• A patron's library card for the Nevins Memorial Library, 1962. Courtesy of the Nevins Memorial Library via Digital Commonwealth.

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    Nevins Memorial Library patron library card
    • Date
    • 1962-01-1962-09
    • Description
    • Title supplied by cataloger. Date supplied by cataloger based on dates on library card.
    • Rights
    • Rights status not evaluated. This work is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives License (CC BY-NC-ND).
    • Partner
    • Digital Commonwealth
    • Contributing Institution
    • Nevins Memorial Library

  • Dorothea Lange photograph of a patron reading at a library created in a barracks building at Manzanar War Relocation Center, July 1, 1942. Caption reads: "A trained librarian of Japanese ancestry employs modern techniques in the management of this library which already contains a large stock of books donated by friends." Courtesy of the University of California Berkeley, Bancroft Library via California Digital Library.

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    Manzanar, Calif.--A barrack buildings has been turned into a library at this War Relocation Authority center for evacuees of Japanese ancestry.
    • Date
    • 1942-07-01
    • Description
    • Full title:Manzanar, Calif.--A barrack buildings has been turned into a library at this War Relocation Authority center for evacuees of Japanese ancestry. A trained librarian of Japanese ancestry employs modern techniques in the management of this li... more
      Full title:Manzanar, Calif.--A barrack buildings has been turned into a library at this War Relocation Authority center for evacuees of Japanese ancestry. A trained librarian of Japanese ancestry employs modern techniques in the management of this library which already contains a large stock of books donated by friends. Photographer: Lange, Dorothea Manzanar, California. less
    • Rights
    • Some materials in these collections may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). In addition, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions,... more
      Some materials in these collections may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). In addition, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user. All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html. less
    • Partner
    • California Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library

  • An excerpt from the Butte Free Public Library catalogue of books, 1894. Courtesy of the Butte-Silver Bow (MT) Public Library via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Excerpt from Catalogue of books in the Butte Free Public Library of Butte, Montana
    • Date
    • 1894
    • Creator
    • Davies, J. F. Butte Free Public Library (Butte, Mont.).
    • Description
    • Catalog of books in the new Butte Free Public Library in Butte, Montana. Interleaved with local advertising matter.
    • Rights
    • Https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • Butte-Silver Bow Public Library

  • The director and the film coordinator of Minnesota's East Central Regional Library working with film, 1976. Courtesy of the East Central Regional Library via Minnesota Digital Library.

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    Working with film, East Central Regional Library, Cambridge, Minnesota
    • Description
    • The 16mm films and projectors required continual maintenance. Here, Ron McGriff, assistant director, and Alzina Stone, film coordinator, troubleshoot a problem at the East Central Regional Library Headquarters in 1976. Founded in 1959, ECRL is the ol... more
      The 16mm films and projectors required continual maintenance. Here, Ron McGriff, assistant director, and Alzina Stone, film coordinator, troubleshoot a problem at the East Central Regional Library Headquarters in 1976. Founded in 1959, ECRL is the oldest existing regional public library system in Minnesota. Headquartered in Cambridge, it is a consolidated library system with 14 libraries and Outreach Services and serves residents in Aitkin, Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, and Pine counties. less
    • Rights
    • This work is made available by the East Central Regional Library under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (CC BY).
    • Partner
    • Minnesota Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • East Central Regional Library

At the core of the public library’s mission is community access to its collections. As such, cataloging, acquisitions, and lending are important parts of library operations. Shared cataloging has existed since 1901, when the Library of Congress produced its first printed catalog cards. Cataloging items is key in helping patrons access and check out materials. Beyond cataloging, and acquiring new material, collections can also be shared between libraries via interlibrary loan, standardized by the American Library Association in 1952.

Early in the history of public libraries, however, providing access was at odds with some libraries’ complicity in censoring books in their collections. Although school libraries were the most active in promoting “morally acceptable” reading through book censorship, some public libraries played a role, too. For example, the Kern County Free Library in California complied with a county-wide ban against The Grapes of Wrath that lasted from 1939 to 1941.

By the 1950s, the ALA began taking an anti-censorship stance. The “Freedom to Read” statement, supported by the ALA and other booksellers’ and publishers’ associations, was adopted in 1953. Now, public libraries play an active role in collecting and supporting the reading of banned books. The ALA, for example, is a participant in Banned Books Week which highlights commonly contested books such as Catcher in the Rye and The Bluest Eye.

Though library collections have traditionally included books and periodicals, they have also grown to include so much more. Libraries have not only adapted to, but embraced new technologies. Even before the rapid changes brought on by the computer age, libraries integrated things like microfilm and taped recordings into their collections.