The San Francisco Public Library has been digitizing its historical document collections for years, including the scrapbooks of famed homicide detective Theodore Kytka. The SFPL is among scores of libraries and archives adding their digital collections to the DPLA. Via San Francisco Public Library hide caption

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The Tyson Library in Ludlow, Vt., is required to support itself independently; public libraries in Vermont receive no state funding. Neda Ulaby/NPR hide caption

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At a Human Library event at the Santa Monica Public Library, a police detective "book" talks to two "readers." Human Library events and projects, which are held at libraries across the country, allow participants to "check out" volunteers and have conversations about their life experiences. Annie Wyndham Solomon (Wynsolo Photography)/Santa Monica Public Library hide caption

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Volunteers at the Queens Library in the Far Rockaway section of Queens hand out coats to people affected by Hurricane Sandy. AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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If a LEGO lion can take pride of place at the New York Public Library, why not video games in the reading rooms? The NYPLarcade program is a kind of book club for gamers, inviting participants to dive deep with discussions of strategy, game structure and more. Bebeto Matthews/AP hide caption

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Poor Donna Reed: Her Mary would have ended up working in a library — shudder — if not for the matrimonial intervention of Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey. Happily, 1946's It's a Wonderful Life isn't the only lens through which pop culture assesses the worth of the institution and those who make it tick. RKO Pictures/Getty Images hide caption

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Carnegie ultimately gave away $60 million to fund a system of 1,689 public libraries across the country. "In bestowing charity the main consideration should be to help those who help themselves," he wrote. AFP/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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