Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A 4th of July Public Library Celebration

Teddy Roosevelt in Brazil's Amazon
 I spent the 4th of July, the USA's independence day celebration, traveling by plane, so I decided to celebrate today, July 5, by visiting the public library.

It was such a joy to walk into the public library with no idea what books I was going to borrow--what genre or how many, virtually limitless possibilities.

Free public libraries are truly both the foundation and the gift of a free and open society.

Many Americans have educated themselves at a public library, and many folks pursue "continuing education" at the local public library. American author Jack London was one such.

From website The Straight Dope, an article entitled "How Did the Public Library Get Started?" states that Benjamin Franklin started a lending library in 1731 with his "subscription library," a company in which one could buy stock--the perk being you could borrow books.

The article defines a public library using the following criteria:
  • Is publicly owned and supported by taxes;
  • Is open to any citizen who desires to use it, and
  • Contains a wide range of material, both popular and scholarly.
According to The Straight Dope article, three lending trends eventually led to public libraries:
  • social libraries (mostly funded by donations)
  • circulating libraries (rental)
  • school district (for students)
The article continues:
The Boston Public Library opened in 1854, and is usually considered the "real" first public library--that is, intentionally founded, not a happy accident. Its statement of purpose basically says:
  • There's a close linkage between knowledge and right thinking;
  • The future of democracy is contingent on an educated citizenry;
  • There's a strong correlation between the public library movement and public education; and
  • Every citizen has the right of free access to community-owned resources.
I find this evolution mirrored at our local public library by its loaning of videos/dvds. First one could buy them, rent them, or borrow them from friends. Then they came to the public library. Interesting, hm? I'm not so sure, though, if there is a correlation between watching dvds and "right thinking."

So what did I borrow to celebrate our nation's independence day?  "A wide range of material, both popular and scholarly."
  • The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey, by Candice Millard. (After losing the presidential election, Roosevelt heads up an uncharted tributary of the Amazon River. I read a National Geographic article on this and found it fascinating.)
  • Two Robert Ludlum Bourne Series knockoffs by author Eric Van Lustbader. (I want to see how well he follows Ludlum's lead--although, to be honest, Ludlum's series is somewhat dated by now.)
  • Facebook: the Missing Manual, by E.A. Vander Veer. "The book that should have come with the site." (2nd edition in 2010. It'll be interesting to see if this is any use at all for someone who's been using the site for a while.)
  • Resolution, by Robert B. Parker, the Spenser detective novelist. (I've read Appaloosa, the first novel of this western genre series. Parker is usually a fast, entertaining read.)
  • Larry Turtledove: Worldwar: in the Balance. "An alternative history of alien invasion." (Turtledove is an interesting writer. In this series, during WWII, the Nazis, Communists, Japanese, Americans--you get the idea--all stop bashing each other so that they can bash the aliens, who happen to be 3-foot, technologically advanced reptiles. Just weird enough to be interesting.)
Now I'll just have to decide what to read first. At least this July 5, I have the freedom to make that decision myself.

Funnily and contrarily enough, I think I might just read Roosevelt's story of his adventure--Through the Brazilian Wilderness, as a free ebook on my nook e-reader--then maybe check out Millard's perspective.

Ain't freedom great!

Copyright 2011 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


  1. Hi Tom,
    I'm a Danish girl who have some questions about TM in the US. Is it possible for me to contact you in another way? Maybe via e-mail?

  2. On the lefthand sidebar of this blog is a box entitled "Significant Links." There are some excellent sites there to get information about TM. I've also sent you my email address. Hope it gets through.