He devoted his life to making public libraries more accessible and useful to users, as well as promoting reading.
After studying law he became the director of the Denver Public library, which he made among the first to allow visitors to browse without librarian oversight.
At the Newark Public library in New Jersey he instituted one of the first foreign-language literature sections, and decorated it with paintings from American artists.
He was born in Woodstock, Vermont.
Like him the author Daniel Boorstin, as a Librarian of Congress, helped to promote reading.