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A Library Primer   By: (1856-1929)

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A Library Primer by John Cotton Dana is a comprehensive guide that provides readers with a wealth of knowledge about libraries. As an avid book lover, I found this book to be a delightful and informative read.

Dana's writing style is clear, concise, and engaging, making it easy for readers of all backgrounds to understand the concepts discussed. He begins by delving into the history of libraries, exploring their origins and evolution over time. This historical context allows readers to appreciate the significance and importance of libraries in society.

One aspect that sets this book apart is its emphasis on the practical aspects of libraries. Dana goes beyond mere theory, providing readers with practical advice on subjects such as library organization, classification systems, and the intricacies of cataloging. His explanations are detailed yet accessible, making it an invaluable resource for both library professionals and those who simply want to deepen their understanding of how libraries work.

What truly impressed me about A Library Primer is Dana's passionate advocacy for the role of libraries in promoting knowledge and democratizing access to information. He beautifully articulates the idea that libraries should be welcoming spaces that cater to the diverse needs and interests of their communities. This vision is supported by practical suggestions for librarians and administrators on how to create dynamic and inclusive library environments.

Another aspect of the book that I appreciated was its feature of numerous case studies. Dana skillfully uses real-life examples to illustrate his key points and to showcase successful library initiatives. From the establishment of children's libraries to the importance of outreach programs, these case studies provide inspiration and serve as a reminder of the profound impact that libraries can have on individuals and communities.

If there is one criticism to be made, it is that some parts of the book may feel slightly dated. Originally published in 1903, A Library Primer does, understandably, lack discussions on more modern library technologies. However, the core principles and concepts remain highly relevant and applicable to libraries today.

In conclusion, A Library Primer is an excellent resource for anyone interested in libraries, whether as a professional or an enthusiast. With its rich historical context, practical advice, and inspiring vision, John Cotton Dana's book offers a comprehensive understanding of libraries and their vital role in society.

First Page:

A Library Primer

John Cotton Dana

Third Edition

Library Bureau, Chicago 1903

Copyright, 1899, by Library Bureau

To Samuel S. Green, William I. Fletcher, and Charles A. Cutter


A library primer was published in the first six numbers of Public Libraries in 1896. It was quite largely made up of extracts from an article by Dr W.F. Poole on The organization and management of public libraries, which formed part of the report on Public libraries in the U.S., published by the U.S. Bureau of education in 1876; from W.I. Fletcher's Public libraries in America; from Mary W. Plummer's Hints to small libraries; and from papers in the Library journal and A.L.A. proceedings.

At the request of a number of people interested I have revised, rewritten, and extended the original draft for publication in book form. Additional material has been taken from many sources. I have tried to give credit in good measure. The prevailing tendency among librarians is to share ideas, to give to one another the benefit of all their suggestions and experiences. The result is a large fund of library knowledge which is common property. From this fund most of this book is taken.

The Library Primer is what its name implies. It does not try to be exhaustive in any part of the field. It tries to open up the subject of library management for the small library, and to show how large it is and how much librarians have yet to learn and to do... Continue reading book >>

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