In honor of the conclusion of 2018 National Library Week (April 8th-14th), we'd like to revisit this fabulous exhibit from Digital Public Library of America about the history of U.S. public libraries. We initially featured this website in our April 2017 special issue in honor of National Library Week, which we published on 04-07-2017).
In the introduction to this online exhibition, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) notes that libraries have historically been viewed as a central part of democracy: "The ability to access free information has become a core ideal of what it means to be an American citizen, despite periods of historic inequality." This tension between the democratic ideal of public libraries and the realities of ongoing inequality in the United States is the center of this exhibition about the history of libraries in the United States. This exhibition is organized into seven thematic sections, such as Beginnings (which features a digitized copy of the Library Company of Philadelphia's 1754 charter); A Profession for Women (which includes numerous photographs from the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including a snapshot of a "packhorse library carrier" from Kentucky); and Segregated Libraries (which highlights a recorded interview with librarian and activist Annie L. McPheeters, who worked for the Atlanta Public Library between 1934 and 1966 and ran an adult education program at the Auburn branch library). Collectively, the thoughtfully annotated items in this collection illustrate the diversity of libraries throughout American history and the role that American citizens have played to ensure that libraries meet the needs of their communities.
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