By Subscription Only: The Union Library

Volume 13 Issue 1-2 Spring-Summer 2006

A Predecessor of the Simsbury Free Library

Libraries did not begin with the idea that books would circulate. In ancient and medieval times a library’s major function was to preserve scarce texts for the use of scholars; the fabled Egyptian library at Alexandria and the collection in the monasteries of Europe are well-known examples of this type. An engraving done in 1600 clearly shows that the books in the library at the University of Leyden were chained to the shelves. Nearly two hundred years later when future Connecticut educator Henry Barnard entered Yale College he found its library was not open to underclassmen and that the only way he could gain the access he wanted to book was to join the Linonian, a debating society, and to serve unpaid as an assistant to its librarian.

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