Frank Reade and Why I Love the Public Library

I consume a lot of books, whether in print form, ebooks for my Kindle reader, or audio books that I listen to at the gym or while driving to and from Denver as a way to avoid getting stressed about traffic. I’ve also been a reader for long enough that I can appreciate serendipity when I encounter it, whether it’s a fiction book that references a non-fiction work or a book mentioned on a social network.

When I was in Washington DC last week at the Dad 2.0 Summit, I had a chance to attend a splendid LEGO-sponsored “Night at the Museum” event at the Smithsonian’s amazing National Museum of American History and explored quite a few different exhibits.

Most notably, there was an exhibit of science fiction, 1780-1910 called Fantastic Worlds. Small, but darn interesting, and one thing caught my eye, a series of adventure magazines about “Frank Reade” with colorful and delightfully retro covers. Here’s one:

frank reade weekly newspaper magazine 1900

Pretty darn cool, eh? And this one’s dated August, 1903, so it predates so much technological advancement.

I was intrigued. And being a fan of the public library, when I got home, I did a quick search for Frank Reade to see if they had any back issues in their historical archive…

frank reade at the boulder public library

Ah, so they do! Better yet, it’s just sitting on the shelf at the main library. Since there’s a small satellite library across the street from my favorite coffee shop (where I spend a lot of time!) I figured why not have them transfer the book to the local branch? A free service, I submitted the hold request and 24 hours later got this email:

book ready to pick up from public library

When the branch opened at 10am, I left my laptop and gear with my ristretto latte and walked over to the NoBo Branch:

nobo north boulder branch public library

Seconds later, the book Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett was in my hands. And boy is it some fun reading with its retro vision of the future, both culturally and technologically.

Check out this two-page spread:

frank reade adventures in the age of invention

Elapsed time: maybe a day, faster than Amazon. Total cost: zero.

That’s why I continue to support the public library system. Because I really don’t want to buy all my books, just the “keepers”.

Now how about you? When was the last time you visited the public library?

One comment on “Frank Reade and Why I Love the Public Library

  1. When I was growing up these and similar American Dream techno thriller pulps from the 1870s-1910 era could still be found in the larger and older of some used book stores. It is a tragedy beyond comprehension that scientific journals now require $15 to $100s of dollars per article. I used to spend a Saturday at tech libraries and get caught up on r2cent research in my area of interest (lasers & nonlinear optics). I could make as many copies as I could afford 10 cents per page. People speak of access to information, there is far less open and free access now than in the 1950s and 1960s. People have no idea what has been lost as each publisher decided to squeeze profit from reading. Further I’ve seen evidence in one classic American humor series “Pecks Bad Boy and His Pa” (which waa an 1880s series of very funny stories, where a young man hangs out at the local grocers (do not think Ralphs) the 1880s grocers were small community stores that carried produce, meats and flour (people baked their own). Each installment the boy stops by to tell the grocer about the latest practical joke he has played on his father. The stories are brilliant examples of unique American style, kids who really are smarter than their parents. That type of view would have been highly frowned on in the UK in the 1880s where wisdom only came from the past. The American perspective was wisdom came from the future. Hugely different outlook thatcia now long since forgottwn. There is now editing of some old American classics to make them read more in l8ne with todays,political ciews. I think that is rong. People can not appreciate how much social progrwss (and how little!) has occured if tgey are prevented from seeing & confronting the racist and sexist views that were ingrained into everyday language. I’m so sorry that readers today live in this information controlled envirinment, so many of the 1950s controversial science fiction novels and especially pulp short stories, those which really challenged the status quo are no longer available.

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