Self-made millionaire John Deferrari donated over $1,000,000 to the Boston Public Library to express his gratitude to the institution he credited with his success. The son of poor Italian immigrants, Defarrari used the library’s resources to transform himself from a hard-working fruit peddler into a wealthy, if eccentric, investor. When the BPL was established in 1848, it was the first publicly supported municipal library in America. It soon introduced a truly revolutionary idea: it allowed people to borrow books. Other innovations followed. In 1870 it opened the first branch library in the United States. In 1895 it was the first to establish a room specifically designated for children.
A pity, though, that the last famous first was in 1895. What new first should our library undertake? 114 years is a long time to ride on one’s laurels.