Benjamin Franklin Can Be Credited For Inventing the Library As We Know It Today

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Image via Wikimedia Commons.
Ben Franklin founded the Library Company of Philadelphia, which created the concept of how libraries operate today.

Founding father Benjamin Franklin was a versatile inventor, and one of his many contributions to humanity include libraries as we know them today, writes Elizabeth Webster for Smithsonian Magazine.

In 1727, Franklin established the Junto, a Philadelphia-based discussion group that sought “mutual improvement” through intellectual dialogue.

While he enjoyed the debates on both moral and scientific matters, he realized the group required an authoritative library to referee basic facts.

Considering how rare and expensive books were in colonial America, Franklin conceived of a library with a subscription fee. He founded the Library Company of Philadelphia in 1781. This allowed members to buy shares in the library at a low cost. The library catalog continued to grow and respond to members’ interests.

After its initial success, the Library Company soon began to allow non-shareholders to pay a small fee to borrow books.

This structure impressed imitators and within the next two decades, there were over 40 lending libraries throughout the nation.

In his autobiography, Franklin noted that “these libraries have improved the general conversation of the Americans” and “made the common tradesmen and farmers as intelligent as most gentlemen from other countries.”

The Library Company stands as an independent research library to this day.

Read more about why Benjamin Franklin is the mastermind behind the concept of libraries in Smithsonian Magazine.

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