The world’s oldest known library was founded sometime in the 7th century B.C. for the ” royal contemplation” of the Assyrian ruler Ashurbanipal .

Located in Nineveh in modern day Iraq, the site included a trove of some 30,000 cuneiform tablets organized  according to subject matter. Most of its titles were archival documents, religious incantations and scholarly texts, but it also housed several works of literature including the 4,000 year of “Epic of Gilgamesh .”

Among the first libraries in the country was The Library Company of Philadelphia, which was founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin. The library was the first American subscription library supported by members and allowed members to borrow books.

As gateways to knowledge and culture, libraries play a fundamental role in society. (Credit/Getty Images)

While the 1960s were a time of change for the libraries in the U.S., librarians were hesitant to adopt new technologies such as the punch card system. The punch card system is over 70 years old and was one of the earliest forms of automation introduced into libraries. In the 1960s, microfilm was used extensively in libraries.

Now comes the technological storm.

Computers, and more importantly the internet, changed the dynamic of libraries in regard to how relevant they were to society. Whereas  libraries were previously the repositories of a majority of human knowledge, the internet began to take over in the 1990s.

With the advent of broadband and internet portals, knowledge storage has shifted very heavily, although not exclusively, to online sites. Even printed books, journals and newspapers are accessible online. Once digitized, information can be rapidly searched, copied and distributed.

This change has revolutionized the spreading of information — both beneficial and deadly. Due to its rapidity and the costs involve, libraries have struggled to keep up with the blinding speed of technological advances.

Despite all that, we must keep our libraries safe and secure as repositories of man’s knowledge. Open to everyone, rich or poor, libraries are a form of glue which can help to bind us together as a people and enrich lives in ways which have no measure.

Local libraries offer much more than just shelves of books. Many host free educational and recreational activities for all ages. (Greeley Tribune file photo)

Of course, many of us can download books to our laptops or tablets and read them at our leisure. However, while convenient, it lacks the human contact that reading a book at the library, Barnes and Noble or even a local reading/book club can provide.

Reading can open up new worlds for people of all ages. (Credit/Getty Images)

Reading can enrich lives and bring people together as they experience new ideas. Reading allows us to travel in our minds to faraway places and different times, to alien worlds and dangerous quests all from the safety of our favorite easy chair.

Reading can take us to romantic places and interludes and can comfort the lonely and the ill. It is powerful medicine for the mind and can bring us peace even in the midst of chaos.

Those who cannot read miss out on much of life and struggle to exist in our modern world.

The world’s oldest known library was founded sometime in the 7th century B.C. for the ” royal contemplation” of the Assyrian ruler Ashurbanipal.(Credit/Getty Images)

I was told of a somewhat poor little boy who learned to read using catalogs from departments stores such as Montgomery Ward, JCPenney and Sears. Whenever a new catalog came out his grandmother gave him the old ones to read.

The little boy avidly read every page of those huge catalogs and learned so much from them. They opened a whole new world for him. That little boy became a physician.

I know him well, he is my husband.


This article was originally published in Greeley Tribune