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Benjamin Franklin: Founding Librarian

Benjamin Franklin

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin by Artist David Martin
(Credit: Library of Congress, via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher)

 

We all know Benjamin Franklin for his exhaustive list of achievements, including his role as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. But there is a lesser-known accomplishment on Franklin’s resume: Franklin founded the Library Company of Philadelphia on July 1, 1731.

The Library Company was created for one simple reason: to expand access to books. Books in Colonial America were expensive and scarce. There were no public libraries. Franklin and members of his discussion group, Junto, were frustrated because they did not have enough books available to cultivate their intellectual and political debates. So the Library Company used membership dues to purchase books. The Library Company’s book collection eventually became an integral source for delegates to the First and Second Constitutional Congress and the Constitutional Convention.

Library Company

The Library Company of Philadelphia,
1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107.
By Davidt8 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Greater access to books nurtured great minds like Benjamin Franklin. As we commemorate Independence Day on July 4th, let’s also celebrate the role that libraries serve in our democracy.

To learn more about Benjamin Franklin, check out these sites featured on SIRS WebSelect:

Benjamin Franklin: Glimpses of the Man

Benjamin Franklin: How I Became a Printer

Benjamin Franklin’s Junto Club & Lending Library of Philadelphia

The Electric Ben Franklin

Jeff Wyman

Jeff Wyman

Editor at ProQuest
Works on K-12 products, including SIRS Issues Researcher, eLibrary, and CultureGrams.
Jeff Wyman

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