A Digital Library Race, and Playing Catch-Up - NYTimes.com: "AMERICA stood at the forefront of the public library movement in 1731, when Benjamin Franklin founded the Library Company of Philadelphia, our first successful lending library.
Looking back on the project decades later, Franklin wrote in his autobiography that the growth of lending libraries had played a role not only in educating but also in democratizing American society.
“These Libraries,” he wrote, “have improv’d the general Conversation of the Americans, made the common Tradesmen & Farmers as intelligent as most Gentlemen from other countries, and perhaps have contributed to some degree to the Stand so generally made throughout the Colonies in Defence of their Privileges.”"
By NATASHA SINGER
Published: January 8, 2011