Now that students are starting another school year, it’s important to remember that a library card is the most important school supply of all for students of all ages. 

Public libraries exist in most nations of the world and are often considered an essential part of having an educated and literate population. Public libraries, including the libraries of the Alameda County Library System, are distinct from research libraries, school libraries and other special libraries in that they exist to serve the public’s information needs generally, as well as offering materials for general entertainment and leisure purposes.

As more commercial and governmental services are being provided online, public libraries provide Internet access for users who otherwise would not be able to connect to these services.  Many public libraries offer free training and support to computer users. 

Part of the public library mission is to attempt to help bridge the digital divide in information access.   The American Library Association (ALA), addresses this role of libraries as part of “access to information” and “equity of access”; part of the library profession’s commitment that “no one should be denied information because he or she cannot afford the cost of a book or periodical, have access to the internet or information in any of its various formats.”

Some interesting facts about the history of American libraries:

In his unconventional history The Tribes and the States, William James Sidis  claims the public library is an American invention and states that the first town library was established in Boston, Massachusetts in 1636.

The first publicly-funded library opened in 1833 in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

The first free public children’s library was opened in 1835 in Arlington, Massachusetts.

The  New York Public Library in New York City,  begun in 1849 and consolidated in 1901, one of the most important public libraries in the United States-  Samuel J. Tilden – Governor NY 1875 – Presidential Candidate 1876, was a lover of books. Tilden bequeathed his millions to construct the NY Public Library.  He believed Americans should have access to books and a free education if they so desired.

Scottish-American businessman Andrew Carnegie donated the money for the building of thousands of Carnegie libraries in English-speaking countries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.