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Sep. 20 2009 - 8:52 pm | 67 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

Philly’s Near Loss of its Entire Library System

Benjamin_Franklin_engravingIn 1731 Benjamin Franklin created the Library Company of Philadelphia, the first subscription service library and the predecessor to today’s ubiquitous lending library system. The Library Company of Philadelphia company, which still exists and serves the community with its impressive collection of books as well lectures, exhibitions, and conferences, was the result of pure altruism on the part of Franklin and his society friends. With the knowledge that no one patron could buy the library’s books alone, he and his privileged circle bought the first collection of books together at a time when scholarly texts were rare outside Europe.

Given this inspirational start, one would think the Philadelphia library system would be above any kind of fiscal trimming, no matter how bad the recession. This turned out to be false as news developed over the last few months that if the city did not come to an agreement over its budget, it would shut down all free public libraries, city-wide on Oct. 2. As reported in publisher’s weekly, this meant the deletion of  “community programs (including after-school activities for children) and the discontinuation of ESL and GED courses—an especially unwelcome prospect for a city in which four hundred thousand adults still lack high school diplomas.” Additionally, it was reported that “the system called an end to interlibrary loans and put a reduced borrowing period into effect: All library materials are now due October 1.”

It’s simply stunning that a city’s entire library system can be put up on the chopping block. It’s very possible that the importance of the library system in the city with the first library was used as bate to come to an agreement, but still. Luckily, three days ago, a budget was agreed upon and the so-called “doomsday” scenario was narrowly averted. If the budget was not settled upon, the city was prepared to cut 3000 jobs in addition to shutting down the libraries. The budget bill, number 1828, was passed  in the state senate by a vote of 32-17.

via Philly Libraries—All of Them—to Close Next Month | Daily News | Poets & Writers.

via FLP – Thank You!

via The Library Company of Philadelphia Homepage.


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  1. collapse expand

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s hard to imagine a place without access to good public libraries. I think they’re as essential to any functioning city or town as police or public transit.

  2. collapse expand

    Hi Nick, thanks for your article! To close all libraries in any city or town would be a disgrace, to do this in Philadelphia is infinitely worse since we were the city with the fist library system in the nation! Our mayor Nutter should be really embarrased of his political antics…

    • collapse expand

      Helenazar,

      Thanks very much for your comment. I could not agree more and I was frankly surprised to see that many many people covered that the libraries were threatened, but not many covered that they were saved. Thank god they were saved, but still i received a message from a source close to the situation that relays the real troubles still plaguing the library system. I will write about that shortly. Thanks for reading the blog.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    I am a Brooklyn-based writer and editor covering arts and culture. I was an editor at Art & Antiques magazine, an editor at Picador USA, and an editor for a magazine about coffee and tea. On the best of days, I get to write about art, or work on fiction. My writing can be found on the Huffington Post, The Rumpus, and in Art & Antiques, Art in America, Tin House, Willamette Week, San Francisco magazine, Food Network Magazine, and Fresh Cup magazine. I also write about and promote the arts for Columbia University in New York.

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