"Who dares to teach must never cease to learn" - John Cotton Dana
John Cotton Dana was born in Woodstock, Vermont in 1856. During his forty years as a public librarian he made many innovations that made public libraries more relevant to the daily lives of people.
After graduating from Dartmouth College, Dana studied law, which he practiced in Colorado for nine years until becoming director of the Denver Public Library in 1889. During his time at Denver Public Library he pioneered many of the concepts that would define his legacy; not least allowing patrons to browse the stacks for themselves, turning the library into a community center as much as a collection of books, and introducing the first ever children's library room - although it seems that he may have envisaged this space would be used by school teachers more so than the children themselves.
In 1898 he moved to Springfield, Massachusetts for four years where he introduced many of the same changes he had made in Denver. In addition, he made radical changes to the building itself - ordering walls and railings to be torn down so as to create a more open floor plan.
Choosing not to get involved in local politics, he left Springfield four years later for Newark, New Jersey. While there he established foreign language collections for immigrants and also developed the first collection intended to provide resources to business - the first of its kind in the USA. In addition he founded the Newark Museum and served as president of the American Library Association (which, since the mid-50s, has awarded the John Cotton Dana Public Relations Award each year to libraries exhibiting outstanding public relations)
Dana remained Newark Public Library's director until his death in 1929. In the years following, he was named "The First Citizen of Newark" and Newark's main library was named after him.
This quote & biography originally ran in an issue of BookBrowse's membership magazine. Full Membership Features & Benefits.
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