Thursday, July 17, 2014

10 Fun Facts About Our Nation's Libraries

Growing up, my local library was the go-to spot for hanging out in the summer. It was close by, air conditioned, and a way for my mom to entertain me and all my siblings at once-- the younger ones could play and browse the children's section, the older ones could use the PCs or sift through new CDs the library had acquired. I even saw my first Broadway show thanks to my community's library. The children's librarians put together a summer reading program every year. With each book read, we got a stamp in our reading log and a little reward. If we accumulated enough stamps by the end of the summer, we earned a trip to see a Broadway show! I can still remember the thrill of seeing the curtain rise on the tap dancing feet during 42nd Street, alongside my fellow young readers and favorite librarians. I've never been more motivated to read and to appreciate the many functions of my local library than I was during those summers as a kid. 

With this week's Summer Fun Field Guide, we decided to focus on reading. Many of the shows coming to our theater next season are based on classic tales (Pinocchio, The Light Princess, The Magic Flute) that have been adapted into books, while other shows in our season have been translated directly from page to stage (The Snail and the Whale, Lionboy). Click here to download our latest field guide page, and find a summer reading list based on our season selections. Read along this summer and create your own reward system with your family. I promise it'll get your kiddos reading while school's out!

Plus, when you take a look at our latest field guide page, you'll see we've got some fun trivia questions about our nation's libraries. Read on for the answers to those questions, plus find some more library fun facts to share with your kids, below. Talk about these facts as you plan your trip to your local library! (Don't have your library card yet? CLICK HERE and sign up for yours now.)

1. The biggest library in the world is The Library of Congress in Washington DC, which boasts over 32 million volumes. (

2. There are more public libraries than McDonald's in the U.S. (ALA)

3. The marble lions who live outside of the famous Beaux-Arts branch of the New York Public Library, on 5th Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets, are named Patience and Fortitude. The names were coined by Mayor LaGuardia in the 1930s. (NYPL)

4. Many people believe that Benjamin Franklin started the first library in America, but the history of libraries in our nation is a bit more complicated than that. While Franklin spearheaded an early book trade in Philadelphia, the oldest library building that still stands is the Sturgis Library in Cape Cod (built in 1644) and the oldest book collection in the States was donated by John Harvard to the university that would bear his name. (Sturgis Library)

5. Beneath Bryant Park are two-level stack extensions, 37 miles of shelving in total, that hold many of the flagship branch's volumes. Think about that next time you're picnicking on the lawn! (NYPL)

6. The NYPL's collection includes a  unique 1493 letter written by Christopher Columbus, announcing his "discovery" of the New World. (NYPL)

7. Did you know that famous historical figures like Mao Zedong, Laura Bush, J. Edgar Hoover, Beverly Cleary, Lewis Carroll and Giacomo Casanova were all librarians at a point in their lives? (AbeBooks)

8. There's one book that's on record as being stolen from libraries more often than any other title-- The Guinness Book of World Records. (INALJ)

9. Speaking of stealing books, volumes weren't always so easy to take off of their shelves. In times when books were less ubiquitous and more expensive to print, libraries and monks would chain their books to desks to make sure they stayed put. (River North)

10. A stray cat, "Dewey," was adopted by the small town library in Spencer Iowa, and became beloved by the town. So much so that a book was written about the cat's life, and the book became a New York Times bestseller. (Dewey)

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