This one here is a photo-heavy post, but if you like old books and history, then take a breath and let it load. I think you’ll like hearing about the Hughes Free Public Library in operation since 1882.
Work had me on the road last year up on the Cumberland Plateau, which is where Rugby, TN, (population 64), is. While the founding of Rugby by the “second sons” is a fascinating read all by itself, it is the Hughes Free Public Library that really shines.
I was lucky enough to get to take a tour of the library and wanted to share some photos as this space remains almost completely untouched from its opening day back in 1882.
The library is named for Englishman Mr. Thomas Hughes. He founded the Rugby settlement as an “experiment”. When the Hughes Library opened it contained 6,000 books donated by publishers in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. In fact, many of the bookcases in the library are built from the actual crates the books were shipped in.
There were another 1,000 books donated from private collections and the Chicago Library (where there is a Thomas Hughes Reading Room). In 1900, the catalog records 7,000 books on the shelves. Today, there are 6,994. They have lost 6 books in the last 120+ years of operation. But when your patron list is counted in 10’s I guess it’s easy enough to keep track of who has books overdue.
The books are in absolutely amazing condition considering how often they were used and their age. I was told by the caretaker that this is due to a number of factors:
the floor is triple layer of timber, to keep moisture out.
the windows were intentionally spaced so they directed light onto the library tables and not the bookshelves themselves. That is why the spines and binding show very little sunning and bleaching.
most all of the books are “rag paper” so there are none of the chemicals, etc. that are used in “pulp paper” books
the location/climate coupled with the smart cupola in the ceiling help regulate temperature
If you ever find yourself up in that neck of the woods around historic Rugby, TN, it’ s certainly worth stopping in and seeing if you can get a tour yourself.
Next week, April 9-15, 2017, is National Library Week. The entire Jefferson County Library System in and around Birmingham, AL will be observing the week with various programs and highlighting library services.
One of the highlights this year is this coupon that erases $5 worth of your library fines:
But make sure you do it next week. The coupon is only valid next week April 9-15.
It’s no secret I’m a fan of the entire JCLC system. It’s almost magical how you can reserve/request books, cd’s, dvd’s, games, eBooks, etc. from the website, from ANY library in the system and they’ll delivery that book to your local branch AND notify you when it’s ready for pick up. So cool. And that’s just the items in the catalog!
All of the online database research sources, free theater events, after school programs, community kids programs, movie nights, etc. are all in their own universe of awesomeness.
So if you’re in and around Birmingham, AL, it’d be worth your time to learn all about the JCLC system and what they can help you with.
I stand by my claim that book people are, as a whole, the coolest people on the planet. This story of a bicycle library making its way around to serve books to the homeless is just one more point of proof.
Since 2011, Street Books has been pedaling around Portland, Oregon, once a week, delivering books to people who can’t check them out from the library. Yes, the public library is free, but to use the printer or check out a book, you often need things like a driver’s license or proof of residence or a utility bill. These are things that people living on the fringes of society do not have.
They even have a very short video on Vimeo which captures the spirit of what being a book lover is all about:
I love this quote:
“Because there’s a freedom that comes from kind conversations about books.”
The power of books and literature is often lauded by those of us fortunate to have plenty to read, but we often forget about the real world transformative power that books can have.
The books do get returned and exchanged for others, but if a homeless patron can’t find a bike library again, they are encouraged to just pass the book along to someone else who would like it.
It seems like every city in the world could benefit from people caring for others, through books, just like this. Kudos to the folks behind the bicycle library movement and Street Books.
The Friends Bookstore at the Central Library re-opened in a new location in April 2016. The library bookstore is now on the first floor now just to the left of the checkout desk, as you come in the main entrance. The big bright windows are fantastic to browse by (though I hope the spines don’t fade!).
I stopped by to check it out and found some great finds. You probably will too. Most everything in there runs between $.50-$3 range depending on if it’s a mass or trade paperback or hardback.
The library bookstore constantly runs sales and updates the community about recent donations. So I highly recommend signing up for their newsletter list.
Anyway, here are a few photos I snapped back in April when they first opened.