Library Trivia

Library Trivia

Various forms of “libraries” have existed in the United States for many years. The concept of what a library represents continues to evolve and adapt to changing situations. However, the origins of library history and where it all began will never change. This article includes some little-known, interesting facts about those beginnings.

The first circulating library collection in the United States was formed through the Library Company of Philadelphia in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin. A total of fifty patrons gave 40 shillings each towards purchasing the first books, plus a fee of 10 shillings per year. Louis Timothee was hired as librarian and worked every afternoon from two to three o’clock. His salary was 3 pounds sterling every three months, which converts to approximately $4.69 in today’s money. The first circulating collection in the State of Ohio was the Putnam Family Library located in Belpre. First started in 1796, it was later known as the Belpre library and existed until 1815.

The first traveling “bookwagon” began operation at the Washington County Free Library located in Hagerstown, MD in 1905. Originally used to gather eggs and produce, the wagon was modified with shelves for the books. The library’s janitor made deliveries three times each week throughout the county. The first Guernsey County bookmobile began service in 1958. It was the first bookmobile in the State of Ohio purchased with federal money. It cost $12,900, with the federal government furnishing $10,000 of the amount. An official dedication ceremony was held in Columbus prior to its arrival in Guernsey County.

In 1942, the Ohio Library Association began a program to recognize leaders in the field through awards and honors. Guernsey County’s very own Helen Sunnafrank received the first ever Librarian of the Year Award in 1963. She was Library director from 1949 until her retirement in 1973.

Many of these facts were taken from two reference books. The first titled, “Famous First Facts”, includes any topic imaginable, along with its origins. The second, “Best in the Nation”, contains information about the first 200 years of Ohio library history. Copies of both books are available at the Crossroads Branch.

*Originally published in The Daily Jeffersonian, Dec. 25, 2011.