"A Few Good Books": South Dakota's Country School Libraries

Books were scarce in nineteenth-century South Dakota. Limited resources and a lack of widespread interest worked to hinder the growth of libraries in the rural schools. But library advocates persisted in their cause, voicing their support, engaging in fund-raising activities, and proposing library legislation. Their efforts eventually led to the passage of a law in 1901 mandating a library in every school district in South Dakota. Educators carefully monitored the growing library collections. Their deep-seated faith in the power of books to shape children's lives made them zealous to exclude "impure and worthless" literature from the schools.