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Tuesday, 12 January 2016



The first public library in Athens opened in 330 BC because so many people wanted to read Greek tragedy plays, such as Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.

The Library of Alexandria, in Egypt, was the largest and most significant great library of the ancient world. It was conceived and opened either during the reign of Ptolemy I Soter (323–283 BC) or during the reign of his son Ptolemy II (283–246 BC).

At its peak the Alexandria library had perhaps half a million scrolls, many of them different versions of the same text. Such a mass of material demanded the beginning of the science of information retrieval. In about 260 BC Callimachus, a distinguished author, compiled a catalog of the library which itself ran to 120 scrolls.

Artistic rendering of the Library of Alexandria, based on some archaeological evidence
Rome’s first public library, the Anla Libertatis, was established by Asinius Pollio  (75 BC – AD 4). Pollio was an orator, poet and soldier. He sought to create a public library that increased the prestige of Rome and rivalled the one in Alexandria. Pollios’s library was centrally located near the Forum Romanum. It was the first to employ an architectural design that separated works into Greek and Latin

The Alexandra public library, "The Center of Western Culture," with 300,000 ancient papyrus scrolls, was completely destroyed by Arab invaders in 642.

The oldest library in the world is the al-Qarawiyyin Library in Fez, Morocco, which was founded in 859AD by Fatima El-Fihriya, the daughter of a Tunisian merchant. The library has remained continuously open to scholars since its inception.

In the tenth century, the Grand Vizier of Persia took his entire library with him wherever he went. The 117,000-volume library was carried by 400 camels trained to walk in alphabetical order.

Leiden University Library published Nomenclator, the world's first institutional library printed catalogue on May 24, 1595.

John Harvard, a clergyman, founded the Harvard University Library with a collection of 260 books in 1638. The library now has more than 15 million books.

The first library in America, the Library Company of Philadelphia, was founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin. The newly founded Library Company ordered its first books the following year, mostly theological and educational tomes and signed a contract with its first librarian on November 14, 1732.

By 1741 The Library Company of Philadelphia also included works on exploration, geography, history, poetry and science. The success of this library encouraged the opening of libraries in other American cities.

The building of the circular Radcliffe Camera library at Oxford University began in 1737. Francis Wise (1695-1767), the first librarian, tried to deter readers by putting a padlock on the door.

The United States Library of Congress, the de facto national library of the United States, was established in 1800 when President John Adams signed legislation to appropriate $5,000 to purchase "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress.”

After the Library of Congress was burned by the British in 1814, Thomas Jefferson offered his entire personal library as a replacement—more than doubling the previous size of the library to 6,487 volumes.

The first public library in the UK to be supported by public rates was founded in Campfield, in the centre of Manchester. Its first chief librarian Edward Edwards - the "father" of the public library movement - was joined by Charles Dickens and fellow author William Thackeray for the opening on September 5, 1852.

Before Melvil Dewey published his decimal-based system of classification in 1876, books in most US libraries were arranged by height and order of acquisition.

Melvil Dewey, creator of the Dewey Decimal System, was kicked out of the American Library Association for sexually harassing women.

The benefactions of Andrew Carnegie in Britain were particularly important in the development of public libraries, the first of his many gifts in this field being to Dunfermline in 1882.

The first Library of Congress building opened its doors to the public on November 1, 1897. The Library was housed before in the Congressional Reading Room in the U.S. Capitol.

A book borrowed in 1668 from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, was not returned for 288 years, making it the world’s most overdue library loan. The work, on the Archbishop of Bremen, was found in the library at Houghton Hall, Norfolk, home of the Marquess of Cholmondeley. No fine was levied.

America's most overdue library book, Dr. J. Currie's Febrile Diseases, was returned to the University of Cincinnati Medical Library in 1968. It had been checked out 145 years earlier in 1823 by a Mr. M. Dodd and was returned by his great-grandson, Richard Dodd. The fine, estimated at $2,264, was waived.

The British Library was created on 1 July 1973 as a result of the British Library Act 1972. Prior to this, the national library was part of the British Museum, which provided the bulk of the holdings of the new library,

The British Library increases its shelving by an average of 12 kilometers each year. It receives copies of all books produced in the UK and Ireland, so adds some three million items every year.

The British Museum Reading Room.Author Diliff Wikipedia Commons
An organized mob of police and government-sponsored paramilitias began burning the public library in Jaffna, Sri Lanka on May 31, 1981. They destroyed over 97,000 items in one of the most violent examples of ethnic biblioclasm of the 20th century.


The Library of Congress is the largest in the world with more than 162 million items on approx 838 miles of shelves.

The Russian State Library in Moscow is the largest library in Europe and the second largest in the world, behind the Library of Congress. Its collection of more than 43 million items in 248 languages includes more than 17 million books, brochures, and serials; 13 million journals; and 650,000 newspapers.

The current library at Alexandria has a recorded memory of the all the web pages on every website on the Internet since it started in 1996.

There are more public libraries than McDonald's in the U.S.

The Main Library at Indiana University sinks over an inch every year because when it was built, engineers failed to take into account the weight of all the books that would occupy the building.

There are 13 secret library apartments in the New York Public Library system, leftover from when library custodians lived in them.

If you publish a book in Norway, the government will buy 1000 copies (1,500 if a children's book) and distribute them to libraries throughout the country.

In Kenya, there is a Camel Mobile Library—camels transport books from the capital to surrounding villages that are up to 248 miles away.

All of the books in you see Dumbledore's office are just the Yellow Pages rebound to look old.

Source A Library Miscellany by Claire Cock-Starkey

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