Tuesday, February 7, 2012

125th Anniversary of the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY

The Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. The Institute is a prestigious private college with an emphasis on the arts. It was founded by philanthropist Charles Pratt who made his fortune in the oil industry. The Institute has two unusual aspects that relate to library history. The first was its operation of a free library that was open to both students and the residents of Brooklyn for more than five decades. The free library even operated branch libraries. It's library building (shown above) was the first library building which was designed to include a separate children's room (see my post on early children's rooms in public libraries). The Brooklyn Public Library eventually took over the public library aspects of the Pratt Institute. Another item of interest to the library history buff regarding the Pratt Institute is its operation of a library school. The school was initially established as a training school for the employees of the free library but became a formal library school  (the second to be established in the nation). The library school, now the School of Information and Library Science, continues to exist. Two major pioneers in American librarianship were associated with the Pratt Institute free library and library school. They were Mary W. Plummer (1856-1916) and Josephine Adams Rathbone (1864-1941). Plummer served as the second woman President of the American Library Association in 1915-1916 and  Rathbone served as President of ALA in 1931-32. The Pratt Institute Libraries  are headquartered in the former free library building which has been renovated.

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