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Happy Library Week!

A highway historical marker commemorating the founding of the State Library.

Happy Library Week! It runs through April 17, with the theme "Communities thrive@your library.” Here are some interesting numbers from the State Library of North Carolina, which is a division of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources:

  • 56% of North Carolinians hold the “Smartest Card” - their Library Card.
  • These 5,153,747 men, women, children and youth visited their libraries 44,160,699 times during the year to search resources, read newspapers and magazines, hear stories or speakers, view exhibits, check out digital collections, use the computers, job search and, oh yes, borrow books.
  • 82 million virtual visits to the library were logged, and adults are reading fiction in a 2:1 ratio compared to non-fiction.

A screenshot of the Library History digital collection homepageHere are a few Library Week "Did You Knows?" On April 14, the Titanic struck an iceberg (1912) and Lincoln was shot (1865); and on April 17, Apollo 13 returned its astronauts safely to earth (1970). 

Want to find out more?  Head to your library! And here are five ways you can join in Library Week festivities:

  1. Visit your local library.
  2. Donate your favorite book to your local library.
  3. Join the Government and Heritage Library’s Twitter and Facebook groups.
  4. Join the Facebook group, “I’ll Bet I Can Find 1,000,000 People Who Think Libraries Are Important.”
  5. Check out the digital collection, “Transforming the Tar Heel State: The Legacy of Public Libraries in North Carolina,” which provides online access to historical photographs, postcards, reports, dedications, and other unique materials related to the libraries of North Carolina.

Wednesday April 14 is National Bookmobile Day!

Bookmobiles have always been a vital part of library services in North Carolina, especially because so much of the state is rural. 

An Anson County library bookmobile, circa 1937

In 1923, Durham Public Library became the owners of the state's first bookmobile. Named “Miss Kiwanis,” the blue Ford half-ton truck was a donation from the Durham chapter of the Kiwanis Club. The Durham Public Library bookmobile program was so successful that several other libraries acquired bookmobiles in the years that followed, often using retired school buses and donated pickup trucks to transport the library materials.

Some libraries existed solely to run these mobile services, and didn’t have permanent homes until fairly recently (Jackson County, 1970; Rutherford County, 1983).

By the mid-1950s, North Carolina led the country in bookmobile service, with 101 bookmobiles serving 94 counties. Statistics show that even as library use has skyrocketed in recent years, library budgets continue to be reduced. So, librarians are finding creative methods for serving patrons' needs. Bookmobiles continue to be one of the ways that libraries extend their services into the communities, especially to those who may not have easy access to their main library.

Bookmobiles today may even be equipped with computers linked to a library's Internet, allowing patrons access to electronic resources.

Tar Heel Libraries: More Than 300 Years of Service

Most libraries in North Carolina trace their official beginnings to the early 20th century, with a few notable exceptions.

  • Bath had a circulating library in the 1700s and claims the honor of being the only pre-revolutionary lending library in the state.
  • Statesville had a circulating collection in the 1840s (Statesville Landmark, Mar. 31, 1882).
  • Buncombe County, too, can claim with pride that their first subscription library was established in 1879.
  • The Durham Public Library, established in 1897, holds the distinction of being the first free tax-supported library in the State. The success of Durham's public library led to a library boom, with institutions being established in the counties of Wake (1901), Anson (1902), Wayne (1902), Guilford (1902), Mecklenburg (1903), Craven (1906), Cumberland (1907), and Granville (1908).

You can learn more about the history of libraries in North Carolina on NCpedia and see primary materials related to library history on the North Carolina Digital Collections.

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