John Cotton Dana (1856-1929), US librarian

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”

Dana was born into a large family in Woodstock, VT. He attended Dartmouth College, but faltering health forced him to move westward to recover. He joined a friend in Colorado and both worked as surveyors for the railroad. His health improved and he returned west to study law, but after passing the bar in New York, he came back to Colorado to practice law in Denver.

His involvement with libraries began with a campaign against the “hands off” book policy of the Denver Public Library and other libraries. When the position of library director for that institution became vacant, he was offered the job and he served there nine years. Among his innovations were open stacks and a separate section for children’s materials.

Dana returned east to spend four years at the Springfield Library in Springfield, MA. Then, in 1902, he arrived at the Newark Public Library in Newark, NJ, where he would work for the remainder of his life. There, he acquired a significant collection of foreign language materials to cater to the city’s large immigrant population. He also catered to Newark’s businessmen by opening a branch library dedicated to business materials in the heart of the business district, the first such special library in the country. He was also very active in working with local schools, such as Rutgers, and began the collection which became the foundation for the Newark Museum. For his contributions to civic life, he became known as “Newark’s First Citizen”.

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