And, O thou Saviour, and Shepherd
of Thy New-English Israel: Be Entreated Mercifully
to look down upon they Flocks in the Wilderness.
Oh, give us not up to the Blindness and Madness
of neglecting the Lambs in the Flocks. Inspire thy
People, and all Orders of men among thy People with
a just care for the Education of Posterity. Let
Well-Ordered and well-instructed and well-maintained
Schools, be the Honour and the Defence of our Land.
Let Learning, and all the Helps and Means
of it, be precious in our Esteem and by Learning,
let the Interests of thy Gospel so prevail, that
we may be made wise unto Salvation.... Save
us from the Mischiefs and Scandals of an Uncultivated
-- Cotton Mather, "The
Education of Children"
Puritans constructed schools and libraries as a means
of staving off barbarism and preserving their culture.
But while schools and libraries functioned as a means
of "preserving" culture, they also served as
an instrument of cultural change. Now new technologies
are providing a new challenge to the traditional methods
of preserving, prescribing, and mediating that were previously
the role of schools and libraries, leading to new types
of cultural change.
Cotton Mather saw the enemy, and it was
Puritans established schools and libraries
to provide mediated access to selected texts to preserve culture.
The rise of republican principles led to an expansion of collections
and access along with new forms of prescribing, mediating, and mentoring.
In the nineteenth century, the growth of circulating libraries, subscription
libraries, and public libraries in America allowed for a
new democratization of the dissemination of information.