter of the 19th century three developments occurred which contributed mightily to the rise of public libraries, and indeed, libraries generally. First, the American Library Association [ALA] was organized in Philadelphia in 1876... Second, the long-standing and frequently lamented lack of a professional literature designed to provide guidance and inspiration to librarians was met with the publication of the now classic 1876 Report on Public Libraries in the United States of America, and the establishment of the Library Journal... The third... was the wholesale philanthropy of... Andrew Carnegie... by 1920 he had provided some $50,000,000 for the construction of no fewer than 2,500 [library] buildings" (Harris, p. 229).

"... by the 1930s librarians were... deeply concerned with the purpose of the public library, and in light of the Nazi and Fascist advances in Europe the public library's role was being re-defined as a "guardian of the people's right to know." This new view of the library's purpose... emphasized the librarian's obligation to provide a balanced and unbiased picture of issues so that the citizen might make an independent decision. This philosophy, gaining increasing acceptance in the forties, is generally subscribed to by all public librarians, at least in theory, and is embodied in all basic policy statements, such as ALA's Library Bill of Rights and Statement on Labeling, both currently in force. "More recently, public librarians, stung by criticisms regarding lack of use of the public library, have taken a more aggressive stance in the area of service and have initiated numerous "outreach" programs designed to increase the availability and use of library facilties... This new thrust was greatly facilitated by the widespread funding of library programs by federal and state government in the late fifties and the sixties" (Harris, p. 232).

In the 1970s and 1980s federal and state support began to wither. In the 1980s in particular, with the stock market bubble, the authoritarian approach began to increase in libraries. This was exacerbated by the development of graduate business school management programs which taught that a good manager could manage any sort of concern, without regard to the details of the program. This resulted in many types of libraries being led by high-profile laymen rather than professional librarians.

In the 1990s, funding shrank even further. As the popularity of the World Wide Web increased, public libraries began to offer online services, despite inadequate budgets. Popularity and use of public libraries greatly increased due to the availability of free Internet access.

College and University Libraries -- Development of college and university libraries was slow until the late 1800s. Then a large number of philanthropists began giving to higher education. A good proportion of this money went to the development of libraries. "At the same time, American business, industry, and government were becoming acutely aware of the need to produce the specialized technical experts necessary to staff the burgeoning research and development wings of American industry... perhaps the most significant outgrowth of this movement was the passage of the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, which provided federal land grants for the establishment of technical and agricultural colleges" (Harris, p. 232-3).

Three factors in the late 1800s influenced the growth of academic libraries. First, the introduction of new courses, especially in the new industrial and scientific fields. Second, the change from a set curriculum to the "elective system," which offered students a range of courses based on their major. Third, the influence of the German education system, which emphasized the use of library research as a tool for learning. All three made library resources a priority (Harris).

"The emergence of a number of vigorous and respected library administrators, like Melvil Dewey of Columbia and Justin Winsor of Harvard, heralded the rise of a new class of professional librarians dedicated to the ideal that books in libraries were an essential ingredient in any educational recipe" (Harris, p. 233).

"The approach to library service on the campuses was changing rapidly, with longer hours, better catalogs, and more efficient library service to students and faculty" (Harris, p. 236).

In the 1920s, "as the donations of books and funds for library purposes became smaller in comparison to needs, many libraries turned to the formation of Friends of the Library groups, where many could give small gifts to take the place of the few large ones formerly received" (Harris, p. 237).

Microforms came into use during the depression to deal with university library space problems. Cooperative programs, like the Farmington Plan, "uniting many of the major research libraries of the nation, assured complete coverage in the acquisition of foreign newspapers and governmental publications. Union catalogs and interlibrary loans furthered this cooperation" (Harris, p. 238).

"Before the college and university libraries had recovered from the effects of the Depression, World War II caused new problems" (Harris, p. 238). The GI bill resulted in thousands of veterans flooding the campuses. Having older students on campus, however, resulted in more serious work by students (Harris).

"The increasing use of non-book materials in the teaching processes led the academic library to widen its viewpoint and include in its programs a wide variety of audio-visual materials" (Harris, p. 238).

"The Higher Education Act of 1965 provided funds for college library resources, for training librarians, and for research in the field of library science. Over 1,800 institutions received funds during the first year of operation of this act, and its impact on book collections, library schools, and higher education in general has been tremendous" (Harris, p. 240).

The "informatin explosion" which began in the 1960s created major problems for all libraries. Microforms, compact shelving and other ideas for individual library storage turned out to not be enough. Many universities turned to interlibrary storage centers. "The first of these was the New England Deposit Library in Boston, maintained by the major libraries in that area... Another major storage library, the Midwest Inter-Library Center at Chicago... Cooperation between college libraries in other fields also became more general" (Harris, p. 240).

"... cooperative cataloging and union catalog service. In the seventies the OCLC, aided by increasing pressure on library budgets, has vastly expanded its program and influence, and has spawned a number of similar bibliographic networks throughout the nation... Most impressive of the new networks is RLIN (Research Libraries Information Network)... serves major research libraries with shared cataloging, interlibrary loan, serials control, and acquisitions assistance" (Harris, p. 241).

From the mid-1980s onward a major focus has been on the automation of catalogs and databases, and the increasing supplying of students and faculty with computers and networks.

"In the 1980s, information technology began to have a major impact on libraries, librarians and, to some degree, higher education. Although libraries had begun to automate in the 1960s with the start of the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), the second and third generation of library automation systems, combined with the beginnings of electronic information formats, resulted in an accelerated rate of change within academic libraries. The changes affected not only collection activities and library services but also how users access information and the type of skills needed to do it effectively and efficiently. As the availability of online databases grew and end-users needed special training, librarians became even more concerned about teaching students success in using libraries and information. An added wrinkle in this concern was the fact that many faculty also needed help and guidance in using electronic information formats but often did not want to admit it" (Rader).

"During the past two decades, librarians hoped that gaining faculty status would help them to be more successful in integrating library instruction into the curriculum while being viewed as partners in the educational and teaching process on campus. That hope was not fully realized in most academic institutions, although in some cases it did result in a much closer dynamic relationship between librarians and faculty in universities and community and private liberal arts colleges. The acquisition of faculty status certainly helped librarians attain membership on faculty committees, including, among others, curriculum-related committees. That accomplishment, combined with the continuous mandate to revise the general academic curriculum, enabled librarians to make some progress toward integrating library instruction modules into the curriculum in selected institutions" (Rader).

"One of the more famous, and certainly the longest surviving, example of a successfully integrated library instruction program has been at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, under the guidance of Farber. Another good example has been the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, which features the "teaching library," where library instruction was a required part of the general curriculum for students, and a test had to be passed to assess library skills before students could graduate" (Rader).

Evan Farber, library director at Earlham College, has been credited with originating, or at least popularizing, the Teaching Library idea. The idea is to stress instruction in every service in the library as well as working with faculty in teaching courses and developing curriculum. This is an outgrowth of the German University idea of research as the best form of learning. To it is added the goal of making students self-sufficient life-long learners. Palo Alto College's library has followed this paradigm. Independent research has shown that the "teaching library" significantly increases student success and retention.

School Libraries -- "... it was not until after 1900 that school libraries in the modern sense of the term became fairly general... by 1910 the concept of the independent school library had become widely adopted. Although in some cities and counties the link between public and school libraries has been successfully maintained, the main trend has been toward separate library systems" (Harris, p. 241-2).

"One reason for the trend toward the independent school library as distinct from the public library school deposit can be found in the newer methods of teaching adopted after 1900. The idea of learning to read for the pleasure of reading was stressed, and the importance of having good books in addition to textbooks in the schools began to be realized" (Harris, p. 243).

By 1915 "the number of school librarians had increased to the extent that the American Library Association formed its School Librarians Section" (Harris, p. 244).

"After 1920 this "ideal" school library became more common, and new developments in the field of school library service came rapidly. In 1920 the NEA... issued its Standards for Library Organization and Equipment for Secondary Schools, and in 1925 this was followed by Elementary School Library Standards... These standards enabled schools throughout the nation to compare their libraries with adequate school library conditions and provided school administrators and local government officials with the definite goals needed for school library support" (Harris, p. 245).

"In 1927 Los Angeles began centralized purchasing and cataloging for its high schools, special schools and a junior college. Centralized cataloging was also tried in Seattle, and other larger cities had adopted the idea by the early 1930s. The advantages were not only the obvious ones in economy; librarians also were given more time to spend in working with students and teachers rather than in processing duties... In the better libraries throughout the nation, the emphasis was being placed on service to students and teachers and on making the library an active part of the school program" (Harris, p. 245).

"Unfortunately, school library progress begun in the 1920s was to be seriously hampered after 1929 by the Depression... [then] World War II... Out of this period of change, however, came a new appreciation of the value of school libraries" (Harris, p. 247).

"In 1945 the ALA published School Libraries for Today and Tomorrow, which outlined programs and established guidelines for the future development of.. school library services... In 1953 it could be pointed out that more than half of the nation's schools still lacked adequate libraries" (Harris, p. 247).

"...the Vocational Education Act of 1963 provided funds for school libraries in some cases. The most important federal legislation for school libraries, however, came with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Title II of ESEA, in particular, provided millions of dollars for the purchase of books, periodicals, tapes, records, and other instructional materials for school libraries... Under Title III... demonstration libraries have been established with new facilities and services hitherto untried and unavailable. Finally, the Higher Education Acts of 1965 and 1966 have aided school libraries in provision of aid in the training of school librarians" (Harris, p. 247-8).

"The decade after 1965 [is] remembered as the era when the school library disappeared and the teaching materials center took its place... equipped to supply all kinds of instructional aids, including books, periodicals, pamphlets, pictures, charts, maps, films, filmstrips, microfilms, tape recordings and disc redordings, and even three-dimensional models. It may include a suite of several rooms, with open-shelf reading rooms, offices, conference rooms, a classroom, workrooms, and individual study carrels. It may have special audio-visual rooms with projection equipment, record players, tape players, television, radio, film-strip and film-loop viewers, and even teletype equipment available" (Harris, p. 249).

Newbery Award Any children's library should have these books. Read all the links at the bottom, such as the Caldecott Award, and the external links to the Newbery award, et al.

The Impact of School Library Media Centers on Academic Achievement Read the abstract on this page.

How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards Read the abstract. Note that these two articles are from ERIC. What is ERIC?

Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement: A Review of the Research "Such research is an important strategic tool for raising the profile and prestige of library professionals and for reinforcing in the minds of policy-makers and school communities the crucial contribution that school libraries can make to student achievement." [This is called a "meta study". See if you can find out what that is.]

Government Libraries -- See the link on the history of the Library of Congress. Also in this category are US Military Post Libraries, presidential libraries, Veterans' Administration libraries, and state libraries (Harris).

Texas State Library explore the website; focus particularly on the services they provide

Library of Congress again, explore the website

Modern European Libraries -- "By the mid-20th century the Russians were probably the most library-minded people in the world" (Harris, p. 146). [Note from Colby: I remember an article about Russia in the 1990s which described people reading books on the streets, in the transit systems and in their homes. Not only was it very common for Russians to read; they also commonly read serious literature]

The New Library of Alexandria in Egypt. Read this information on the new library created by Egypt

European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA) just a reference so you know it's here

European Association for Library and Information Education and Research just a reference so you know it's here

Information Science in Europe by Sheila Webber. Please read her article.

The British Library

Scandinavian Libraries

The Future

Library 2.0 the new prototype: pros and cons. Pick two or three interesting links to read.

Are We In a Library Renaissance? Interesting article. Be sure to read the link on PSS. It may give you some new ideas about possible futures of the library.

The Future of School Libraries

The Role of the School Library Media Specialist in the 21st Century by Carrie A. Lowe; Please read carefully.

The future of the library, in all its variety, is up to you, the future librarians, and to the public. Will support for libraries continue? Right now, it is dwindling, along with education and infrastructure, all critical things for democracy. It may take a revolution. Remember Jefferson's words?


Don't forget, after doing this reading, to go to Canvas, click on the Quizzes link, and take the quiz for this week. Then proceed to Discussions and address the topic for the week.

Works Cited

Canfora, Luciano. The Vanished Library: A Wonder of the Ancient World. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.

Febure, Lucien, & Henri-Jean Martin. The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450-1800. Translated by David Gerard. Thetford, Norfolk, Verso Press, 1976.

Good, Dale (ed.). Compton's Encyclopedia. 26 volumes. Chicago: Compton's Learning Co., 1992.

Grafton, Anthony and Megan Williams. Christianity and the Tranformation of the Book: Origen, Eusebius, and the Library of Caesarea. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2006.

Harris, Michael H. History of Libraries in the Western World. London, Scarecrow Press, 1984.

Joseph, Miriam. The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric. Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books, 2002.

Morris, Edmund. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. N.Y.: Ballantine, 1979.

Pharr, Clyde. Homeric Greek. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1918.

Rader, Hannelore B. "The Library and Undergraduate Education." Library Trends, Fall, 1995. Accessed at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1387/is_n2_v44/ai_17726336/?tag=content;col1 on 6/26/09.

Winger, Howard W. "Books." Encyclopaedia Britannica. Walter Yust, ed. Chicago: William Benton, 1959. Vol. 3, pp. 869-879.

Prof. Colby Glass, MLIS