Saturday, September 15, 2012

1928 Rural Libraries Bulletin

The extension of public library service to rural areas in the United States has been a goal of state governments for more than twelve decades (the Massachusetts Free Public Library Commission was established in 1890). The passage of the federal Library Services Act in 1956 was a major impetus to achieving this goal and in many states 100 percent of the state's residents have access to public library service.  I have several items in my collection that document the efforts to extend public library service to rural areas in the 1920s. One of those is a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers Bulletin issued in April, 1928. The conclusion of the bulletin states: "The purpose of this bulletin will be accomplished if rural people, State legislatures, local officials, and library agencies, in view of demonstrated accomplishments, cooperate to make rural library service, as compared with other forms of public service, equal, efficient, and complete." The bulletin has been digitized and is available through the Hathi Trust. Of the many illustrations related to rural library service and its promotion in the bulletin, I was most taken with an image of a participant in a parade dressed as a book promoting county libraries in California and an image of a small building at a county fair papered in book jackets promoting county library service. Personal editorial: Even with decades of effort there are still millions of people in rural areas in the U.S. without access to free public library service.  I think this is a national travesty.  Why is it that the library profession can be so passionate about the censoring of a single book and yet tolerates a situation in which so many people have no free access to books and other materials in a public library.  

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