Ben Books in PBS Limelight Sunday Night


As is well known to most Franklin residents, the Franklin Public Library is considered to be America's first free public library. Repaying the honor of having had the town named for him in 1778, and with a little prodding from the locals, who actually asked originally for a bell for their new meeting house, Dr. Franklin had his friend purchase a collection of more than 100 books, deemed useful and fitting for a rural town bent on self-improvement, and had them shipped from London to Massachusetts. This was an expensive proposition back in the day, likely even more costly than the coveted bell.

Who should be allowed to access the books became an immediate controversy. But, on November 20th, 1790, voters at Franklin's town meeting decided the books should be made available to all Franklin inhabitants free of charge. The bulk of the original Franklin collection is still housed in a special display case.

With Ken Burns’ recently completed, two-party program on Benjamin Franklin now available, Pamela Watts, two-time Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist at Rhode Island’s PBS station, WSBE TV Channel decided to bring a spotlight to the town's unique relationship with a famous founding father.

According to the Town marketing pro, Lily Rivera, the program will air on Sunday, May 8, at 7:30pm with an encore on Wednesday, May 11. (Digital broadcast channel 36.1, Verizon Franklin Channel 18,not sure about Comcast availability). The program will be available to stream on the Rhode Island PBS website shortly after.

Watts conducted interviews with retired teacher and town history James C. Johnston and reference librarian/archivist Vicki Earls.

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