Robert blogged this yesterday and I find this very appropriate for our blog and reading group: we do rely heavily on public libraries. Robert writes:
Although Julius Caesar had planned to build a public library in Rome,
he was assassinated before he could put his plan into operation. It
fell to one of his adherents, Asinius Pollio, to build a public library
in the Atrium Libertatis financed from the spoils of his 39 BC war
against an Illyrian tribe, the Parthini. His library contained both
Greek and Latin works, possibly in separate wings. Augustus, Octavia,
and Tiberius also founded public libraries.
Unfortunately, we don't know precisely how the libraries worked: whether people were allowed to borrow books or only read them in the library, who was allowed to use the libraries and many other details. We do know that an east facing room was recommended to take advantage of the light, so presumably opening hours were in the morning rather than the late afternoon or evening.
Two general articles on libraries in the ancient world, one in French and one in English. An article on the location of the public libraries in Rome.
Go to Matters Arising
The above English article is from William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875 via Lacus Curtius.
It mentions that the library of Pollio was followed by that of Augustus, in the temple of Apollo on the Mount Palatine (Suet. Aug. 29; Dion Cass. LIII.1), and another, bibliothecae Octavianae (so called from Augustus's sister Octavia), forming part of the Porticus Octaviae.
Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby): A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, London: Oxford University Press, 1929, also at Lacus Curtius.
Here, courtesy Bill Thayer, is a photo of what remains of the porticus:
© William P. Thayer