The image above comes from the 1908 Cambridge Public Library Board of Trustees report. The chart shows how dramatically circulation at the Cambridge public library increased once the library became “free and open to the public.” Although it is important to note that the chart is a little misleading.
Between 1858 and 1979, the public library was free to all Cambridge citizens – not a subscription library as noted above. During this time, it was called the Dana Library in honor of Edmund Dana, who led a group of citizens to establish the Cambridge Athenaeum, the membership fee based predecessor to the Dana Library. The Dana Library was free to all but only open limited hours. In 1848, it was open Saturdays from 4 to 8 and the following year Wednesdays were added to the schedule – most likely accounting for low circulation rates.
Not realizing that the library was free, many citizens stayed away thinking it was privately owned by Edmund Dana. In 1879, the Library Trustees remedied the problem by officially changing the name to the Cambridge Public Library. And by now, the library was open 6 days a week.
Either way, this chart illustrates how important it is to make information free and accessible. If it is free – people will use it!
To get a full view of the chart, Click on the image to enlarge.