The Junto: Alive and Well in Philadelphia

Dr. Michael J. Barsanti, Edwin Wolf 2nd Director.

Michael J. Barsanti, Ph.D.
The Edwin Wolf 2nd Director

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about “Franklin Circles,” a national program of New York City’s 92Y that attempts to recreate Franklin’s Junto in cities around the country.  LCP Director Michael Barsanti wrote a letter to the editor letting WSJ readers know that the spirit of the Junto still lives. It was printed in the September 6, 2017 edition of the newspaper:

Letter to the editor, Wall Street Journal, September 6, 2017

Regarding “What Would Ben Franklin Say?” (Life & Arts, Aug. 22): Readers might be interested to know that Franklin’s original Junto is still alive and well in Philadelphia. In his autobiography Franklin describes how the members of his discussion group would often need recourse to their books to settle arguments. An initial plan for members to bring all their books together in one place failed when books were borrowed and not returned. Franklin improved on the idea by encouraging the members of the Junto and their friends to form a new kind of library company, which required members to pay a deposit upon joining. If a member failed to return a book, the cost was taken out of his deposit. The pooled funds were also used to buy new books, chosen by the members.

This venture was called the Library Company of Philadelphia, and 286 years after its founding it is still going strong. It was the first lending library in what would become the U.S., arguably the first anywhere. Franklin was especially proud of it and of the level of education it brought to the people of the colonies.

The spirit of shared learning and mutual improvement lives on in the work of scholars who use our collections to learn about our nation’s earliest days, and who share with one another and with our members and shareholders their discoveries.

Michael Barsanti

Library Company of Philadelphia