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[p. 76]

The Evolution of the Medford public Library.

by Mary E. Sargent.
Read before the Medford Historical Society, Jan. 16, 1899.

IN the matter of libraries, as with individuals, we take a pardonable pride in tracing their origin to as remote an ancestry as possible. Obeying the Scriptural injunction, ‘Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land,’ as individuals we may aspire to a right to belong to the Sons or Daughters of the Revolution, the Colonial Dames, or, better still, to be a ‘Mayflower’ descendant; but in the case of libraries we are quite content with a very small and humble beginning.

In many towns the public library was an outgrowth of the district-school library, which by an act of the Legislature of 1837 the school districts were authorized to establish for the use of common schools, provided a certain amount of money should be raised by the town.

In looking through the Town Records I find, Nov. 14, 1842, that it was voted to appropriate the sum of $45 in aid of public-school libraries. In referring to the school records of that period, however, though the school committee took action with regard to the matter, the scheme was abandoned.

The public library, ‘free to all,’ is peculiar to modern civilization, and the circulating library, from which books may be taken for home use, is of comparatively recent date. The idea that books, to be of real benefit, should be put into the hands of people for use outside of the library was first put into practical execution by Benjamin Franklin, who, in 1731, established at Philadelphia the first effective circulating library, now called the ‘Old Philadelphia Library.’ This was what is known as a ‘Society Library,’ supported by subscription, and was the forerunner of the nearly one thousand ‘Social Libraries’ which sprang up so rapidly throughout

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