This paper investigates the broad outline of the growth of the public library in the USA during the Great Depression. Despite economic hard times public libraries were founded in 48 of the 50 states and territories. Nine states contributed the greatest portion of that growth. Geographic variation in library growth is discussed. The role of two federal agencies is briefly described and their influence in public library expansion largely discounted. Brief case studies of two libraries founded during the Great Depression are presented. The conclusion is that the US public library was a social institution important to local communities that provided funding, long before the advent of state or federal funding.
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