Membership Libraries, what are those?
This is the very question I asked myself. What is funny, is people before the 1880's would probably say to us now, "Pubic libraries, what are those?"
What is interesting is that public libraries are relatively new, with most libraries before the 1880's requiring a subscription, and members holding a pivotal role in the shaping of the collections!
While the process of membership libraries have as a whole died out, there are still 19 membership-based libraries scattered throughout the United States. So click on the hyperlinked text and if you are near these libraries, do some research on them and go check them out!
Think of membership libraries as a attendent-based shopping experience, except with books galore, with work spaces costing members $300 per month at times, what a way to pay to read or work in peace!
But, the real question remains, why were Membership libraries created?
The first membership library, Benjamin Franklin's Library Company, was established in 1731, and was distinctly an American invention. The promise to pay a certain amount for a membership was appealing to members, not for the financial side, but rather for such members to provide an activist voice in the books included in the collections. The membership libraries produced a distinct reader, one who took pride in the books they read, considering it was with their income that provided the books they read.
Here is a sneak peak inside the Mercantile Library in Cincinnati, OH.
If this blog has taught you anything, it is to say, the secret is out. So go check out the nearest Membership Library near you, who knows, you may want to join!