Libraries called “repositories of knowledge,” were founded in Europe by kings and queens, like Catherine the Great. In recognition of American Library Week, here’s a story about the evolution of libraries in the United States.

The oldest library in America began with a 400-book donation by John Harvard to the Massachusetts university, which then honored him by adopting his name. The first free lending libraries date back to the 1600s.

Thomas Jefferson’s vast book collection was used as a foundation for the Library of Congress when it rebuilt in 1815 after being burned to the ground. By 1833, the first public library opened in New Hampshire.

Libraries popped up across the country because of Andrew Carnegie, a steel tycoon who became known as the library philanthropist. He helped build over 1,700 public libraries in the U.S. between the years of 1881 and 1919.

His generosity impacted the Detroit Public Library by providing it with enough funding to rebuild in a new location on Woodward Avenue and Kirby – where it still welcomes the public to browse and borrow its books.

Content provided by Oakland University.


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