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Title: Library essays; papers related to the work of Public Libraries
Author: Bostwick, Arthur E. (Arthur Elmore)
Language: English
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                            LIBRARY ESSAYS


                            LIBRARY ESSAYS

                      PAPERS RELATED TO THE WORK
                          OF PUBLIC LIBRARIES

                      ARTHUR E. BOSTWICK, PH. D.

                       THE H. W. WILSON COMPANY
                               NEW YORK


The author of these papers began his service in librarianship in April,
1895. He celebrates his silver jubilee by gathering them into a single
volume. Before becoming a librarian he had worked for many years as
teacher, editor and journalist, and the use of the pen having become
second nature, he took it up in behalf of libraries and librarians,
somewhat sooner, perhaps, than experience would warrant. However, the
papers reflect to a certain extent the progress of library work during
the past quarter century.

                                                        A. E. B.


PAINS AND PENALTIES IN LIBRARY WORK                                    3

Read at the Magnolia Conference of the
American Library Association, June, 1902.
(_A. L. A. Proceedings_, 1902, p. 29-34)

HOW LIBRARIANS CHOOSE BOOKS                                           17

(_Public Libraries_, April, 1903, p. 137-41)

THE WORK OF THE SMALL PUBLIC LIBRARY                                  29

(_Library Journal_, August, 1903, p. 596-600)

LAY CONTROL IN LIBRARIES AND ELSEWHERE                                39

Read before the Trustees’ Section of the
American Library Association, at the Niagara
Conference. (_A. L. A. Proceedings_, 1903,
p. 199-202)

A LIBRARIAN’S STANDPOINT                                              49

An address before the Trustees’ Section of
the American Library Association (_A. L. A.
Proceedings_, 1906, p. 40-4)

IDEALS                                                                59

Presidential address before the New York Library
Association, Lake Placid, September
21, 1903. (_Library Journal_, October, 1903,
p. 704-7)

LIBRARY STATISTICS                                                    69

(_Library Journal_, January, 1904, p. 5-8)

MODEST VATICINATIONS                                                  79

Read before the Pennsylvania Library Club,
Philadelphia, May 9, 1904. (_Library Journal_,
October, 1904, p. 517-23)


Read before the New York Library Association,
Twilight Park, September, 1906. (_Library
Journal_, February, 1907, p. 51-5)


(_Public Libraries_, May, 1907, p. 171-4)

THE LIBRARIAN AS A CENSOR                                            121

Presidential address before the American Library
Association, Lake Minnetonka Conference,
June, 1908. (_Library Journal_, July,
1908, p. 257-64)

HOW TO RAISE THE STANDARD OF BOOK SELECTION                          141

Read at the meeting of the Library commissions
of the New England States, Hartford,
Conn., February 11, 1909. (_Public Libraries_,
May, 1909, p. 163-7)

LIBRARY CIRCULATION AT LONG RANGE                                    221

(_Library Journal_, July, 1913, p. 391-4)


Read before the round table of branch librarians
at the Washington conference, May 28,
1914. (_Library Journal_, August, 1914,
p. 588-91)

THREE KINDS OF LIBRARIANS                                            241

Read before the Missouri Library Association,
Sedalia, November 18, 1914. (_Public
Libraries_, January, 1915, p. 1-4; February,
1915, p. 47-50)

SCHOOL LIBRARIES AND MENTAL TRAINING                                 255

(_School Review_, June, 1915, p. 395-405)

THE LIBRARY AND THE BUSINESS MAN                                     269

A luncheon address to the Advertising Club
of St. Louis. (_Library Journal_, April, 1917,
p. 259-64)

SYSTEM IN THE LIBRARY                                                153

Read before the Missouri State Library Association,
Columbia, Mo., October 28, 1909.
(_Library Journal_, November, 1909, p. 476-82)

THE EXPLOITATION OF THE PUBLIC LIBRARY                               171

Address before the American Library Association
at the Pasadena Conference, May 19,
1911. (_A. L. A. Proceedings_, 1911, p. 60-5)

SERVICE SYSTEMS IN LIBRARIES                                         183

(_Library Journal_, June, 1912, p. 299-304)

EFFICIENCY RECORDS IN LIBRARIES                                      199

(_Library Journal_, March, 1913, p. 131-3)

MAL-EMPLOYMENT IN THE LIBRARY                                        205

Read before the Iowa Library Association.
(_Iowa Library Quarterly_, October, 1912,
p. 247-52)

COST OF ADMINISTRATION                                               217

Report to the American Library Institute.
(_Public Libraries_, December, 1912, p. 416-18)

POETS, LIBRARIES AND REALITIES                                       283

An address at the opening of the new building
of the Indianapolis Public Library. (_Library
Journal_, December, 1917, p. 944-50)

THE CHURCH AND THE PUBLIC LIBRARY                                    299

(_Homiletic Review_, June, 1918, p. 435-9)

THE FUTURE OF LIBRARY WORK                                           309

(_A. L. A. Bulletin_, September, 1919, p. 50-7)

POPULARIZING MUSIC THROUGH THE LIBRARY                               325

Read before the National Association of
Music Teachers and reprinted from the published
Proceedings for 1918.

TWO CARDINAL SINS                                                    341

A MESSAGE TO BEGINNERS                                               357

LUCK IN THE LIBRARY                                                  373

THE LIBRARY AS A MUSEUM                                              393

THE LIBRARY AND THE LOCALITY                                         409

INDEX                                                                429




In somewhat the same way as Irving makes Diedrich Knickerbocker begin
his history of New York with the creation of the world, so we may open a
discussion of this subject with a word on the theory of punishment. We
all know that neither moral philosophers nor penologists are agreed in
this matter. Do we inflict punishment to satisfy our eternal sense of
justice, to prevent further wrong-doing on the part of the person
punished, as an example to others, or to reform the delinquent? So far
as the justicial theory goes, it is unnecessary here to discuss whether
it is founded merely on the old savage feeling of revenge, which having
done its part in ensuring punishment to the wrong-doer in the
uncivilized past, should now be put aside. As a matter of fact the rule,
“Let no guilty man escape,” is a very good one for practical purposes,
whatever its theoretical implications. Why should it be necessary to
proceed according to any one theory in administering punishment?
Practically in the home, at school, and in the courtroom the simple
administration of justice does very well for us, and when we go a little
farther into the matter we see that each of the other elements enters
into consideration. Certainly it is so in the library.

Penalties for the infraction of our rules should be so inflicted that
future wrong-doing both on the part of the culprit and on that of the
remainder of the public becomes less likely than before. Whether we
always do this in the most satisfactory way may be queried.

Punishable acts committed in a library may be divided, according to the
old ecclesiastical classification, into _mala prohibita_ and _mala in
se_; in other words, into acts that are simply contrary to library
regulations and those that are absolutely wrong. To steal a book is
wrong anywhere and does not become so merely because the act is
committed in a library; but the retention of a borrowed book for fifteen
instead of fourteen days is not absolutely wrong, but simply contrary to
library regulations.

The keeping of books overtime is a purely library offence, committed
against the library and to be punished by the library; and with it may
be classed such infractions of the rules as failure to charge or
discharge a book, loud talking or misbehavior below the rank of really
disorderly conduct, such injury to books as does not constitute wilful
mutilation, the giving of a fictitious name at the application desk,

For all these strictly library offences the favorite penalties seem to
be two in number--the exaction of a fine and exclusion from library
privileges--temporary or permanent. The former is more used than the
latter, and I venture to think unjustly so. From the sole standpoint of
punishment the great advantage of a fine is that it touches people in
their most sensitive point--the pocket. But this is a ganglion whose
sensitiveness is in inverse proportion to its size; in one case the
exaction of a cent means the confiscation of the possessor’s entire
fortune; in another the delinquent could part with a hundred dollars
without depriving himself of a necessity or a pleasure. Of course this
lack of adaptability to the conditions of the person to be punished is
not confined to this one method. Imprisonment, for instance, may be the
ruin of a life to the hitherto respectable person, while to the tramp it
may simply mean a month’s shelter and food. But in the case of a money
penalty the lack of adaptability is particularly noticeable, and hence
wherever it is exacted a large portion of the public comes to forget
that it is a penalty at all. Instead of a punishment exacted in return
for the commission of a misdemeanor and intended to discourage the
repetition thereof, it is looked upon as payment for the privilege of
committing the misdemeanor, and it in fact becomes this very thing.
Thus, in states where there is a prohibitory law, and periodical raids
are made on saloons with the resulting fines, these fines often become
in effect license fees, and are so regarded by both delinquents and
authorities. Where a municipality provides that automobiles shall not be
speeded in its streets under penalty of a heavy fine, the wealthy owners
of motor-carriages too often regard this as permission to speed on
payment of a stated amount, and act accordingly. So in the library, the
fine for keeping books overtime is widely regarded as a charge for the
privilege of keeping the books longer than the formal rules allow. Being
so regarded, the fine loses a great part of its punitive effect, and
largely becomes in fact what it is popularly thought to be. Thus we have
a free public library granting extra privileges to those who can afford
to pay for them and withholding the same from those who cannot afford to
pay--an extremely objectional state of things.

In making this characterization I am aware that the sale of additional
facilities and privileges by a free library is regarded as proper by a
large number of librarians, and that the extension of systems of which
it is a feature is widely urged. It is found in the St Louis plan for
fiction, which has been so successful, and still more in Mr. Dewey’s
proposed library bookstore. That all these plans are admirable in many
ways may be freely acknowledged. In so far as they may be adopted by
endowed libraries they are certainly unobjectionable. But in spite of
their advantages, it seems to me that their use in an institution
supported from the public funds is a mistake. The direct payment of
money to any institution so supported, even if such payment is logically
justifiable, is open to so much misconstruction and is so commonly
misunderstood or misinterpreted, that I would hold up as an ideal the
total abolition of all money transactions between the individual members
of a public and institutions supported by that public as a whole.

The present subject evidently does not justify further discussion of
this point, but its mention here is proper because if library fines have
become in many cases payments for a privilege, that very fact should
lead those who agree with what has been said above to strive for their

Another objection to the fine, which is, curiously enough, also the
chief reason why it is almost hopeless to look for its abolition, is the
fact that wherever fines have been applied they have become a source of
revenue that cannot well be neglected. In a village not far from New
York the receipts from bicycle fines at one time nearly paid the running
expenses of the place. Agitation in favor of substituting other methods
of punishing the cyclists who ride on the sidewalks and fail to light
their lamps at sundown would evidently be hopeless here. In the same way
receipts from fines have become a very considerable source of income in
large libraries, and are not to be neglected even in small ones. This
is apparent in the following table[2]:

                    Income       Fines

Boston           $309,417.52  $4,621.45
Chicago           285,951.22   7,131.19
Philadelphia      141,954.45   2,385.52
Brooklyn          105,081.19   4,013.26
N. Y. C. F. L      91,613.12   4,648.98
Buffalo            87,946.85   2,951.21
Milwaukee          71,328.80   1,295.99
San Francisco      64,966.31   2,250.85
Newark             43,706.36   1,905.17

Evidently the abolition of fines in these cases would mean a reduction
of income that would make itself felt at once.

Now, of course, the knowledge that the detection of wrongdoing is
financially profitable to the detector results in increased vigilance.
So far, that is a good thing. But it goes farther than this: it makes
the authorities strict regarding technicalities; it may even lead to the
encouragement of infraction of the law in order that the penalties may
reach a larger amount. In the town that is supported by bicycle fines we
may fairly conclude that no resident calls the attention of the unwary
cyclist to the warning sign, past which he wheels toward the sidewalk.
To do so would decrease the village revenue and raise taxes. So too,
what librarian would wish to adopt any course that will certainly reduce
the money at his disposal for salaries and books?

Supposing, however, that this loss can be made up in some way, is there
anything that can be substituted for the fine? It has already been
stated that suspension from library privileges is in use as a penalty to
a considerable extent, and there seems to be no reason why this should
not be extended to the case of overdue books. There might, for instance,
be a rule that for every day of illegal retention of a book the holder
should be suspended from library privileges for one week. The date of
expiration of the suspension would be noted on the holder’s card, and
the card would not be returned to him before that date.

This plan would probably have interesting results which there is not
time to anticipate here. But as long as books cost money and librarians
refuse to work altogether for love, financial considerations must play a
large part in library changes. The only way in which fines can be
abolished without decreasing income is to make the abolition a condition
of an increased appropriation, which, of course, could be done by the
appropriating body. The making of such a condition is extremely
unlikely. Hence, if we agree that fines are undesirable we must regard
their abolition as an unattainable ideal. We may, however, treat them so
as to minimize their bad effect, and this, I believe, may be done in
either or both of the following two ways:

(1) We may emphasize the punitive value of the fine and at the same time
increase its value as a source of revenue by making it larger. This
would doubtless decrease the number of overdue books, and the exact
point where the increase should stop would be the point where this
decrease should so balance the increase of fines as to make the total
receipts a maximum; or, if this maximum should greatly exceed the
revenue received from fines under the old arrangement, then the rate
could be still farther increased until the total receipts fell to the
old amount. The practical method would be to increase the fines by a
fraction of a cent per day at intervals of several months, comparing the
total receipts for each interval with that of the corresponding period
under the old arrangement; and stopping when this sum showed signs of

(2) We may give the librarian the option of substituting suspension for
the fine whenever, in his judgment, this is advisable. This is the
course pursued by the law when it gives to the trial judge the option of
fining or imprisoning an offender. In cases where a fine is no
punishment at all, and where books are kept overtime deliberately,
suspension from library privileges would probably prove salutary. A
variant of the second plan would be to allow the culprit himself to
substitute suspension for his fine. This in effect is what the offender
in the police court does when he avows that he has not the money to pay
his fine and is sent to jail to work it off. At present when a library
offender is manifestly unable to pay his fine there is usually no
alternative but to remit it or to deny the culprit access to the library
until it is paid--in many cases an unreasonably heavy punishment.

Of course there is no reason why all these modifications of existing
rules should not be made together. According to this plan fines would be
raised and suspension would be substituted in any case at the
librarian’s option and in all cases where the person fined avows that he
is unable to pay his fine. The rates can be so adjusted that under this
plan there is no decrease of revenue, but rather a net increase.

Of course the adoption of such rules would be regarded by a large
portion of the public as a curtailment of privileges, but such an outcry
as it would probably raise ought not to be objectionable as it is a
necessary step in the instruction of the users of a library regarding
the proper function of penalties for infraction of its rules. These
rules are for the benefit of the majority and the good sense of that
majority ought to, and doubtless would, come to the rescue of the
library authorities on short notice.

As long as the library fine is a recognized penalty, numerous petty
questions will continue to arise regarding its collection, registration,
and use. Any exhaustive treatment of these is impossible in the limits
of a single paper and I have chosen to neglect most of them in order to
dwell on the question in its larger aspects. It is the exaction of the
fine, after all, that is the library penalty--the money is part of the
library income and its collection and disposition are properly questions
of finance. One point, however, regarding the disposition of the fines
bears directly on what has been said. In municipal public libraries like
that of Boston, where the city requires that the fines shall be turned
directly into the public treasury and not retained for library use, the
substitution of a different penalty would presumably involve no
diminution of income. From ordinary considerations of equity, however,
it seems to me that this disposition of the fines is objectionable. If
the fines are to be turned into the city treasury they should be placed
to the credit of the library appropriation as they are in Brooklyn.

Regarding the collection of fines there are one or two points that bear
directly on their efficiency as a punitive measure. First, shall fines
be charged? It seems a hardship to refuse a well-known member a book
because he does not happen to have with him the change to pay a 15 cent
fine. This point of view, however, loses sight again of the element of
punishment. When the delinquent who is fined a dollar in the police
court does not have the money with him, does he request the magistrate
to charge it and send in a bill for the month’s penalties all at once?
The true method, I am convinced, is to insist on cash payment of fines,
and if this is done promptly their character as penalties will be more
generally recognized.

Another point in regard to the collection of fines is their effect on
the assistants themselves. In every library a stream of money passes in
at the desk in very small amounts. This must all be accounted for, and
we have the alternative of requiring vouchers for every cent or of
simply keeping a memorandum account and seeing that the cash corresponds
with it at the close of the day.

This latter plan, in some form, is usually adopted. To misappropriate
funds under these circumstances is not difficult, and I submit that it
is not right to place a large number of young girls in a situation where
such misappropriation is easy and safe. In spite of Mark Twain, who
prays that he may be led into temptation early and often, that he may
get accustomed to it, I do not believe that this is a good general
policy to pursue. We all know of cases where assistants have fallen into
temptation, and we should not hold the library altogether blameless in
the matter. But on general principles such a plan is not good business.
Every one who is responsible for money collected must show vouchers that
he turns over every cent that has been given to him. Why should the
library assistant be an exception? I look to see some form of cash
register on every charging desk in the ideal library of the future, nor
can I see that its use would be a reflection on the honesty of the
assistants any more than the refusal of a bank to cash an improperly
endorsed check is a reflection on the honesty of the holder.

This is on the supposition that we are to retain the fine as a penalty.
Such considerations, of course, weigh down the balance still more
strongly in favor of its abolition.

I have devoted so much space to the penalty for keeping books overtime
because the rule on this subject is the one that is chiefly broken in a
free public library. Other offences are usually dealt with by
suspension, and very properly so. For the loss or accidental injury of a
book, however, a fine is again the penalty, and here, as the offence is
the causing of a definite money loss to the library, there is more
reason for it The money in this case, indeed, is to be regarded as
damages, and its payment is rather restitution than punishment. Even
here, however, the argument against money transactions with a free
institution seems to hold good. There is no reason in the majority of
cases why he who loses or destroys a book should not give to the library
a new copy instead of the price thereof, and for minor injury suspension
is surely an adequate penalty.

Here we may pause for a moment to ask: What right has a library to
inflict any penalties at all? I must leave the full discussion of this
question to the lawyers, but I am quite sure that libraries, like some
other corporations, often enact and enforce rules that they have no
legal right to make. To cite an instance that came under my own
observation, the Brooklyn Public Library’s rules were for more than a
year, according to good authority, absolutely invalid because they had
not been enacted by the Municipal Assembly, and that library had no
right to collect a single fine. Yet during this time it did collect
fines amounting to several thousand dollars, and not a word of protest
was heard from the public. In this and similar cases we are getting down
to first principles--the consent of the governed; which, whether based
on ignorance or knowledge, is what we must rely on in the end for the
enforcement of law in self-governing communities. I am afraid that it is
this general consent, in a good many instances, that is enabling us to
enforce our regulations, rather than any right derived from positive
law. To take a related instance, it is by no means certain that
libraries are not breaking the law of libel every time they send out an
overdue postal notice. The courts have held that a dun on a postal is
libellous, and our overdue cards specifically inform the person to whom
they are addressed that he owes money to the library, and threaten him
with punishment if the debt is not paid. Yet although occasional
delinquents remark that the law is violated by these postals, public
libraries in all parts of the United States continue to send them out by
thousands daily with few protests. This seems clearly a case where the
public consents to a punitive measure of doubtful legality, and approves
it for the public good.

The second of the two classes into which we have divided infractions of
library rules consists of those that are also contrary to statute law or
municipal regulation. How far shall these be dealt with purely from the
library standpoint, and when shall they be turned over to the public
authorities? If a small boy yells at the desk-assistant through door or
window he is a disturber of the peace; if he throws at her some handy
missile, such as a vegetable or a tin can, as occasionally happens in
certain sections of unregenerate New York, he is technically committing
an assault; shall he be handed over to the police?

Of course one must not treat trifles too seriously. Yet probably
libraries have been somewhat too timid about dealing with petty
offences. There is an unwillingness to drag the libraries into the
police reports that seems to be a relic of the days when all libraries
were haunts of scholarly seclusion.

The modern public library cannot afford to be considered an “easy mark”
by those who wish to indulge in horse play or commit petty misdemeanors,
and in some cases it is in danger of getting this reputation.

When we come to more serious offences, the library’s duty is clearer.
Theft, wilful mutilation of books, or grave disorder must of course be
punished. In many cases, however, the detection of the first two
offences is very difficult. Theft from open shelves is easy. For the
thousands of books lost yearly in this way hardly a culprit meets
punishment. I have known a professional detective to confess that the
open shelf baffled him. “If you will only shut the books up,” he said,
“I can find out who takes ’em; but here everybody is taking out books
and walking around with them.” When the professional acknowledges
himself beaten, what shall the librarian do? Mutilation is even harder
to detect. In both these cases the offender has simply to wait his
opportunity. Sooner or later there will be a second or two when no
assistant is looking, even if the man is under long-standing suspicion,
and in that brief time the book is slipped into the pocket or the leaf
is torn out. Even when the offender is caught in the act, the magistrate
may not hold, or the jury may fail to convict. A persistent mutilator of
books in one of our branch libraries escaped punishment last winter
because the custodian of the reading-room where he was caught did not
wait until the leaf on which he was working was actually severed. The
man asserted that the sharp lead pencil that he was using to separate
the leaf was merely being employed to mark a place, and thus by
confessing to a minor defacement he escaped the penalty of the more
serious offence.

For a library that is thus forced to appeal continually to the law to
protect its assistants, its users, and its collections, a manual of
library law would be useful, and I am not sure that the appointment of a
committee of this Association to take the matter in charge would not be
eminently justified.

It is the misfortune of this paper that it has been obliged to dwell on
the darker side of library work. It is hardly necessary to remind an
audience of librarians that this is not the prominent side. All users of
a library are not delinquents or law-breakers, and the assistants have
other and better work than to act as fine-collectors and detectives. The
sombre effect of what you have just heard should have been dispelled by
a paper on “Rewards and delights of library work,” but this the Program
Committee has seen fit to omit, probably because it is not necessary to
emphasize the obvious.


The form in which this subject is stated removes it from the region of
ethics and brings it down to the hard realms of fact I am not to tell
you how librarians ought to select books, but how they do select them. I
shall assume, however, that you do not care to have this paper filled
with instances of abnormal and unprofitable selection, but that you wish
to hear of the normal and the unobjectionable. Booksellers tell us that
many buyers of books are governed in their choice by the color of the
covers, and I have suspected that some librarians are influenced in the
same way. Some librarians appear to object to works that are less than
one century old; others are on record as discouraging the purchase of
fiction less than one year of age. Some librarians have a prejudice
against certain classes of books and an inordinate love for others.

The only things that should be considered by the librarian in buying
books for his library are the needs of the community that he serves, the
capability of the various books under consideration to satisfy those
needs, and the financial ability of the library to secure what is

I shall take up these points in order. First, the needs of the
community. These are not necessarily to be measured by its demands,
otherwise the librarian’s labor would be considerably lightened.
Unfortunately, when a community needs a given class of books very
desperately it is often serenely unconscious of the fact. To the
librarian falls the task not only of determining what the need is and of
filling it, but also of arousing a wholesome consciousness of it. In
this educational work he may be, and often is, aided by the teacher, the
clergyman, or even by the users of the library themselves. Hence the
importance of getting in touch with all the agencies that may do work
along this line. There is nothing that calls for more tact. With the
children it is comparatively easy to point out a deficiency, but a
direct attempt with a self-respecting adult may end in disaster, and a
season or two of well-meant effort may result in weakening the
librarian’s influence or even in losing him his position. But one can
rarely teach tact to the tactless, and tact is something that every
librarian must have, so that this lopping-off process, after all, may
simply be regarded as a phase of nature’s elimination of the unfit. One
way of ascertaining the proportional demand for various classes of
literature in a community, is by examining the class-percentage of
circulation. By comparing these with the corresponding volume
percentages we may see whether the demands of the community are being
met, and by comparison with the percentages of an ideal library we may
see whether such demand ought to be met or not. Of course, the ideal is
somewhat indefinite. One may accept the suggested proportions in the
A.L.A. catalog, or average those of several libraries of high class; or
one may construct an ideal of one’s own. In any case, the ideal
proportions will evidently vary with conditions of place and time. To
show how this test may be applied, consider the percentage of science
circulated last year in the New York Public library. This varied from 3
to 28 per cent in the various branches, and was 9 per cent for the whole
library. The percentage of science on the shelves similarly varied from
6 to 18 per cent, and was also 9 for the whole library. In our library
sociology and philology are included in the science report, and the
percentage of these three classes combined in the old A.L.A. catalog is
17. If this is to be taken as the standard, therefore, the library as a
whole falls below it, though individual branches approach or even exceed
it. As a whole, however, the demand and the supply balance pretty well.
There is no doubt, however, that in this and most other libraries the
demand in this class is too small and needs stimulation. Of course, this
is brought up merely as an instance of how fertile this comparison of
percentages is in information, and how valuable in ascertaining whether
the demands of a community are supplied, and whether they ought to be
supplied, along any given line.

We will assume that either in the ways indicated, or in some other, the
librarian has satisfied himself that he understands what his community
needs. How shall he find the books that will satisfy that need, and when
they are found (or, still more, when they obtrude themselves on his
notice) how shall he know that they are what they claim to be?

In order to find what he wants, the librarian naturally turns at first
to such classed bibliographies as he has at hand, including publishers’
trade lists. Unfortunately, books very rapidly become out of print, and
if his bibliography or list is even two or three years old he cannot be
sure that his work of selection is not in vain. The value of the A.L.A.
catalog has been much impaired by its inclusion of out-of-print books,
and as, now that it is several years old, the number of these is
increasing daily, its use has become more and more vexatious, both to
librarians and publishers. It is to be hoped that in the new edition
now preparing the out-of-print books will be omitted. Fortunately we now
have at our disposal yearly alphabetical lists of in-print books. Such
are the index to the Trade list annual and the United States catalog for
American editions, and the Index to the reference catalog of current
literature for British books.

If the needs of your library require that some one class should be
largely replenished, you may call in expert knowledge. Some teacher or
student who is a specialist in that subject is generally not hard to
find, and his advice will be of the greatest value. Special
bibliographies are valuable in inverse ratio to their length--a complete
list of works on Egyptology, for instance, is hardly more valuable to
the ordinary small library than a full, unclassified list of books
in-print on all subjects.

The majority of the small library’s purchases are books as currently
issued. For these the _Publishers’ weekly_ is indispensable. Some
librarians prefer to look at every book before purchasing, and arrange
with publishers or booksellers to send large numbers of books weekly or
even daily on approval. This, if there is sufficient time, is a good
plan, but it is certainly wasteful. There are many books which we can
surely reject or accept from the author and title entry in the
_Publishers’ weekly_ as well as if the actual book were in hand. If a
mistake is made it will be, or should be, discovered as soon as the book
is received, and the volume can then be exchanged. Only the doubtful
books need be asked for on approval, and these will generally be found
to constitute a relatively small percentage of the whole.

The data on which the librarian may rely to accept or reject from a mere
list of books are: 1) the author’s name; 2) the title, with such brief
annotation as may follow it; 3) notices in the book magazines; 4) the
publisher’s name. The author stands for much--the style, method of
treatment, the fitness to print of what he has to say, the readableness
of his book, and so on. We all know that there are authors whom we can
absolutely rely on in these respects, either for acceptance or
rejection. It is thus necessary that the librarian may know the
uniformly good author and the uniformly bad ones; but experience must be
his guide, as this lies somewhat without the scope of the present paper.
The title should tell us something about the contents of the book, but,
unfortunately, the aim of the title-maker is too often not to give
information but to stimulate curiosity. In some cases this is carried so
far that the title of a book leaves us in absolute ignorance as to
whether it is sociology, travel, or fiction. One is, therefore,
generally obliged to refer to some kind of descriptive note to get the
desired information. Such notes are often appended to lists and the
librarian does well to remember that they are generally not intended to
be critical. For criticism we must go to the reviews, and here I have
always felt, and still feel, that the librarian has a real grievance.
The book periodicals are many, and every daily paper has its critical
page. This mass of matter is made accessible through the recently issued
Index to books reviewed. Yet with it all there is not one place where
the librarian may look for brief notes on current books, telling him
just what he wants to know and no more, and with the confidence that the
information is quite free from bias. In saying this I am quite ready to
give credit to our best book reviews for their many good qualities. What
I mean is, that the reviews are written for the reader or the
bookseller, never for the librarian. In making use of those at his
disposal the librarian must learn to discriminate, to weigh
authorities, and to pick out the occasional sharp needle of valuable
criticism from the haystack of discursive talk.

Lastly, the selector may rely on the name of the publisher. This may
tell him much or little, but it may at any rate guarantee good
paper and type, and it may also assure him that the book
contains no improprieties. Unfortunately, it cannot insure against
dullness--publisher’s readers are but mortal, and the best will
occasionally reject a pearl and take in a pebble.

When all is said and done, of course the intelligent man who has read a
book carefully knows more about it than he could have found out by
reading all the annotations and reviews in the world. The librarian of a
small library can read every book under consideration. The head of a
large library cannot do this; the larger his daily or weekly order, the
more he must rely on the recommendations and opinions of others, and
even the books that he orders on approval he cannot read himself.

Here, perhaps, is the place to note that not every librarian is his own
selector. The responsible decision in these matters rests, of course, in
most libraries, with a committee of some sort; but if the librarian is
one in whose judgment this committee has confidence (and no other should
hold the position at all) he will have a practically free hand. For
decision in regard to doubtful books, especially current fiction, some
libraries have special reading committees, often composed of ladies, but
it can hardly be said that the results arrived at in this way are
satisfactory. It is vastly better for the librarian to select a few
persons, either on his staff or outside of it, on whom he can rely to
give him information, after reading a book, on specific points regarding
which he may require it. Especially in considering current fiction
should the reader be able to distinguish between mere outspokenness,
such as we find in the Bible or Shakespeare, and immoral or degrading
tendency. The ordinary woman reader, especially the young woman, will
often condemn a book for frankness when its tendency is decidedly good,
and pass a clever, pleasant tale whose influence on many persons is bad,
though conveyed entirely by indirection. Of course the librarian or the
committee may make a general rule to exclude frankness, which,
personally, I think is a mistake, though I am free to acknowledge that
there are boundaries beyond which even a well-meaning writer should not
be allowed to go.

Of course, I can say but a word here on the trash question in fiction.
But be not, I pray, too stern a censor. When selecting for a free public
library judge books largely by their fruits. If a story sends a boy out
with a pistol to play robber--somewhat too much in earnest--it is surely
bad; if it makes him love justice and incline to pity, it cannot be
altogether out of place in a library though it may be unreal and inane.
Its characters may be wooden puppets to you, while to the young reader
they are heroes, full of the divine qualities of courage, sympathy, and
tenderness. As the reader thinketh so is the book--not as you, wise
critic, in your plentitude of knowledge, would have it to be.

The third consideration that must govern us in our choice, though I have
put it last, is really the controlling one. Unless there is something in
the treasury we may choose books all day, and our selection is as
unavailing as the street child’s choice of jewels in a shop window; and
the more money one has at one’s disposal, the easier it is to spend it.
I must speak of the library’s finances here, however, only as they
affect the librarian’s choice of books. Given a specified book
appropriation, the librarian must often have to decide upon the best way
to spend it, and upon the proper distribution of expenditure over the

All these things influence his choice more or less. From one point of
view it seems well to expend the greater part of the amount as soon as
it becomes available, especially if a large number of pressing needs
have been waiting for satisfaction. The trouble is that one cannot
foresee what needs will also press for satisfaction during the coming
year. Another plan is to distribute the expenditure pretty evenly
without making any too strict rule in the matter.

With the first arrangement the librarian will be apt to buy a good many
of the larger and more expensive works--and, perhaps, be sorry for it
afterward. With the latter he will purchase more current literature and
satisfy his readers better, though the general quality of his purchases
may not be so high.

Perhaps a compromise may bring the best results. He who decides at the
outset what reference works he can afford to buy during the year, and
how much he must spend at once on replacements and duplicates, and after
deducting these fixed charges from his appropriation divides the
remainder into weekly or monthly portions for current purchases, will
not go far wrong.

To the financial section of this discussion belongs also the question of
editions. Shall the librarian choose the best or the cheapest? Which is
the best and which is the cheapest for his purpose? In the first place,
we may exclude the extremes. Editions de luxe have no place in the
ordinary free library, and, on the other hand, we should not think of
offering to a self-respecting reader books printed on bad paper with
worse type, simply because they can be purchased at a phenomenally low
figure. But between these two there are many grades of beauty and
durability. Here, as elsewhere, there is safety in the golden mean. As
far as bindings of exceptional durability go, the question of paying
extra for them depends on the use that is to be made of the book. If it
will circulate so little that the ordinary binding will last twenty
years, why spend money for anything stronger? Again, if it get such hard
treatment that it must be replaced in a year’s time, why put on it a
binding that would outlive ten years of such vicissitudes? Still again,
with current books of popular interest, the library cannot wait to have
them put into special bindings, but for standard, popular works, which
will have steady but not hard use, and which can be ordered three months
before they are to be used, money spent on special bindings may be
economy in the end. Here, however, we are drifting a little way from our

The three points that we must take into consideration in selecting
books, namely, the community’s need, the determination of what books
will satisfy it, and the consideration of how far the library’s
financial condition will allow it to go in that direction, have been
treated separately, but it must be evident that they are in reality so
closely connected that they act and react on each other. No one of them
can in practice be considered apart from the others. Thus the first
necessity of the library may be books on music, and a secondary need may
be books on water supply. It may so happen, however, that a complete and
up-to-date work on the latter subject, we will say, has just been issued
at a moderate price, while the works on music most needed are expensive.
The result would be quite different from that reached by a
consideration of the first point alone. Again, we will take the case of
a large library with a book appropriation large enough to buy
practically all that it wants in current literature. This fact drops
point third out of consideration entirely and modifies both the others
considerably. If the library wants both music and hydraulics, and has
money enough for only one, we must consider carefully which can best be
spared; but if the funds are at hand for both, all this thought is not
needed. In like manner, even if there are funds for both, but only for
one or two books on each subject, we must select the books we need most,
which we need to do if we have money to buy all we want on both
subjects. In short, the work of selecting is more difficult, as has been
said, with a few books than with many, but the consolation must be that
the result is better. The temptation, when one has plenty of money, is
to let selection go by the board altogether and to garner in wheat and
tares alike, trusting to the public to do the sorting.

We may be almost alarmed to learn from the physiologist of the
complicated vital processes that go on within us, of which the cessation
means death, and yet of which we remain in daily ignorance. These things
often regulate themselves. The selection of books, like the inflation of
the lungs, may be performed almost automatically, yet with substantial
success. It is instructive to see how nearly the class percentages in
the ordinary library approximate to the average without any conscious
regulation by the librarian. The community is apt to get about what it
needs in fairly good quality and without running its library into debt.
Yet there can surely be no harm in analyzing a little the work of
selection, nor can there be any objection to supplementing by conscious
action work that has gone on, however well, chiefly in the combined
subconsciousness of a librarian and the community.

Especially is this desirable in making the distinction, already
emphasized at the opening of this paper, between what the community
wants and what it needs. The fever patient who needs acid sometimes
cries for a pickle, and thus cures himself in spite of his nurse; but it
is more commonly the case that the patient’s need is masked by some
abnormal desire, and that he cries for pork-chops or lobster, or
something else that would kill him. We can hardly give up the nurse,
therefore, provided she knows her business, and part of that business is
to realize the difference between a mere want and a vital need.

So with the librarian, the nurse of the reading public. Left altogether
to themselves her patients may kill themselves with pork or lobster; it
is her business to see that such an untoward event does not occur.

Those of us to whom this duty has been intrusted, whether we are
librarians, trustees, or the members of book-committees, deserve both
the good-will and the sympathy of the public; and, like the western
organist, I pray that we may not be shot. We are doing our best.


We cannot too often remind ourselves of the fact that a circulating
library is a distributing agency, and as such has points in common with
other such agencies. The whole progress of civilization is dependent on
distribution--the bringing to the individual of the thing he wants or
needs. The library’s activities are, therefore, in the same class with
commerce, and the tendency of modern changes in the library is to make
the analogy closer and closer. To recognize this fact is by no means to
degrade library work. All workers fall into the two great classes of
producers and distributors. Civilization can get along without neither;
we must have the farmer to grow the wheat and the railway to market it;
we must have the author to write the book and the publisher and the
bookseller and the librarian to place it in the hands of those who can
use it. The librarian is not a producer; he takes the product of other
people’s brains and distributes it; and his problem is how to do this
most effectively.

Do not misunderstand me. There have been some recent protests against
treating the library as a commercial instead of an educational
institution. The free library is not a commercial institution, but it
_is_ an agency for distributing something, and there are also hundreds
of other agencies for distributing other things. The objects and the
methods of distribution are various, but certain laws apply to all kinds
of distribution. Hence we may learn a good deal about library work by
examining to see what it has in common with other kinds of distribution
and in what respect it differs from them.

Now, the prime factors in any kind of distribution are: 1, the products
to be distributed; 2, the persons to whom they are to be distributed; 3,
the distributors and methods of distribution. I know no better way of
laying the basis of an efficient and successful distribution than the
brief study, in order, of these three factors.

First let us consider the things that we are to distribute, namely,
books. And at the outset let us remember that although these things are
apparently material, as much so as butter or hats, they are much more
than this. They are the vehicles for conveying ideas, so that a library
is a concern for the dissemination of ideas. This brings it in line with
another great intellectual and moral distributing agency--the school. In
the school the distributor is more often a producer than in the library,
especially in the universities, where the discoverer of new facts or
laws himself imparts them to his students. Yet the school is essentially
a distributing rather than a producing agency. In the school, however
the means of distribution are not limited, while in the library they are
pretty strictly confined to the printed book. I know that there are some
people who believe that the library is growing out of such restrictions,
and that its mission is to be the distribution of ideas through any and
all mediums--the spoken word, in lectures; the pictures, in exhibitions
of art; the museum specimen; and so on. We should welcome all these as
adjuncts to our own business, and when we have mastered that business
thoroughly perhaps we may take them up each on its own account. Those
who love books, however, will want to see the distribution of books
always at the head of the library’s activities.

And it may be kept there, provided we make everything else in the
library serve as guide-posts to the printed records on the shelves. A
picture bulletin, for instance, may be both beautiful and useful, but it
should never be an end in itself. It is the bait, if we may so speak,
for the list of books that accompanies it. The pictures excite the
interest of a child who sees them and he wants to know more about them.
The list tells him where he can find out, and the result is increased
use of the library. In like manner if you have a lecture course, or a
loan exhibition in your library, see that it is made a means of
stimulating interest in your books.

I have said that in distribution we bring to the individual what he
wants or what he needs. That sounds a little tautological, but it is
not. A man often wants whiskey when he doesn’t need it at all, and
conversely a boy sometimes needs a whipping--but he doesn’t want it. So
with the reading public. They often want fiction of a class that they do
not need, and have no longing for books that would really benefit them.
Here we may mote a difference between the free library and all merely
commercial systems of distribution. As the purpose of the latter is to
make money, wants are regarded rather than needs. But even with a store
there are limitations. If any one wants an injurious article--for
instance, a poison or an explosive--the law steps in to prohibit or
regulate. And even outside the limits of such regulation, the personal
sense of responsibility to the community that governs the actions of an
honest merchant will prevent his attempting to satisfy certain wants
that he believes would better remain unsatisfied. So, too, certain books
are without the pale of the law--they would be confiscated and the
librarian would be punished if they were circulated. Beyond these there
are many books that we do not circulate simply from our sense of general
responsibility to the community.

The difference between our work and that of the merchant in this regard
lies chiefly in the more extended scope left for our own judgment. No
librarian thinks of circulating illegal literature; his only care is to
exclude such of the allowable books as he believes should not, for any
reason, be placed on his shelves. Here, sometimes, popularity and
usefulness part company. The librarian may yield entirely too much to
the wants--the demands--of the community and neglect its needs. His aim
should be to bring the wants and the needs into harmony so far as
possible, to make his people want what will do them good. This might be
dubbed “the whole duty of a librarian.” Few, I am afraid, attain to the
full measure of it, and too many fail even to realize its desirability.
Of course if you can bring the full force of a reader’s conscience to
bear on his reading--if you can make him feel that it is his duty to
read some good book that strikes him as stupid, you may make him stick
to it to the bitter end, but such perfunctory reading does little good.
The pleasure one gets in reading is a sign of benefits received. Even
the smile of the boy who reads George Ade is a sign that the book is
furnishing him with needed recreation. The pleasure experienced, we will
say, in reading Shakespeare is of course of a far higher type; yet I
venture to say that if that pleasure is absent, the benefit is absent
too. Nine-tenths of the distaste felt for good standard books by the
average reader is the result of the mistaken efforts of some one to
force him to read one of these books by something in the nature of an
appeal to duty. There is no moral obligation to read Shakespeare if you
do not like it, and if a friend persuades you of such an obligation you
are apt to end by rightly concluding that he is wrong. But with this
conclusion comes an unfortunate distaste for good literature; a
conviction that standard works are all dull, and that the only kind of
pleasure to be had from reading is the most superficial kind. The moral
for librarians is: cultivate in your readers a taste for good
literature; get them into the frame of mind and the grade of culture
where they like Shakespeare and then turn them loose. No injunctions
will be necessary; they will not cease to read until they have devoured
the utmost sentence.

But how shall this taste be cultivated? I wish I knew. I wish I could
give you a formula for causing the flower of literary appreciation to
unfold. The rule is different in every case. First and foremost there
must be something to cultivate. You cannot go out into the desert with
watering-pot and raise strawberries or asparagus. But you can take a
poor little spindling plant and dig about it and fertilize it until it
waxes into a robust tree whose branches are laden with big, juicy ideas.
If you are skilful enough to find out what intellectual germs there are
in your reader’s mind you can cultivate them little by little, but if
you throw Shakespeare and Milton at the heads of all alike they will be
likely to fall on barren ground. The golden rule for making your library
both attractive and useful (the two things go hand in hand) is to adapt
your books to those aptitudes of your readers that need and will bear

This means that in selecting books for your library you must not
disregard the demands and requests of your readers. It also means that
you must have the acuteness to detect what they ought to request. It
may be, for instance, that near your library is the home of some great
industry employing large numbers of intelligent mechanics who would gain
both enjoyment and benefit by reading some of the technical literature
bearing on their work. Only it has never occurred to them to think that
this literature, much of it perhaps expensive or inaccessible, can be
obtained at the public library. It is your business to get it, if you
can, and to let them know that you have it and that they are welcome to
read it.

Remember, too, that he gives twice who gives quickly. Much of the
ephemeral literature of the day, which is purchased for recreative
purposes, is rightly and properly read for curiosity. People like to
read the latest book and talk to each other about it. We are all embryo
critics. This desire to read the last thing out, just because it is the
last, has had anathemas piled on it until it ought to be crushed, but it
is still lively. I confess I have it myself and I cannot blame my
neighbor if he has it too. Unless we are wholly to reject the recreative
use of the library or to accept it with a mental reservation that the
public shall enjoy itself according to a prescribed formula or not at
all--we shall have to buy some of these books. I am afraid that
otherwise some future historian of literature may say of us in parody of
Macaulay’s celebrated epigram on the Puritans and bearbaiting, that the
twentieth-century librarian condemned the twentieth-century novel, not
because it did harm to the library, but because it gave pleasure to the
reader. Now, if we are going to buy this ephemeral literature, we must
get it quickly or not at all. The latest novel must go on your shelves
hot from the presses, or stay off. And this is true of much other
literature that is not ephemeral but that depends for its effect on its
timeliness. It will certainly lose readers if it is not on your shelves
promptly, and if it deserves readers, as much of it does, the net result
is a loss to the community.

So we come next to the question of readers. How shall we get them? What
kind do we want, and how shall we reach that kind? In commercial systems
of distribution the merchant gets customers in two ways: by giving good
quality and good measure and by advertising. Some kind of advertising is
generally essential. Even if your community is a very small one it is
right that you should occasionally remind it of your existence and of
what you have to offer. Legitimate advertising is simply informing
people where they can obtain something that they are likely to want. The
address of your library should be in your railway station; in the
schools; in the drug store. Your latest accessions should be announced
in the local papers and bulletined in the same places. When you have an
item about your library that would interest the reader send it yourself
to the paper. There is nothing undignified about this. Do not forget
that you are in charge of certain articles that the public needs and
desires and that it is your business to let the public know it. The
new-comer to your town cannot know intuitively that your library is at
such and such an address; the old resident who likes to read Howells
cannot ascertain by telepathy that you have just received the last
volume by his favorite author. You may even send a special card of
information to a reader who you know will be glad to get it.

One would think that if there was anything distinctive about our systems
of distribution, commercial or otherwise, it was the great degree to
which we advertise and the money that we spend in so doing. But with it
all, this feature in its misdirected energy and lack of method is the
weak point of the whole system. Much of the money spent in advertising
is devoted to attempts to get people to buy what they do not want. Any
one knows that when he desires a very special or definite thing it is
often impossible to find it, though it may be next door. In our library
work, so far as readers are concerned, our weak points are two: first,
failure to make known our presence and our work to all who might use the
library; second, failure to hold our readers. These things are both
serious. We ourselves see so much of libraries that we find it difficult
to understand how large a proportion of any community is ignorant of
them and their work. In large cities, of course, this is more likely to
be the case than in small towns. Yet if you will compare the number of
names on your registration list with the population you serve, even
making allowance for the fact that each book withdrawn may be read by
several persons, and deducting young children who cannot read, you will
be surprised at the discrepancy. There are many people who do not know
of your library’s existence or who do not realize what it means. Your
first duty is to find some way of giving them the information and of
seeing that they shall not forget it.

Regarding the second failure, you may get some idea of that if you will
compare the growth of your registration list with that of your
circulation. The circulation never grows as fast as the membership. It
may even be stationary or decreasing while new users are coming in
daily. The fact is, of course, that former users are all the time
dropping off. Why do they drop off? It is your business to find out and
to keep them if you can. The librarian in a small community has a great
advantage in this respect, for she can know her constituency personally
and keep track of them individually.

But the personal relations of the librarian and her assistants with the
public belong as much in the third section of our subject as in the
second. The importance of them cannot be exaggerated. I am not sure that
I should not prefer a sunny-faced, pleasant-voiced, intelligent,
good-tempered assistant in a tumble-down building with a lot of
second-hand, badly arranged books, rather than the latest Carnegie
library stocked with literary treasures if these had to be dispensed by
a haughty young lady with monosyllabic answers and a fatigued
expression. I know of no more exasperating duty than that of continually
meeting a library public--and I know of no pleasanter one. For the
public is just you and me and some other people, and like you and me it
is various in its moods. The mood of the public in a library is often a
reflection of that of the librarian. The golden rule here is direct
personal contact; and don’t forget the last syllable--tact. Don’t force
your services or your advice on people that neither wish nor require
them, but don’t forget that you may have pleasant, intellectual
intercourse without offering either aid or advice. When an aged man who
knows more of literature than you dreamed of in your wildest visions
wants “The Dolly dialogues,” don’t try to get him to take “Marius the
Epicurean” instead. But if you get into the habit of talking with him it
may make the library seem pleasant and homelike to him, and, besides, he
may tell you something that you do not know--that is a not remote and
certainly fascinating possibility.

I need not say that no library can be useful or attractive unless it is
properly arranged and cataloged, and unless it has a simple and
effective charging system; and unless the public is admitted directly
to the shelves and allowed to handle and select the books. But I do need
to say--because some of us are apt to forget it--that these things are
not ends in themselves, but means to an end, namely, the bringing
together of the man and the book, the distribution of ideas. Do not
assume that for some occult reason you must classify and catalog your
library precisely like some large public library with which you are
familiar. Do not assume, if you are a trained cataloger, that there is
any virtue, for instance, in subject cards. One subject heading that
brings the book in touch with your public outweighs a dozen that do not
affect it. To bring together man and book break all rules and strike out
in all kinds of new directions. Your particular locality and your
particular public may have special requirements that are present nowhere
else. Rules were made for the aid and comfort of the public, not for
their confusion and hindrance. Methods are the librarian’s tools, not
his handcuffs and shackles. To do anything well we must do it with
method and system; but these, like a growing boy’s clothes, need
frequent renewal. If your library has stopped growing and has reached
senility, then the same suit will fit it year after year, but premature
old age is not a good goal to strive for.


The system by which the control of a concern is vested in a person or a
body having no expert technical knowledge of its workings has become so
common that it may be regarded as characteristic of modern civilization.
If this seems to any one an extreme statement, a little reflection will
convince him to the contrary. To cite only a few examples, the boards of
directors of commercial or financial institutions like our manufacturing
corporations, our railways and our banks, of charitable foundations like
our hospitals and our asylums, of educational establishments like our
schools and colleges, are now not expected to understand the detail of
the institutions under their charge. Their first duty is to put at the
head of their work an expert with a staff of competent assistants to see
to that part of it. Even in most of our churches the minister or
pastor--the expert head--is employed and practically controlled by a lay
body of some kind--a vestry, a session or the like. Government itself is
similarly conducted. Neither the legislative nor the executive branch is
expected to be made up of experts who understand the technical detail of
departmental work; all this is left to subordinates. Even the heads of
departments often know nothing at all of the particular work over which
they have been set until they have held their position for some time.

It is hardly necessary to say that this system of lay control is of
interest to us here and now, because it obtains in most libraries, where
the governing body is a board of trustees or directors who are generally
not experts, but who employ a librarian to superintend their work.

To multiply examples would be superflous. Lay control, as above
illustrated, is not universal, but I postpone for the present a
consideration of its antitheses and its exceptions. It looks illogical,
and when the ordinary citizen’s attention is brought to the matter in
any way he generally so considers it. In certain cases it is even a
familiar object of satire. The general public is apt, I think, to regard
lay control as improper or absurd.

With the expert and his staff, who are concerned directly with the
management of the institution in question, the feeling is a little
different. It is more like that of President Cleveland when he “had
Congress on his hands”--a sort of anxious tolerance. They bear with the
board that employs them because it has the power of the purse, but they
are glad when it adjourns without interfering unduly with them.

Are either of these points of view justified? Should lay boards of
directors be abolished? Or, if retained, should those without expert
knowledge be barred?

Now at first sight it certainly seems as if the ultimate control of
every business or operation should be in the hands of those who
thoroughly understand it, and this would certainly bar out lay control.
I believe that this view is superficial and will not bear close

The idea that those who control an institution should be familiar with
its details appears to originate in an analogy with a man’s control of
his own private affairs, when his occupation and income make it
necessary that he should attend to all those affairs personally. The
citizen who digs and plants his own garden must understand some of the
details of gardening. The man who does his own “odd jobs” about the
house must be able to drive a nail and handle a paint brush. This
necessity vanishes, however, as the man’s interests become more varied
and his financial ability to care for them becomes greater. At a certain
point personal attention to detail becomes not only unnecessary but
impossible. To expect the master of a great estate to understand the
details of his garden, his stable, his kennels, as well as the experts
to whom he entrusts them, is absurd. He may, of course, as a matter of
amusement, busy himself in some one department, but if he tries to
superintend everything personally, still more to understand and regulate
matters of detail, he is wasting his time.

We must seek our analogy, then, both for lay control and for the
attitude of the ordinary citizen toward it in that citizen’s management
of his private affairs. He knows his own business--or thinks he
does--and he finds it hard to realize that the details of that business
could ever grow beyond his personal control.

But, after all, this progress is one towards the normal. Attention to
details in the case of the poor man is forced upon him. Except in rare
cases, he does not really care to shovel his own snow; he would prefer
to hire a man to do it, and as soon as he can he does do so. So long as
his sidewalk is properly cleared he is willing to leave the details to
the man who clears it. He does not care whether that man begins at the
north or the south end, or whether his shovelfuls are small or large.

Here, if we examine, we shall find a common characteristic of those
kinds of work where laymen are in control--the persons for whom the work
is done care very much about results; they are careless of methods so
long as those results are attained. And in a very large number of cases
the persons for whom the work is done will be found to be the public, or
so large a section of it that it is practically a group of laymen so far
as the particular work in question may be concerned.

A lay board of directors or a lay departmental head, then, is simply and
properly a representative of a greater lay body that is particularly
anxious for results and not particularly anxious about methods. Lay
control is thus not illogical, but is the outcome of a regular and very
proper development. But, as has been said, it is not the only method of
controlling a great institution. An institution may be managed by a
graded body of experts. So were the old guilds of craftsmen managed. So
are many ecclesiastical bodies, notably the Roman Catholic Church. We
may call this method of control hierarchical. It has some advantages
over lay control and some disadvantages. We may imagine such a system
applied to libraries. All the libraries in a state, we will say, would
then be managed by the state librarian, and all these officers would be
subject to the orders of the librarian of the national library, who
would be supreme and accountable to no one. Without going into detailed
discussion of this extremely supposititious case, we may say that the
objection to it would be that the persons who are especially interested
in the results of the work done are not represented in the controlling
hierarchy. Where the persons interested are all experts, as in a guild
of craftsmen, there can perhaps be no objection to control by experts;
though even in this case we are leaving out of consideration the
persons, generally laymen, for whom the craftsmen do their work.

In fact, any trouble that may arise from the lay control of a body of
expert workers lies just here--in the failure either of the controlling
authority or the trained subordinates to recognize and keep within their
limitations. It should be the function of the supreme lay authority to
decide what results it wants and then to see that it gets them--to call
attention to any deviation from them and to replace those who cannot
achieve them by others who can. It should be the part of the expert
staff of subordinates to discover by what methods these results can best
be reached and then to follow out these methods.

When the lay head attempts to direct the details of method, or when the
trained subordinate thinks it his duty to influence the policy of the
institution, then there is apt to be trouble.

Such results are apt to follow, on the one hand, the inclusion in a
board of trustees of a man with a passion for detail and a great
personal interest in the work under him, but without a keen realization
of the necessity for strict organization and discipline in his expert
staff; or, on the other hand, from the presence in that staff of a
masterful man who cannot rest until he is in virtual control of whatever
he concerns himself about.

I say trouble is _apt_ to follow in such cases. It does not always
follow, for the organization may adapt itself to circumstances. The
interested trustee may play with ease his two roles, fitting into his
board as a lay member and becoming practically also a part of the expert
staff. The masterful subordinate may dominate his board so as to become
its dictator, and thus do away for a time with his lay control. We have
all seen both these things happen, not only in libraries, but in banks,
in hospitals, in charitable institutions. In some cases it has been well
that they have happened. But although an occasional stick is flexible
enough to be tied into a knot, it would be hazardous to try the
experiment with all sticks. Some may bend but more will break.

Is it not better to accept frankly the division of labor that seems to
have been pointed out by the development of our institutions for the
guidance of their management?

Boards of trustees in this case would find it necessary to decide first
on the desirable results to be reached in their work. This is a phase of
library discussion that has been somewhat neglected. What is the public
library trying to get at? Not stated in vague terms, but in concrete
form, so that the trustees can call the librarian to account if he fails
to accomplish it? It is only fair to the librarian that he should be
informed at the outset precisely what he is expected to do, and then it
is only fair that he should be left to do it in his own way.

This is an unoccupied field, and it would be an eminently proper one for
the Trustees’ Section of the American Library Association. We librarians
should be very glad to know just what you expect us to accomplish, for
on that depends our manner of setting to work. Do you wish us to aim at
decreasing the percentage of illiteracy in the community? or the arrests
for drunkenness? Are we to strive for an increased circulation? And will
an absolute increase be satisfactory, or must it be an increase
proportionate to population? Is it definitely demanded of us to decrease
our fiction percentage? Shall we, in any given case, devote our
attention chiefly to the home use or the reference use of the library?
Shall we favor the student or the ordinary citizen? These questions, of
course, cannot receive a general answer; they must be decided
differently in different cases, but at least we may agree on the type of
question that it is admissible to answer at all and on the degree of
detail to which it is permissible to go in stating a requirement.

For instance, is it admissible for a board to say to its librarian, “The
results that we require you to show include the following: A
well-ordered collection of books classified according to the Dewey
system, bound in half duck and distributed with the aid of the Browne
charging system?” I think it will be granted that this would be an
attempt to control the details of method in the guise of a statement of
desired results. But where shall we draw the line? How specific may be
the things that a board may properly require of its expert staff? That
is the question whose solution by this Section would be an inestimable
benefit to all libraries and librarians. At present there is wide
difference of opinion and of practice on this point. Many people would
not agree at all with the limitations that have just been laid down;
even those who do agree would differ widely over their interpretation.

There is hardly time to anticipate and meet criticism. I shall be
reminded, I suppose, that the funds for carrying on the library’s work
are in the hands of the trustees, and that one of the main objects of
their existence is to see that the money is honestly spent, not stolen
or wasted. How can they do this without close oversight of methods? To
this I would reply that this important function of the board is
distinctly the requirement of a result, that result being the honest
administration of the library. The method by which it may be
administered most honestly is best left to the expert head. Naturally,
if evidence of peculation or waste comes before the board the librarian
will be held to account as having failed to achieve the required result
of honest administration. In this and in other respects the necessity
that the board should know whether or not the desired results are being
attained means that the work of the executive officer should be followed
with attention. It must be evident, however, that this does not involve
control and dictation of methods.

It must also be remembered that what has been said refers only to the
administrative control of the institution. The duties of trustees as
custodians of an endowment fund, if such there be, or in soliciting and
receiving contributions as well as other financial considerations, are
separate from this and have not been considered.

Again, I shall be told that the head of the executive staff is not only
a subordinate but also an expert adviser of his board. This is true; and
as a consulting expert it is his duty to give advice outside of his own
administrative field if he is asked for it. It may even be his duty to
give it unasked occasionally, but this comes very near to the
interference that I have deprecated. He who would tread this borderland
must tread softly. On the other hand, the expert may and should ask the
advice of members of his board as individuals or of the board as a whole
when he needs it and when he feels that it would give him confidence or
strengthen his hand. In this whole matter there is a clear distinction
between the advisory and executive function on one hand and on the

In short, the view taken in this paper may be briefly summed up as
follows: Lay control in libraries and elsewhere is a logical and proper
development. It would not, on the whole, be well for one who should wish
to endow a library to make an expert librarian sole trustee for life
with power to select his successor. That would be a fine thing for the
librarian, but it would be neither desirable nor proper. It is well that
the trustees should be responsible representatives of the lay public,
for whose benefit the library is to be conducted. But as the public is
interested chiefly in results, the trustees should confine themselves
largely to the indication and requirement of these results, leaving
methods in the hand of their expert staff of subordinates. And it is
eminently desirable that librarians should hear from a representative
body of trustees some expression of opinion regarding the extent of this


At a former meeting of this section the present writer had the honor of
reading a paper in which he made an attempt to show that the trustee of
the public library is the representative of the public and, as such,
interested especially in results as distinguished from methods, which
are the business of the librarian as an expert administrator. In making
this distinction I urged trustees to give particular attention to the
formulation of such results as they should consider desirable, that
librarians on their part might confine themselves more to the
consideration of appropriate methods for the attainment of these
results. So far as I know, however, this work remains to be
accomplished, and it is because I still think it desirable that I
welcome this opportunity of restating the situation and making some
attempt to illustrate it and to indicate what may and should be done in
the premises. According to this view it is not only the duty of a board
of trustees to consider what should be the results aimed at by its
library, to formulate its conclusions, to communicate them to the
librarian and then to hold him responsible for their attainment, but
everything that the board may properly do may be brought under this
head; and to state it broadly is therefore to set forth comprehensively
the “whole duty of a trustee,” which may serve as the justification of
my somewhat ambitious title.

The layman’s influence, control exercised by and through the viewpoint
of the general public, is a most excellent thing, however much the
expert may chafe under it. This is apparent in every art and craft. The
expert, the man who has made a study of technique, of the way to do it,
comes more and more to think of the method rather than the result--to
elaborate detail and manner and to take keen joy in their recognition
and comparison. So it is with the worker in art or in literature, and
thus we have what are called painter’s pictures and musician’s music and
poet’s poems--works that interest and delight those whose business it is
to produce them, but which leave the general reader or hearer cold. It
is evident that these, no matter how valuable or interesting they may be
from one standpoint, are not the highest examples of their class. Better
are the crude attempts of native genius which kindle enthusiasm and
arouse the best impulses while breaking every canon of art. Best of all,
of course, are the works where the technique and the result are both
admirable and where the technical resources of the workers are brought
to bear consciously, directly and successfully upon the attainment of
the result. And to produce such works two forces must generally
co-operate--the trained skill and enthusiasm of the artist and the
requirement of the general public that his work must appeal to them,
interest them, take them a message. Now this is of interest to us here
and now, because, just as we occasionally have “composer’s music” and
“architect’s buildings,” so, it is “to be feared, we may have
librarian’s libraries--institutions that are carried on with the highest
degree of technical skill and with enthusiasm and interest and yet fail
of adequate achievement because the librarian makes the mistake of
regarding the technique as an end instead of as a means--of thinking
that if his methods be precise, systematic and correct, good results
must needs follow, instead of aiming directly at his results and
adapting his methods to their attainment.

It is here that the trustee, as the official representative of the
general public, may apply a corrective influence. In the case of the
artist or the writer this influence is brought to bear generally in a
financial way--by a wealthy patron who will order a picture or statue
provided it accords with his own ideas--by hostile criticism, public or
private, that drives away purchasers. In a public library, public
opinion rarely makes itself felt in this way; indeed, it could do so
only in cases where disregard of the public amounted to mismanagement
and led to the reduction of appropriations or the discharge of the
librarian. Public criticism, as in the press, might also affect a
librarian’s course; it undoubtedly often does, but it need not; and he
may safely disregard it as a general thing. When, however, his board of
trustees calls him to account, he must listen, and when it tells him
what he is expected to do, it is then his business to devise the best
way to do it.

A rough classification and analysis of the results that a librarian may
be expected to accomplish may not be out of place here. We may treat
them under four heads: financial, educational, recreational and social.

_Financial results._--A library must show a good material return for
money expended. By this is meant that its books and supplies must be
purchased at fair rates, its salaries reasonably proportioned to
quantity and quality of services rendered, its property economically
administered. A board of trustees is derelict in its duty if it does not
require all this, and also hold its librarian rigidly to such
requirement. This means that it must, along the broadest lines, know
the ratio of expenditure to return in these various departments; it does
not mean that the librarian should be hampered by the prescription of
details. It means, for example, that the expert administrator should be
called to account if his bills for lighting and heating are excessive,
and that he should be asked to show cause why they should not be kept
within bounds; it does not mean that he should be required to use lights
of a certain candle-power or turn off the light in a particular room at
a given hour. In most libraries, the making of annual appropriations
under designated heads and the requirement that cause shall be shown for
a transfer from one of these categories to another, are sufficient
measures of financial control.

Among the financial results that have already attracted the attention of
the public and hence engaged the interest of boards of trustees is the
attainment of a proper ratio of expenditure for books to the expense of
administration. This ratio is generally regarded by the lay critic as
abnormally small, but trustees have generally acquiesced in the
librarian’s explanation of the causes that seem to him to make it
necessarily so. It is undoubtedly the trustee’s duty to call his expert
administrator’s attention to this and all other seeming discrepancies in
expenditure, and to make sure that they are not carrying the library too
far toward technical perfection at the expense of practical efficiency.

_Educational results._--It is only right to require that a library
should be able to show that it is increasing the educational content of
the community, or raising its educational standard, or at least that it
is exerting itself to do so, both directly and by co-operation with
other agencies, especially with the public schools. A board of trustees
is certainly justified in ascertaining by any means in its power whether
this is being done, and if not, in asking an explanation of its
librarian. Does everyone in the community know where the library is? Is
everyone who would be benefited by it making use of it? Is it a help to
the schools, and do the teachers recognize this fact? Does the community
in general regard it as a place where material for the acquisition of
knowledge is stored and discriminatingly given out? These are questions
that can be settled not so much by the examination of statistics as by
ascertaining the general feeling of the community. It is much easier for
a trustee to find this out than it is for a librarian; and trustees,
both individually and as a body, should continually bear in mind the
value to them of information along this line. Librarians are apt to talk
a good deal about the educational function of the library as an adjunct
and supplement to the school. It is to their credit that they have made
it an educational force not under pressure but voluntarily, as a
recognition of the necessities of the situation. But where such
necessities have not yet been recognized or where their full import has
been slow of realization, the educational side of library work remains
undeveloped. Let the board of trustees notify its executive officer that
it expects him to look to this feature of his work as thoroughly as to
the condition of his building or the economical expenditure of his
lighting appropriation, and all such institutions will experience a
change of heart.

_Recreational results._--Nothing is more important to the physical and
moral health of a community, as of an individual, than the quality of
the recreation that it takes. The question of whether recreation is or
is not taken need not be considered. Everyone takes recreation; if
means for the healthy normal variety are not provided, the other kind
will occupy its place. And the healthy normal individual--child or
adult--prefers the first kind if he can get it. With the physical
variety the library has nothing to do; but to purvey proper intellectual
recreation is one of its most important provinces. Is this adequately
done? Is it done at all? Does the librarian exalt other functions of his
great machine and neglect this one? The large amount of fiction
circulated in most public libraries is generally taken as an indication
that the quantity of its recreational content is considerable, whatever
may be said of the quality; but this is a very superficial way of
looking at the matter. There is educational material of the highest
value in fiction and nearly every non-fiction class contains books of
value for recreation. Moreover, what may be recreation to one man may be
the hardest kind of study to another. The enthusiast in higher
mathematics may extract as pure amusement from a book on the theory of
functions as his neighbor would from the works of “John Henry.” In
short, it is very difficult to separate education and recreation. Good
work presupposes good play. It is simply our duty to view the library as
a whole and to decide whether it contains the means of satisfying so
much of the community’s demand for recreation as is wholesome and
proper. Whether it does this may be judged from the freedom with which
the library is used for recreational purposes compared with other
agencies. A proper admixture of physical and intellectual amusement is
required by everybody; is the library doing its share toward the
purveying of the latter form? I do not know any better way of finding
out than for the library trustees to use their eyes and ears, nor any
more effective remedy for inadequate results along this line than the
pressure that they can bring to bear on their librarian.

_Social results._--Under this head we may group a very large number of
results that are apt to be overlooked or taken for granted. They may
perhaps be summarized in the statement that the library should take its
proper place in the institutional life of the community. What this is
will depend largely on the community’s size and its social content. In
many small towns the library naturally assumes great social importance;
in a city it may be relatively of less weight, though perhaps its
influence in the aggregate may be even greater. Whether it is doing this
part of its work properly may probably be best ascertained by comparison
with the work of other institutions that go to build up the social
fabric--the church, the home, the club, the social assembly. Does the
dweller in the community turn as naturally to the library for
intellectual help as he does to the church for religious consolation?
Does he seek intellectual recreation there as he seeks physical
recreation at his athletic club or social entertainment at a dance? And
so seeking, does he find? Does he come to regard the library as his
intellectual home and the librarian and his assistants as friends? What,
on the other hand, is the attitude of the library staff toward the
public? Is it inviting or repellent, friendly or coldly hostile, helpful
or indifferent? Here is a whole body of results that are, in a way, the
most important that a library can produce, and yet it is impossible to
set them down in figures; they can scarcely even be expressed in words.
The social status of a library is like a man’s reputation or his credit;
it is built up by thousands of separate acts and by an attitude
maintained consistently for years; yet a breath may blast it Of this
position a board of trustees should be particularly proud and its
members should do their best to uphold it. If they realize by those many
delicate indications that we all recognize but cannot formulate, that
the library is failing to maintain it, the librarian should hear from
them. They should let him know that something is wrong and that they
expect him to right it. If he does not know how, that is an indication
that his personality and ability are parts of the failure.

This, then from the writer’s standpoint, is the whole duty of a
trustee--or rather of a board of trustees--to see clearly what it wants,
to give the librarian his orders, and to require an accounting.

I am frequently struck with the attitude of librarians toward their
boards of trustees, not as shown in their public acts, but as revealed
in conversation among themselves. A board is apt to be adjudged good or
bad, satisfactory or unsatisfactory, as it takes a more or less passive
part in the administration of the library. If it acts simply to approve
what the librarian does and to see that he gets the necessary funds, it
is regarded as ideal. All that most librarians seem to want is to be
given plenty of money and then to be let alone. This is a view of the
whole duty of a trustee with which I do not sympathize. On the other
hand, it is not to be denied that boards of trustees have done much to
encourage this attitude because when they are really active in their
interest their activity looks too closely to detail. They are then apt
to interfere in the regulation of methods rather than to require results
and afterward ascertain whether and in what degree these results have
been reached.

A board of trustees is the supreme authority in a library. I would have
this fact realized in its fullest meaning by both trustees and
librarian. And I would have the board exercise its supremity in what
may be called the American manner. The people constitute the supreme
authority both in Great Britain and in the United States. In the former
country, however, this authority is symbolized by the person of a
monarch, who reigns but does not govern; and the minutest details of
administration are attended to by the people in the persons of their
parliamentary representatives and of the cabinet, which is, in effect, a
parliamentary committee. In this country, on the other hand, we entrust
administrative details very largely to our chief magistrate and his
personally appointed advisers. We tell him what to do and leave him to
do it as he thinks best; and though Congress is disposed at times to
interfere in the details of administration, these usually consist more
largely of departmental decisions and rulings than of definite
provisions of a legislative act. The President of the United States is
the people’s general executive officer and administrative expert in
precisely the same sense that the librarian occupies that office in his
own library. Congress and the board of trustees bear similar relations
to these officers. And although this may be carrying the comparison of
small things with great to the point of absurdity, it shows clearly that
the American idea of delegated authority is to make the authority great
and the corresponding responsibility strict. That the best results have
been attained in this country by following out this plan in all fields,
from the highest government positions to the humblest commercial posts,
seems to be undoubted; and I believe that the library has been a
conspicuous example.

Appoint a good man, then, as your administrative expert; give him a free
rein, but not in the sense of following him to dictate the whole policy
of your library. Decide for yourselves the broad lines of that policy,
relying on your own common sense together with his expert advice;
require him to follow out those lines to a successful issue, and hold
him responsible for the outcome. So doing you shall fulfil, so far as
the limited vision of one librarian enables him to see, the whole duty
of a trustee.


What is the library for? What are we, who are in charge of it, to do
with it? What point are we striving to reach, and how shall we get

First of all, the library is a collection of books. Books are to be used
by reading them. The whole machinery of the library, its buildings, its
departments, its regulations, its disciplined staff, are to bring
together the reader and the books. Whatever auxiliary work the library
may undertake, this must be its first task.

Now to what end is this done? A book from the material point of view is
so much leather, paper and printer’s ink, but on the intellectual and
spiritual side it is a storage battery of ideas. To put a book into a
reader’s hand is to complete a mysterious circuit between the writer’s
and the reader’s mind. This charging of the mind with ideas is what we
call education. To the physiologist it is a mere modification of brain
structure; to the economist and the historian it spreads further out; it
is a modification of the individual’s action toward the whole world; it
is the alteration of the world’s present status and future history.
Education cannot be accomplished by books alone; it can even be
accomplished wholly without them; but if they are used properly, there
is no one agent that can do more for education than these devices for
the storage and transmission of ideas. That the library is an
educational institution is now generally recognized. It is common to
call it an adjunct to the school, or to speak of it as continuing the
work of the school. That the school and the library should work hand in
hand where it is possible, goes without saying. But I think we may
properly object to any phraseology that implies the subordination of the
library to the school. The library stores books and makes them
available. Part of the school’s work also is to make available the
contents of books. The library may continue the work of the school; but
so in some cases may the school merely complete the work of the library.
Many a student has received his first inspiration and instruction in the
library and has been thereby stimulated to enter a regular course of
study. It is better to let the library stand on its own merits as an
instructional agent. The difference between it and the school,
fundamentally, is that the library’s educational energy is chiefly
potential while that of the school is, or should be, dynamic. Yet though
the library is only a potential force--energy in storage--the library
plus the librarian may and should be dynamic too. We then have in both
school and library the book and the teacher, with the difference that in
the school the book is only the teacher’s tool, while in the library the
librarian exists to care for the book, to place it in his hands who
needs it, and to make it effective.

But when we have emphasized the educational side of the library’s
activity we have by no means exhausted its field. Its recreative
function is hardly less important. A very large proportion of the
library’s users go to it for recreation or relaxation. They obtain this,
of course, in the same way that they obtain education from books,
namely, by the acquisition of new ideas or mental images. The recreation
comes in from the fact that these ideas temporarily distract the
attention from other ideas connected with daily work and worry, and that
they ease the brain in the same way that a strained muscle may be eased
by gentle exercise. Evidently it is impossible to draw a line between
these two classes of a library’s activity. A zoological or a botanical
garden is an educational institution, so is an art museum. Yet the large
majority of those who go to them do so for amusement, and the
educational benefits obtained are incidental. Those benefits, however,
are none the less real, and it would evidently be impossible to give
separate statistics of those who have made educational and recreative
use of the institution. Yet we find people trying to do this very thing
in the case of the public library, which case is quite comparable with
those stated above. It is assumed, in the first place, that the use of
fiction is purely recreative, while that of non-fiction is educational;
and, in the second place, that the recreative use of the library is to
be condemned or at least discouraged, in comparison with the other. That
either of these can be sustained is very doubtful. The attempted
subordination of the recreative work of the library to the educational
is at best invidious. Each has its place in the scheme of things and
comparison in this case is worse than odious, it is misleading. Further,
it is positively impossible to draw a line between educational and
recreative books. So far as motives go, one may read Gibbon for
entertainment and Madame de Stael’s “Corinne” as an Italian guide book.
So far as results are concerned, the intelligent reader always acquires
new ideas as he reads; and in most cases the very same idea may and does
have both an educational and a recreative function. But although we can
draw no line, it is quite possible to pick out books on the one side and
on the other, and to assert that these are read chiefly for educational
purposes and those for recreation. On which side shall the library throw
its influence? There are many good librarians who feel that the popular
tendency is too strong towards recreation and that the library should
restore the balance by throwing its weight on the other side. Others see
in the popular desire for recreative reading only a hopeful reaction
from the mental tension and overwork with which, as a nation, we are
doubtless chargeable. Between these two points of view I believe that
the equilibrium of the public library is safe, and that it is in no
danger of developing unduly either on the recreative or on the
educational side.

Personally I have never felt that the user of libraries or any other
type of the average American was in danger from too much recreation. If
there is any use of a library that may have a vicious tendency it is its
use for pure pastime in the etymological sense--the reading of books
with absolutely no aim at all save to make the time pass. Now to make
time pass pleasantly or profitably may be a most legitimate object. Not
that, and not any lawful aim is objectionable. But aimlessness--the lack
of an aim--the taking out of books to skim or to glance at, or to look
at the pictures, with no desire for amusement, or profit, or anything
else--that is certainly worthy of condemnation. There is more of it than
we know, and it constitutes a menace to our intellectual future.
Newspaper reading fosters it, but not necessarily. Newspaper reading
with an aim is far better than aimless skimming and skipping of a
literary classic, and I should rather see a boy of mine reading the most
sensational dime novel he could lay hands on, with the definite desire
and intention of finding out how Bloody Bill got his revenge, than
lazily turning over the pages of Scott with no idea of what the story
was about. The first would be the case of a good reader and a bad book;
the second that of a good book and a bad reader. The library can easily
deal with the book; it cannot so easily manage the reader, though it may
try to do so. In the case of the bad reader the storage battery of ideas
has lost its connection. It would be well for some of us if we should
forget for the moment the difference between fiction and non-fiction and
should try to mend this broken link.

And now a word about ourselves. What are we, who are engaged in this
work, laboring for? Why are we working, and what do we expect to
accomplish? In answering this question it will be better for us to free
ourselves entirely from the bondage of words that mean nothing. Some of
us--I hope very many of us--are in the library work solely because we
love it and cannot keep out of it. Others are trying with more or less
success to persuade themselves that this is their reason. Still others
cannot truthfully say that they have had a “call to library work,” and
some of these are conscientious enough to fear that they are in the
wrong place and that the work is suffering thereby. To these I desire to
address a word of consolation and encouragement. The impression is very
general that the greatest work of the greatest minds had no motive but
the productive impulse. The poet, according to this view, sings because
he cannot help singing; the artist paints solely to satisfy the creative
longing within him; the musician composes for the same reason. Now the
fact is that a man who is capable of great work, or of ordinarily good
work, may produce it under a variety of impulses. Some act more strongly
on one man; others on another; or the same man may be more susceptible
to a given impulse at one time or place than at another. Without a
doubt, many of our immortal works were the result of simple inability
to keep from producing them. But just as certainly, others were the work
of men who had to school themselves by long practice and then to hold
themselves to the work with iron determination. “Genius” says Carlyle,
“is nothing but an infinite capacity for taking pains.” To which a
modern critic replies, “On the contrary, genius is an infinite capacity
for doing things without taking any pains at all.” Both are right. There
are both these kinds of genius--and many others. The writer who attempts
to bind down genius to rules and formulae will have a hard task. And
what is true of genius is also true of ordinarily good work--the work
that you and I are trying to do in our libraries. Some of us do it
easily because we cannot help it; others do it with more or less
difficulty under the pressure of one or another need. One, though the
work itself comes hard to him, loves the result to be accomplished;
another, perhaps, is toiling primarily to support himself and those
dependent on him. What of that? We have been placed where we are, to
secure certain results. We want the help of every one who can contribute
a share of honest, intelligent work toward the attainment of these
results, and we shall not ask for motives or inquire into the exact
amount of effort that was necessary, provided the work has been done and
done well.

I have the greatest sympathy for the conscientious library assistant who
feels that she ought to love her work in the same way perhaps that she
loves music or skating, or a walk through the autumn woods, and who,
because she does not sit down to paste labels or stand up to wait on the
desk with the feeling of exhilaration that accompanies these other acts,
is afraid that library work is not her métier.

Such workers should possess their souls in peace. It is very common for
routine work to pall upon him who does it, and we are all apt to think
that no work but ours has any routine. Our weary eyes see only the
glorious moments of success in the lives of other toilers; we are blind
to the years of drudgery that led to them. The remedy is to look
forward. You may not enjoy climbing the mountain step by step, but the
view from the summit is glorious. And if to sustain yourself on the
climb you think of the bread and cheese that you have in your lunch
basket, I cannot see that there is aught to complain of.

All over the world there are workers who feel that they are not worthy
of their work. It is dull; it palls on them. But if their lot had only
been different! If their work had been that of the musician or the
artist! Then toil would become pleasure, and the hours that now drag
heavily would flit on wings. Very little of this feeling is justifiable,
and these dissatisfied workers will do better work if they are made to
realize that it is only the favored few who can bring enthusiasm to the
daily routine. The most that we can ask of the average worker is a
conviction of the usefulness of his work and a determination to make it
as useful as possible. More: such a determination honestly lived up to
is sure to beget interest--that concrete interest in one’s work that is
worth much more, practically, than an ideal love for it. The woman who
goes into slum work impelled only by a vague love for humanity is apt to
give up after a little when she discerns that humanity in the concrete
is offensive in so many ways. But if she forces herself to keep on, and
to make herself as useful as possible, there comes the personal interest
that will bind her to her task and that will increase its usefulness. So
it is with library work; you need not love it ideally to succeed in it;
you need only buckle down to it until you feel the personal interest
that will carry you through triumphantly.

And what is it all about? In the broadest sense, as I have already said,
we librarians are the purveyors of ideas stored up in books. These ideas
are more to man than mere education--they are life itself. Life is
growth, not stagnation--it involves change and acquisition. “Life is
change,” says Cardinal Newman, “and to be perfect, one must have changed
many times.” To contribute the opportunity and the stimulus for such
change is our business. The child cries out to his environment--“Give me
ideas and experiences; good and pleasurable if you can, bad or painful,
if you must, but give me ideas and experiences.” Part of this craving it
is the duty of the public library to satisfy. The craving may grow less
keen as we grow older, but it never really ceases to exist. To satisfy
that craving in legitimate ways and to guide and control it if we can is
our business, stated in the broadest possible terms. That is what we are
aiming at. The librarian should be the broadest minded of mortals. He
should be a man in the widest sense--to him nothing human should be

This is decidedly broad and correspondingly vague. Being so, it may be
interpreted by every worker in the way that appeals to him most. To one,
the educational work of the library will make the strongest appeal; to
another its recreational function. One may prefer to lay stress on the
guidance of children’s reading; another on reference work with adults.
These are all phases of one and the same general class of acts--the
imparting of ideas by means of books--and there is no reason why each
worker should not gain interest in that work by and through the
particular phase that appeals to him.

“I wish,” says one of James Lane Allen’s characters, “that some
virtue--say the virtue of truthfulness--could be known throughout the
world as the unfailing mark of the American. Suppose the rest of
mankind would agree that this virtue constituted the characteristic of
the American! That would be fame for ages.” We librarians, in like
manner, not only wish but strive to make some one virtue characteristic
of our work--say the virtue of usefulness. “As useful as a librarian,”
“As indispensable as the public library”--these are not yet, I am
afraid, household phrases. But why should we not make them so?


It is a valuable exercise to examine into the origin and uses of the
things that we have been accustomed to take for granted and to regard
almost as part of the accepted order of nature. The result will often be
startling and it will always be salutary, if the examiner be sane and
conservative. Therefore a very good way to begin a discussion of
statistics is to query whether they are of present value at all, or
whether they are old fashioned rubbish and had better be discarded.

Statistics are the numerical statements of results or facts. Now
thousands of individuals and thousands of bodies--families, clans,
associations, that accomplish much in this world, go on very well
without keeping any record at all of what they do. This is indisputable.
On the other hand we shall see that as work is done well and carefully
there is an increasing disposition to make and keep a record of results;
and as the work extends in scope and complexity, the record, too,
becomes more complex. Take, for instance, the record of so apparently
simple a transaction as the payment and receipt of money. The individual
who has little of it to receive and disburse may go all his life without
keeping so much as a cash account, much less a set of books. He may even
spend a considerable income in the same way, including the maintenance
of a household and the support of a family, and he may, on the whole, do
it wisely and well. Yet of two men of the same means, one of whom should
conduct his affairs thus, while the other kept a rational system of
household and personal accounts, the latter would universally be
regarded as pursuing the better course. And as we pass from this to the
conduct of a business we recognize that the man who engages in commerce
without keeping proper accounts is a fool and courts failure, and that
the larger the business and the more widespread the interests, the more
complicated and extensive must be the bookkeeping. A large commercial
concern may thus employ a special department with a large staff of men
simply to keep record of its financial transactions. This is probably
the most ancient kind of statistical record and the one whose usefulness
is most generally recognized.

In like manner another common and useful statistical record--the
inventory, or list of articles on hand--although not commonly and
regularly taken by the individual, becomes absolutely necessary in the
smallest kind of business, and without it the merchant can have
absolutely no idea, of whether he is conducting his business at a profit
or a loss. When we go on further and examine, the conduct of great
commercial or manufacturing concerns we find that the statistical
department becomes of increasing importance, the details collected by it
multiply and the staff of persons whose sole duty it is to collect and
to discuss them may be very considerable. That a great manufacturing
company would waste time and money on a task of no value is
inconceivable, and there is thus a very strong presumption that
statistics are worth something. Even where bodies of men have so little
power or corporate action that they cannot collect statistics for
themselves, it is generally deemed a proper expenditure of the public
money to do so at the common cost, hence governments maintain great
census bureaus, whose duty it is not only to count heads every few
years but to tell the farmer how much he raises, the merchant how much
merchandise he exports, and so on.

Is the free public library an institution that will be benefited by the
collection, tabulation and discussion of the results of its work, so far
as they can be numerically expressed? What are the objects of such
collection in the instances above enumerated? In the first place, they
are to satisfy mere curiosity. If such curiosity is trivial, the
collection of statistics is evidently useless, and I am afraid that more
than a little of it, public and private, falls under this head. But
curiosity, even when it goes no further, may be perfectly legitimate.
Especially is this so about one’s own affairs. When a man is attempting
anything he is naturally curious to know whether he has succeeded or
not; and to find out, if possible, precisely how far he has gone in the
desired direction. He may have property enough to support him beyond all
doubt, but it is quite right that he should want to keep a list of his
stocks and bonds and to know whether they have risen or fallen in value
during the year. Still further, curiosity about other people’s affairs
may be legitimate, as, for instance, when one is responsible for their
proper conduct in greater or less degree. In the same way the trustees
of a free public library, representing the public at large, by whom the
library is supported and carried on, have a right to know all possible
particulars regarding the way in which their librarian has carried on
his work and the results he has reached in it, and the municipality in
turn should require of the trustees a strict account of the funds that
they have administered. All this information, as far as it can be stated
numerically, constitutes a mass of statistics, and this one reason amply
justifies its collection and would justify a much larger number of
tables than is usually given in a library report, provided only that the
information is to the point and is or should be in public demand.

But we cannot stop here. A free library, it is true, is not a
money-making concern, but it certainly should be run on business
principles. The public puts into it a large sum of money and has a right
to expect certain returns, which are none the less definite that they
cannot themselves be represented in dollars and cents. The library
statistic books are therefore, in a way, the records of the business;
they show whether it is being conducted conservatively or wastefully, at
a profit or at a loss. And as all these record books are open, they
enable us, or should enable us to make instructive comparisons between
the methods and results of one institution and those of another.

But even this is not all. It is a maxim of this strenuous age that all
things are good or bad according to the results to which they lead, not
in the narrow sense that “the end justifies the means,” but in the
broader sense that we must know things by their fruits. The man who said
“I go, sir,” and went not, was judged by his acts, not by his words; and
no matter how much knowledge we store up and how many tables of data we
collect we shall be derelict in our duty if we regard this as an end in
itself. The state of mind in which the Mahatma spends his life in
impassivity, contemplating inward things and making no outward motion,
may have certain advantages, but it is not consonant with the spirit of
this age and this land. By which I mean that when we have found out
something from our statistics we must do something with it. More; we
must so direct our statistical investigations that they bear directly on
a possible course of action. This is done by the great manufacturing
concerns that maintain statistical departments; but we all use
statistics in this way. If a boy wants to go to the circus he first
looks through his pockets to see whether he has enough cash. Here is the
germ of a statistical investigation conducted for the specific purpose
of getting information on which future action is to be based. Here
sometimes, where the opportunity of collecting statistics is very great,
and expense is no object, is a good excuse for gathering a great deal
that would seem to be useless, with the expectation that some of it may
turn out to be interesting and may suggest some line of work that had
not previously been thought of. To go as far as this, the institution
must be large and rich.

But how many of us do anything with our statistics? How many collect
statistics along special lines to assist in deciding what we shall do
along those lines? How many of us, rather, consider that, when our
statistics have been collected a disagreeable task has been done, and
put them behind us till the year rolls round again?

Perhaps we have had enough now of the philosophy of statistics. Let us
see what concrete kinds of statistics are necessary and in what order of

First comes an itemized account of receipts and expenditures. This is so
obvious that it is not generally considered as library statistics at
all. But it may and should be extended a little. Look at all your other
tables of statistics through financial spectacles. Compare your receipts
with your population. How much does your town give per capita for
library work? Compare this figure with the same for other towns. Compare
your expenditures with your circulation. How much has your library cost
you per book circulated? Compare your expenditure for books with the
number purchased and tell us the average cost of a book and how this
compares with the cost in former years. Do this for a half-dozen other
phases of your work and put the result in as many brief, crisp
sentences. If you haven’t room in your report, cut out some of the
platitudes; we all insert them in moments of weakness and, once in, it
sometimes requires an earnest search to detect and expunge them.

Next in importance comes an account of your books--how many there are in
the library, on what subjects, and how many have been added during the
year in each subject; how many gifts you have had; how many books have
been lost. This involves taking a careful inventory at least once a
year. You see I am putting this before any account of circulation. A
good many libraries take no inventory or take it at too infrequent
intervals, because they have no time. You might as well say you have no
time to keep a cash account. This is business and comes first. Leave off
counting your circulation if you must, but keep count of the public
property in your care as conscientiously as you keep count of the money
in your cash drawer. If you can do nothing else make a simple
enumeration of volumes without taking account of classes, but do it
thoroughly. The trouble with the inventory is that, like the
old-fashioned housecleaning, it is usually done all at once and becomes
an annual bugbear. One way of making it easier is to spread it over the
year, counting and reporting one class every month and treating it as a
part of the regular routine. In this category of statistical records
comes the list of your books, which you must surely have in some form,
even though you may not have accession book, shelf list and dictionary
catalog. For statistical purposes indeed, the last-named may be left out
of account.

Next in order of importance come statistics of circulation. You should
know how many books are given out for home use every day and how these
are distributed among the classes. Do not adhere too strictly to your
classification. Subdivide and combine your classes so that the results
will be of interest to your particular public. Always remember in
discussing these statistics that they are not so much a record of work
done as a rough proportional indication of that work, and are therefore
of relative, not of absolute interest. You are not to attach any meaning
to the fact, taken by itself, that your circulation was 5280 for the
month of May, but if you find that it was only 3120 in the previous May
you may justly conclude that the work of your library is increasing.

In the circulation category comes the record of the hall or library use
of books, the reference use, and the books outstanding at any particular
time. Hall use is very difficult to keep in a free access library, but
an attempt should be made to do so. It is not quite synonymous with
reference use. If a man sits down in your library and actually reads a
novel without taking it home, that is hall or library use, but not
reference use. If he merely refers to the same book to find out about
some character, that is reference use. It is evidently hard to separate
these and many libraries do not attempt to do so. In others, where there
is a separate reference room, any use of books in this room is recorded
as “reference use.” The number of books outstanding should be taken at
least once a month, simply by counting the cards in the circulation
tray. This item is very easy to ascertain, very accurate, and is
interesting and useful in more than one way.

Last in the list of the necessary items of statistics comes that of
readers or users of the library--the most interesting in some ways, and
the most disappointingly vague. Presumably your users fill out some
kind of blank form of application and have their names entered in a
book. It is therefore easy to give, as is usually done, the total
registration and its annual increase. But this is evidently not the
number of actual users of the library. Who are the “actual users”? The
expression itself is vague. To be complete you should have the numbers
of those who have used the library within one, two, and three days, and
so on back indefinitely. There is no place where the line may be drawn
between “live” and “dead” cards. But such statistics are too elaborate
to collect regularly, so that the ordinary library leaves this subject
in its pristine mistiness. There are some pretty variations of it,
however, which may be gone into if there is time. For instance, how are
your users divided, according to occupation? This you can ascertain from
your applications provided the applicant is required to state his
occupation. Here again the result is for registered users, not actual
users. Again, how are your users distributed topographically? The result
of this inquiry may be shown graphically on a map, and it is
particularly valuable when one is thinking of moving or of establishing
a branch; but it takes more time than is at the disposal of most

Here, I believe, ends the enumeration of necessary kinds of statistics.
In each kind the collection may be reduced to a minimum; but the
librarian must, if the library is to be maintained at all, keep a cash
account, count the books, and make some kind of a list of them. Also, if
at all possible she or he must be able to tell how many books are
circulated and how many users’ names are on the books. This is the
minimum; the maximum is fixed only by considerations of time and
usefulness. First among the kinds of statistics that are not absolutely
necessary, but interesting and often useful, is that of routine work
done--letters written, visits made, cards written. This may easily be
carried to excess. Then there is the enormous class in which the data
are obtained not directly, but by comparison of other data. To this
class belong the financial comparisons already noted. For instance, by
comparing the circulation of separate classes with the total we get
class percentages--a very useful type of statistics; by comparing
circulation with books on shelves we get the average circulation of each
book, etc. There is no end to the varieties of this class of statistics,
and they may be rated all the way from “very valuable” to “useless” or
even “nonsensical”. The whole class would require a separate paper to

Let all these statistics tell the truth. Let them be clear. Tell exactly
what they mean. Otherwise they will certainly mislead and are worse than
useless. It is well to accompany every table with an explanatory note
telling exactly how the data were obtained and whether they are of a
high or a low degree of accuracy. In case you do not know, for instance,
whether the word “juvenile” as generally used means the entire
circulation among children, or the circulation in the children’s room,
or is merely short for “juvenile fiction,” decide what it shall mean in
your case and then state distinctly what it means. Read over other
library reports critically and when you find any statistics that are
vague, see to it that that particular kind of vagueness does not occur
in your own tables.

And after it is all over, ask yourself, Now what shall I do with all
this? In this paper only a few suggestions can be made. Take first, the
financial data. If you find that your town is giving less per capita or
less per book circulated than the average, let it be your business to
make it give more. There is a task that will fill up your spare moments.
If you are paying for books more per book than other libraries, try to
buy more cheaply. If your inventory shows a great loss of books by
theft, try to reduce it next year by greater vigilance. If your
circulation is decreasing ask the reason why. Get at it if you can and
remedy it if possible. If your circulation shows a sudden increase in a
particular class, investigate that and meet it, if proper, by increased
purchases in that class. If a class that should circulate well has
fallen, try to find out why. Is your collection in this class small and
poor? Make it richer and larger. Has interest in the subject fallen off?
Try to stimulate it.

In short, instead of regarding your work in connection with statistics
as done when they have been collected, think that it has not yet begun.
So far as your own work is concerned, let them serve only as an
indication of the weak spots that must be strengthened and of the
promising growths that must be encouraged. There are statistics and
statistics. Some are dead; some are alive--vitalised and vitalizing. Not
all of the library’s work can be stated in figures. The largest part,
the best part, you cannot put into statistical tables at all. Yet
rightly used, your statistics may so guide and direct you along the
lines of least resistance, even in this broader and finer work, that
your energies may be put forth in it to the best effect--that you may
aim right and that your shots may not go astray.


“Don’t never prophsey onles ye know,” says Hosea Bigelow. I beg to call
attention to the fact that this means “Don’t prophesy at all”--perhaps
it was so meant by the shrewd Hosea. We never can know--and yet we
continue to prophesy. The best we can do, of course, is to estimate
probabilities. Probabilities! That is a good word. They have dropped it
from the weather reports and call their estimate a “forecast.” I like
the old word better. Let us see, then, what some of the probabilities
are in library work.

“Everything flows,” said the Greek philosopher. Nothing in the world is
stable; change is the order of the day. But note the word he uses. That
which flows is in a state of orderly change in a definite direction.
Everything progresses; and the library and its work are being borne
along in the general current. Now the writers on hydro-dynamics, who are
experts on blow, tell us that there are two ways of studying a current,
which they name the “historical” and the “statistical”: In the former
the attention is fixed on a definite particle of the moving fluid whose
change of velocity and direction is noted as it passes along; in the
latter a definite locality of the stream is selected and the fluid’s
changes of form and density at that particular place are observed. In
like manner we may study the library movement historically or we can
select a definite point in its course--the present time--and note the
conditions and their alteration. The latter plan, I venture to think,
is the more favorable one for the would-be prophet.

Let us, then, take a few of the salient features of library work as they
exist to-day and inquire: (1) What is the present situation with regard
to each; (2) Is that situation changing; and whither and how fast; (3)
Is its rate of change altering, and (4) are the conditions that affect
it and its alteration, likely to remain as they are. If we can answer
all these questions we can at least make an attempt at estimating the
probable situation at a given future time. We must bear in mind,
however, that in the library world, as elsewhere, there are sudden or
abrupt changes, or catastrophes, and that these generally defy
prediction. And this is equally true of unexpected aids or beneficient
influences. The library benefactions of Mr. Carnegie would have upset
the most careful and logical estimate of library progress made twenty
years ago.

First let us take up the status of our stock in trade--our supply of
books. President Eliot warned us two years ago that our books are piling
up too fast. His warning has met with scant heed because experience has
not brought it home to most of us. Malthus warned us long ago that the
progress of population was toward overcrowding the world. We laugh at
him because there is still plenty of room and means of utilizing it
unknown in his time. Yet population increases, and it will overcrowd the
world some day unless something occurs to prevent. In like manner our
stock of books increases faster and faster. The ordinary American public
library is a thing of yesterday; small wonder that it does not yet begin
to feel plethoric. Our oldest large libraries are those of our
universities, and Harvard’s president has told us that to them the evil
day is within sight. Librarians have not received with favor President
Eliot’s plea for getting us out of our future difficulty but this is
neither here nor there. To judge by our present attitude either our
library buildings must increase indefinitely in size or our stock must
be weeded out. It must be remembered, however, that our books are
perishable, and are growing more so. I do not regard this as an unmixed
evil. Rather than to make our books unwieldy for the purpose of
preserving them we prefer to make them usable and to rely on reprinting
for their perpetuation. Thus what is not wanted will pass away. Perhaps
this will solve our problem for us. But in any case it looks as if the
future library building and its contents were to be greatly larger than
those of to-day.

What are to be the style and arrangement of the future library building?
The present situation can hardly be described in general terms. As in
all building operations, there is a strife between the architect,
representing aesthetics, and the administrator, representing utility. At
present the architect seems to be having his way outside and the
librarian his way inside. But why this contest? Is it not the
architect’s business to make utility more beautiful but not less useful?
And should not the administrator wish his surroundings to please the
eye? Apparently the two are drawing a little closer together of late. We
are having fewer temples of art that have to be made over to fit them
for use as libraries and fewer buildings that are workable but offensive
to the eye. The tendency seems to be toward simple dignity, although we
certainly have some surprising departures from it. Probably the library
of the future will be a simple and massive structure of much greater
size than at present, with its decorations largely structural, and
combining ample open-shelf and reading facilities with greatly increased
capacity for book-storage.

There is one particular in which the architect has been specially out of
touch with the administrator. The open-shelf is now all but universal,
but many architects seem not to have heard of it. Many buildings,
actually intended for administration on the free access system, seem yet
to have been planned as closed-shelf libraries and opened to the public
as an afterthought. A library without a special stack-room for
book-storage is an unthinkable thing to most architects. And yet in many
small libraries book-storage is not necessary, and in most branch
libraries, where only books in general use are to be placed, it will
never be necessary. To get the maximum advantage from open shelves, with
a minimum of risk, the books should be placed on the walls as far as
possible and such book-cases as stand on the floor should be as low as
an ordinary table, so as to be easily overseen. A stack-room, it seems
to me, is distinctly a closed-shelf arrangement. I believe this is
coming to be recognized and that in the future library the books will be
on or near the walls.

But how about the open-shelf system itself? At present there are few
libraries that do not have it in some form, and some of these are
libraries that continued strongly to disapprove of it even after it had
become well and widely established. The indications are nearly all that
it has come to stay. I say nearly all; for there is still a feeling
among many people that it is not good administration to abandon so large
a percentage of our books to thieves. In libraries in small communities
where the loss is small, this question does not arise; but in New York,
for instance, where we lost 5000 books last year, it is serious. We
librarians may say and believe that the advantages far outweigh the
disadvantages, but trustees and municipal authorities are hard to
convince. In New York we have taken what many will consider a backward
step, by partially closing, as an experiment, the shelves of two of our
branches. So that although we may safely say that free access has come
to stay, I do not look to see it applied very generally to large
collections. One thing seems to me clear. Library administration is
becoming increasingly business-like, and it is not business-like to
accept a large annual loss without an attempt to minimize it. We must at
least investigate regularly and rigidly the sources and character of
this loss.

As for the other features that we have become accustomed to regard as
distinguishing the new library era from the old--special work with
children, co-operation with schools, travelling libraries, etc.--it is
evident that these, too, have come to stay. Their spheres are widening
and their aims are diversifying, however, so that he who should venture
to predict their precise status in the future would be rash.

In fact, the library idea itself is beginning to suffer a sort of
restless change that is quite distinct from its orderly progress. The
activities of the library are at present a good deal like those of the
amoeba--stretching out a tentacle here, withdrawing one there;
improvising a mouth and then turning it into a stomach; shifting and
stretching about; somewhat vague and formless, yet instinct with life,
appetite and caution, and vitalized with at least the germ and promise
of intelligence. Such a state is an unpromising one for prophecy. Is
this or that new development of activity the beginning of an orderly
march in a straight line, or is it to be withdrawn or reversed
to-morrow? Is our work with children to include much that now seems to
belong to the kindergarten, the museum, and the art gallery? Are our
travelling library departments to sell books in the future as well as
lend them? Are we to deliver books free at our user’s homes? Are our
Boards of Education to turn over to us the superintendence of all such
work as deals with books and their use? Many questions like these would
have been answered in the affirmative yesterday but in the negative
to-day. I might be inclined to say “yes” to some of them now, when
to-morrow would prove them out of the question. But there is one
assertion that we can make boldly. Whatever the library has tried to do
or to be, whether success or failure has attended it, it has never
ceased to be a library--a keeper and purveyor of books. Whatever else it
may undertake, we may be sure that this will continue to be its chief
reason for existence, and that its other activities, if such there be,
will grow out of this and group themselves around it. Is the library to
grow into a bookstore? I do not know, but if so its commercial functions
are likely to be subsidiary. Certain libraries have already added to
their duties as free institutions the functions of pay-libraries, and
the commercial feature has thus been introduced. It seems to be
spreading, and it may prove an entering wedge for a system of actual
sales to supplement that of paid loans. A powerful deterrent, however,
will be the influence of the book-trade. Following the line of least
resistance, the activity of the library as an aid to the ownership as
well as the reading of books is perhaps more likely to manifest itself
in advice than in actual trade. Some libraries are now making special
effort to give their readers information about book-prices, and about
places and methods of purchase; and it seems likely that this kind of
aid, since it can arouse no opposition, will increase.

The position in which we find ourselves, of opposition to those who make
and sell books, is unfortunate. The situation has been growing more and
more tense and it may continue so to grow, perhaps up to the point where
all discount will be withheld from libraries and where new legislation
may discourage importation, but I do not believe that it will keep on
indefinitely. No one who looks into the matter closely can help
believing that in the long run libraries advertise the book-trade and
help it by promoting general interest in literature. This view of the
matter was taken by a majority of the New York Booksellers’ League at a
recent dinner at which the question was discussed. Even purely as a
matter of business, the library deserves special privileges and it will
doubtless continue in some measure to receive them.

It does not, however, seem probable that the average cost of books to a
public library will ever be as low again as it was, say, ten years ago.
In fact this may be said of all library expenses. Salaries are rising
and ought to rise higher; our buildings are larger and finer and demand
more expensive care. We are heating them with more costly apparatus and
lighting them with electricity. The library of the future will doubtless
cost more to maintain in every item than the library of the past--but
the public will receive more than the difference.

As regards children’s work there seem to be at present two
tendencies--one toward complete isolation and one in the opposite
direction. Will our grandchildren, when they go to the public library,
be segregated in a separate room, perhaps in a separate building; or
will they be treated as a distinct class only so far as may be
absolutely necessary for good administration? Probably complete
separation is best for the library and best for the adults; I hesitate
to say that it is best for the children. After all, childhood is but a
stage and not a resting state at that--rather restless and progressive.
Any special conditions that we provide for it must themselves be subject
to constant change. In our schools the child passes from grade to grade.
In our libraries the grades are only two; let us not make the leap from
one to the other too great. I look to see special library work for
children increase in importance, but with due recognition of the fact
that some of the needs and aspirations of a “grown-up” are present in
many a twelve-year-old and that it is better that the clothes of a
growing child should be a size too large than an exact fit.

The travelling library deserves a special word, because its success is
indicative of the tendency to bring the book and its user into closer
contact. In New York we began, only seven years ago, to circulate a few
hundred books monthly in this way among half a dozen schools. Now we
give out nearly half a million a year from nearly 500 different points.
We hear the same tale from all sides. And the cost of circulation per
book is surprisingly small. In New York the circulation through
travelling libraries is equal to that of three branches of the first
class, while the number of assistants employed is about half the number
required in one of those branches. The cost of operating three large
branches in Carnegie buildings is about $40,000 yearly, whereas our
travelling libraries for the last fiscal year cost us but $6400. Of
course it must be remembered that a very large amount of the work of
circulation in this case is done by volunteer assistants and that the
users of the books have not the facilities and resources of a branch
library--the number and variety of books, the pleasant surroundings, the
trained aid. Of course the travelling library can never take the place
of the fully equipped branch, but in supplementing branch work and in
reaching those who live in sparsely settled communities its capabilities
are great and it may be expected that its use will increase.

The broadening of library work illustrated by the successive appearance
of the reference library, the circulating library, the delivery station,
the branch and the travelling library suggests the thought that this
series may be carried further in the future by the addition of some
working plan that will bring the book still closer to its user. Such a
plan would be the system in which books are delivered free of charge at
the houses of those who use them, or the provision of a real library on
wheels--a van supplied with shelving for a thousand books or more from
which selection can be made as it moves about from house to house. It
does not seem probable that any such device as this will be generally
adopted for districts adequately provided with regular libraries, but
for thinly settled regions they may supplement or take the place of our
present travelling or home libraries. I believe for instance, that a
moving library of 1000 books, calling once a week at each house in a
farming district would be preferable to four travelling libraries of 250
books each, stationed at points in the same district, although, of
course, the cost would be correspondingly greater.

The library’s status as an educational institution seems now to be well
established. No one disputes it, and as this appears to be the chief
ground on which its support by public funds is justified we may regard
it as settled that the library is to continue to play its part in public
instruction. This part, though not so definite and positive as that of
the school, extends over a far longer period. While the library’s work
is parallel and supplementary to that of the school in the case of those
of school age, it must continue its work alone after its users have left
school. Here it may settle its methods for itself, but in its earlier
work when it deals with pupils, it has the teacher to reckon with. The
necessity for constant consultation and co-operation between the
authorities of two public institutions, whose work is so similar and can
so easily result in wasteful duplication or still more wasteful
conflict, is obvious. We need not be surprised that librarians and
teachers are getting nearer together and we may confidently predict that
the _rapprochement_ will be closer in the future. But although the
school is ceasing to look upon its younger sister as an interloper in
the pedagogical family, there is still plenty of room for the definition
of their respective spheres. And we have no right to complain that the
school is still doing much library work, when we have ourselves
sometimes tried to do school work. I look in the future for the
definition of two clearly separated spheres of activity, one filled by
the library and the other by the school, and for the closest
co-operation between the two that is consistent with confining each to
its own work. It is probably too much to expect that the school will
give up the custodianship of books. It must at least control its own
text books, and its collection of reference works should be complete
enough to constitute a thorough guide and aid to proper study. But the
distribution of supplementary reading should be the part of the public
library. This and other related points are to be settled, if at all, in
the future by two kinds of mutual understandings; namely, between the
governing boards of library and school and between librarian and
teacher. The due definition of spheres of work can come only from an
official agreement between library board and school board; helpful aid
on both sides can come only from an official agreement between library
board and school board; helpful aid on both sides can come only from
personal contact and acquaintance between teachers and library
assistants--such a degree of acquaintance between teachers and library
assistants--such a degree of acquaintance that each comes to have a
practical knowledge of the other’s problems, trials and limitations.
Most librarians have made more or less effort in this direction; some
have met with distinguished success. We may safely predict further
progress along this line.

The lessons of the past and of the present all point to the increasing
use of the library as a great engine of popular education, using the
noun in its broadest sense and emphasizing the adjective. The library is
more and more a great humanizing influence; if this is so, nothing human
must be alien to it. And much that is human and humanizing is
nevertheless ephemeral. With some the implications of this word are
wholly contemptuous. Of a day! Does nothing valuable pass quickly away,
having done its little work? The day itself is a day only and vanishes
with the evening and the morning; yet it has its part in the record of
the years. So with “ephemeral” literature. As we have seen, a great deal
of what we are wont to consider as standard and permanent will
ultimately perish. Yet be its life that of a year or a century, a book
may play its little part in the mental development of those who read it.
Just at present the favorite vehicle of literary expression is fiction.
People put into stories what they have to say of history, sociology and
ethics; they embody in romance their theories of aesthetics, economics
and politics. There is good doctrine with a poor literary setting and
there are paste jewels in pure gold. But taking it by and large the
much decried deluge of modern fiction has undoubtedly been educative in
its tendency. This is why I cannot yield to logic and predict the
gradual disappearance of all but a small residuum of fiction from the
public library. There is a tendency in that direction but there are some
signs of a reaction. The seer may hope, even if he dare not predict,
that the great public library that can afford to do so will continue to
purchase such fiction as will interest or entertain the average person
of education, even if it is to stay on the shelves but a few months.

What will be the future distribution of libraries in this country? At
present their numbers are large in the northern states and comparatively
small in the southern. Growth has been unexampled in its rapidity and
has been stimulated by large benefactions. So far as this growth may be
looked upon as the direct result of Mr. Carnegie’s gifts it may
doubtless be regarded as abnormal, although it should be noted that
every Carnegie building means a present and future outlay on the part of
the community in which it stands, of many times the amount given by the
donor. Primarily, library expansion is the result of a popular
conviction that the public library is a public necessity. Expansion has
proceeded in proportion to the spread of that conviction and along the
lines of its progress. If there are fewer public libraries in the South
than in the North it is because the need for them is not felt there,
even if it exists. Doubtless the race problem is a powerful inhibitory
influence. Two things are certain; that library expansion is to go on
for some time, and that a time will come when it must stop. When that
time arrives, the library will have attained its majority and we shall
have an opportunity to address ourselves to problems that can not be
attended to during our period of growth.

Who will use our great library of the future? Who uses the library of
to-day? I have been asked that question by reporters and have been
puzzled to answer it. For whose use is the public library intended? It
will be logical to answer “the Public, of course,” but there are a great
many people who will give this answer with mental reservations. With
them “the Public” means some particular part of the public. Some think
that the libraries are for the poor, or at any rate for those who cannot
afford to buy books for themselves. This is a survival of the origin of
some of our circulating libraries, which were originally charities. But
a public foundation and a charitable foundation are two different
things. Our parks are free, yet we do not object to their free use by
the wealthy, nor do the wealthy classes themselves seem to shrink from
it. Some again would limit the use of a library to students, or at all
events to those who do not care to withdraw books for home use. These
are people who do not believe in the circulating library--and there are
still such. Others again would have the public library cater only to
those of educated literary taste. For these reasons and for others it is
a fact that our public libraries, even those with the largest
circulations, are not used by the entire public. Probably, however, they
are being used more and more freely. In a library that uses the two-book
system it is impossible to tell exactly from statistics, how many
persons are drawing from the library at one time. Assuming, however,
that the number is proportional to the number of books outstanding, we
find in the New York Public Library that it has been increasing a little
faster of late years than the circulation. In other words, individual
reading has not increased, and the great recent increase of circulation
in our library and presumably in others also, is due to an increase of
readers. The size of the library’s public is therefore increasing and
there is no reason to suppose that it will not continue to do so. Of
course there must be a limit. For instance, certain sections of the
public will not use a library--as they will not use a school--in
conjunction with other sections. This may be because of social or racial
feeling, or personal uncleanliness or offensiveness, even when the
latter is not carried to the point where the librarian can properly
object to it. In such cases the lower element will drive out the higher.
The remedy seems to be sought in segregation. This may be either open
and acknowledged as in those southern cities where the library has a
separate department for colored people, or it may be virtual, as where a
convenient lounging room with newspapers is provided for the tramp
element, sometimes with the privilege of smoking. In large cities the
branch library system acts in the same way. The character of the
card-holders is determined by that of the surrounding district and we
thus get practically separate libraries for separate sections of the
community. I look to see this separation proceed to a somewhat greater
degree, not perhaps systematically but automatically and almost
involuntarily. In spite of the apparent concession to class feeling, it
will certainly increase the aggregate use of the library and thus make
it more truly a public institution. So far as the branch system is
concerned, of course, this is only one of the ways in which it increases
the size of the library’s public. Even in a section where the population
is perfectly homogeneous, more people will always be served by two
libraries than by one. The number of branch library systems is rapidly
increasing and the prospects are that the greatest possible use is to
be made of them in the future. And they will be made up of true
branches. Delivery stations have their uses, but they can never take the
place of buildings with permanent stocks of books and all the
conveniences of a separate library. Where a branch building is also a
delivery station, as it always should be, that is, where the users of a
branch are allowed to draw on the stock of the Central Library or of the
other branches, it is found that the branch use vastly exceeds the
station use. In our own library a branch that circulates 500 to 1000 of
its own books daily will give out only two or three from other branches.
This is sufficiently indicative of the preferences of the public, and in
a matter of this kind public preference will ultimately govern. These
branch libraries will have limited stocks of books, mostly, though not
entirely, on open shelves, and will include small reference collections
which will be more important as the branch is farther removed from the
central library. These predictions, it seems to me, are all warranted by
present tendencies.

How will the future library be governed and administered? The governing
body at present is almost universally a board of trustees who are men of
standing and responsibility but usually without expert knowledge. These
are sometimes semi-independent and sometimes under the direct control of
their municipal government. The present tendency seems to be to minimize
municipal control but to increase the number of governing bodies subject
to it. In other words private libraries are doing more public work than
formerly under contract with municipalities, becoming thereby subject to
the control of the city or town but not so closely as to bring politics
into the management. This state of things is so desirable that we may
expect it to be multiplied in the future. As regards the lay or inexpert
character of the governing board, though it is looked upon by some as
objectionable, it is shared by the library with great numbers of other
public and semi-public institutions. Such a board may be regarded as
representative of the great lay public, on whose behalf the institution
must be operated, and whose members are interested in results rather
than in the special methods by which these results may be obtained. That
the members of such a board should be mere figure-heads is certainly not
to be desired; that they should, either as individuals or collectively,
take part in the details of administration is equally undesirable. There
are boards that are doing the one or the other of these things, but the
tendency is to lean neither in the direction of laxity nor of undue
interference--to require definite results and to hold the librarian
strictly responsible for the attainment of those results, leaving him to
employ his own methods.

And the librarian of the future; who and what will he be? The difference
between the modern librarian and him of the old school has often been
the subject of comment. The librarian nowadays is less the scholar and
more the man of affairs. Is change to go on in this direction? There are
rather, it seems to me, signs of a reaction. Perhaps reaction is hardly
the word. The librarian, while keeping in touch with the times, is
reaching back for a little of the spirit of the old-time custodian and
incorporating it with his own. Is it too much to hope that the heads of
our future libraries, will keep in the forefront of library progress,
alert to appreciate the popular need and to respond to it, may yet have
something of the sweet and gentle spirit of the old scholars who used to
preside over our storehouses of books?

Who are to be the assistants in our library of the future? At present
our staffs are recruited from the following sources:

(1) The library schools. The best of these have supplied chiefly the
heads of the smaller libraries, and heads of departments or assistants
of the higher grades in the larger libraries. Few heads of the large
libraries are school-graduates and few lower-grade assistants. There
are, however, schools of the second class whose graduates have gone into
the lower grades both in small and large institutions.

(2) Apprentice classes, generally formed to instruct untrained persons
in the work of a particular library, so that those who enter its lower
grades may be at least partially fitted for their work. The best of
these rise by promotion to the upper grades.

(3) Appointment of totally untrained persons. If such persons are
thoroughly well educated they may enter the work in the higher grades or
even as the heads of libraries. B If not they generally enter at the
bottom, although of course some obtain higher positions through
political or local influence.

This, I believe, states the situation fairly. What are the tendencies?
There can be no doubt that the library school is growing in favor. The
increasing numbers of those who apply for school courses, the raising of
requirements, both for entrance and for graduation, the second class
schools that have sprung up in limitation of those of higher grade,
making necessary the appointment of committees by various library bodies
to examine and report on them--all point in this direction. At the same
time we have had numerous instances, of late, of the selection of
non-graduates to fill high library positions and at least one instance
of frank statement on the part of a librarian of acknowledged eminence,
in favor of taking college men of ability into the library immediately
on graduation, instead of putting them through a library school. The
library schools aim, and very properly so, at occupying the same
position toward the library profession that the medical and law schools
do toward the medical and legal professions. Statistics show that they
have not yet reached that position. Still, it is probable that they will
continue to approximate to it as a limit. In the future, more and more
of the higher library positions will doubtless be filled by
library-school graduates--and so also will more of the lower positions.
When the demand for assistants in the higher grades begins to slacken,
proportionately to the supply, as it is sure to do some day, the library
school graduates will be willing to enter the library force in the lower
grade, and will thus crowd out the untrained or partially trained
applicants to some extent. They may even make the apprentice class a
superfluity, in which case I am sure librarians will abandon it without
a sigh.

In these somewhat desultory forecasts the object of the prophet has been
not so much to impress upon others his own beliefs as to stimulate a
taste for prophecy--a desire to glance over the rail and see which way
the current is setting. Without being fatalists, we may hold that there
are certain great tendencies in human affairs, vast social currents,
against which it is well-nigh hopeless to struggle. Those who desire to
accomplish results must work with these currents, not against them.
Success has almost always been won in this way. Even when a few bold
spirits have seemed to stem and turn back the whole tide, it will
generally be found that an unseen undercurrent was in their favor. Learn
therefore to judge of the currents; so shall we avoid the rocks and
shoals and bring our craft safely to port.


Is the love of books a proper or necessary qualification for one who is
to care for books and to see that they do the work for which they were
made? First, let us ask a question or two. What is the love of books;
and what is there in books that one may love? The same question might be
asked and answered of the love of human beings; for between it and the
love of books there are curious analogies. Of what, then, do man and
book severally consist as objects of interest and affection?

First of all there is the man himself, the ego, the soul--which cannot
indeed exist on this earth without its material embodiment, but which
most of us realize is in some way distinct from that embodiment. So the
book has its soul. The ideas or facts that it sets forth, though
dependent for their influence on the printed page, exist independently
of that page and make the book what it is. Next we have the material
embodiment; that without which the man or the book could not exist for
us; which is a necessary part of him or it, but necessary only because
it is the vehicle through which man or book may be known by the senses.
The body of the book is thus so much, and only so much, of its material
part, its paper and its ink, as is necessary to present the contents
properly to the eye. Lastly, we have the clothing of man and of book,
having the function of protection or of decoration, or both; in the case
of the book the protective cover, often highly decorated, and so much
of interior elaboration as cannot be said to be strictly necessary to
the presentation of the idea. The “body” and the clothing of the book,
let it be noted, are not strictly separable as are those of the man. The
line between them may be drawn in different places by different people.
The same illustration, we will say, may be considered by one reader an
absolutely necessary part of the book--an organ of its body--while to
another it is but an ornamental embellishment--a decorative gewgaw. In
spite of this vagueness, however, there is here an undeniable
distinction between those material parts of the book that are necessary
to its existence and those that merely embellish it or protect it.

The book therefore, like the man, is made up of soul, body and clothes.
Which of these is the entity that may be loved? Now there are many kinds
of lovers and many kinds of love. The belle of the ball may be
surrounded with admirers, but if clad in rags and seated in a gutter she
might excite no favorable notice. Still more may a pretty face be loved
when it has no mental or spiritual qualities behind it. Yet these types
of affection are inferior--no one would deny it. In like manner those
who love the book merely for its fine clothes, who rejoice in luxurious
binding and artistic illumination, and even those who dwell chiefly on
its fine paper and careful typography, are but inferior lovers of books.
The one loves his book for its clothes, and the other for its bodily
perfection; neither cares primarily for its contents, its soul.

Now the true lover is he who loves the soul--who sees beyond clothes and
bodily attributes, and cherishes nobility of character, strength of
intellect, loftiness of purpose, sweetness of disposition,
steadfastness of attachment--those thousand qualities that go to make
up personality. All these the book has, like the man or the woman--for
is it not the essence of its writer? Your true book-lover would rather
have a little old dog’s-eared copy of his favorite author, soiled and
torn by use, with binding gone, and printed on bad paper with poorer
type and worse ink, than a mediocre production that is a typographic and
artistic masterpiece.

And yet we call the collector of fine bindings and rare editions a
“book-lover,” to the exclusion of the one who loves truly and devotedly.
The true book-lover wants to get at the soul of his book; the false one
may never see it. He may even refrain from cutting the leaves of the
rare first edition that he has just bought, in doing which he is like
the ignorant mother who sews her child up in his clothes for the
winter--nay, worse; for you cannot sew up the child’s soul.

Now let there be no misunderstanding. As the true lover would have his
mistress beautiful--nay, as she _is_ beautiful to his eyes, whatever she
may be to others, and as he would, if he could, clothe her in silks and
adorn her with gems, so the true book-lover need not be and is not
adverse to having his favorite author sumptuously set forth; he would
rather than not see his books properly and strongly printed and bound;
his love for the soul need not interfere with proper regard for the body
and its raiment. And here is where the love of the book has an advantage
over the affection whose object is a person. In spite of the
advertisements of the beauty doctors, a homely face can rarely be made
beautiful; but the book may be embodied and clothed as we will; it is
the same, however printed and bound, to him who loves it for its

Thus it will be seen that when I speak in general of “a love of books” I
mean not a love of their typography, their illustration, or their
bindings, but of their contents; a love of the universal mind of
humanity as enshrined in print; a love of the method of recording ideas
in written speech, as contrasted with their presentation in the spoken
tongue--a love of ideas and ideals as so recorded. Such a love of books
is pre-eminently a characteristic of civilized man. It is not synonymous
with a love of knowledge--the savage who never saw a book may have that;
it is not even the same as a love of _recorded_ knowledge, for knowledge
may be recorded in other ways--in the brain by oral repetition, in
sculptured memorials, in mere piles of stone. It is a love of the ideas
of men recorded in a particular way, in _the_ particular way that has
commended itself to civilized man as best.

The very existence of a library presupposes such a love of books. No one
who had not an affection for the printed records of his race would care
to possess them, much less to collect and preserve them. It would seem,
then, that a love of books should be not only a qualification but an
absolute prerequisite for entrance upon librarianship. By inquiring how
and why it has come to be regarded as a non-essential or as of secondary
importance, we may perhaps learn something.

A young woman comes to me to ask for library work; and when I demand
sternly, “Have you training or experience?” she timidly answers, “No;
but I’m very fond of books.” I smile; you all smile in like case. Why do
we smile? What business have we to underrate such a fundamental
qualification and exalt above it mere technicalities? The ability to
acquire these technicalities exists in ten persons where the ability to
love books as they should be loved is found in one. If the love so
avowed is real, even if it is only potential, not actual, our feeling in
its presence should be one of reverence, not amusement. It should prove
the candidate fit, perhaps not for immediate appointment, but for
preliminary training with a view to appointment in the future.

If it is real! Candor compels me to confess that, like some other
avowals of love, that of a love for books does not always ring true.
“What have you read?” I once asked one of these self-styled book-lovers.
She fixed me with her eye and after a moment’s impressive pause she
replied “Deep thought!” I mentally marked her as a false lover. Proud
parents relate how their progeny in childhood would rather peruse E. S.
Ellis than play and pore over Alger than eat--this as irrefragable proof
of fitness for a library career. Consideration of cases like these makes
us wonder whether the smile is so much out of the way after all. Does
the true book-lover publicly announce her affection in the hope of gain?
Does she not rather, like Shakespeare’s maid, “never tell her love?” It
is to be feared that some of these people are confusing a love of books
with a love of reading. They are not the same thing. Some persons enjoy
the gentle mental exercise of letting a stream of more or less harmless
ideas flow through their brains--continuously in and continuously out
again--apprehending them one after another in lazy fashion, and then
dismissing them. The result is a degree of mental friction, but no
permanent intellectual acquisition. How much of our own reading is of
this kind I shudder to contemplate. Far be it from me to condemn it; it
has its uses; it is an excellent cure for wakefulness after a busy day;
but it no more indicates or stimulates a love for books than shaking
hands with a thousand callers makes it possible for the Governor or the
President to claim them all as intimate friends.

A real love for books, after all, is betrayed rather than announced; it
shows itself in the chance remark, the careless action, just as another
kind of love may show itself in a glance or a word.

I believe this to be the reason why a love for books is so little
considered among the modern qualifications of librarianship; it appears
in acts, not in words; it cannot be ascertained by asking questions. He
who protests that he has it must needs be an object of suspicion. And
yet I venture to say that if any librarian has made a conspicuous
success of his work, apart from the mere mechanics of it, he has
achieved that success primarily and notably through love of books. This
I assert to be the case down to the assistant of lowest grade.

To be good, work must be ungrudging. And though other things than love
for one’s task may make one willing to do it and able to do it well,
intelligent interest is always a prime factor in securing the best

And love of one’s work becomes a very simple matter when there is love
of the subject matter of that work. Those who lament that they are
doomed to drudgery should remember that drudgery is subjective. All work
consists of a series of acts which taken apart from their relationships
are unimportant and uninteresting, but which acquire importance and
interest from those relationships. It is so also with sports. Think how
childish are the mere acts of striking a ball with a racket or of
kicking an inflated leather sphere over a cross-bar! Yet in their proper
sequence with other acts they may be the object of the breathless
interest or enthusiasm of thousands of spectators. And if this may be
the case with a mere game, how much more so with an occupation that is
part of the world’s life! To dip a brush in color and draw it across a
canvas is a simple act, yet such acts in their sequence may produce a
work of art. Here the workman understands the position and value of each
act in the sequence; hence he is not apt to feel it as drudgery.
Drudgery is work in which the elementary acts are performed
unintelligently, with little or no appreciation of their position in the
scheme of things, as when a day laborer toils at digging a hole in the
ground without the slightest knowledge of its purpose, not caring,
indeed, whether it is to be a post-hole or a grave. But to the man who
is searching for buried treasure the digging ceases to be drudgery; he
knows what he is about, and every shovelful as it is lifted brings him
nearer to possible gold and gems. To change drudgery into interested
labor, therefore, realize what you are doing; know its relation to what
has gone before and what is to come; understand what it is you are
working on and what you are working for. Learn to love that something;
and all that you can do to shape it, to increase its usefulness and to
bring it into new relationships will have a vivid interest to you.

What could be duller than the act of writing in a book, hour after hour,
certain particulars regarding other books, the author’s name, the title,
the publisher, the size, the price? But if you love those volumes,
individually or generically, and if you realize that what you are doing
is a necessary step in the work of making their contents accessible and
useful--of leading others to love them as you have learned to do--then
and only then, it seems to me, does such a task as accessioning become
full of interest. And so it is with every one of the thousand acts that
make up the daily work of a library assistant. I am saying nothing new;
you know and we all know that the laborer who does his work well is he
who does it _con amore_. The wage-earner may labor primarily to support
himself and his family, but he will never really _earn_ his living
unless his work is of a kind that can command his whole-hearted
interest--unless he likes it and takes pride in doing it well. This is
why the love of books--an intelligent interest in literature and in the
world’s written records--is so fundamental a necessity for a librarian.

It should be emphasized that one may love books even if some of the
great masterpieces leave him cold, just as one may love humanity though
Alexander and Cæsar, we will say, do not happen to stir his enthusiasm.
One may even, in a way, love books when that love is expended on what is
by nature ephemeral, so long as it is lovable and excellent.
Perishability and excellence are not contraries by any means. Indeed, I
heard a painter once, indignant because his art had been characterized
as less permanent than sculpture, with implied derogation, assert that
all beauty is of its nature perishable. If this be so, a thing of
beauty, instead of being a joy forever, is a passing pleasure and the
more evanescent as it nears perfection. This thesis could hardly be
successfully maintained, and yet I conceive that it has in it an element
of truth. There are critics who refuse to admire anything in art that
has not in it the elements of permanency. A sunset they will acknowledge
to be beautiful, though fleeting, but its artistic portrayal, they say,
must be lasting. An idea, a passion, may be fine, even when forgotten in
a moment, but if enshrined in literary form it must be worth preserving
forever or they regard it as without value. These people are confusing
mere durability with beauty. “Is anything that doesn’t last three years
a book?” asks Mr. Carnegie. We might as well refuse to admire a flower
because it fades over night, or turn from our daily food because it is
incapable of retaining indefinitely its savor and nutritious qualities.
It cannot be too strongly emphasized that a thing may possess beauty and
usefulness in a high degree to-day and lose them both to-morrow. That is
an excellent reason for discarding it then, but not for spurning it now.
What is cast into the oven of oblivion to-morrow may to-day be arrayed,
beyond all the glories of Solomon, in aptness of allusion and in fitness
of application.

Much of the best that appears in the daily press is of this kind. Along
with a good deal that is worthy of long life, there is a host of
admirable material in the ephemeral paragraphs that we are accustomed to
despise. We may despise them, but still we read; and nothing that is
read with interested attention by fifty millions of people is really
despicable. The average newspaper writer may well be content to toss off
paragraphs for us; he need not care who constructs our leading
editorials. The influence of the paragraph is incomparably the greater;
it has the raciness of the soil, shrewd wit driven home with our native
exaggeration and the sting of the epigram. And much of that which is
bound between covers has this peculiar aroma of journalism--its fitness
to-day, its staleness to-morrow. This sort of thing may be badly done or
it may be well done--inconceivably apt, dainty and well-flavored. If it
is of the best, why may we not love it, though it be to-morrow as flat
as the sparkling wine without its gaseous brilliancy?

To those who have been accustomed to books from childhood, who have
lived with them and among them, who constantly read them and read about
them, they seem to be a part of the natural order of things. It is
something of a shock then when we awake, as we all must occasionally, to
the realization that to a very large proportion of our population,
supposedly educated, they are a thing apart--pedantic, useless, silly;
to be borne with during a few years of schooling and then cast aside; to
be studied perfunctorily but never to be read. When the statistics of
reading are analyzed I believe we shall be startled, not by the great
increase in it, notable and indubitable as this is, but at the enormous
amount of progress that still remains to be made before the use of books
by our people indicates any real general interest in them and
appreciation of them. An attitude toward books that is very general is
indicated by a series of cartoons which has now been running for several
years in a New York evening paper--a proof that its subject must strike
a responsive chord, for the execution of the pictures is beneath
contempt. It is entitled “Book-Taught Bilkins,” and it sets forth how on
one occasion after another Bilkins relies on the information that he
finds in a book--and meets with a disaster. This is a trifle, but it is
one of those straws that tell which way the wind blows. A presumably
intelligent man, a graduate of the public schools, occupying a position
under the city, recently remarked to one of our library people that he
spent his holidays usually at one of the nearby recreation parks. “Why
don’t you go sometimes to one of the branches of the public library?” he
was asked. He laughed and said, “I’ve never read a book yet, and I don’t
think I’ll start now.” How many are there like him? We are educating
them by thousands. They leave school with no interest in books, without
the slightest appreciation of what books mean--certainly with no love
for them. To these people books are but the vehicles and symbols of a
hateful servitude. Perhaps this is inevitable; if it is, all that we can
say is that far from “continuing the work of the schools,” as we are
often told is our function, we may often have to undo a part of it,
which consists in creating an attitude of hostility toward books and
reading. Can this be done by those who do not appreciate and care for

I do not want to be considered pessimistic. This lack of interest in
books I believe to be noticeable largely because we have changed our
whole attitude toward the relationship of literature to the people. Love
for books used to be regarded as properly confined to a class; that the
bulk of people did not care for literature was no more significant than
the fact that they had never tasted _paté de foie gras_. Now we consider
that every one ought to love books--and the fact that vast numbers of
people do not, no longer seems natural to us. That these people are
beginning to show an interest, and that the ranks of the indifferent are
growing slowly less, I firmly believe; and it is my opinion that the
public library is no inconsiderable factor in the change. Some, it is
true, are beginning to care for books by caring for poor and trashy
books. These, however, are on the right road; they are on their way up;
it is our business not to despise them, but to help them up further. Can
we do it without having ourselves a proper appreciation of what is good
in books?

But can a love for books be taught? To those who have the aptitude for
it, it certainly can. In other cases it cannot. To those who have it in
them, however, appreciation for the beautiful may certainly be awakened
by precept and example. I have in mind a farmer in the Virginia
mountains, dwelling in a lovely region, but among a rural population
without the slightest appreciation of the beauties of nature. This
particular man had worked for years in and about a summer camp and had
thus associated with people from the city whose appreciation of the fine
prospects from cliff and summit was unusually keen. In time he actually
came to feel such appreciation himself, and he would spend the whole of
his rare holidays on a rocky peak 4000 feet above the sea, drinking in
the beauties of the scene and eagerly pointing them out to his
tousle-headed children, all of whom he took with him. None of that brood
will cease to love nature, I am sure, and their lives will be sweeter
and better for it. In like fashion, association with people who
appreciate good books will awaken a similar love in many an unpromising
mind. Mere contact with the books themselves may do it, and so our open
shelves have brought it to thousands, but the additional influence of a
sympathetic human mind will hasten it wonderfully. The busy assistant at
the desk may have a chance to say but a single word. Shall that word
relate to the mechanics of librarianship--the charging system, the
application form, the shelf-arrangement--or shall it convey in some
indefinable way the fact that here is a body of workers, personally
interested in books and eager to arouse or foster such an interest in

But how may one tell whether the true love of books is in him? To detect
it in another, as already noted, requires more than a brief
acquaintance. But to test oneself is easier. What would the world be to
you without books? Could you go on living your life, physically and
mentally, even as you do now, if the whole great series, from big to
little, from old to new, from the Bible and Shakespeare down to the
latest novel, were utterly wiped away? If you can truthfully say that
such a cataclysm would make no difference to you, then you certainly do
not love books. If the loss of them, or of some part of them--even the
least--would leave a void in your life, then you have that love in
greater or less degree, in finer or coarser quality. Let us pity those
who have it not. And as for you who have it, you surely have not only a
fundamental qualification for librarianship, but that which will make,
and does make, of you better men and women. Let us perfect ourselves in
all the minutiæ of our profession, let us study how to elevate it and
make it more effective, but let us not forget the book, without which it
would have no existence. Possibly the librarian who reads is lost, but
the librarian who has never read, or who, having read, has imbibed from
reading no feeling toward books but those of dislike or indifference, is
surely worse than lost--he has, so far as true librarianship goes, never


In using this expression it is not intended to imply that the library
is, or should be, the only place in a town where educational processes
are going on--perhaps not even the principal place. The center of a
circle is not the whole circle; its area is zero, it is simply a point
so related to other parts of the figure as to give it supreme
importance. The center of a wheel, through which the axle passes, is not
the whole wheel, but around it the whole wheel turns. So the educational
functions of a town library, while they may not bulk large in a catalog,
should be so related to those of other institutions in the community as
to give it peculiar importance and authority.

It is not necessary here to remark that education is what its name
implies--a drawing out, a development of potentialities. Because it is
this, and only this, it will never make a Shakespeare or a Newton out of
one who has it not “in him,” as the idiom so well runs, to become one or
the other. Because it is this, there are men who do have in them
potentialities of usefulness, perhaps even of greatness, but who for
lack of it, die undeveloped; “mute” and “inglorious.”

From the moment when the new-born babe feels the contact of the outer
world, through his organs of sense, that contact begins to develop his
possibilities. Here education begins, and it ceases only with the
stoppage of all functions at death. When it has gone on so far that a
contact is established with other human minds, this development takes a
special turn that differentiates it from any training that the lower
animals receive--that makes it a link in the education of the race.
Still further is this accentuated when the child begins to have access
to the printed records of the race in the shape of books.

Books, or no books, his educational development goes on, at home, among
his playmates, in his chosen work in shop, farm or office, but the use
of books gives it a wider relationship--a broader outlook. This relation
of our formal intellectual records to education which is emphasized
especially during the period of attendance at school or college, makes a
storehouse of books of peculiar value and importance to a community.
Especially should the existence of such a collection direct the
attention of every person in the community to the fact that the use of
books to develop the mind and broaden the possibilities does not
properly end with the close of the school life. It is the misfortune of
the school, in too many instances, that its work engenders a hatred of
books instead of a love for them. Play, we are told, is “work that you
don’t have to do.” It is the merit of the library that there is no
compulsion about its use. We dislike what is forced upon us, but the
study which is the hardest of work in a school may become recreation
when one is free to follow the line of inclination among the books of a
well-made collection. In this way the post-scholastic education, if we
may call it so, which lasts as long as the life, is kept in touch with
the written records, instead of casting those records aside and
proceeding haphazard wholly on so-called “practical” lines. The teachers
express this, when they admit the public library at all into the
educational pantheon, by saying that it may “continue the work of the
school.” This is a one-sided way of looking at the matter--as one-sided
as it would be to say that the function of the school is to prepare
people for the use of the public library--a statement no less and no
more true than the other. The proper way to put it is that the school
and the library have closely related educational functions, both
employing largely the written records of previous attainment, but the
school concentrating its influence on a short period of peculiar
susceptibility, with the aid of enforced personal discipline and
exposition, while the library works without such opportunities, but also
freed from these limitations. Thus the library uses books as a means of
development, not with the aid of personal influence, but without
taskmasters; not without discipline, but without compulsion. During the
years of school attendance, it works with the school, and it recognizes
the fact that its use is a habit best acquired early. This is the reason
for our separate rooms for children, with their special collections and
trained assistants, and also for our efforts to co-ordinate the child’s
reading with his school work. We are not trying to set up a rival
educational system, which by its superior attractiveness may divert the
attention of the child from school; we are merely seeing that our young
people may become accustomed to use books properly, to love them dearly
and to look upon the place where they are housed as in some sense an
intellectual refuge through life.

This closeness of contact with a public collection of books is largely a
modern idea. In ancient times the safeguarding and preservation of the
individual book was far more important than it is today. Greater public
security, and especially the improvement in methods of duplication, have
now made such care unnecessary, except in the case of volumes kept as
curiosities, or for occasional use. The book that does the most for
popular education is not kept behind bars, but sent out broadcast for
free use, shortly perishing in the flesh to be reincarnated in fresh
paper, type and binding. Sending out books for home use has added
enormously to the educational value of the library and to the good done
by books--to the number of points of contact of mind with mind. Along
the same line has been the development of subsidiary centers of
distribution--branch libraries, traveling libraries, delivery stations.
All these have added to the tendency to look upon the public library as
a center of municipal education. In many communities it is being looked
to now as such a center in matters having no direct connection with
books. It is a museum on a small scale; a lecture bureau; the maker,
sometimes the publisher, of lists and bibliographies. In old times the
local collector of minerals or of prints turned over his crystals or his
pictures to the school; now, as likely as not, he gives them to the
library. It is better that he should; for in the educational life of the
individual, the school comes and goes, but the library goes on forever.

It is this capacity of the modern library to reach out beyond its own
walls in many different directions that makes it proper for us to speak
of it as a center. In a similar way the physicist speaks of centers of
force. And as a body exerting attraction or repulsion--a magnetic pole,
an electrified sphere, a gravitating particle--is surrounded by a field
of force which is very real, though invisible, so there are invisible
lines that connect such an intellectual center as the library with every
interest in the community. We recognize this in our colloquial speech.
Did you never hear of a network of branch libraries? Yet on a map they
show merely a system of dots. The network is formed of the commingling
fields of force, which together enmesh the community in a web of
intellectual influences. And as an ordinary force has two aspects, so
the influences radiating from our library centers are directed both from
and toward them. The up-to-date library strikes out toward every member
of the community and it strives to draw each one to itself. It sends its
books into every home, its helpful aids to reading and to study, its
library news and gossip in the local paper: but on the other hand, its
cozy rooms, its well-stocked reference shelves, its willing and pleasant
attendants exert on every man, woman and child in the community an
intellectual attraction, and having let them taste of the delights it
has to offer sends him out again as a willing missionary to lure in
others. By such methods should the library strive to be a center of
mental development in a community; by such methods is it succeeding, for
no other center can vie with it in the universality of its appeal,
whether we follow the individual from birth to death, or regard the
various members of a community as they exist at one specified time.

But there is another sense in which the library should be and is able to
serve as the intellectual center of a community. A community’s moral and
intellectual status is not simply the sum of that of its component
members. This is true of all aggregates where the components are
interrelated in any way. In all such cases the properties of the whole
depend, it is true, on the properties of the components, but not by
simple addition. The taste of common salt is not the taste of sodium
added to that of chlorine; the feelings, thoughts and acts of any
aggregate of men may be quite different from those of the men taken
individually. This is true whether the aggregate be simply a body of
spectators in a theater, mutually related only by the fact of their
common presence in the place, or an association, or the members of a
municipal community. The human aggregate is in all cases less advanced
than the individual; it is more primitive in its emotions, its morals,
its acts. This might be expected, since the formal group, of whatever
kind, began its evolution later than the individual. A community’s moral
sense is thus less advanced than that of its members; it will lie,
swindle and steal, when they would hesitate to do so; it will resort to
violence sooner than they. Its intellectual ability is also less; its
business transactions are looser; its appreciation of artistic values is

The education of a group of men, as a group, is thus something different
from the education of its individual members. In the case of a loose
group, such as an audience, it could not be attempted; with a group
dwelling together and bound by ties of blood and common interest it is
not only possible but quite worth while.

Of course it must be understood that whatever educates the individual
also helps to educate the community; but when, as is almost always the
case, the community lags behind, something may be done to bring its
ideals, feelings and acts nearer to the individual standard, even
without altering the latter.

Now we have already been reminded by Prof. Vincent of Chicago university
that the library may act as the social memory; the town library should
therefore be emphatically the municipal memory. And as memory is the
basis of our intellectual life, so a communal memory of this kind will
serve as the basis of the community’s intellectual life and as a means
through which it may be fostered and advanced. As the individual looks
back with interest on his own personal history and refreshes his
recollection by means of family portraits, old letters, diaries,
scrapbooks and material of all kinds, so the community should retain
consciousness of the continuity of its own history by keeping in the
public library full records of similar import--files of all local
publications, printed memorabilia of all kinds, material for local
history, even to the point of imagined triviality; even private letters,
when these bear in any way on the community life. The legal and
political history, or, at last, its dry bones, is locked up in the
official archives or the town or city; we need, in addition, an
intellectual and social hall of records out of which the delver in local
history may clothe this skeleton with flesh and blood.

A man with a memory has the basis for a mind and a conscience; so a
community with this kind of a collective memory is much more ’apt than
another to develop collective intelligence and collective morality. It
may be asserted, not as a figure of speech, but as a cold fact, that a
community whose citizens look back upon an honorable history with
records preserved in an accessible place, ought to be much less likely
to sanction a trolley steal or to wink-at official graft.

In a recent striking address, Prof. William James has called attention
to the importance of the things that may serve to unlock stores of
reserve energy. When the runner’s fatigue has increased up to a certain
point he all at once gets, as we say, his “second wind”--something to
enable him to draw on a reserve energy. These reserves, Prof. James
tells us, we all possess, especially in matters of the intellect and
morals; they may be unlocked by ideas, sentiments or objects. The ideas
represented by such phrases--catchwords, if you choose to call them
so--as love, mother, home, liberty, church, the old flag; righteousness,
civic duty--have had a power in setting energy free and accomplishing
results, that is beyond estimation. In regarding the library as a center
of municipal education we make it a storehouse of objects and records,
with their associated ideas and sentiments, that are competent to act in
just this way. A man who feels that he is a “citizen of no mean city,”
who has been made to realize it from earliest childhood, whose mind
turns habitually to the storehouse that has done most to make him
realize it, is a nobler man, and the community of which he is a part is
a nobler community, than if such a place were non-existent, or if its
records and associations were scattered and unheeded. This is a most
cogent reason for making the library the intellectual center of the
town, as the town hall is the political and the church the religious
center; for seeing in it not alone a collection of books, however good,
that are given out to those who ask for them but a means for guiding and
leading the town’s intellectual progress, for turning it from
trivialities to what is worth while, caring for the children’s reading,
stimulating public thought by lectures, endeavoring by every legitimate
means to attract toward it the public eye in regard to all things that
contribute to individual and civic development.

The most important part of our education, says Emil Reich, we gain after
we are twenty-five years old. We cannot prevent the acquisition of such
a post-graduate education by every young man and young woman in the
town. The question is not: Shall the mind be trained? Shall character be
developed? It is rather, How and by what means shall the development go
on? Under what auspices shall it take place and toward what end shall it
point? Shall it deal in trivialities and end in vacuity? Shall it impart
insincerity, dishonesty, uncleanliness? Shall its product be a useless
citizen, an indifferent one, a positively harmful one?

The answers to these questions depend on the home, the church, the
school--a score, perhaps, of minor civic societies. Let us at the very
center of the town’s mental and moral life erect an institution, which,
having as its basal object the collection, preservation and
popularization of the records of what has been worth while in the past,
may serve also as a support to what is good in the present, and a ladder
on which the community may mount to still better things in the future.
Is this too large, too serious a view to take of the importance of the
public library? That will depend on what we choose to make of it--a mere
pile of books to be turned over by the passerby, or a true center of
municipal education.


“Some are born great; some achieve greatness; some have greatness thrust
upon them.” It is in this last way that the librarian has become a
censor of literature. Originally the custodian of volumes placed in his
care by others, he has ended by becoming in these latter days much else,
including a selector and a distributor, his duties in the former
capacity being greatly influenced and modified by the expansion of his
field in the latter. As the library’s audience becomes larger, as its
educational functions spread and are brought to bear on more of the
young and immature, the duty of sifting its material becomes more
imperative. I am not referring now to the necessity of selection imposed
upon us by lack of funds. A man with five dollars to spend can buy only
five dollars’ worth from a stock worth a hundred, and it is unfair to
say that he has “rejected” the unbought ninety-five dollars’ worth. Such
a selection scarcely involves censorship, and we may cheerfully agree
with those who say that from this point of view the librarian is not
called upon to be a censor at all. But there is another point of view. A
man, we will say, is black-balled at a club because of some unsavory
incident in his life. Is it fair to class him simply with the fifty
million people who still remain outside of the club? He would, we will
say, have been elected but for the incident that was the definite cause
of his rejection. So there are books that would have been welcome on our
library shelves but for some one objectionable feature, whose
appearance on examination ensures their exclusion--some glaring
misstatement, some immoral tendency, some offensive matter or manner.
These are distinctly rejected candidates. And when the library
authority, whether librarian, book committee, or paid expert, points out
the objectionable feature that bars out an otherwise acceptable book the
function exercised is surely censorship.

May any general laws be laid down on this subject?

Let us admit at the outset that there is absolutely no book that may not
find its place on the shelves of some library and perform there its
appointed function. From this point of view every printed page is a
_document_, a record of something, material, as the French say, _pour
servir_; from a mass of such material neither falsity, immorality nor
indecency can exclude it. I do not speak at this time, therefore, of the
library as a storehouse of data for the scholar and the investigator,
but rather of the collection for the free use of the general public and
especially of collections intended for circulation. It is to these that
the censorship to which I have alluded may properly apply and upon these
it is generally exercised. I know of no more desirable classification of
books for our present purpose than the old three categories--the Good,
the True, and the Beautiful. Those books that we desire, we want because
they fall under one or more of these three heads--they must be morally
beneficial, contain accurate information or satisfy the esthetic sense
in its broadest meaning. Conversely we may exclude a book because it
lacks goodness, truth or beauty. We may thus reject it on one or more of
the three following grounds; badness--that is undesirable moral teaching
or effect; falsity--that is, mistakes, errors or misstatements of fact;
and ugliness--matter or manner offensive to our sense of beauty, fitness
or decency. The first and third qualities, badness and ugliness, are
often wrongly confounded, and as I desire therefore to speak of them
together, we will now take up the second, namely, falsity or lack of
truth. Strangely enough, among all reasons for excluding books this is
perhaps least often heard. Possibly this is because it applies only to
non-fiction, and apparently in the minds of many non-fiction is
desirable simply because it is what it is. Again, the application of
this test to any particular book can generally be made only by an
expert. The librarian needs no adviser to tell him whether or not a book
is immoral or indecent, but he cannot so easily ascertain whether the
statements in a work on history, science or travel are accurate. This
lack of expert knowledge is bad enough when inaccuracy or falsity of
statement is involuntary on the author’s part. But of late we have in
increasing numbers a class of books whose authors desire to deceive the
public--to make the reader take for authentic history, biography or
description what is at best historical fiction. Again, the increasing
desire to provide information for children and to interest the large
class of adults who are intellectually young but who still prefer truth
to fictitious narrative, has produced countless books in which the
writer has attempted to state facts, historical, scientific or
otherwise, in as simple, and at the same time as striking, language as
possible. Unfortunately, with some noteworthy exceptions, persons with
comprehensive knowledge of a subject are generally not able to present
it in the desired way. Co-operation is therefore necessary, and it is
not always properly or thoroughly carried out, even where the necessity
for it is realized. Proper co-operation between the expert and the
popularizer involves (1) the selection and statement of the facts by the
former; (2) their restatement and arrangement of the latter; and (3) the
revision of this arrangement by the former. It is this third process
that is often omitted even in serious cyclopedic work, and the result is
inaccuracy. Often, however, there is no cooperation at all; the writer
picks up his facts from what he considers reliable sources, puts them
into eminently readable shape, dwelling on what seem to him striking
features, heightening contrasts here and slurring over distinctions or
transitions there. This process produces what scientific men call
contemptuously “newspaper science,” and we have as well newspaper
history, newspaper sociology and so on. They fill the pages not only of
our daily press, but of our monthly magazines and of too many of the
books that stand on our library shelves. It is unfair to blame the
newspapers alone for their existence; in fact, some of the best simple
presentations of valuable information that we have appear in the daily
press. Then there are the text books. Any librarian who has ever tried
to select a few of the best of one kind--say elementary arithmetics--to
place on his shelves, knows that their name is legion and that
differences between them are largely confined to compilers’ names and
publishers’ imprints. In part they are subject to the same sources of
error as the popularized works and in addition to the temptation to
hasty, scamped or stolen work due to some publisher’s or teacher’s
cupidity. This catalog might be extended indefinitely, but even now we
begin to see the possibilities of rejection on the ground of falsity and
inaccuracy. I believe that the chief menace to the usefulness of the
public libraries lies, not as some believe in the reading of frankly
fictitious narrative, but in the use of false or misleading history,
biography, science and art. Not the crude or inartistic printing of toy
money, but the counterfeiting of real money, is a menace to the
circulating medium.

Against such debasement of the sterling coin of literature it is the
duty of the librarian to fight; and he cannot do it single-handed. Some
things he should and does know; he is able to tell whether the subject
matter is presented in such a way as to be of value to his readers; he
can tell whether the simple and better known facts of history and
science are correctly stated; he is often an authority in one or more
subjects in which he is competent to advise as an expert; but only the
ideal paragon, sometimes described but never yet incarnated, can qualify
simultaneously as an expert in all branches of science, philosophy, art
and literature. The librarian must have expert advisers.

Nor are these so difficult to obtain. The men who know are the very ones
that are interested in the library’s welfare and are likely to help it
without compensation. And in the smaller places where the variety and
extent of special knowledge is less comprehensive the ground covered by
the library’s collection is also less, and the advice that it needs is
simpler. The advice should if possible be personal and definite. No
amount of lists, I care not who prepares or annotates them, can take the
place of the friend at one’s elbow who is able and willing to give aid
just when and exactly where it is needed. As well might the world’s
rulers dismiss all their cabinet ministers and govern from textbooks on
law and ethics. The formula, the treatise, the bibliography--we must
still have all these, but they must be supplemented by personal advice.
And competent advisers exist, as I have said, in almost every place. The
local clergy on questions of religion, and often on others, too; the
school principal on history and economics, the organist on music, the
village doctor on science--some such men will always be found able and
glad to give advice on these subjects or some others; and the place is
small indeed that does not include one or two enthusiasts, collectors of
insects or minerals or antiquities, who have made themselves little
authorities on their pet hobbies and may possibly be the greatest or the
only living authorities on those local phases that particularly interest
the local librarian. It will do the librarian no harm to hunt these men
out and ask their aid; possibly his own horizon will broaden a little
with the task and his respect for the community in which he works will
grow as he performs it.

But what if two of our doctors disagree? Then follow the advice of both.
It might be disastrous for a patient to take two kinds of medicine, but
it can never hurt a library to contain books on both sides of a
question, whether it be one of historical fact, of religious dogma, or
of scientific theory. This may not be pressed too far; the following of
one side may be beneath our notice. It is not absolutely necessary, for
instance, for a small popular circulating library to contain works in
advocacy of the flatness of the earth or of the tenets of the angel
dancers of Hackensack; but it is essential that such a library should
make accessible to its readers the facts of the Reformation as stated by
both Catholic and Protestant writers, histories of the American Civil
War written from both the southern and northern standpoints, geological
works both asserting and denying the existence of a molten core in the
earth’s interior. An impartial book is hard to find; it is a thing of
value, but I am not sure that two partisan books, one on each side, with
the reader as judge, do not constitute a winning combination. Against
violent and personal polemics, of course, the librarian must set his
face. All such are candidates for rejection. It is fortunate for us in
this regard that we are supplying the needs of all creeds, all classes
and all schools. Each must and should have its own literature while each
protests against violent attacks on its own tenets. Such protests, while
often unjustified, are helping us to weed out our collections.

So much for deficiency in truth as a cause for rejection. Now let us
consider deficiency in goodness and deficiency in beauty; or stated
positively, badness and ugliness. These two things are confounded by
many of us. Is this because the great majority of librarians to-day are
of the sex that judges largely by intuition and often by instinctive
notions of beauty and fitness? To most women, I believe all ugliness is
sinful, and all sin is ugly. Now sin is morally ugly, without doubt, but
it may not be esthetically so. And goodness may be esthetically
repulsive. Badness and ugliness in books are both adequate grounds for
rejection, but they need not coexist. Some of the worst books are
artistically praiseworthy and would be well worth a place of honor on
our shelves if their beauty alone were to move us. On the other hand,
some books that are full of impropriety or even of indecency are
absolutely unimpeachable from a moral standpoint.

Shakespeare and the Bible are often indecent without being in the least
immoral. “Raffles” is in no wise indecent, but is dangerously immoral.
Bernard Shaw is often both indecent and immoral while at the same time
so astoundingly clever that we stand gaping at him with our mouths wide
open while he tosses down our throats the most unsavory things.

What, then, is the distinction between badness and ugliness? For our
present purpose I believe it to be this: badness depends on immutable
laws, while ugliness, at any rate that of the kind which concerns us
here, is a matter of convention. Virtue, with all due apologies to Mr.
Lecky and to many other eminent scholars, has certain standards that do
not vary with place or time. Let us grant that a given act may be good
to-day and bad to-morrow, good in Tasmania and bad in Pennsylvania; this
is beside the question. We have here to do with the classification of
this particular act in certain fixed categories that of themselves
remain bad or good. The act of cutting off a man’s head may be good if
the cutter is the public executioner, and bad if he be a private
citizen; one may shoot an attacking highwayman but not an innocent
friend. The reason for these differences, however, is that in one case
the killing is murder while in the other it is not; murder itself always
was and always will be bad.

Impropriety or indecency, on the other hand, is purely arbitrary.
Personally I am inclined to think this true of all beauty, but it is
unnecessary to obtrude this view here. Impropriety is a violation of
certain social customs, and although I should be the last to question
the observance of those customs, we must grant, I think, that they rest
on foundations quite other than those of right and wrong. In fact
decency, instead of being on the same plane with morality, comes nearer
to being properly ranked with those fixed categories mentioned above,
which are themselves always good or bad, but which may or may not
include a given act, according to circumstances. Murder is always bad,
but whether the taking of life is or is not murder depends on the
circumstances; it may depend entirely on motive. So indecency is always
bad, but whether a given act or object is or is not indecent depends on
circumstances; it may depend not only on motive but on locality or
environment. Objects and acts of the highest sanctity in one country may
be regarded as low and vulgar in another--the standard varies from class
to class, from one occupation to another; almost from family to family.
One may mention, in all innocence, that which may bring a blush to the
cheek of some listener, simply because of this instability of standard
in the matter of impropriety. To this class of things particularly
refers the celebrated dictum: “There is no thing in heaven or earth,
Horatio, but thinking makes it so.” This is unexceptionable Christian
Science, but it is not quite true. A higher authority than Shakespeare
has asserted that by thinking one cannot make a single hair white or
black; and this surely accords with the results of experience. Likewise
no one by thinking can make badness goodness or the reverse. But whether
a thing be improper or not depends entirely on thinking. Thinking makes
it so. It is improper for a Mohammedan woman to expose her face in
public because she thinks it is, and because that thought is an
ingrained part of her existence. But although the Persian sect of
Assassins thought with all their hearts that murder was good, it was
still very evil. Are we getting too far away from the censorship of
books? I think not. See the bearing of all this.

If a book is really bad--if it teaches that evil is good or that it
makes no difference--it ought to be rejected uncompromisingly, despite
the fact that it is void of impropriety or even artistically admirable.
But if it is morally unobjectionable and yet contains that which is
improper or indecent, it is then proper to inquire whether the degree
and kind of this indecency is such as to condemn it, particularly taking
into account the condition, the intelligence and the age of those who
would be likely to read it, and also the time and the readers for whom,
if it is an old book, its author originally wrote it. With increasing
civilization there are certain things that become more and more
indecent, and others that become less and less so, owing to the shifting
of points of view.

Let us now take up more specifically moral badness as a cause for
rejection. We occasionally meet people who hold that the mention of
anything morally bad in a book condemns it; while, on the other hand,
some would admit books whose atmosphere reeks with evil; whose bad
characters live bad lives and speak bad thoughts, so long as the writer
in his own person does not commend evil or teach that it is good. Both
these extremes are to be avoided. Surely we have outlived the idea that
innocence and ignorance are the same thing. “You can’t touch pitch,”
says the proverb, “and not be defiled.” Granted; yet we may look at
pitch, or any other dirt, and locate it, without harm; nay, we must do
so if we want to keep out of it. This is not saying that it is well to
seek out descriptions of evil, or to dwell on them, in a work of
fiction. Things necessary in the study of medicine, folk-lore or law may
be abhorrent in a narrative intended for amusement, although the advent
of the “problem” novel--the type of fiction in which the narrative form
is often merely the sugar coating for the pill--introduces confusion
here into any rule that we may lay down. But however foolish it is to
insist that the very existence of evil be concealed from readers of
fiction, since evil is a normal constituent of the world as we find it,
it is certainly fair to object to a dwelling upon evil phases of life to
such an extent that the resulting impression is a distortion of the
truth. This distortion may be so great as to make it proper to reject
the book wholly on the ground of falsity. A filling of the canvas with
lurid tints is apt to convey--or at any rate is often so done as to
convey--the idea that the existence of the evil that the writer depicts
is a matter of indifference. A man need not stop to assert his belief
that theft is wrong whenever he tells the story of a robbery, but it is
quite possible to tell a tale of theft in such a way as to leave an
impression that it is a venial offense and to weaken in the reader the
moral inhibition that must be his chief reliance in time of temptation.
And for “theft” here we may substitute any form of moral dereliction
that you may desire. One of the most potent vehicles of moral downfall
of any kind is the impression that “everybody does it”--that some
particular form of wrongdoing is well-nigh universal and is looked upon
with leniency by society in general. The man who steals from his
employer or who elopes with his neighbor’s wife is nine times out of ten
a willing convert to this view. A book that conveys such an idea is
really more dangerous than one which openly advocates wrong doing. There
can be little difference of opinion here. There may be more in regard to
the policy of telling the whole truth regarding a state of things that
is morally very bad. It may be fatal to a patient to let him know how
ill he is. And may it not also be injurious to a young man or a young
woman to expose the amount of evil that really lies before them in this
world? There is plausibility in this argument, but it is out of date.
There is much philosophy in the modern paradoxical slang phrase: “Cheer
up! the worst is yet to come!” And indeed if there is any superlative
badness ahead of us, it is better that we should know it, rather than
cultivate a false cheerfulness, based on misinformation, with the
certainty of disillusionment. The Egyptians were right when they set a
skeleton at their feasts. It was not to make the feasts gloomy, but to
make the skeleton a familiar object by association; to accustom the
feasters to think about death, how to avoid it as long as possible and
how to meet it when inevitable. We should therefore welcome the truth in
any book, unless it is that “half truth,” which the poet tells us is
“ever the blackest of lies,” or unless it is so stated as to violate the
canons of decency, in which case, as we have already seen, its rejection
must be based on different considerations entirely.

It is these canons of decency, after all, that give the librarian his
sleepless nights, not only because they are so frequently confounded
with canons of morality, but because, as we have already seen, they are
arbitrary and variable. Consider the one case of French fiction. Mr.
Wister has told librarians that all subjects are “fit for fiction.” This
is interesting as an academic thesis, but when the French proceed to act
upon it, the Anglo-Saxon catches his breath. Books, like men, when they
are in Rome must do as the Romans do, and whatever may be proper in
Paris, an American public library is justified in requiring its books to
respect American prejudices. This is true, at any rate, of books in the
English language, even if they are translations from a tongue whose
users have other customs and other prejudices. But how about these books
in the original? Can we assume that books in the French language are for
Frenchmen and that our censorship of them is to be from the French and
not the American point of view? Or shall we hold that they are to be
read wholly or in part by persons whose mother-tongue is English and
whose ideas of the proprieties are Anglo-Saxon? And shall we bear in
mind also that the reading public of a work of French fiction excludes
in France the “young person” of whom the American library public is
largely made up? This is only one of the perplexing questions that
confront the American librarian in this field. Every one must struggle
with it for himself, having in mind the force and direction of his own
local sentiment; but few public libraries are treating it consistently
and systematically. Probably, however, many librarians are placing on
open shelves books in foreign languages, whose translations into English
they would be inclined to restrict. In some cases, of course, appeal to
a wholly foreign group of readers, with their foreign point of view, may
be assumed, as in the case of a Russian collection on the East Side of
New York; though even here it is a question of whether this is not a
good place to prepare these readers for a change in library
“folkways”--to use Professor Sumner’s expressive word.

Nor must we forget that our own ideas of propriety are constantly
changing. Take the single instance of the use, in literature, of words
regarded as profane or vulgar. Most of us can recollect a time when our
acquaintances were likely to be shocked by the occurrence in a book of
the expletive “damn”--that is, if it were spelled out. It was generally
held to be unobjectionable, or at least less objectionable, if the
second and third letters were replaced by a dash. Evidently this is the
purest convention. This and worse words appear now, not without shocking
some persons, to be sure, but certainly without shocking many of those
who formerly would not have tolerated them. On the other hand, it would
not be difficult to instance words formerly common in good literature
whose use would now cause something of a sensation. There are also good
people who will read unmoved surprising words and expressions when put
into the mouth of a cowboy or a Klondike miner, but whose gorge would
rise if the same words were employed by a writer _in propria persona_.

What is true of words is true also of subjects. That which could not be
touched upon yesterday is discussed freely to-day, and _vice-versa_. No
way of dealing with the situation will fail to offend some one, and the
only approximation to satisfaction will be gained by the use of common
sense applied to each case as it comes up.

Indecency, of course, is not the only offense against beauty that a book
may commit. It may be trashy, that is, its subject matter or the manner
in which it is treated may be trivial and worthless. The dust of the
street is neither beautiful nor valuable, although it may contain
nothing injurious to health or repulsive to the senses. The diction of
the book may offend against beauty and order by its incorrectness; its
paper, its typography, its binding, its illustrations may all be
offensive to the eye. These last are mere matters of outward show, to be
sure; it may be necessary to disregard them. They are usually reasons
for excluding an edition rather than a book, though sometimes the only
obtainable edition offends in so many of these ways as to make it
unpurchasable, even if otherwise desirable. So far as they militate
against the usefulness of the book rather than its beauty, as in the
case of the badly sewed binding or paper that is comely but flimsy, they
fall under the head of badness rather than that of ugliness--they are
offenses against the Good and not against the Beautiful. Such material
grounds for rejection, however, are not peculiar to books, and I do not
dwell on them here. Ugliness that consists in mere triviality or in
incorrectness of diction has this in common with impropriety--it is
arbitrary and conventional. With regard to language, this is obvious.
The fact that a certain combination of sounds means one thing in France
and another in England and is quite unintelligible perhaps in Spain, is
a matter of pure convention, though the convention is sanctioned by long
usage. The fact that the double negative is very good Greek and very
vulgar English is equally arbitrary. These conventions have become
serious things with us; they are of prime importance in the
consideration of books, but it is desirable that we should classify them

With regard to triviality the case is not so clear, yet I feel strongly
that it is a relative, not an absolute, quality. The term should be
classed with that other misused word--superficiality. No book, of
course, and no mind is absolutely thorough, and the lesser grades of
knowledge are as important in their place as the higher. What we should
condemn is not that a man, or a book, possesses a certain slight degree
of knowledge or of ability, but the fact that, possessing it, he
believes or represents it to be a higher degree. A man desires, we will
say, to memorize the Russian alphabet, so that he may read the proper
names on book titles. Is he to be condemned because he knows no more of
Russian? Another wishes to wield a hammer dextrously enough to drive a
nail without smashing his fingers. Is he “superficial” because he is not
an expert cabinet-maker? Still another has learned to play the piano
well enough to amuse himself in his idle hours. Does his lack of skill
lay him open to the charge of “superficiality?” These people may, it is
true, think that they are respectively a Russian scholar, a skilled
carpenter, and a good pianist; then and then only are they culpable. The
“superficiality,” in other words, consists in mistaking a lesser degree
of knowledge for a higher or in thinking that the lesser degree suffices
for something that requires the higher--not in the mere limitation of
the possessor. A superficial book is that which, skimming the surface of
the subject, persuades the reader that he has gone into its depths; as
for the skimming itself, that might be quite adequate and sufficient for
some purposes. So with “triviality.” Nothing is trivial that has an aim
and accomplishes it; as for the gradation of aims from unimportant up to
important, I leave that to others. Who shall say whether the passing of
an idle hour or the addition of a few facts to one’s store of knowledge
is the more important? The idle hour may be the recreation period of a
hard-working mind, without which it might break down from over-pressure,
leaving to less competent minds the completion of its useful labor. The
few facts might be quite unfruitful. This is why we should hesitate to
condemn a trivial book that has beauty of form or some other positive
virtue to commend it. Triviality is objectionable only when it
masquerades as importance. Perhaps it would be better to say: a book
that pretends to excellence along any line where it is really valueless
is a dangerous book. This brings us back to Truth as a criterion of
excellence, for such a book is a hypocritical or false book, as much as
if it definitely asserted as a fact that which is untrue.

When a book, therefore, comes up as a candidate for omission from the
purchasing list, or perhaps for exclusion after it has actually been
placed on the shelves, the librarian’s first duty is to inquire whether
it is objectionable because of falsity, of evil morality or of
impropriety. The first question may be determinable only by reference to
an expert. If the second is alleged, it is well to inquire whether the
supposed immorality of the book be not in fact simply impropriety, and
if impropriety is the only objection, whether it is of kind and amount
likely to be properly offensive. If the charge of immorality is
sustained I see no place for the book on the shelves of a public
circulating library.

What has been said may seem to need rounding out with specific
illustrations and instances, but it is particularly desirable to avoid
here anything in the nature of purely personal opinion and prejudice. It
might be possible of course to define the content of certain well-known
works by their conformity or non-conformity with the canons above laid
down, without attempting to settle the question, at the moment, whether
the degree of non-conformity, if it exists, is high enough to make
exclusion from a public library desirable or necessary. From this point
of view Othello, we will say, is a play teaching a moral lesson, in
doing which it discusses sin, but never with approval, expressed or
implied. The author uses words and expressions not in accordance with
modern standards of propriety, although not contrary to those of his own
time. In like manner Boccacio’s “Decameron” may be characterized as a
collection of short stories connected by thin narrative, often telling
of wrongdoing in a manner clearly implying that it is usual and
unobjectionable, with use of words and incidents frequently contrary not
only to modern ideas of propriety, but also to those of the author’s
time, except in the dissolute circles for which the tales were
originally written. Some of the stories, however, teach morality, and
the literary style and method are beautiful and commendable, while the
pictures of society are truthful. The implications of customary vice are
simply reflections of life as the author knew it. “Gil Blas,” by Le
Sage, continuing in this vein, we may call a tale of adventure in which
everything is set down as it happens, good, bad and indifferent;
important and trivial, with a hero who is somewhat of a rogue, although
the wickedness is incidental and is described in such a way that the
reader never mistakes it for virtue even when the writer tells it with a
relish. The implication that wrongdoing is common, though undoubtedly
conveyed, leaves the impression only that it is common among the people
and under the circumstances of the tale, which is undoubtedly correct.

It would greatly aid the library censor if he could have annotations of
this sort on all books intended for promiscuous public circulation. For
this purpose, in fact, all literature should be evaluated by the light
of this one color of the critical spectrum. The two or three books just
noted possess at least some of the elements of greatness; yet good
people differ regarding the extent to which they should be made freely
accessible to the general public. I have tried to set down regarding
them data on which all may agree, for the purpose of impressing upon you
the fact that disagreement is not so much regarding the data as
regarding the application to them of principles which, if they have been
stated correctly, are few, simple and readily accepted.

We have been lightly skimming the surface of a subject vital to all who
have to do with the production and distribution of books--to authors,
editors, publishers, booksellers, and above all to us librarians. The
ranks of readers are swelling to-day; it is our boast that we are doing
our best to swell them. They are recruited from classes whose
literature--if we may so extend the term--has been oral rather than
written, whose standards of propriety are sometimes those of an earlier
and grosser age, whose ideas of right and wrong are beclouded by
ignorance and distorted by prejudice. And at the same time hosts of our
people, with little background of hereditary refinement to steady them,
have become suddenly rich, “beyond the dreams of avarice.” The shock has
upset their ideas and their standards. Riches have come so suddenly and
so vastly even to the educated, to those whose culture dates back for
generations, that it has overturned their ideals also. Our literature is
menaced both from below and from above. Books that distinctly commend
what is wrong, that teach how to sin and tell how pleasant sin is,
sometimes with and sometimes without the added sauce of impropriety, are
increasingly popular, tempting the author to imitate them, the
publishers to produce, the booksellers to exploit. Thank heaven they do
not tempt the librarian. Here at last is a purveyor of books who has no
interest in distributing what is not clean, honest, and true. The
librarian may, if he will--and he does--say to this menacing tide, “Thus
far shalt thou go and no farther.”


If a man is to improve himself, he must first realize his own
deficiencies; in other words, he must know what he ought to be, and how
and in what degree he falls short of it.

First, then, what are the best books; and do we get them?

“Best” here as always is a relative term; what is best for one may not
be best for another, or for all. We hear “good books” gravely
recommended to people who will not read them, and who could not extract
the good from them if they did read them. When the book fits the man,
provided he is a good man, it is a good book, _ipso facto_.

You remember the tale of the rural parish priest at dinner with his
bishop. The host, desiring to poke a little quiet fun, asked him whether
it were lawful to baptize a man in soup. “I should make a distinction,”
calmly answered the priest; “if it were good thick soup, I should say
not; if it were wishy-washy stuff like this we are eating, it would be
quite proper.”

So long as we do not realize that the same literary consistency is not
adapted both to nutrition and to immersion we shall not be able to
decide on what are the best books.

But is there no general line of division between bad and good books?

I can give but a few, but I venture to lay down one or two simple rules
for testing. My tests would be--

(1) The test of language. No book can be good that is not written in
correct English. By this I mean, of course, that the author himself must
speak correctly; his characters may be ignorant persons and he will
naturally make them talk accordingly.

(2) The test of simplicity and clearness. No book can be good whose
author expresses himself in words that are too large for his subject or
in sentences that are so involved that they cannot be easily understood.

(3) The best of good taste. No book can be good whose author uses words
or expressions that would not be used by cultivated people.

(4) The test of truth. No book can be good whose subject matter is
false; or, in case of fiction, whose manner of telling is such as to
make it seem absurdly improbable. The plot of the book may, it is true,
lack probability. It may be frankly improbable like a fairy tale, but
the author must not seem to lose faith in it himself, and no matter how
impossible his foundation the structure that he builds on it must hold

I venture to say that if a book survives these tests--if it is simply
and clearly expressed in good English and in the best taste and is
consistently put together--it cannot be a bad book so far as style goes.

So far as the subject matter of the book is concerned, my test would be
simply that of its effect on the reader. If a book makes the reader want
to be mischievous, foolish or criminal--to be a silly or bad man or
woman, or if it tends to make him do his daily work badly, it is a bad
book and all the worse in this case if it is interesting and fascinating
in style. But even here the trouble is largely in the manner of
treatment. A book may tell of crime and criminals in such a way as to
make the reader detest both or feel an attraction toward both. In this
case, as the scripture says, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” If a
book sends a boy out to be a burglar, it is bad; if it impels him to
take a crying child by the hand and lead it home, it is good. And here
let me say that this compelling power, this effective result of a book
should speak in its favor though all other tests be against it.
Musicians tell us that a great composer may write a work that breaks
every rule of harmony and yet be a work of genius. Genius knows no

So much for the general line of cleavage. But the special may for the
moment exclude all the claims of the general. A community may be in
crying need of books on a given subject--pottery or rowboats or hygiene.
This need may or may not be realized by the community, but its existence
makes a special class of books the best, for the moment, for that
community. To buy a good collection of minor poets for a town that
clamors, or ought to clamor, for books on the electric industries, is to
get bad books.

Now do we, under our present system, or lack of system, in selection,
get these best books--best both in the general and in the special sense?

What is the matter with the books in the average small library? The
trouble is not generally that the books are bad, but that they might
easily be better, and by “better” it must be borne in mind that I mean
more closely adapted to the legitimate needs of the community. If we go
over the shelves of the average small library we shall generally be able
to note the following facts:

(1) A considerable portion of the books have not been taken out in long
periods. This can easily be ascertained by examining the book-cards or
dating-slips. Of course, the non-use of a book does not mean that it
should not be in the library. The fault may be with the readers, not
with the book. Non-use, however, does mean that something is the matter.
Either the library public has had taste or is not properly guided, or
else a mistake was made in providing it with this particular book.

(2) A considerable number of standard books whose reading should be
encouraged will not be found on the shelves. These books are almost
always part of the collection, but there are not enough duplicates to
supply the demand. At the same time it will be found that the library is
adding current books of doubtful value.

(3) Books on large local industries--shoemaking, pottery,
agriculture--are often lacking. In such cases there is generally a lack
of demand; but this is because the persons who would read such books
have learned by experience not to look for them in a public library.

(4) Books in the languages spoken by industrial colonies of foreigners
in the neighborhood are usually conspicuous by their absence.

(5) The collections in classes where some technical knowledge is
necessary for selection, such, for instance, as the sciences, the arts,
or history, often show a lack of intelligence, or, at any rate, a lack
of system. There are badly written books and books full of errors; there
is lack of uniformity in grade--an advanced mathematical work on
electricity, for instance, and very elementary ones on light and sound.

(6) In particular, controverted subjects are represented in a one-sided
way; there may be no way for a reader to get at the Catholic story of
the Protestant reformation, or the southern view of the civil war, or
both sides of the spelling reform or the woman-suffrage movements.
Socialism, vivisection, anti-vaccination, the negro question,
prohibition, the tariff--all these and a hundred others are represented
only in a partisan sense.

(7) There is too much care about the outward garb of decency and too
little about the pervading atmosphere of morality. Books that describe
in decorous language ingenious methods of shop-lifting are given place,
but you look in vain for works of lofty moral tone couched in diction
that is occasionally coarse.

How far are these faults due to methods of book selection? One of the
troubles seems to be that the book-selecting body does not avail itself
of expert advice as much as it ought. The librarian is learning, to be
sure, to use lists and printed aids more and more, though they are
rarely used with discrimination; but supplementary to such lists as
these, especially since they so largely lack the personal element, we
need the personal advice of experts. If the lists and reviews will leave
us in the dark about the man who advises us to buy books on engineering
or art, we must go to someone who we know understands these subjects, at
least knows a little more of them than we do ourselves. There are, in
general, two grades of expert advice. The first is that received from
the man who is personally familiar with the current literature of his
specialty, who watches the books as they appear and who sends to the
library the titles that he thinks it ought to have. This grade of expert
service is very difficult to obtain. I have found few men in my
experience who are able and willing to give it. Those who have the
good-will and the time have usually not the knowledge; those who have
the knowledge are busy men who cannot give the time.

The second grade of expert aid is that which pronounces on concrete
cases, which decides whether a given book (either from inspection of
the mere title or of the volume itself) is suitable for the library.
This kind of aid is not difficult to obtain, and there are persons in
almost every place qualified in some degree to give it. It requires,
however, a preliminary selection and generally the obtaining of books on
approval, which is easier in a large place than a small one.

The library is only one of various institutions that must use expert aid
of this kind. The same limitations apply to all. Take, for instance, the
work of reference, the cyclopedia, we will say. Its editor cannot write
of his own knowledge the articles on Venezuela, and open-hearth steel,
and Plato. He must rely on the information, direct or secondhand, of
experts. But he cannot allow his experts to write his cyclopedia. Some
cyclopedias are written very nearly in that way, and they are not the
best. The expert must be coached before he does his work and the work
must be edited when finished. It is on the proper combination of expert
and editorial work that the value of the finished volumes will depend.
So it is with library selection. The librarian is the editor of a big
cyclopedia of thousands of volumes. He must have expert aid in
selection, but he must not allow his experts to select the library
uncontrolled. They must be instructed beforehand, and their advice must
be carefully considered after it has been given. It must, in short, be
edited. This brings us to the consideration that we have ultimately to
face in discussing any phase of human activity--the question of
personality. If the librarian and the book committee are incompetent and
believe themselves to be competent--then the collection, in spite of all
efforts, will reflect their faults--it will be intolerant, or trivial or

Much, therefore, depends upon the actual book selector for the library.
Should this be the librarian, or a committee of the trustees, or the
board itself, or an advisory committee of outsiders? Probably the best
results are obtained through a preliminary selection made by the
librarian with the aid of lists and the advice of individual
experts--not committees--as suggested above, and then submitted to some
person or committee representing the Board of trustees. This places the
final responsibility where it belongs--on the trustees; but with a
satisfactory librarian, the duties of the reviewing committee would
consist chiefly of deciding on matters of policy--rarely of considering
individual titles. It would decide, for instance, on how closely fiction
is to be censored, on how far the library is to go in the purchase of
recent fiction, on the extent to which foreign languages are to be
recognized, on the purchase and duplication of text-books, on the policy
of the library with regard to denominational religious works or of
controversial books generally--and so on.

Going back for a moment to the question of experts, probably the most
difficult advice to procure, with any degree of satisfaction, is
regarding fiction, whether in English or in foreign languages. It has
been said that one may approve a book simply on the author’s name, or
even on that of the publisher, and this is still true in isolated cases,
but in these days, when both author and publisher are continually trying
experiments, continually varying standards and style, each book must be
dealt with individually. I do not see how one can decide whether a given
novel should or should not be bought for a library without reading it
through from cover to cover or hearing a report from someone who has so
read it and who understands the wants and limitations of the American
public library. This is a line, it seems to me, along which great
improvement in our selection is possible; but I confess I do not see my
way to an immediate solution of the problem. Possibly this is a good
opportunity to say a word for a method of testing the adequacy of one’s
collection which has scarcely been used as it deserves. One of the most
difficult things for a librarian to ascertain is whether his collection
is properly distributed among the different classes, and by this I mean,
as before, distributed in accordance with the legitimate requirements of
the community. It is not possible to find by a statistical method
exactly what people need, but it is possible to find out what they want,
as indicated by the kind of books that they read. The statistical record
of this will be found in the class percentages of circulation. Whether
or not the library is equipped to supply this need is indicated by the
class percentages of books on the shelves. A comparison of these two
percentage tables is always most interesting to the book selector. It
does not enable him automatically to select books, but it does indicate
points for fruitful investigation. To take some actual cases, I find a
library with four per cent of history and six per cent of literature on
the shelves, whereas the corresponding circulation percentages are five
and seven. This is prima facie evidence that the collections in those
two subjects are used rather more than the others and could well be
increased. In cases where it is not desirable to encourage circulation
in a given class, such an indication should evidently meet with no
response. The circulation of fiction always runs far beyond its
proportion, and it is neither proper nor desirable for the library to
try to keep up. Thus in three libraries where the percentage of adult
fiction on the shelves is 20, 19 and 17, respectively, I find the
corresponding circulation percentages to be 34, 35 and 27. What, let us
ask ourselves, are library statistics for? Is all the labor concerned in
their collection and assemblage to result simply in a table that is to
be glanced at for a moment with more or less interested curiosity, or do
we intend to do something with them? It sometimes seems that the foreign
reproach that we Americans care only for money, which we are properly
disposed to resent, is partly justified by the fact that the only
statistics that appear to mean anything to us are financial. When a man
learns that he is living beyond his income or that he is getting a
smaller per cent for his investments than his neighbor, or that the man
at the desk next to him is receiving a larger salary for doing the same
work, he does not sit still and say, “Ah! how interesting!” He gets up
and does something about it. But statistics that convict him of all
sorts of incompetency and foolishness along lines other than monetary
ones, he regards simply as objects for intellectual absorption.

These percentages, of course, are not the only indications by which a
librarian may adjust the proportions of the classes in his collection.
If his library has the reserve system, for instance, the call for books
in circulation is an unfailing index of the popular demand. If that
demand is one that should be heeded, the number of copies in the library
may well be proportionate to the number of names on the reserve list.

But a librarian who keeps in continual touch with the public by contact
with users at the desk needs none of these somewhat mechanical
indications. It is the inestimable privilege of the librarian of a small
library in a small community to know her public, its wants, its needs,
its abilities and its limitations in a way that is denied to custodians
of huge collections.

In closing, let me suggest the following “Don’ts” for selectors of
library books:

(1) Don’t buy books that are intellectually far above your readers, in
the hope of improving their minds; a man may walk up stairs, but he
can’t jump from the sidewalk to the roof.

(2) Don’t buy fine editions of books that need rather to be extensively
duplicated; better two good souls than one fine body.

(3) Don’t buy McGrath and McCutcheon when you have reserves on file for
Dickens and George Eliot.

(4) Don’t buy biography in excess because you are fond of it yourself,
when a comparison of percentages shows that your supply of travel or
applied science is not up to the demand.

(5) Don’t buy books in flimsy bindings that will give out after the
first issue; work should not be done in gauzy garments.

(6) Don’t buy books in very strong bindings when their use is to be
light and small; overalls are not suitable for an afternoon tea.

(7) Don’t buy “sets” and “libraries;” they are adulterated literature,
coffee mixed with chicory.

(8) Don’t buy subscription books of an agent at a personal interview; it
is the agent’s game not to let you think; stand up for your rights and
think it over.

(9) Don’t estimate public demand by its effect on your own patience; one
persistent old gentleman often bulks larger than a crowd of quiet but
deserving persons without either push or pull.

(10) Don’t buy books of which you are not in immediate need, when you
are morally certain that copies in good condition will be thrown on the
markets as remainders at one-quarter the original list price.

(11) Don’t buy costly “new editions” of reference books without assuring
yourself that the newness is more than nominal.

(12) Don’t buy novels because you see them advertised in the trolley

(13) Lastly--and this is the most important thing of all--don’t get
discouraged. Our methods of selecting books, and their results,
doubtless need improvement, but so do those of all the other libraries
we know. Let us try to realize our deficiencies, and then try to make
this year’s book list just a little better than the last. If we can
succeed in this, the standard will take care of itself.


It has been said by Mr. W.H. Mallock that what we call
labor-organizations are mis-named, because their object is, in most
cases, the organization not of labor, but of idleness. This somewhat
cryptic statement may be understood to mean that trade unions have
endeavored usually not to improve the methods and results of labor, nor
to make its output larger and more satisfactory, but rather to improve
the condition of the laboring man; to make his life more comfortable and
his task easier, to shorten hours and lessen output, and often, as a
result, to make that output of lower grade.

This will be regarded as a base slander by many people, and it is
doubtless exaggerated; yet there is an amount of truth in it that cannot
be overlooked by any worker or any combinations of workers--which is the
same as saying that it interests almost all of us in this country; for
the only Americans able to work who do not work are tramps and a very
few millionaires. We shall try to consider its bearing on library
workers, but before doing so, it will be well to look at it a little
longer in its more general aspect.

Those who desire to improve the worker’s condition will justify
themselves very properly on economic grounds by saying that to do this
is also to improve the methods of work and the quality of the product.
No one can do good work who is ill-housed, underfed, improperly clothed
or overworked. This is true; but it is not also true that if we make it
our primary aim to see that the worker is as comfortable as possible,
to lift from him all the difficulties and burdens of his task, we shall
also improve his output proportionally. Rather should we do away with
that output altogether. We should simply be “organizing idleness.” We
may consider, as an analogy, the difference between a tariff for revenue
and one for protection. The total abolition of import duties is
impossible, we are told. They are necessary for revenue. Even England,
the world’s greatest free-trade country, has import duties. Very true,
but the amount of the duty and the objects on which it is laid will
differ absolutely according to its purpose. Again, we will suppose that
the same company owns an elevated railway and a surface trolley line.
They will naturally, if left to themselves, adjust fares, speed and
stops on the former so as to induce a larger proportion of people to
travel by the slower surface line, which is less expensive to operate.
If the surface line were owned by a rival company, there would be an
entirely different schedule of fares, speed and stops on the elevated
road, intended to crowd it with passengers and to derive the largest
possible revenue from it alone.

In like manner, we must doubtless look out for the worker; and he must
doubtless look out for himself. His conditions of life and work must be
made such that he will perform his task as well as possible. But those
conditions will be adjusted quite differently if we regard the comfort
of the worker as the prime object from what they will be if we regard
the excellence of the output as the prime object and the worker’s
comfort as a means to that end.

This will bear statement in still another way. We are put into this
world to do our appointed tasks, and it is our business to do them as
well as we possibly can. This means that we must take the proper amount
of rest, eat good food, keep happy and contented, and all the rest of
it. But he who regards his work simply as a means of furnishing him the
wherewithal to be happy, to take expensive vacations, live in a fine
house, and so on, will neither do his best work, nor will he enjoy the
good things of life as he ought.

Our friends, the Socialists, whose propaganda is receiving more
attention from thoughtful men to-day than it did a few years ago, both
because of the truths that it presents and the menace that it offers to
our present civilization, are making the mistake of dwelling upon the
importance of the worker’s comfort rather than that of the worker’s
improvement. They promise us that we shall all be in comfortable
circumstances and will have to work only three hours a day.
Incidentally, the output is to be better. But by putting the matter
thus, instead of the other way about, they have appealed to the element
of laziness that exists in all men--they have held out the prospect of
idleness instead of labor.

I have not lived west of the Mississippi long enough to know whether the
same conditions obtain here as in the East; but there, comparing things
to-day with what I remember of my boyhood, I seem to see an increasing
tendency among all workers to put self first and work second. The policy
of “ca’ canny,” as they call it in Scotland--of “go easy”--doing as
little as one can and still keep his job--is creeping in and has secured
a firm foothold. It is increasingly difficult to get any kind of work,
manual or mental, done really well--so well that one feels like saying,
“Well done, thou faithful servant.” And yet the shirkers are all anxious
to get to the top; and they wonder why they do not. They comfort
themselves by saying that success nowadays is solely a matter of pull.
But it is not so. Look around you and you will see, for the most part,
men in charge of large enterprises who are efficient, and who have put
work before self--men who are engrossed in what they are doing, who love
it and therefore do it effectively.

There never was a baser slander than the common assertion that we
Americans love money. If we loved the dollar for itself alone, we should
never sling it about as we do. We love the excitement and the fun of
making money. Look at our working millionaires! They want no more money;
they can not use what they have. They enjoy the task of owning and
running a great railway system, of organizing and managing some great
industrial combination. We may find it necessary to clip their wings a
little, but we can not call them lazy and inefficient--they make the job
too hard for us. There is no “go easy” policy here, and those who favor
it will never get to the top.

Let us hope that this pernicious idea that self is worth more than work
will never find a foothold in the library. We see it here and there, but
I believe that, taken by and large, library workers love their tasks and
that they are efficient in proportion to that love.

As our libraries are growing larger, our organizations more complex, it
is, I know, growing harder to take a live personal interest in the work,
so much of it is specialized routine; one feels like a mere cogwheel in
a great machine. The assistant who pastes labels or addresses postal
cards in a big library, finds it harder to realize that she is doing
something interesting and useful than the librarian of a small library
who not only performs these tasks but all the others--meets her public,
selects and buys her books, plans in one way and another for the
extension and betterment of her work. Yet the rapid, accurate and
efficient performance of the lesser task is as important as that of the
greater. A label pasted awry may ruin the library’s reputation in the
eye of a casual user; a mis-sent card may cause trouble to dozens of
one’s fellow assistants. Routine work is dull only when one does not
understand its purport. Dullness is in the worker, not in the work.

Are libraries, indeed, introducing too much organization into the
work--is it becoming too machine-like? Now, it should not be forgotten
that there is in a machine something akin to personality--individuality,
at any rate, is not too strong a word. Every locomotive has tricks and
characteristics that its engineer knows and sometimes loves. He pats its
back affectionately and speaks of it as “she.” The idea that to be part
of a machine excludes personality and individual work is all wrong. One
can not go careering about eccentrically and unsystematically; the very
purpose of organization is to stop all that; but within the limits of
motion and action assigned to a person as his part in the larger motion
and action of the machine, there is still room for moving well or ill,
for helping on the greater work or antagonizing it and throwing it out
of order. If a cog-wheel thinks that it is manifesting its originality
in some meritorious way by making the whole machine creak and wobble and
turn out an inferior product, that cog-wheel has power to do just this;
but it should not complain if the machinist throws it into the scrap

Now, in the library, the parts of our machine are workers of all kinds;
their connection and relationship are conditioned and limited by
customs, rules and orders. To test the desirability of these or of any
change in them there is just one question to be asked; first, last and
all the time, namely--is this for ourselves or for our work? Is it
merely to make things easier for the assistants or will it improve the
work and benefit the public?

The asking of this question and its thoughtful consideration will
puncture many a bubble. We will take, if you please, the question of
vacations. Any one who has tried to make out a vacation schedule in a
large library knows that, next to making out a recitation schedule in a
large school or college, it is the most vexatious task of the kind that
is given to man to do. Everyone must have a vacation, and everyone wants
to have it at some time when the efficiency of the library will be
impaired by it. Everyone wants to go away at once, and there are times
when no one wants to be absent. Any possible arrangement means
dissatisfaction, heartburnings, a feeling that favoritism or prejudice
has been at work. Into the mind of most librarians has, I am sure, crept
the suggestion: What is the use of all this? Why not close the library
for a month? Is not that done by the schools: and are not we, too, an
educational institution?

The fact that librarians do not yield, in this case, to the suggestion
of a change that would benefit them and all their assistants, is, of
course, due to the obviousness of the other fact that it would be bad
for the public.

This test of the public advantage may be applied to the whole question
of system in the library--of how much system is good, and what kind and
how it shall be determined and applied. When a man comes in contact with
a library rule that incommodes him personally, he is apt to deride it
impatiently as “red tape.” When he finds absence of a rule where he
would have benefited by it, he concludes that the library is in “chaos”
or “confusion.” Now, there should evidently be neither one nor the other
of these, although we cannot allow the personal convenience of a single
user to be the test--our system should not exist for itself alone, nor
should we try to get along without system altogether. There should be
just so much and of just such a kind as will result in the maximum
degree of service rendered to the public.

The individual user is quite wrong, of course, in condemning a
regulation that annoys him personally, for this reason alone; but if we
should find that it annoyed all other users as well without other
advantage than the saving of some trouble to the library assistant, he
would, I conceive, be quite right in calling it “red tape.” This term is
applied primarily to annoying official restrictions that have no use
whatever, but we may well extend it to restrictions that benefit the
administrator without improving the administration. Rules, customs and
manners of procedure in a library, whether they say “thou shalt” or
“thou shalt not” are of two kinds--those addressed to the library staff
and those addressed to the public. Both, however, are intended to enable
the public to get more good out of the library. The members of the staff
are told to do certain things and not to do others, because this will
make it easier for the users of the library to get what they want. The
latter in turn are bidden to do this and forbidden to do that--not, as
some of them seem to think, to make the librarian’s work easier or to
save him trouble--but to throw the library open wider to their fellows.
System of this kind may bear very hard on the individual user; he may
chafe, for instance, at any restriction in the number of books that he
is allowed to borrow--but if no such restriction existed, the privileges
of his fellow borrowers would be curtailed thereby. He may grumble
because the time limit on his book has expired before he has finished
reading it, unmindful of the fact that some of his fellow readers are
anxiously waiting for it. But if the book in his possession is not
wanted by anybody; if there are other such unused books in the library
that he wants, should he not have and keep them? Assuredly. Every
library should make arrangements whereby none of its books should be
kept from use to stand idly on the shelves. Our test of public
usefulness declares as decisively for this as it does for the partition
of privilege in the case of more than one anxious borrower.

To return to that part of the library machine that affects the library
staff, I have many times heard assistants complain of incidents of
organization and systematization that seemed to them too much like those
in vogue in commercial institutions. Now it may be freely admitted that
there is a difference between the library and the store or the factory,
or more generally between any institution for the public good and one
for private gain. In the former the public advantage is the prime
object, and to attain it we must often consult the comfort or
convenience of the administrators. In the latter, the advantage of the
administrators is the prime object, and to gain it they are generally
forced to consult the comfort and convenience of the public. The primary
and secondary elements are reversed, but they exist in each. Both the
department store and the library must look out for the public. It is the
library’s business to do so, and it is in the store’s business advantage
to do the same.

It is hard to see, therefore, why any kind of system that will make a
store work better is not worth looking into by a librarian. The
systematization in the staff of an up-to-date, modern business
organization, and in its work, is a continual surprise to him who has
not looked into such things for a score of years. The stores and the
factories are ahead of librarians in this respect, and we may as well
admit it. After all, this is natural. What is to one’s business
advantage is always done better than what is merely one’s business. But
there is no reason why we should not study these better methods and
imitate those that are worth copying.

Take one little example. In a factory the raw material is followed
statistically from its purchase to its sale as a finished product; and
even after its sale its performances are watched. The owner can find
out, when he wants to do so, whether that particular article made or
lost money for the firm, and how much, and why; whether it gave
satisfaction to the purchaser, and if not, why not; to what its
excellence or deficiencies were due, whether to the qualities of the raw
material or the methods of manufacture. How many librarians can
similarly ascertain whether the purchase of a given invoice of books was
profitable to the library or not, taking into account the number and
duration of their issues, the time lost and the money spent in mending
and re-binding them, and so on? How many can tell you whether those
books gave satisfaction to the users, in their bindery, typography, and
paper; whether the reader found them hard on his eyes, easily soiled,
difficult to hold open--and whose fault it was, the publisher’s, the
binder’s or the mender’s? This, too, is merely the material and physical
side of the question--all that the manufacturer or the merchant needs to
consider. We librarians say we are on a loftier plane; we purvey ideas.
So we do. How many of us then can say what was the mental and moral
effect on our community of the books added last year, as compared with
those added the year before? How many of us know even whether the
readers liked the books of one year better than those of another? Again;
the individual worker in a good factory, the travelling salesman in a
good mercantile house, is watched statistically. His employers can tell
just how profitable his work is to them. If the failure of an operation,
or the loss of custom in a town, is due to him, they know it, and if his
service continues unprofitable, he is replaced. How many librarians
watch the work of individual members of the staff with such detail?
Suppose at the end of six months’ service, an assistant were confronted
with statistical evidence that she had mischarged ten books, made eight
bad mistakes in accessioning, written twenty catalog cards that had to
be replaced and caused four complaints by her bearing at the desk?
Suppose she were thereupon given notice that she must do better or go;
what would she say? I think I know. She would say that the library was
run just like a department store. And she would be quite right; only,
instead of being derogatory to the library as it would be intended, her
remark would be a compliment. It is time that we should carefully
discriminate between what is commercial, in commercial institutions, and
what simply makes for orderliness and efficiency.

Now, we may consider three things, belonging to a given institution,
that every employee of that institution has in his care. If they are
properly conserved the institution will be efficiently administered, and
the visible machinery for conserving them constitutes system. They are
time, property and reputation. A large part of the system under which
any institution is conducted has for its object the utilization of every
bit of time. We Americans, with all our hustling are great wasters of
time. Workers do nothing, not so much in periods of actually shirking or
laziness as in getting started, in passing from one task to another, in
fruitless pottering about, in endeavoring to decide some unimportant
question of detail and in one or another of a thousand different ways
when they seem to themselves to be at work, while they really are doing
nothing useful. As for talking, it is the bane of many different kinds
of work. I am inclined to think that all work should be done in silence.
Possibly, however, this would be a mistake, for an occasional word keeps
workers alive and in good humor where absolute silence is not necessary.
It is, however, difficult to stop with a word. Words group themselves
into phrases, phrases into sentences and sentences into conversation,
and the workers who assert convincingly that they get on exactly as well
while they are talking, succeed in cutting in half, not only their own
sum total of useful achievement, but that of the annoyed toilers
anywhere within earshot. System surely requires close conservation of
valuable time; by promptness, by quickness, by keeping the cobwebs from
one’s brain, and above all, by silence, relative if not absolute.

The property that the librarian is expected to conserve consists of
books--the material in which he works and with which he is expected to
produce his effects, and of money and objects--buildings, furniture and
utensils--intended to aid him in handling the books properly and in
getting them and the users together. The Philadelphia alderman who
proposed to do away with the buildings, furniture and staff of the
library altogether, spend the money for books, dump these on the
city-hall floor, and let the public choose, may have been somewhat crude
in his ideas; but he at least understood that books are the basis of a
library and that librarians and buildings are but subsidiary. His
attitude was vastly more intelligent than that of some persons who
appear to think that a good librarian in a fine building ought to
produce satisfactory results without any books at all. The librarian,
then, must provide above all for the care and preservation of the books.
If his library is on open shelves it must assure careful watch against
thievery; it must insure, by an adequate charging system, the due return
of borrowed volumes; it must see that the physical structure of the book
is protected, and repaired when needful; it must watch and count the
books at intervals to see that they are all on the shelves. This last
means the taking of a regular and careful inventory--the bane of the
average librarian. Yet how can he shirk it? Books are valuable property
entrusted to his care. If he were custodian of money or funds he would
not be let off year after year with the statement that the labor of
ascertaining how much remained in his possession was greater than it was
worth. One may omit to inventory his private collection, just as he may
omit to count the money in his purse, if he chooses, not that of others.
And if it is his duty to see that the quantity of his collection remains
unimpaired, it is equally so to see to the quality. A library system
that counts the books carefully, but esteems a torn and filthy volume as
good a unit as one in proper condition, will no longer pass muster.

There are dirty books on too many library shelves. Such libraries are
deficient in the kind of system that preserves property efficiently. As
for the mechanical plant of the library, the building that houses it,
with its fittings and furniture, a proper system, of course, requires
that these be kept constantly in good condition. Now, we Americans are
impatient of detail: we like to do things in a large way and then let
them take care of themselves. While the Frenchman or the Englishman
watches his roads or pavements day by day and never allows them to get
out of repair, we build expensive roadways and leave them alone until
they are in disgraceful condition--whereupon we tear them up and rebuild
them. While the foreigner builds his cities, stone by stone and street
by street, so that they are picturesque and beautiful, we let ours
spring up as they will, slum jostling palace, and factory elbowing
church, until finally we form grandiose projects of reconstruction,
cutting avenues here and making parts there--projects which may be
carried out and may remain on paper. So I have seen tasteful and
expensive library buildings allowed to grow grimy and dilapidated day by
day through lack of a systematic plan for renovation and repair. Some
day the authorities will wake up and there will be reconstruction and
redecoration in plenty--to be followed by another era of slow decay.

The third entity that an efficient system must enable the librarian to
conserve is evanescent and almost indefinable. It is difficult to bring
system to bear upon it at all, and yet its preservation is of the very
highest importance of all, because without it the librarian cannot do
the work in his community that every good librarian is trying to do.
Reputation is a fickle thing, indeed. Gained sometimes in a happy
moment, it may persist for long years, successfully defying all
assaults; achieved elsewhere by decades of strenuous application and
scrupulous observance, it may vanish in a day as the result of some
petty act of forgetfulness or of the stupidity of a passing moment. None
the less is it the duty of the head of every great institution to strive
continually to attain and maintain it; to increase it if possible and
to guard it jealously. There he is in the hands of his subordinates and
such system as he may bring to bear may and should be directed toward
creating and keeping alive within them a proper _esprit de corps_. The
library that succeeds in creating a public impression that it and all
connected with it are honestly trying to be of public service, to win
public esteem, and to gain a place in the public heart, has two-thirds
of its work done already. Its burden is rolled down hill instead of up.

We boast that in our country public opinion is all powerful; but we are
often apt to regard public opinion as we do the weather. Its balmy gales
and its destructive vortices, its gentle dews and its devastating
torrents, are alike, we think, beyond our power to regulate. Yet, though
public opinion may be unjust or capricious, it is usually level-headed.
So the library that covets that good reputation which public opinion
alone can give it, must so act as to deserve that good opinion. And as
one broken cog will throw a whole machine out of gear, so one assistant
who does not realize his or her responsibilities in this matter may mar
a library’s reputation, otherwise well-earned. It is hard luck, indeed,
that a librarian, who with the majority of his staff has striven long
and well to earn the public good-will, should see it forfeited by the
thoughtlessness or ill-temper of some one of his staff. This, however,
is the way of our world with its multiple connections. None of us may
live for himself alone; we stand or fall with others, and the smallest
bit of orange peel may bring down the mightiest athlete to the pavement.

How may the librarian, or anyone else, bring system to bear on such an
evanescent thing as this? It is a hard matter, indeed. But can it be
denied that a well-oiled library machine, one that is quickly
responsive to direction and control, one whose parts are as perfect in
themselves and as perfectly connected as may be, is least likely to
suffer from unfortunate accidents? A librarian whose bad judgment--or
whose kindness of heart, perhaps--has misled him into admitting into his
machine one false cog may find to his sorrow that this will slip at the
critical time, betraying both him and the whole engine that he had hoped
to wield for good. Here no one kind of system, no particular detail,
alone suffices, but every detail, every series, every combination
renders the whole fabric of reputation more solid and more secure. I
sometimes think that we Anglo-Saxons are in greater need of the
inspiration and aid that we get from records of past intellectual
achievement than are some other races. For our intellectual heritage
does not come at all from our physical ancestry. We are the intellectual
heirs of the Greeks, the Romans and the Hebrews, not of our own Teutonic
fathers. We can, therefore, not only rely on heredity to maintain our
intellectual level; we must continually drink from the same fountains
through which our fathers drew inspiration. We sometimes think a little
contemptuously of what we call the veneer of modern civilization that
the Japanese have put on, forgetting that our own civilization is in
great part also acquired, although the acquisition is of earlier date.
Moreover, the Japanese have, and retain, intellectual ideals and
achievements of their own, having learned from the West hardly more than
its mechanics and engineering. On the other hand, our mechanical
achievements are our own, our intellectual and esthetic standards are
borrowed. Our intellectual status may thus be compared to the electrical
condition of the trolley wire, which in order that it may furnish its
useful energy to the motor below must itself be supplied at intervals
with this energy from an adjacent feed wire communicating directly with
the source of electrical power. The feed wire in our case is the
library--a collection representing the intellectual energy of all past
ages, springing directly from the powerful brains of the masters of
mental achievement throughout the centuries. Unless we supply our minds
from this, we shall not maintain our intellectual position. Is this the
reason why the popular library has attained with us a development that
it has never reached in Latin countries, whose inhabitants possess
through heredity many of the mental standards of value that our
ancestors borrowed and that we must borrow ever and again from the
records of the past? We may be sure that this is at least a possibility;
and we may be equally sure that the adoption of system, both external
and internal, will facilitate both this and all other functions of the
library. The statement that “the letter killeth and the spirit giveth
life” was never intended to mean that we are to neglect formal and
systematic methods of work. The letter kills only when it is spiritless,
with the spirit to give it life it does well its part, ensuring that the
institution to which it applies shall produce its results, surely,
quietly and effectively, with a minimum of noise and effort and with a
maximum of output. Let no one, then, deride or decry the formation or
the operation of a library machine; we live in an age of machinery--of
machines formed by effective human co-operation, as well as by
interlocking gears and interacting parts. Rudyard Kipling makes his
Scotch engineer see in the relentless motion of his links and pistons
something of that “foreknowledge infinite” in which his Calvinistic
training had taught him to believe and trust. So may we see in library
machinery an aid to the accomplishment of that “far-off divine event”
toward which our whole modern library creation has been and is still
silently, but no less powerfully moving--the bringing into intellectual
relationship of each living human brain within our reach with every
other companionable or helpful human brain, though physically
inaccessible through death or absence. This is the comprehensive ideal
of the librarian; no machinery that may work toward its attainment is
superfluous or inept.


Two and a half years ago; or, to be more exact, on January 22, 1909, in
an address at the dedication of the Chestnut Hill Branch of the Free
library of Philadelphia, the present writer used the following words:

“I confess that I feel uneasy when I realize how little the influence of
the public library is understood by those who might try to wield that
influence, either for good or for evil.... So far there has been no
concerted, systematic effort on the part of classes or bodies of men to
capture the public library, to dictate its policy, to utilize its great
opportunities for influencing the public mind. When this ever comes, as
it must, we must look out!...

“Organizations ... civil, religious, scientific, political, artistic ...
have usually let us severely alone, where their influence, if they
should come into touch with the library, would surely be for good ...
would be exerted along the line of morality, of more careful book
selection, of judicial mindedness instead of one-sidedness.

“Let us trust that influences along this line ... if we are to have
influences at all ... may gain a foothold before the opposite forces ...
those of sordid commercialism, of absurdities, of falsities, of all
kinds of self-seeking ... find out that we are worth their

There have been indications of late that the public, both as individuals
and in organized bodies, is beginning to appreciate the influence,
actual and potential, of the public library. With this dawning
appreciation, as predicted in the lines just quoted, has come increased
effort to turn this influence into the channels of personal or of
business advantage, and it may be well to call the attention of
librarians to this and to warn them against what they must doubtless
expect to meet, in increasing measure, as the years go by. Attempts of
this kind can hope for success only when they are concealed and come in
innocent guise. It is extremely hard to classify them, and this fact in
itself would indicate that libraries and librarians have to deal with
that most ingenious and plausible of sophists, the modern advertiser.

But in the first place I would not have it understood that the use of
the library for advertising purposes is necessarily illegitimate or
reprehensible. If it is open and above board and the library receives
proper compensation, the question resolves itself into one of good
taste. The taste of such use may be beyond question, or it may be very
questionable indeed. Few would defend the use of the library’s walls or
windows for the display of commercial advertising; although the money
received therefor might be sorely needed. On the other hand, the issuing
of a bulletin paid for wholly or in part by advertisements inserted
therein is approved by all, though most librarians doubtless prefer to
omit these if the expense can be met by other means. Under this head
come also the reception and placing on the shelves of advertising
circulars or catalogs containing valuable material of any kind. Here the
library gets considerably more than its _quid pro quo_, and no librarian
has any doubt of the propriety of such a proceeding.

Again, where the advertising takes the form of a benevolent sort of
“log-rolling,” the thing advertised being educational and the _quid pro
quo_ simply the impulse given to library use by anything of this nature,
it is generally regarded as proper. Thus most libraries display without
hesitation advertisements of free courses of lectures and the like. When
the thing advertised is not free, this procedure is more open to doubt.
Personally I should draw the line here, and should allow the library to
advertise nothing that requires a fee or payment of any kind, no matter
how trifling or nominal and no matter how good the cause.

These things are mentioned only to exclude them from consideration here.
The library is really exploited only where it is used to further
someone’s personal or business ends without adequate return, generally
with more or less concealment of purpose, so that the library is without
due realization of what it is really doing. Attempts at such
exploitation have by no means been lacking in the past. Take if you
please this case, dating back about a dozen years: An enterprising firm,
operating a department store, offered to give to a branch library a
collection of several thousand historical works on condition that these
should be kept in a separate alcove plainly labeled “The gift of Blank
Brothers.” Nothing so unusual about this. Such gifts, though the
objections to the conditions are familiar to you all, are frequently
offered and accepted. In this instance, however the name of the branch
happened to be also the name of the enterprising firm. The inference
would have been overpowering that the branch had been named after the
firm. The offer was accepted on condition that the books should be
shelved each in its proper place with a gift label, to be of special
form if desired, and that the donation should be acknowledged on the
bulletin board. These conditions were not acceptable--a sufficient
indication of the real object of the gift. Other cases might be cited,
to say nothing of the usual efforts to induce the library to display
commercial notices or to give official commendation to some book.

Several cases of the more ingenious attempts at exploitation having come
to my notice during the past few months I set myself to find out whether
anything of the kind had also been noted by others. Letters to some of
the principal libraries in the country elicited a variety of replies.
Some librarians had noted nothing; others nothing more than usual. One
said frankly that if the people had been “working” him he had been too
stupid to know it. But others responded with interesting instances, and
one or two, in whose judgment I have special confidence agreed with me
in noticing an increase in the number of attempts at this kind of
exploitation of late.

I may make my meaning more clear, perhaps, by proceeding at once to cite
specific instances which must be anonymous, of course, in accordance
with a promise to my informants.

A photographer offered to a public library a fine collection of
portraits of deceased citizens of the town. This was accepted. The
photographer then proceeded to send out circulars in a way that rendered
it very probable that he was simply using the library’s name to increase
his business.

A commercial firm, which had issued a good book on a subject connected
with its business, offered to print for various libraries, at its own
expense, a good list of works on this subject on condition that it
should be allowed to advertise its own book on the last page. Submission
of a proof revealed the fact that this advertisement was to be printed
in precisely the same form and with the same kind of heading as
information about the library given on the preceding page. The reader’s
inference would have been that the matter on the last page was an
official library note. Of the libraries approached, some accepted the
offer without finding any fault with the feature just noted; others
refused to have anything at all to do with the plan; still others
accepted on condition that the last page should be so altered that the
reader could see clearly that it contained advertising matter.

A lecturer gained permission to distribute through a library
complimentary tickets to a free lecture on an educational subject. When
these arrived, the librarian discovered that the announcement of the
free lecture was on the same folder with advertisements of a pay course.
The free tickets were given out, but the advertisement was suppressed.
Efforts of this kind are perhaps particularly noticeable in connection
with the use of library assembly-rooms. There is no reason, of course,
why libraries should not rent out these rooms in the same way as other
public rooms, but it is usual to limit their use to educational purposes
and generally to free public entertainments. Some efforts to circumvent
rules of this kind are interesting.

Application was made to a library for the use of an assembly-room for a
free lecture on stenography. On cross-examination the lecturer admitted
that he was a teacher of stenography who desired to form a class, and
that at the close of his lecture he intended to make announcement of his
courses, prices, etc. He was told that this must be done outside the

It is very common, where the exaction of an admission fee is forbidden,
to take up a collection before or after the lecture. When told that this
is inadmissible, the lecturer sometimes takes up his collection on the
sidewalk outside. There have been cases where employees of a library
have embraced this opportunity to gather contributions. A colored
janitor of a branch library was recently admonished for standing outside
his own assembly-room door and soliciting money for a pet charity.
Another janitor made a pilgrimage to the central library to collect from
the staff. A classic instance of this kind is that of the street gamin
who for several hours stood at a branch library door and collected an
admission fee of one cent from each user. The branch was newly opened
and its neighbors were unused to the ways of free libraries.

An example of the difficulty of deciding, in matters of this kind,
whether an undoubted advertising scheme may or may not legitimately be
aided by the public library is found in the offer, with which all of you
are familiar, of valuable money prizes for essays on economic subjects,
by a firm of clothiers. The committee in charge of the awards is
composed of eminent economists and publicists; the competitors are
members of college faculties and advanced graduate students; the essays
brought out are of permanent value and are generally published in book
form. Under these circumstances many libraries have not hesitated to
post the announcements of the committee on their bulletin boards. Others
regard the whole thing as purely commercial advertisement and refuse to
recognize it. One library at least posted the announcement of the
competition for 1910, but refused to post the result. It would be hard
to tell just how much altruism and how much selfishness we have here and
the instance shows how subtle are the gradations from one motive to the

Advertising by securing condemnatory action of some sort, such as
exclusion from the shelves, has also not been uncommon. This requires
the aid of the press to condemn, abuse or ridicule the library for its
action, and so exploit the book. The press, I grieve to say, has fallen
a victim to this scheme more than once and has thereby given free use of
advertising space ordinarily worth thousands of dollars. A flagrant
instance of this kind occurred in one of our greatest cities about ten
years ago. The work of a much-discussed playwright was about to be put
upon the boards. A wily press agent, in conversation with an
unsuspecting librarian, obtained an adverse opinion. The aiding and
abetting newspaper, which was one of ostensible high character,
proceeded at once to heap ridicule and contumely on the library and the
librarian for their condemnation and exclusion of the play (which really
wasn’t excluded at all). The matter, having reached the dignity of news,
was taken up by other papers and for a week or more the metropolitan
press resounded with accusation, explanation, recrimination and comment.
The gleeful playwright cabled objurgations from London, and the press
agent, retiring modestly into the background, saw advertising that would
have cost him $100,000, at the lowest estimate, poured into his willing
lap by the yellow, but easy, press of his native burg. It is possibly
unfair to cite this as an attempt to “work” the library--it was the
public press that was ingeniously and successfully exploited through the

The fact that the mere presence of a public library is an advantage to
the neighborhood in which it stands has led to numerous attempts to
locate library buildings, especially branches, in some particular place.
These are often accompanied by offers of building-lots, which, it is sad
to say, have occasionally appealed to trustees not fully informed of
the situation. I recall several offers of lots in barren and unoccupied
spots--one in an undeveloped region whose owner hoped to make it a
residence park and another in the middle of a flourishing cornfield,
whose owner considered it an ideal spot for a branch library--at least
after he had sold off a sufficient number of building lots on the
strength of his generous gift. These particular offers were declined
with thanks, but in some instances members of boards of trustees
themselves, being only human, have not been entirely free from suspicion
of personal or business interest in sites. Here it is difficult to draw
the line between the legitimate efforts of a particular locality to
capture a branch site and those that have their origin in commercial
cupidity. Both of course have nothing to do with the larger
considerations that should govern in such location, but both are not
exploitation as we are now using the word.

A curious instance of the advertising value of the mere presence of a
public library and of business shrewdness in taking advantage of it,
comes from a library that calls itself a “shining example of efforts to
‘work’ public libraries for commercial purposes.” This library rents
rooms for various objects connected with its work, and finds that it is
in great demand as a tenant. Great effort is made by property owners
both to retain and to move quarters occupied for library purposes. The
board has recently refused to make selection of localities on this

There is another respect in which the public library offers an
attractive field for exploitation. In its registration files it has a
valuable selected list of names and addresses which may be of service in
various ways either as a mailing-list or as a directory. Probably there
are no two opinions regarding the impropriety of allowing the list to be
used for commercial purposes along either line. The use as a directory
may occasionally be legitimate and is allowable after investigation and
report to some one in authority. I have known of recourse to library
registration lists by the police, to find a fugitive from justice; by
private detectives, ostensibly on the same errand; by a wife, looking
for her runaway husband; by persons searching for lost relatives; and by
creditors on the trail of debtors in hiding. Where there is any doubt,
the matter can usually be adjusted by offering to forward a letter to
the person sought, or to communicate to that person the seeker’s desire
and let him respond if he wishes to do so. One thing is certain: except
in obedience to an order of court, it is not only unjust, but entirely
inexpedient from the library’s standpoint to betray to anyone a user’s
whereabouts against that user’s wishes or even where there is a mere
possibility of his objection. If it were clearly understood that such
consequences might follow the holding of a library card, we should
doubtless lose many readers that we especially desire to attract and

Of course the public library is not the only institution whose
reputation has exposed it to the assaults of advertisers. The Christian
ministry has for years been exposed to this sort of thing, and it is the
belief of Reverend William A. Lee, who writes on the subject in “The
Standard,” a Baptist paper published in Chicago, that in this case also
increased activity is to be noted of late. Persons desire to present the
minister with a picture on condition that he mentions the artist to his
friends; to give him a set of books or a building-lot that his name may
be used to lure other purchasers; they even ask him for mailing-lists of
his parishioners’ names. “I am constantly being besieged,” says Mr. Lee,
“by agents of divers sorts, and of divers degrees of persistency, for
indorsements of patent mops, of ‘wholesome plays,’ of current
periodicals, of so-called religious books, of ‘helps’ almost innumerable
for church-workers and of scores of other things which time has
charitably carried out of memory.”

It is refreshing to find that the kind of library exploitation most to
be feared seems not yet to have been attempted on any considerable scale
or in any objectionable direction. I refer to interference with our
stock and its distribution--an effort to divert either purchases or
circulation into a particular channel. My attention has been called to
the efforts of religious bodies to place their theological or
controversial works on the shelves of public libraries. When the books
are offered as donations, as is usually the case, this is hardly
exploitation in the sense in which we are considering it, unless the
library is so small that other more desirable books are excluded. A
large library welcomes accessions of this kind, just as it does trade
catalogs or railroad literature. Attempts to push circulation are
occasionally made, but usually without success.

But up to the present time it is the glory of the public library that it
knows neither North nor South, Catholic nor Protestant, Democrat,
Republican nor Socialist. It shelves and circulates books on both sides
of every possible scientific, economic, religious and sectional
controversy, and no one has raised a hand to make it do otherwise. We
should be proud of this and very jealous of it. As we have seen, there
is some reason to think that newly awakened interest in the public
library as a public utility has led to increased effort to gain its aid
for purely personal and commercial ends. Naturally these interests have
moved first. It is comparatively easy to steer clear of them and to
defeat them. But attempts to interfere with the strict neutrality of the
public library and to turn it into partisanship in any direction, if
they ever come, should at the earliest betrayal of their purpose be
sternly repressed and at the same time be given wide publicity, that we
may all be on our guard. We may legitimately and properly adopt a once
famous and much ridiculed slogan as our own, in this regard, and write
over the doors of our public libraries “All that we ask is, let us


I should be understood better, perhaps, if I said “Civil service in the
library”; but the civil service is so called merely in distinction to
the military service, and there can be no military service in the
library, although the uniform of certain janitors and messengers may
appear, at first sight, to give me the lie. Every library, of course,
must have some plan of service, more or less systematic. This may or may
not be subject to the regulations of the state or city civil service. I
have no desire to dwell here on the question of the desirability of such
connection; but I cannot refrain from saying, at the risk of losing all
of my civil service-reform friends, that I regard the present methods of
bringing about appointment for merit only as makeshifts, well designed
to defeat the efforts of politicians and others who wish to see
appointments made for other reasons, but necessary only so long as those
efforts are likely to continue. I shall doubtless be told that they are
likely to continue indefinitely, and therefore that I have given away my
whole case. To show that this is not so, we have only to point to a
large number of libraries in connection with which there is no such
effort, and in which safeguards against it are absolutely unnecessary. I
do not know why politics has not invaded these institutions, but I know
that it has not. During the past sixteen years I have been connected
with four large libraries, and I am in a position to say not only that
no political appointment was made in them during my connection, but that
no such appointment was ever attempted or suggested. There is
absolutely no reason why the protection of “civil-service” regulation
should be thrown over these libraries, and every reason why they should
be free from the harassing and embarrassing petty annoyances and
restrictions that are inseparable from such regulation.

Much as I honor the advocates of civil-service reform, and applaud what
they have accomplished in the way of furthering a real merit system, I
submit that a further step in advance may be taken when we have heads of
municipal departments as unlikely to make political appointments as the
average librarian is, and as free from pressure to make such
appointments as are the librarians of a large number of our best
institutions. I regard that as the best system, therefore, in which an
appointing officer or body, sincerely desirous of making appointments
for merit only, is perfectly free to make such appointments in any way
that seems proper; and as only the second-best system that in which the
appointing power, unwilling to make appointments for merit, is forced to
do so, as far as may be, by the supervision and control of a body
created for the purpose. So long as we have unwilling municipal
officers, we must endure this second-best plan, of course; but
librarians are rarely of this kind, though they may be unfortunately in
the power of those who are. It has been my good fortune to formulate a
scheme of service for each of the four libraries to which I have
referred, and these schemes, with necessary modifications, are still in
satisfactory use. The first, for the New York Free Circulating Library,
was made in 1896; the last, for the St. Louis Public Library, in 1910.
Some were hampered by the necessity of adapting them to municipal
regulation, while others were quite free; and other local conditions
imposed differences upon them, but they depended, in the main, on the
same principles and were carried out in much the same way.

I have numerous requests for information on this subject and for advice
upon methods of grading library staffs, with regulation of promotions,
increases of salary, etc. Possibly the best way to answer these may be
to give a brief account of the way in which the work was done in these
four cases.

It has been assumed by some that, as every good librarian desires to
have these matters systematically regulated, regulation by a city civil
service commission will be as good as any, and that a man who wishes to
have a system of his own and keep it under his own control is
unreasonable and foolish. A non-professional body, however, cannot, even
with professional expert advice, satisfactorily regulate the employment
of professionals for professional work. This point has been so often
insisted upon and elaborated that those, who do not now appreciate its
validity will never do so. Every good librarian will wish to create
machinery to put the right man in the right place in his force, and to
drop him out if he goes wrong; but it must be his own machinery, not
that of someone else, and must be designed to aid him, not to hamper

My attention was drawn to the necessity of a more systematic plan of
service in the New York Free Circulating Library on assuming charge in
1895. The library had been hampered by insufficiency of funds and had
been obliged to supplement assistants of ability and experience with
others who had been employed simply because they could be obtained at
low salaries. Promotion, where it was distinctly indicated, was for
merit, ascertained simply by the librarian’s opinion; and salary
increases were made very largely for length of service. An effort was
made at the outset to regulate admission to the force and advancement
within it. The features of examination and of grades distinguished by
letters were borrowed from the Boston Public Library. A department head,
who had been giving private instruction, had by the board’s permission
placed some of her pupils in the library for practice work. This seemed
an excellent opportunity to train future assistants; so the private
class was turned into a library training class and the pupils into
apprentices, their teacher being retained as such and properly
compensated. The library force was divided into three grades, A, B and
C; to which a fourth, D was afterwards added. The first two were
indicated by the fact that the library consisted of six coordinate
branches, each with its librarian-in-charge and her first assistant. All
the former were graded as A and the latter as B. Class A thus
necessarily became limited in number, depending on the number of
branches, and B would have been similarly limited if it had not been
made to include also all the high-grade assistants--all capable of
assignment at any time to the work of a deputy librarian of a branch.
Class C was then a remainder class, including all other members of the
library staff. It soon appeared, however, that the line of demarkation
between those members of Class B who were first assistant librarians and
those who were not was much more distinct than that between B and C. B
was accordingly limited to first assistants; the remnant was called C,
and the old C became D. The old feeling that seniority should be
considered was deferred to by arranging for automatic increases of
salary within the grades at specified intervals. Janitors and
messengers remained quite outside this arrangement.

It was provided that no one should be promoted from grade to grade
without the passage of an examination; but that passage simply placed
the successful candidate on a list of eligibles, and promotion from this
list was made by considering personal fitness, character of work and
immediate conditions. Qualifications for the different grades differed,
but in quantity and advancement, rather than in quality, all coming
under the heads of literature, language, general information and library

This plan was formulated in consultation with the library committee, and
was adopted as part of the rules of the library by the board. The
committee differed somewhat on the seniority increases within grades,
which were finally retained, and considered it of great importance to
emphasize work and personal fitness. Methods of including marks for
these in the final standing of the candidate were considered, but the
difficulty of doing so led to the adoption of the plan as stated.

It was decided to give every member of the staff the right to demand an
examination for promotion on the expiration of three years’ service in
one grade, and to admit others by special order. Advancement proved to
be necessarily so rapid, however, that no one who had any chance of
passing the examination ever remained three years in a grade, and this
clause proved practically inoperative.

Of course, many passed and were placed on the eligible list for
promotion who had no chance of advancement for reasons connected with
work or personality. This caused dissatisfaction which it was sought to
mitigate by recognizing presence on the eligible list by increase of
salary to the grade limit, provided this had not been already attained.
Even so, however, it continued to exist.

The alternative was considered of examining only those selected for
promotion and of making promotion conditional on the passage of such
examination, but was rejected, although a perfectly possible and logical
plan. But objectionable in many ways as all examinations are, they
foster a feeling that everyone is having a chance, and previous
selection, no matter how good, is open to the same objection as the
selection alone would be, without any test at all.

It would also have been possible to make the examination competitive,
placing the names on the list in the order of passage and promoting in
that order, or grading the names in order of seniority, as in most city
systems. But both these plans are open to obvious objections, and I
still think it best to form an eligible list whose names shall not be
considered in any order at all, the appointing officer being quite free
to make his choice among them.

The application of this system of grading to the staff, as it existed,
involved discrimination at only one point--that separating Classes B and
C, or as renamed later, C and D. The line was drawn partly on the basis
of the salary list as it stood, and partly by duties, and there was
little dissatisfaction.

I have said that this system was formally adopted by the board. This is
not necessary, nor is it the best plan. A system of this kind is best
regarded simply as an aid to the librarian in making recommendations for
appointment or promotion. In making such recommendation, the librarian
must, of course, satisfy himself that his candidates are fit, and it is
proper that he should adopt any system that commends itself to him for
ascertaining that they are so. The board is, of course, the final
authority. It could override any system that it might adopt, just as
easily as it could go over the head of the librarian’s recommendation;
and it is better for its own dignity that a departure from the system
should take the latter form, rather than the former.

I regard it as quite sufficient, therefore, when a librarian grades his
staff, that he should simply report to his board that he is about to
make certain dispositions and require certain tests to aid him in making
proper recommendations for appointment and promotion, and that his
recommendations in future will be guided by these arrangements. The
authority of the board and its ability to reject his recommendations
have not been touched, and its disposition to trust him and accept his
advice will be surely increased as it sees that he is adopting plans to
improve that advice and give it force.

This grading of the New York Free Circulating staff has been dwelt on at
length, although very simple, because it formed the basis of the other
gradings, now to be described.

The application of a similar system to the staff of the Brooklyn Public
Library took place early in 1899, at a time when, owing to a crisis in
the affairs of the library, it had temporarily ceased to do work. It had
only four library assistants, and yet the probabilities were strongly in
favor of an immediate and rapid expansion, such as actually did take
place not long after. Expediency, therefore, pointed to the organization
of the staff on the supposition that it would soon be of considerable

The grading was precisely similar to that just described, except that
Classes C and D were combined and called Class C, and the letter D was
used to designate members of the training class. The principal interest
in the scheme as then adopted lies in its relations with the city civil
service. The New York Free Circulating Library was a private
institution, charitable in its origin, but broadening rapidly out into
real public work. It had no relations with the city, except to apply
annually for its subsidy and receipt for the monthly instalments thereof
as paid over. There could be no question therefore of city civil service
jurisdiction. The case in Brooklyn was different. The members of the
Board were appointed by the Mayor, and the library was recognized as a
city institution, although exactly what this meant had not yet been
definitely determined. The scheme of service was adopted at first on the
supposition that the board was to be as free in the matter as though it
had been an entirely independent body. The question might never have
arisen, but was precipitated by the city auditor’s holding up the
payroll on the ground that it had not been certified by the municipal
Civil Service Commission. The question went at once to the Corporation
Counsel for an opinion, and after he had decided that the city civil
service regulations covered the library force, there was a further
dispute with the state Civil Service Commission, exacerbated by a
difference in political complexion between the two bodies. This held up
the payroll for some time, and did not tend to reconcile any member of
the staff to its new status. Matters having been settled, the commission
promptly certified the payroll as it stood, in order to terminate the
embarrassing situation, and then ensued a series of conferences with the
librarian on permanent grading. It was decided that the librarian and
assistant librarian fell within the exempt class, and that other members
of the staff could be divided into senior and junior assistants, the
latter including only members of the training class until properly
appointed to permanent positions. Whatever grading the library might
choose to make within the senior assistant class (A, B and C) was
therefore its own affair, the commission taking cognizance of it only so
far as it involved increase of salary. The point of conflict came at
entrance to Class C, or on appointment to permanent position in the
library. The commission at first insisted that it should make its own
eligible list, graded in accordance with its own examinations, although
it agreed to admit no others except members of the training class to
such examinations. At least one examination of the kind was held, the
questions evidently being written by some outside librarian on general
principles, and with little reference to our needs and conditions.
Ultimately, however, the commission agreed to let us hold the
examinations and to accept our rating, although, when the eligible list
had once been formed, we were bound by it rigidly. In regard to persons
outside our graded force, such as janitors and messengers, we were held
strictly to civil service rules, selecting our men from the first three
on the list submitted to us by the commission. An unsatisfactory person
could be summarily rejected after trial for a specified period, and as
many such were on the list, there was rapid rotation in office in this
part of the force. In the graded staff, also, although it might seem
that the commission had almost abdicated its powers in our favor, we
felt the restriction that bound us to select from the top of the list.
Even though we had originally made the ratings, it often happened that
for the particular vacancy in question the sixth name might be that of
the best-qualified person, and we had the disagreeable alternative of
taking one who was not our first choice, or of appointing on trial and
rejecting until the proper name had been reached--a process much in
vogue in city departments, but tiresome to the appointing authority and
ignominious to those who were thus rejected and who might be better
qualified than the person desired for another kind of position.

In 1901 the New York Free Circulating Library became the Circulation
Department of the New York Public Library, under circumstances that gave
it a separate governing body, responsible to the trustees of the Public
Library, and a separate staff, whose organization was not necessarily
the same as that of the reference staff. The annexed staff, of course,
brought its own organization with it, and this, with some modifications,
became that of the present Circulation Department. The principal changes
were the limitation of Class C to three times the number of branch
libraries and the almost total abolition of salary increases for length
of service within grades. The former prevented unlimited promotion from
D to C, and made necessary a selection from the waiting list to fill
actual vacancies, and the latter, while not doing away with a difference
of salaries in the same grade, made it possible to give the increases as
a reward for good work. The designation of the grades by letters was
objected to by some members of the board, on the ground that it meant
nothing, so that alternative names were adopted for C, D and E, the two
upper grades having already the names of librarian-in-charge and first
assistant. Members of C were named second assistant librarians; D,
assistants, and E, attendants.

When the Free Circulating Library grading was made, there were neither
children’s rooms nor children’s librarians in New York, and very few
anywhere. The former arose first and were served by persons assigned for
the purpose, usually from Grade C. The organization, later, of a
separate children’s department, with jurisdiction over all children’s
rooms, made it necessary to place children’s librarians in a separate
class; but that they might not feel “out of the running” for branch
librarianships, they were allowed to take examinations and advance from
one regular grade to another, in addition, if they so desired.
Catalogers were still graded regularly, however, although these might
have been easily treated in a similar way. The special nature of their
work, however, was recognized by a variation in the examination. The
test for the children’s grade was not an examination, but a series of
periods of practical work in selected branch libraries, with observation
and report and a final thesis. Candidates were specially selected by the
supervisor of children’s work, and so jealously has entrance into this
grade been guarded that even now not more than half of the forty or more
assistants in charge of New York’s children’s rooms are members of it.

In later years a thesis also has formed part of the examination for
Class A. This is written on an assigned subject, and the successful ones
are sometimes, although not always, printed.

One of the difficulties connected with the grading in the Circulation
Department of the New York Public library was the assignment to proper
grades of the staffs of the different institutions that consolidated
with that library from time to time. There were altogether about half a
dozen of these, with staffs varying in number perhaps from five to forty
or fifty persons. It was decided to leave the assignment entirely to the
authorities of these libraries, who practically graded their staffs on a
plan corresponding with ours before consolidation, so that there was no
change of grade afterward. The responsibility was thus thrown upon
bodies of men with whose authority the new staffs were familiar and
which they would be inclined to accept. The assignments were made with
varying degrees of care and validity, but were, on the whole, just, and
there was little complaint with them. Too low an assignment was
corrected by the next examinations for promotion, and a person graded
too high never at all events, rose any higher. The smoothness with which
these consolidations took place, even sometimes against the will and
with the dismal foreboding of the dispossessed authorities, and the
rapidity with which the entire staff became homogeneous, both in feeling
and in quality of work, are sufficient justification of this particular
policy, which was typical of that of the library in regard to other
features of these consolidations.

In the year 1910 it was decided to grade the staff of the St. Louis
Public Library. The principal differences between the problem here and
that in the cases that have been described depended on the fact that
this was an old library, with a comparatively large staff, having
traditions of its own and justly proud of its achievements and of its
library reputation. There had even been a feeling, at some time in the
past, on the part of some members of the board, that a graded staff was
not a good thing, as it would hamper freedom of control. The staff,
however, had reached such a size that some kind of classification
appeared inevitable, and the proper method of handling it seemed to be
that indicated above as preferable, namely, as purely an administrative
matter under the librarian’s control, to aid him in making
recommendations for appointment, promotion and increase of salary. This
was explained to the board, and there being no objection, a notice was
at once inserted in _Staff Notes_, the medium of communication between
the librarian and the staff, that the force would be shortly divided
into grades, “the object being to represent definitely the exact
position occupied by each one, and to fix the maximum salary belonging
to each grade.” There was some additional preliminary explanation and a
request for suggestions and opinions. After a lapse of about six months,
during which the plan became familiar to all by discussion, both
informal and in the weekly meetings of the heads of departments, the
grading was announced by the publication in _Staff Notes_ of the
principles on which it had been made, with explanations in considerable
detail. The names of those assigned to the different grades were not
given, but each member of the staff was notified separately of his own
grading, unless this was obvious from the published explanation, as in
case of branch librarians. It was announced that the grading was not an
act of the Board, but “simply a schedule expressing the formal manner in
which ... recommendations will hereafter be made to the board.”

This scheme was more thoroughgoing than any of those previously noted,
in that it provided a place and designation for everyone in the
library’s employ. The force was divided into three sections--regular
grades, special grades and ungraded occupations. The former were
classified practically as in New York; the special grades were made to
include catalogers and children’s librarians, with any special positions
of enough importance to be placed there; the “ungraded occupations” were
those of janitors and their assistants, messengers, elevator men,
binders and other miscellaneous employees. In the regular grades A and B
were limited, and while C and D were not formally so, it was announced
that they would not be indefinitely increased. It was provided that
those in special grades might qualify also for regular grades and might
also be transferred thereto if desired.

In assignment of members of the staff to grades, existing conditions
were recognized as far as possible, with no immediate attempt to remedy
faults that might exist therein. Statement was made that all persons who
might consider themselves wrongly graded would have early opportunity to
show their fitness for the grade above, either in the regular way or in
some other, if it could be devised. It was stated that the
qualifications that would gain the librarian’s recommendation for
promotion from grade to grade (which, it will be remembered, consists
merely in an increase of salary, so far as the board takes cognizance
thereof) would in general be of three kinds--educational, to be
ascertained by certificate or diploma, or failing these, by examination;
special, to be ascertained in some cases by examination, in others by
mail, in others by certified experience; and personal, to be ascertained
by personal knowledge.

In connection with the scheme, the training class was much extended in
scope and its course broadened and made to cover an educational year.

Here, as in New York, the scheme is entirely distinct from the municipal
civil service, but for a different reason. In New York the library is a
private institution, occupying city property and doing public work by
provision of a contract which does not provide for extension of the city
civil-service rules over the library force; in St. Louis, the merit
system has not been introduced at all among city employees. Should it be
introduced in the future, and should it be decided that the members of
the library staff are strictly employees of the city, we might have here
the Brooklyn experience over again, as detailed above. For purely
selfish reasons, therefore, the St. Louis Public Library should be well
satisfied with the _status quo_.

In concluding, it may be well to call attention again to the fact that
such schemes as these are designed to aid an appointing body or officer,
not to control him. They would be of little value to a municipality
desiring to limit a political mayor’s power for evil, or to a mayor
wishing to keep his board of library trustees within bounds, or to a
board anxious to curb its librarian’s propensity to appoint personal
favorites. Such a plan pre-supposes that appointment and promotion for
the good of the service are desired, and it serves to bring this about
so far as it may. A board, or a librarian, could depart from it or
violate its provisions in a dozen ways. What, then, is the use of it? In
a small staff, it has no uses. It would be as silly to grade such a
staff and make rules for its promotion as it would be for a housekeeper
with a cook and one maid to call the former Class A and the latter Class
B, and draw up rules for their appointment and promotion. But as soon as
the size of the staff exceeds that at which the officer in charge can
know each member and her work with intimate personal knowledge, then
something of the kind becomes imperative. The members of such a staff
are better satisfied that they are being treated with uniform justice,
and that merit is properly recognized, if it is done in some systematic
way like this, and the officer on whose recommendation appointments and
promotions are made runs much less risk of making mistakes. Every
librarian should, I believe, examine himself to make sure that his
present scheme of service, whatever it may be, is sufficient for these
purposes and adapted to secure their attainment smoothly and


In the foregoing article the present writer gave the result of his
experience in formulating and establishing systems of service in four
large libraries, and, incidentally, stated his conclusion that such
systems should always remain in the control of the library authorities.

While the plans therein described work satisfactorily from an inside
standpoint, they are defective in one particular--that of complete
record. This is most important in case of investigation by competent
authority. While direct control of a library service system by an
outside body, such as a municipal or other civil service board, is
objectionable, there can certainly be no objection to the requirement,
by municipal charter or state law, that the library service be organized
and operated on the merit system, which requirement presupposes
occasional inquiry to ascertain whether, and in what degree and form,
this is the case. Now, in the event of such investigation, it will
usually be easy to produce the records of examinations, with marked
papers, tabulated marks, and the action based thereon. When it comes to
personality and efficiency, such records are not easy to get. Even where
libraries assign marks in these subjects and combine them with the
results of the written tests to obtain a final mark on which promotion
is based, there is nothing to show how the marks were obtained, and the
investigating authority might not unnaturally conclude that here was an
opportunity to nullify the merit system. Evidently all data on which
appointment or promotion is based should be matters of record, otherwise
a perfectly well-ordered merit system cannot be demonstrated to be such
to one who has a right to know; and, of course, in the last analysis,
every citizen has this right in the case of a public institution.

What appeared to be needed was some regular report on the efficiency of
every employee, which should be taken into account in assigning marks or
in some other way, in making promotions, made in such permanent form
that it could be filed as a record. Such reports are, of course,
constantly made orally and acted upon, without any record being
preserved. They are occasionally made in recordable form, perhaps most
often in the case of apprentices or members of training classes. In some
cases derelictions or unfavorable reports alone have been recorded, but
a complete report on personality and work made regularly and filed
permanently is a thing that has not come under my observation, although,
of course, it may exist.

Having decided to adopt some such form of report in the St. Louis Public
Library, the librarian laid the matter before the weekly conference of
department heads and branch librarians. Had the question been the
advisability of the adoption of such a form, the sentiment of the
meeting would probably have been against it, but the announcement was
simply that the librarian had decided to require regularly thereafter,
in shape suitable for filing, information regarding the efficiency of
assistants that had hitherto been received irregularly and by word of
mouth. A staff committee was appointed to draft a form of report, and
the reports of progress of this committee, with the incidental
discussions and conferences, occupied nearly a year, during which time
everyone on the staff became thoroughly familiar with the plan and
either agreed with the librarian regarding its advisability or had some
reasonable and well-considered ground of opposition.

The librarian had in mind a short form, containing a few important data.
The committee brought in a long one--somewhat longer than that finally
adopted, which is given below. Their reason, as stated, was that it is
easier to answer a large number of questions that require hardly more
than the words “yes” and “no” in reply than a few, each of which calls
for the writing of an essay, however brief. This reason appealed to all
and finally prevailed. It means practically the presentation of the
information required, ready-made, and its adoption or rejection by the
person making the report. Discussion in the meeting was chiefly on the
more personal items of information, such as those about neatness of
dress, etc.; also about others whose propriety or clearness was
questioned, such as that regarding loyalty to the library. Some of these
were finally stricken out, but most were retained. It was also noted
that in many cases the information asked for could not ordinarily be
obtained. A department head, for instance, may be intimate enough with
one of her assistants to know whether she has a real appreciation for
literature, but in most instances this would not be the case. Many such
questions were retained on the ground that answers, if possible, would
be of value, and, if not, could simply be omitted.

After the forms had thus been put into shape they were duplicated and a
copy was given to each department head, with instructions to show it to
all her assistants, discuss it with them and report at the next meeting.
The reports showed that the reception of the form had depended chiefly
on the department head, either through manner of presentation or
through personal influence. In some departments the plan seemed to be
viewed with equanimity, while in others there was a considerable amount
of suspicion, distrust and dislike of the whole scheme. It was next
announced that anyone on the staff desiring to discuss the matter with a
librarian would be given an opportunity to do so at a specified meeting.
This was well attended, and it appeared that much of the feeling was due
to misunderstanding. It was explained that no new method of making
promotions was contemplated, and that personality and efficiency would
be taken into account neither more nor less than before, but that the
reports from which the librarian derived his information on these points
would be required in writing, thus safeguarding both the appointing
officer and the appointees. There seemed to be a strong feeling on the
part of some that personal feeling might actuate some department head to
make a false report, and that while, of course, such report might be
made even more effectively if rendered orally, it would be a pity to
have it permanently on record. There was no answer to this except that
the likelihood of such a misleading report would probably become known
to the librarian, who could reject or modify it.

In due course of time, a sufficient number of blanks were distributed,
filled and handed in. They were then discussed again at a meeting, and
questions that had come up in the practical rendition of the reports
were brought up and settled. A filled report regarding the work of every
classified assistant in this library is now on file in the librarian’s

The conditions under which these reports are made and held are as

Every question must be answered or the reason for not doing so must be

The reports are to be made out regularly on the first of each year, or
oftener at the librarian’s request. Each is accessible only to the
librarian, to the reporting officer and to the assistant reported on,
except when a transfer is to be made, when the head of the department to
which the assistant is to be transferred may also consult the record.

Since the reports were made out only about half a dozen assistants have
requested to be shown their records. Some others were allowed to see
them before they were handed in. Such excitement as there was regarding
the matter has now abated, and the matter has been relegated to its
proper plane in the scheme of library things. This is due, probably,
very largely to the plan of conducting the whole matter on a free and
open basis, in consultation with the staff at every point, and also to
the length of time that was allowed to elapse between steps. Publicity
and deliberation are the two necessary things in a procedure of this
kind, and both are commended to librarians wishing to adopt this kind of

There is no doubt in my mind that some efficiency record is necessary
and valuable, and that a full record, including the usual high
percentage of good things with the possible proportion of bad ones, is
preferable to a mere blacklist, on which only the bad is recorded.

The blank, as finally adopted, is reproduced herewith.

                       ST. LOUIS PUBLIC LIBRARY

                         RECORD OF EFFICIENCY


  (Inverted, in full)

  Branch or Department.

  Length of service in dept. or branch.
  Present grade of assistant.
  Entered the library.

  A. Personal qualities.

  1. Physically strong enough for the work?
     How much time lost while in department and why?
  2. Knowledge of books.
     Improving in this?
  3. All around information?
  4. Appreciation for real literature.
  5. Resourceful? Systematic?
  6. Self-possessed in a rush or emergency?
  7. Executive ability? Decision?
  8. Accurate? Quick? Adaptable?
  9. Industrious? Careless?
  10. Obliging to fellow-workers?
  11. Punctual? Times tardy? Excusable?
  12. Forgetful? Inclined to gossip?
  13. Neat and appropriate in dress?

  B. Relations with the public.

  1. Uniformly courteous? Dignified?
  2. Inclined to entertain personal visitors?
  3. Effective in work with adults?
  4. Effective in work with children?

  C. Grade as excellent, good, fair, or poor.

  1. Library hand.
  2. Printing.
  3. Typewriting.
  4. Shorthand.

  D. Did the assistant improve while with you?

  In what way?
  In what did she fall short?

  E. If the assistant had weak points, did you call her attention to them?

  F. What did you especially like about the assistant?

  G. Do you consider the assistant fitted or unfitted by personality,
  education and practical efficiency to work in any one of the
  following departments? Grade her work as excellent, good,
  fair or poor, stating also length of service at each kind of

  1. An all-around branch assistant in this library?
  2. A children’s librarian?
  3. A reference department assistant?
  4. A catalog department assistant?
  5. A desk assistant?
  6. A clerical assistant?
  7. An assistant in other lines? (specify)
     If you do not consider the assistant so fitted, give particular reasons.

  H. Is the assistant loyal to the library?

  I. Has the assistant enthusiasm in her work?

  J. Would you be satisfied to have the assistant in your (Branch)
  (Dept.), not considering the fact that you might prefer some
  one else?

  L. Remarks.




Students of the labor problem have given a vast amount of attention to
the unemployed, but comparatively little to the mal-employed. It
troubles them--and very properly--that there should be large numbers of
persons who are doing no work, who are contributing nothing toward the
operation of the world’s machinery; they do not seem to be so greatly
bothered that there are persons hard at work to no purpose or with evil
result--whose efforts either do not help the world along or actually
impede it or hold it back. Serious as is the case of those who are not
employed at all, it is as nothing compared with those who are employed

One reason for this neglect--which is at the same time a reason why it
should no longer exist--is that the burden of unemployment bears most
conspicuously on the individual, while that of mal-employment is
predominantly civic. It is true that unemployment works civic injury,
and that mal-employment, especially if it be criminal, is recognized at
once as a possible harm to the individual. But what I mean is that the
unemployed person, unless he is one of the idle rich, is greatly
concerned about his lack of employment, which touches his pocket
directly. He does all that he can to get back into the ranks of the
employed, but once there it does not occur to him to ask whether what he
is doing benefits society, or is of no value to it, or actually harms
it. Even if he does so inquire, he is not likely to give up a job that
pays him well simply because what he is doing is injurious to the
world’s progress. The injury done is social and civic and we must look
to increased social and civic consciousness for its abatement.

I owe this word _mal-employment_, in its contrasted use with
_unemployment_, to William Kent, a member of Congress from the city of
Chicago. In a recent interview, Mr. Kent gives it as his opinion that
the sin of the day is waste--the expenditure of effort for naught or for
positive ill. Of course, when we get down to details there is difficulty
or even impossibility in deciding whether or not a given man is
mal-employed--we may leave out of consideration here all persons engaged
in criminal occupations. For instance, Mr. Kent considers that the small
army of men engaged in the manufacture of champagne are all
mal-employed. Whether we agree with him or not depends somewhat on our
predispositions and our points of view. Many parents, in earlier days,
thought that when children were at play they were mal-employed; most
persons now regard this form of employment as necessary and beneficial,
although Dr. Boris Sidis thinks that the same interest now employed in
aimless play may be used to carry the child onward in the path of
individual progress and development. How about the vast number of
persons occupied in amusing or trying to amuse the public--employees of
theatres, recreation parks, and so on? Many are well employed; some are
doubtless mal-employed. Among persons that we should all agree are
mal-employed are all those writing books or plays that are morally
harmful, as well as those concerned in publishing such books or
producing such plays, and, for the moment, all who are reading or
witnessing them; persons engaged in manufacturing or distributing
useless or harmful products; all who do work of any kind so badly that
inconvenience or harm results; unnecessary middlemen whose intervention
in the process of distribution only impedes it and adds to its expense.
Anyone may add to the list by taking thought a little. If all these
mal-employed persons should suddenly lose their positions the result
would be beneficial to society, even if society had to support them in
idleness; if they should all turn their attention from mal-employment to
beneficial uses, how incalculably great a blessing they would bestow
upon mankind! It is every man’s business, it seems to me, to inquire
whether he is well employed or mal-employed, and if the occupation in
which he is engaged is generally beneficial to society, then whether all
those under his orders are well employed in carrying out its purpose.

Let us, as librarians, take up this civic task for a few moments. And
first, let us not hastily conclude that we are necessarily well employed
simply because we are librarians. A library may do harm; I have
personally known of harm done by libraries. A group can be no better
than its constituents; a collection of harmful books is assuredly itself
harmful. More, a chain is no stronger than its weakest link; a fleet is
no faster than its slowest ship; and we may almost say that a library is
no better than its worst book. And we must not forget that a book may be
bad in three ways: it may give incorrect information, teach what is
morally wrong, or use language that is unfitting. It may be necessary
that a library should contain any or all of these, but if they give it
its atmosphere and control its influence as an educational institution,
even unwittingly, it is anti-social and those who administer it are
mal-employed. I have in mind a pseudo-scientific book for children that
abounds in misstatements combined with beautiful illustrations; a book
of travel full of ludicrous misinformation; a work intended to teach
Italians English, whose English is screamingly funny. The library
assistant who hands one of these to a reader is mal-employed. I can make
a list (and so can you) of books that teach, directly or by implication,
that what is universally acknowledged to be wrong is right--at least
under certain circumstances; that theft is smart and that swindling is
unobjectionable. The library assistant who circulates these is
mal-employed. All of us can easily also place our hands on books whose
only fault is that their language is objectionable--incorrect, silly or
vulgar. They may be otherwise unobjectionable, yet I venture to say that
the distribution of these books is also mal-employment. How about the
librarian who administers such a library, and the staff who assist him?
They are all mal-employed. No matter how well and how conscientiously
the cataloguer may perform her task, no matter how clean the janitor may
keep the front steps, they are only aiding to keep up an institution
that disseminates falsehood, teaches unrighteousness, encourages
vulgarity; and they are all mal-employed. This is what I mean when I say
that a library may be no better than its worst book. If its output is
bad, all exertion to accomplish that output is also bad. And as for the
output itself, it may be that the good done by a thousand good books may
not outweigh the ill done by a few bad ones.

A person is always mal-employed when he is leaving a more important
thing undone, to do a less important one. The degree of mal-employment
in this case is measured, of course, by the difference in value between
the two things. Mr. E.L. Pearson, in one of his library articles in the
_Boston Transcript_, calls attention to what he names “side-shows” in
libraries, and asserts that the chief business of a library, the proper
care and distribution of books, is often neglected that other things may
be attended to, and that money needed for books is often diverted to
these other uses. This is undoubtedly true in many cases, and in so far
as it is true some librarians and library assistants are mal-employed.
The scope of library work has broadened out enormously of late and
libraries are doing all sorts of things that are subsidiary to their
main work--things that will make that work easier and more effective.
This is as it should be, provided that these numerous tails do not wag
the dog. To take an extreme instance we will assume that a small library
is in great need of books and that a small gift of money, instead of
being expended for these is put into material for picture bulletins. We
should have no difficulty in concluding that the person who makes the
bulletins is mal-employed; and in so doing we should not be condemning
picture bulletins at all or saying that money spent for them is wasted.
Take again a case specially noted by Mr. Pearson, which is bothering the
heads of some of our library trustees at this moment--the acceptance and
preservation of full sets of the printed catalogue cards of the Library
of Congress. There can be no doubt of the value of such depository sets
to certain libraries, and as they are given free of charge the only
expense connected with them is the cost of an assistant’s time in filing
them, amounting perhaps to an hour or two a day, and that of cabinets in
which to keep them. Whether this cost is far outweighed by the
usefulness of the collection to the library and its patrons, or whether
that usefulness is practically _nil_, making the outlay wasteful, no
matter how small it may be, must be answered by each library for itself.
In some cases, labor expended on the filing of L.C. cards is undoubtedly

Certain kinds of work which were either not mal-employment when they
were adopted, or were not recognized as such, have become so by reason
of a change, either in the conditions of the work itself or in the way
in which it is regarded by those who are doing it and by the public that
benefits by it.

Take, for instance, labor performed under an age-limit rule for
children, such as nearly all libraries once possessed, and such as is
still enforced in some places. If it is true that the library ought not
to be used by children below a specified age, work done in ascertaining
their ages and in excluding those barred out by the rule is necessary
and valuable. If this is not true; if the exclusion of such children may
be actually harmful to the community, it follows that all such work is
the most flagrant kind of mal-employment.

But there may also be mal-employment in the course of work of undoubted
advantage to the library and its public. If in the course of such work
something is done that sets it back instead of helping it on, or that
injures the library in some other way more than it helps by what it
directly effects, labor expended on that thing is mal-employment. This
is a more fundamental and elementary thing than lack of efficiency. If
an assistant is cataloguing books well, but much more slowly than she
ought, she is not efficiently employed, but neither is she mal-employed,
for she is doing nothing that directly injures the work. If she were to
stop, the library would be injured, not benefited. But if she is making
egregious blunders in her work, causing undue labor in revision or
making the catalogue confused or misleading in case her cards should get
into it, it might be better for the library if she were to stop work,
and she is surely mal-employed.

The public is apt to generalize from insufficient data. The user who is
treated rudely or sullenly at the desk just once does not say, “I will
make a record of this and of my subsequent experiences and see whether
it is a usual thing or an abnormal one.” Not at all. He or she at once
reports in conversation that the public library assistants are
continuously rude and disagreeable, and the machinery is forthwith set
in motion that makes or mars reputation. We may chafe at this; we may
try to disregard it, but in the end we shall have to accept it as a fact
of human nature. The public institution that wants to acquire that
valuable asset, reputation, whether it is a reputation for kindliness,
for helpfulness, for common sense, for scholarly acquirements, will have
to make up its mind to be kind, helpful, sensible, and scholarly, not
fifty per cent or seventy-five per cent of the time, but one hundred per
cent of the time.

But entirely apart from such serious intervals of mal-employment as
this, is it not probable that all of us are mal-employed for some little
part of our time? Is it not probable, in other words, that our work
would be improved if we should omit certain parts of it and do nothing
at all instead? It is certain, for one thing, that no one could work
continuously, day and night, without serious or fatal mal-employment.
That is the reason why our working hours are limited to seven or eight
in the twenty-four. Doubtless some workers are over worked and thus
mal-employed in their hours of overwork--the sleepy railroad engineer,
for instance, who misses a signal and sends a hundred passengers to
eternity. We are doubtless free in the library from just this kind of
mal-employment, except so far as it is forced upon us by assistants who
work or play too strenuously outside of working hours. To go back to the
assistant who is cross or careless for an hour every day; it is quite
possible that she is in no condition for working during that hour; and
this is not because the library hours of work are too long, but because
she does not take needed rest outside of those hours. Sometimes this
cannot be helped; often it is distinctly the worker’s fault, and it is
surely putting the library in a false position to make it overwork its
staff to their detriment and its own, just because the assistant puts in
her best and freshest hours in work, or more often in amusement, outside
the library.

Let me pause here to say that the reason we take vacations is to avoid
the chance of this kind of mal-employment. The theory of the vacation is
widely misunderstood. Some take it to be a period of amusement granted
for services rendered. “I think I have earned a vacation,” they say.
Others look upon it as play-time wrung from an unwilling employer--the
more they can get the better off they are. Few realize that it is, or
ought to be, simply an incident in the year’s work, an assignment to
special duty, without which mal-employment would be more apt to result.

The mal-employed intervals of an otherwise valuable worker are often due
to ignorance of conditions or sheer inability to meet them. In an
interesting study of bricklaying one of the modern school of efficiency
engineers found that most bricklayers kept their bricks too far from the
point on the wall where they were to be laid, and that a long and
wasteful carrying movement resulted. If the time occupied by this lost
motion could have been eliminated and simply given to resting, even
without doing any work, good would have resulted; these periods were
hence intervals of mal-employment The engineer eliminated them easily
and simply by bringing the pile of bricks within a few inches of the
wall. It is easy to say, “Why, of course, any one would think of that!”
Only no one ever did think of it. A large proportion of the most
valuable inventions and discoveries have been of this character. Some
one has remarked that in the earliest stage of an invention people say,
“It won’t work;” later they say, “It may work, but it won’t be of any
use.” Finally; when it is usefully running, they say, “What of it?
Everybody has always known about it!” We don’t do these obvious things
because they are elements in a series of acts that have grown to be
habitual. We take care of them subconsciously. Also, they take up so
little time individually that at first thought it seems foolish to try
to improve or eliminate them. Suppose one does a useless, or even an
injurious thing that lasts but three seconds? If he does it just once
and then stops, it would doubtless be folly to change it. If, however,
like the bricklayer’s useless and tiresome motions, it is repeated
hundreds and thousands of times, the matter stands on quite a different
footing. It is probable that all of us are habitually doing certain
things in ways that involve, without our realizing it, elements of this
kind, either mechanical or mental. Many things that we are doing by
laborious repetition, wearying ourselves and using up valuable material,
might be made to “do themselves” if we only knew how to utilize
tendencies and forces that are all about us, unsuspected. One of the
forces, for instance, is the desire of every person to do that which
will give him pleasure. If the things we want done can be done in
accordance with that desire, we can get others to do them for us. The
classical example of the boys who whitewashed Tom Sawyer’s fence for him
will occur to all. There is deep philosophy in this. I have known
librarians to exhaust themselves by trying to get newspapers to publish
what newspapers never would publish, while the reporters besiege others
for items which they know will be just what they want. The rules of some
libraries--both those for their public and those for their own
assistants--all seem to run up hill--to “rub everyone the wrong way,”
while those of others seem to get themselves obeyed without any trouble.

Sometimes the substitution of a mechanical appliance for brain-work is
what we want. What, for instance, is the use of tiring one’s brain and
impairing its usefulness for other needed work by forcing it to perform
such a mechanical operation as adding a column of figures? Every library
that can afford to own an adding machine ought to have one. The ones
that can not afford it usually do not need it.

While we are discussing the mal-employment that does its harm by tiring
out the worker, physically or mentally, and making him unfit for other
work, we must not neglect to say a word about unnecessary talk. Nothing
is so tiring to the brain as talk. I sometimes think that if we were all
forced to do our work in silence we would get along more rapidly even if
we had to communicate with each other in writing.

If a man were in charge of a piece of complicated machinery, and if he
feared that something had got into it to clog it, while his knowledge of
its elementary parts was still so slight that he could not tell which
particular bit in all the moving mass was helping it on and which was
hindering it, what would he do? He could remove the pieces, one by one,
and watch the effect. If the machine refused to run without a certain
piece, he would conclude that it was an absolutely necessary part; if it
still ran, though with difficulty, he would conclude that the part,
though not necessary, still promoted efficient operation; if removal
resulted in no change at all, the piece was evidently either an
unnecessary part, or an alien piece not so placed as to interfere with
action. If the machine worked decidedly better after removal, the
removed element must have been a clog--was, in fact, mal-employed.

How many of us feel like submitting to this test? If you should stop
your work, would the library machine run along quite as usual? Or would
it limp? Or would it refuse to run at all? Or would it--O distasteful
thought!--would it jump ahead and function with greater speed and

I believe in vacations; and yet I rather like to feel that the absence
of an assistant on vacation makes a difference. And if every one in her
department looks forward with fond expectation to her return and greets
her with looks of satisfaction and sighs of relief, I cannot help
feeling that she is a more integral part of the library machinery than
if her return were generally regarded with indifference or were dreaded
as a sort of calamity. When every one feels that she can work much
better when Miss Blank is away, I am forced to inquire whether in truth
Miss Blank is not a clog in the wheels instead of a cog, and whether a
permanent vacation would not be the proper thing for her.

And how about your library as a whole? Suppose it should be leveled by a
tornado, or swallowed up by an earthquake, or swept away by a flood?
What effect would this have on the life of your town? Would the
passer-by point to the ruins, or to the hole in the ground where once
your library stood, with the same kind and amount of interest that he
would show when viewing the stump of an old tree or the fragments of a
blasted boulder? Or would every man, woman and child feel the loss?
Would the teachers seek in vain for aid, the merchants for information,
the workmen for data of use to them in their daily tasks?

In other words, is your library of such definite use in the community
that it would feel your loss as it would that of a school house, a
church, the railroad station, the principal retail store? Or would its
loss affect that community only like the destruction of the monument on
the green, or the fence around Deacon Jones’ pasture?

If we are to make the library a vital influence in the community we must
so conduct it that its loss would be felt as a calamity--that it could
be spared no more than the postoffice could be spared, or the doctor, or
the school. And we must do our best so to carry on every part of its
work, every element that goes to make up its service to the public, that
this part or element is contributing toward that service and not
injuring it or delaying it. It is better for the community that we
should be unemployed than mal-employed, and if the community should ever
find out that we are the latter, we may be assured that unemployment
will shortly be our condition, whether we like it or not.


_The possibility of deducing a general method for calculating the
probable cost of operation of a library._

The problem of ascertaining how the cost of administration of a library
is related to the various conditions and factors that affect it is the
problem of finding a formula in which, by simple substitution of numbers
representing or corresponding to these conditions, a reasonable or
approximate cost may be obtained. The data obtainable are the conditions
and actual cost in a limited number of cases. The obstacles are the
difficulty of stating certain of the conditions numerically and the
difficulty of deciding on the form of the formula, which must be done in

We must first agree, of course, that the legitimate cost of
administration of a library should bear some relation to its conditions
of work. Probably no one would quarrel with this, but the first thought
of one who considers the subject is generally that a large number of the
conditions could, by their very nature, not be susceptible of numerical
statement. Such factors as size of circulation, number of cardholders,
size of building, and so on, may be stated directly in figures, and many
such influence the cost of administration; but how, for instance, shall
be stated numerically the character of the locality--whether foreign or
native-born, wealthy or poor, etc., which also indubitably affects the
cost? In this particular case this factor exerts its influence through
others that may be numerically stated. So far as it necessitates
purchase of foreign books, a foreign population acts to increase cost;
so far as the demand for certain classes of books is concerned, cost
might be increased or decreased; but size of book collections and
circulation are both numerically determinable. It is possible that all
conditions which would seem at first sight not to be numerical might
reduce in this way, to various numerical factors. Regarding the form of
the function to be used for the formula, mathematicians tell me that its
determination might prove a great obstacle. Personally, it seems to me
that it is probably “linear,” that is, involving only the first powers
of the quantities concerned, never their squares, cubes, etc. Thus, all
other things being equal, increase of book collection increase of
circulation, increase of staff, etc., would approximately mean increase
of cost in direct proportion; or, at any rate, not in any way involving
powers above the first. I should try at the outset therefore, a simple
linear formula, such as

A_x_ plus B_y_ plus C_z_ plus D_u_ ... equals R in which _x_ might be
circulation, _y_ number of books, _z_ number in the staff, _u_ cubic
feet in the building, and so on. It would then be required to find
values for A, B, C, D, etc. This would require, of course, as many
equations as there are of these coefficients. To get each equation we
select a library that we are willing to accept as being conservatively
and properly operated, and substitute for _x_, _y_, etc., its reported
circulation, number of books, and so on, putting in place of R its total
cost of administration. Solution of this system of equations gives the
coefficients, A, B, C, etc., and furnishes the working formula required.
Thereafter when we wish to see whether a library is run as
conservatively as the typical ones selected, its statistics would be
used to substitute for _x_, _y_, _z_, etc., and the value of R thus
obtained would be compared with the actual cost.

The labor of reducing the system of equations would depend on their
number, which must equal that of the conditions. This would doubtless be
great--possibly twenty or twenty-five, but the work amounts simply to
doing a great deal of figuring.

I believe that this thing is worth trying, and I intend to try it myself
as soon as I can secure the necessary help in doing the work of
figuring, which in any case would not be nearly as great as that done to
calculate a comet’s orbit. Physicists and astronomers are daily doing
work of this kind, and doing it, too, on subjects regarding which there
is quite as much reason to doubt the applicability of the method as in
the present case. Why not try it? It admits of satisfactory “proving,”
for if applied to two groups of libraries with absurdly different
results, it would at once be shown to be faulty as so applied.

I believe that we librarians use the experimental method too
infrequently. When it is proposed to make some change or other, I
constantly hear the objection, “That wouldn’t result at all as you
expect; it would do so-and-so.” But why not try it? Try it and see what
happens. That is the only real test Of course, if trying will cost a
large sum, or involve some serious risk, we must count the cost, but in
nine cases out of ten nothing is involved but a little extra work.

In this case we are trying our experiments daily--we can’t help it. We
have libraries running under all kinds of conditions and we have
statistical reports of those conditions and of the resulting cost. It is
surely worth while to see if we can not connect these costs and these
conditions in some useful way.

I venture to close with a parable. At a national meeting of civil
engineers there was a discussion of the advisability--and
possibility--of ascertaining the exact distance between New York and
Chicago. In the course of the discussion it appeared that numerous
measurements had already been made for various purposes by different
parties and under divers conditions. No two of the results agreed
precisely. It was suggested by a speaker that some method of combining
the results might be found so as to arrive at a practical working
estimate of the distance. Objection was at once made by various members.
To many the very idea of such a proposal seemed a bit of pleasantry, and
they greeted it with smiles. One speaker poked fun at the idea of
treating so practical a question by abstract mathematical methods.
Another pointed out that the measurements had been made with various
objects in view; some for railroad purposes, others by government
topographers; that instruments of varying makes had been employed and
that the surveyors possessed differing grades of ability. He did not
see, therefore, how there was any possibility of taking all these into
account. Still another thought that the best way to get at the real
distance was to send out a questionnaire to persons who had traveled
from New York to Chicago and find out their opinions.

It seemed to be the consensus of belief that we should never ascertain
the exact distance from New York to Chicago, and that it was extremely
doubtful whether there really was any such distance. Probably it varied
from time to time, which would account for the varying measurements.

Is it conceivable that engineers would ever talk in this way? It is not.

But we have all heard librarians do so. Why?


Is there still a place for the delivery station in the scheme of
distribution adopted by libraries, large or small? This question is
pertinent not so much because the use of the delivery station is being
discontinued, but because of a general feeling that any system of book
distribution that does not admit of seeing and handling the books is
inferior to a system in which this is possible.

It will thus be noted that the question of the delivery station pure and
simple, as opposed to the deposit station and the branch--a question
once hotly debated--is at bottom simply that of the closed shelf versus
the open shelf. The branch has won out as against the delivery station,
and the open as against the closed shelf. It will also be noted,
however, that none but small libraries find it good policy to place all
their books on open shelves. There is and always will be a use for the
closed shelf in its place, and the larger the library the more obvious
does that place become.

Now circulation through a delivery station is nothing but long-distance
closed-shelf issue--circulation in which the distance between
charging-desk and stack has been greatly multiplied. And a legitimate
reason for closed-shelf issue of this kind is that it is carried on
under conditions where open-shelf issue is impossible--about the only
excuse for the closed shelf in any case. Now no matter how many books
may be in branches or in deposit stations, it is obviously impossible
for the whole central stock to be at any one of them, still less to be
at all of them at the same time. And there are cases where it is
impracticable to use any deposit at all, while delivery from the central
library is feasible and reasonably satisfactory. There will always
continue to be, therefore, some circulation from a distant reservoir of
books that cannot be seen and handled by the reader for purposes of

Under these circumstances it is interesting to inquire whether this type
of service has any good points to offset its obvious disadvantages; and
it is consoling to find that there are such--not enough to cause us to
select an unsupported delivery station deliberately where a deposit or a
branch would be possible, but enough to satisfy us that a delivery
station is worth while if we can use nothing better and to induce us to
lay stress, if we can, on the particular features that make it

For myself, after three years in a library with a large station system,
following an experience in institutions where there was nothing of the
kind, I may say that it has gratified and surprised me to find that
personal contact between librarian and reader is possible in such a
system, to almost the same extent as in an open-shelf library, although
the contact is of quite a different quality. The quality of the contact
is related to that possible with the open-shelf precisely as mental
contact by letter writing is always related to that by conversation. It
is superior, if anything, to that usually obtained in short-distance
closed-shelf circulation, although possibly not to that obtainable under
ideal conditions.

The establishment of more or less personal relations of confidence
between library assistant and reader takes longer and is less complete
when the sole intermediary is written language. It is always harder and
requires more time to become intimate by letter than by personal
intercourse. In the former case the contact is purely mental, in the
latter it is affected by personal appearance and conduct, by facial
expression and manner. All this is one of the chief factors in the
success of the open shelf. But the advantages are not all on the side of
the direct personal contact, as the correspondence schools have been
astute enough to find out. In the first place, _litera scripta manet_;
one may read the same written communication several times, whereas the
same spoken communication is of and for the moment. Then the very fact
that the written message is purely intellectual and has no physical
accompaniments may lend force to its intellectual appeal, when that
appeal has once gained a foothold. When this is the case the writer may
take his time and may plan his campaign of influence more carefully than
the speaker. The effect of trivial circumstances, of unfavorable
personal elements, of momentary moods, is obviated.

It may be, then, that if personal relations between librarian and reader
can be set up through the written word, there may be something of this
kind even in long-distance, closed-shelf circulation. This relation may
be lacking, even when the circulation is at short range. It is usually
lacking at the closed-shelf delivery desk, necessarily so in a rush,
although at quieter times there is no good reason why it should not
exist. I know that it sometimes does exist under these conditions,
though a counter between two human beings, whether in a store, an office
or a library, is not conducive to relations of confidence. It may even
be lacking in the open-shelf room, when assistants on floor duty have
not the proper spirit and a due conception of their own responsibilities
and opportunities.

It may exist at long range. But does it? I can answer for only one
library; but I have no reason to believe that our experience is by any
means exceptional. Here are some instances, reported at my request from
our own Station Department by Miss Elsie Miller, the department chief:

“(1) A short time ago one of the patrons of Station 27 sent in a slip
asking to have his book renewed, and requested that we send him
information on peace conferences. The latter was duly sent, but through
some error the renewal was overlooked. Consequently six days later an
overdue postal was mailed. This gentleman is always quite prompt in
returning his books, and evidently had never before received a notice.
So he was most perturbed, and wrote us a very long letter explaining the
mistake. He said that he felt that the librarian should know that he was
not at fault, had not broken the rules, and had a clear record. But in
imparting this fact to the librarian, he wanted it understood that the
assistant committing the error should not in any way be punished for it,
because she had helped him greatly in his work, by sending the very
facts on peace conferences that he was looking for. He asked that the
assistant be praised for her good work rather than blamed for her error.

“(2) Celia R----, whom we have never seen but all feel well acquainted
with, tried in vain for some time to borrow a certain little volume of
Eskimo stories, but succeeded only in getting substitutes. About the
middle of December she sent in with her card the following request:
‘Please give me “Eskimo stories,” because it is Christmas and you never
send the right book.’

“(3) The cards of Mr. and Mrs. M----, of Station 54, come in with a
slip, ‘Please send a novel.’ We know that the books must be 7-day
adventure stories, and must have publishers’ binding and an interesting
frontispiece or they will come back to us on the next delivery unread.

“(4) At least one of the S---- family’s cards is reported lost each
week. We immediately recognize Mrs. S----’s voice when she telephones,
and ask whether it is Ralph’s or Walter’s card that is missing this
time. In a tone of despair she probably says, ‘No; it is Morris’s.’ We
promise to look the matter up thoroughly. Then we do no more about it.
After two days we call up and tell her we are very sorry we have been
unable to trace the card. ‘Oh, we’ve found it here at home; thank you so
much for your trouble,’ she answers. ‘And, by the way, we have not been
able to find Nicholas’ card all day.’ So we look up Nicholas’ card in
the same way. No S---- card was ever known to be lost outside of the
S---- household.

“(5) C39 of Station 6 has this note clipped to her readers’ index: ‘Give
overdue notices to Stations Department.’ We hold her notices a few days
to give the books a chance to come in, because she uses a bi-weekly
station. Each time that she receives an overdue notice, it costs her ten
cents carfare to come to the library to investigate, and it costs the
library a half hour of an assistant’s time to pacify her. Our new method
works beautifully, and both library and reader find it economical.

“(6) An old gentleman of Station 15 (at least we have pictured him as
old, for it is a trembling hand that writes the titles) for a long time
sent in a long list of German novels which we marked, ‘Not in catalog:’.
We were out of printed German lists at the time, so selected a good
German novel and sent it to him. It was immediately returned. We tried
again--in vain. Then again! We sent him everything that the average
German finds intensely interesting. But the books always came back to us
on the next delivery. One day we substituted ‘Im Busch,’ by Gerstaecker.
He kept it two weeks, and then his card came in with a list of
Gerstaecker novels, copied from the title-page of “Im Busch.” He read
all our Gerstaecker books and then wanted more. We wrote him that he had
read all the books of this author and again substituted. Then a fresh
list of Gerstaecker came in, and now he is reading all those books a
second time.

“(7) One of the station men watches our substitutions and looks over
them to get ideas for his own reading. Once when we had substituted
Leroux’s ‘Mystery of the yellow room’ the station man ordered a copy of
that book for himself, and finding it interesting read all the Leroux
books in the library.

“(8) Here is a letter from a youthful station patron:

“‘Please send me the III Grade, The golden goose book! Please do.


These incidents, which of course might be multiplied indefinitely, show
at least that the service rendered by a delivery station is not, or at
any rate need not be, a mere mechanical sending of books in answer to a
written demand.

So much for the element of personal contact and influence. Next let us
consider for a moment that of actual contact with the books from which
selection can be made. This of course does not take place in any
closed-shelf system--least of all in one at long range. But in certain
cases this contact is of no special advantage. In particular, if a
reader wants one definite book and no other, he may get it as surely,
or be informed as reliably that he cannot get it, and why, at a delivery
station as at a set of open shelves. The only drawback in “long-range”
work is that the user must wait longer before he can get his book,
provided it is on the shelves. Against this wait must be set the time
and cost of a personal visit to the distant library building.

Of the “browsing” contact there can be none, of course. This seems a
more serious matter to me than it would be to those who deprecate
“browsing,” or at any rate discourage it. But there is no question that
the alternative between library and delivery station, if squarely
presented, should always be answered by choosing the library. Here the
alternative is between the delivery station and no use at all. This
brings up another point:

May it not be, in some cases, that we really are offering the reader an
alternative between delivery station and library and that through
indolence he takes the former? Doubtless this is often the case, and it
should not be so. The location of every delivery station should be
studied from this standpoint, and its continuance should be made a
matter of serious question. When all is said and done, there will remain
some stations where a minority of users would go to the library if the
station were discontinued, and would be benefited thereby at the expense
of a little more exertion. The fact that there are some real advantages
in long-range circulation should enable the librarian, in such a case,
to strike some kind of a balance, satisfy himself that this particular
station is or is not of resultant benefit to the community, and act
accordingly. It is also possible, in some cases, to combine the deposit
feature with the delivery station, and it goes without saying that this
should be done just as the delivery feature should be added to every
deposit and every branch, where it is feasible.

Finally, the long range circulation may be adapted to the use of the
busy by enabling them to kill two birds with one stone. Libraries are
always trying, with doubtful success, to get hold of persons who are
busy about something else--factory workers, shoppers, and so on. A
residential district is a better place for a branch library than a
shopping district, although the number of different persons who pass the
door daily is larger in the latter, because there is more leisure in the
residence street--less preoccupation and bustle. But if it is made
possible for the shopper to use the library with practically no delay,
while he is shopping, will he not take advantage of the opportunity? A
recent experiment in the St. Louis Public Library convinces me that he
will. We are now operating a downtown branch in the book department of a
large department store, and we have an hourly messenger service between
the library and this station. I believe this is the first time that such
frequent delivery service has been tried. This makes it possible to
leave an order at the beginning of a shopping trip and to find the book
ready at the close of the trip. The interval would never be much over an
hour, and might be as little as fifteen or twenty minutes.

There are two favorable factors here which it might be difficult to
secure elsewhere: The shopping district here is near enough to the
central library to make frequent delivery possible, and the management
of the store where our station is located is broad enough to see that
the possibility of borrowing a book free, from the library, even when
presented as an immediate alternative to the purchase of the same book
from the counters of the store, does not, in the long run, injure sales.

It is not absolutely necessary, of course, to operate this scheme from a
department store, neither is greater distance an absolute bar to
frequent deliveries. I believe that this kind of long-distance service
is well worth the attention of librarians.

And, in general, I believe that a realization that all long-distance
service has its good points may do good by inducing us to dwell on those
points and to try to make them of more influence in our work.


At bottom, a departmental system in a large institution is simply an
outcome of the fact that its head requires aid in administration. At
first, perhaps, he can actually do everything with his own hand; next he
requires helpers, but he can oversee them all; finally, he must have
overseers, who are the only ones with whom he deals directly and for
whom he naturally classifies the work and divides it among them
accordingly. This is not merely a symbolical or fanciful account of such
a development. There are plenty of heads of institutions, educational,
commercial and industrial, who have personally seen every stage of
it--who are now administering a complicated system of departments where
they once did everything themselves. In particular, there are now
librarians, at the head of great libraries, who began library work by
performing, or at least overseeing directly, the elementary acts of
which library operation may be taken to consist, and who have watched
such a simple system of superintendence develop year by year into
something complex.

Such a development, as I have said, is naturally based on some kind of
classification. If one could sit down and, foreseeing the growth of his
institution for years to come, settle upon the way in which that growth
should be cared for, his classification might possibly be more logical
and workable than most classifications now are. The best of them are
wofully imperfect, as no one knows better than we librarians. And when
division into classes proceeds _pari passu_ with growth, we are
necessarily bothered with that troublesome thing--cross-classification.
As our institution grows, one direction of growth and a corresponding
set of conditions and needs comes into the foreground after another, and
our basis of classification is apt to change accordingly.

In the library, for instance, territorial expansion has frequently
claimed the right of way. It has been evident that wide regions within
the municipality were not reached by the library’s activities; hence the
establishment of branches--practically classification on a regional or
territorial basis. Next, perhaps, some other need is pushed
forward--say, the necessity for special care given to the children of
the community. Here is a non-territorial basis for classification,
founded only upon the age of the library’s users. These are not classes
and sub-classes, but are entirely different primary systems of
classification, whose dividing lines cross and do not run parallel. A
man who should sit down and try to evolve, at first hand, some sort of
classification of library work, might adopt one or the other, but not
both. In one case he might divide his city into districts, with district
superintendents and local librarians under each; in the other, he might
divide his users by ages and tastes and have a superintendent for each.
In neither case would there be cross-classification, with its
over-lapping classes and consequent interferences of jurisdiction.

But this is not the way that things work out. The librarian finds it
necessary to have his geographical subdivisions and also those based on
age, and he adopts others also as they appear desirable, without much
regard for the logic of classification. If he does take it into account,
he feels that the troubles resulting from conflicts of jurisdiction
will be more easily dealt with than those consequent upon a refusal to
respond to the present demands of the work. Also--and this is an
important factor--conflicts of jurisdiction, no matter how inevitable,
are in the future, and the present demands of the work look vastly
larger and press with insistence. Is there any wonder that he does what
lies immediately before him and lets the future take care of itself?

Unfortunately, the future always does take care of itself very well
indeed, and presents itself to demand a reckoning at the appointed time.
The library, for instance, that has its branches for different regions
and its children’s room in each gets along well enough so long as its
cross-classification of work exists only on paper. But the time comes
when departmental organization must begin, and this must be based on the
classification. There may be a superintendent of branches and a
superintendent of children’s work, or the branch librarians may report
to the librarian directly, or there may be other dispositions with other
duties and names. In any case, a children’s room at a branch library
necessarily finds itself in two departments, under two jurisdictions and
under two heads. If the branch librarian and the children’s
superintendent are both yielding in disposition, the librarian may never
have the conflict of jurisdiction brought to his attention. If either is
yielding while the other is masterful, there will also be no trouble. In
one case the branch librarian will run the adult end of her branch and
leave the other to the children’s department; in the other there will be
one branch, at least, where the children’s supervisor has little to
say--a condition of things that may be tolerated, but is surely
undesirable. But suppose that both heads are conscientious, assertive
and anxious to push the work, fond of organizing administrative details
and impatient of interference. Here we have the possibilities of trouble
at once.

The first rumblings of the storm come usually in the form of complaints
of interference, on the one side or the other. Then we have a demand
from both sides for a definition of their respective rights and
responsibilities. The librarian is asked, for instance, in just what
respects the children’s librarian shall take her orders from the branch
librarian and in what from the supervisor. This is a good deal like
petitioning the legislature to pass a law specifying exactly when a
child shall obey his father and when the mayor of the city. The
librarian who enters on this plausible path will sooner or later be lost
in the jungle. He has only himself to thank. Either he or his
predecessor started the game and he must play it out to the end. We
librarians are all responsible for each other’s faults. Let us see how
he may play it.

In the first place, his is the power. What is done in any department is
done by his orders or by the orders of some one endowed by him with
authority to give orders. He has given two persons authority over the
same field at one point, and it is his business to straighten things
out. Here are some possible ways:

1. The authority of one head may be absolutely extinguished in the field
where conflict exists. Here we have legalized the state of things
described above as existing with a combination of one spineless
department-head and one very spiny one. It works, but at the expense of
everything that tends to the efficiency of the extinguished authority,
and I do not recommend it.

2. An attempt may be made, as noted above, to draw a line between the
two spheres of authority and keep each in its place. This appeals to
those who are fond of detail, for it can be done only by considering
and ticketing details. A line, defined by some one clear principle,
cannot be drawn in a field of this kind between two things both of which
logically cover that field. It is logical that the children’s librarian
in a branch should be wholly under the authority of the branch
librarian, since she is a branch employee like the others. It is just as
logical that she should be wholly under the authority of the supervisor,
of whose department she is a part. If we are to define the things in
which she is to obey the one and the other, they must be enumerated one
by one. And then other things will turn up that have not been thus
enumerated, and we are in trouble again. This plan, as I have said,
appeals to those who revel in regulations and specifications, but I can
recommend it no more than the other.

3. One department may formally and distinctly be set above the other.
Or, what is the same thing, the librarian may resolve, when a conflict
arises, always to decide the matter in favor of one particular
department. This means, in the special case that we have been using as
an illustration, either that the children’s department shall be allowed
to do nothing in a branch library without the consent of the branch
librarian, or of the supervisor of branches, if there is one; or that
all questions involving the administration of a branch children’s room
must depend ultimately on the chief of the children’s department.

This may seem to be the same as the plan by which the authority of one
department is absolutely done away in the disputed sphere. It is of the
same type, but not so drastic. In the other plan one has not authority
to do anything; in this, one must ask permission--not the same thing by
any means. This plan is practically in effect at some libraries; it
would probably be regarded as equitable by most department
heads--provided their own department were put ahead of the other. The
trouble is that it involves an arbitrary subordination--one that does
not exist in the nature of the classification. And this subordination is
local and partial; it cannot hold good for the whole department. No one
would think of placing the branch department, as a whole, under the
children’s department, or _vice versa_. And the objections, although not
so strong as those to the extinguishment plan, are of the same kind. The
efficiency of one department or the other is bound to suffer, and for
this reason I do not consider this the best plan.

4. All department heads in conflicting spheres, may be regarded simply
as advisers of the librarian and not as possessing authority in
themselves to give orders. A conflict is thus reduced to contradictory
advice from two sources. The librarian then pursues whatever course
seems good to him. This plan has attractive features, especially to
administrators of the type that like to keep a finger in every pie.
There is doubtless danger in aloofness. The librarian must know what is
going on, but I see no advantage in requiring him to decide questions of
trivial detail at frequent intervals, as he must do under this plan; for
conflicts generally begin in questions of detail and it is at the
beginning or even earlier, in anticipation, that they must be caught and
adjusted. This plan works, but it reduces the department head to a
consulting expert and burdens the librarian with detail. It does not
appeal to me at all.

5. The two conflicting departments may co-operate, intelligently and
courteously without sacrifice of authority or self-respect, under the
advice and orders of the librarian.

This is the plan that I recommend. It is the most difficult of all, and
no regulations or specifications can be formulated for carrying it out.
For this reason it will never be widely in favor. A wicked and
rebellious generation demands a sign, and in this plan there is neither
sign nor formula except that general principle of helpfulness and
willingness to place the common whole above the selfish part that is at
the antipodes of both wickedness and rebellion. It is a personal matter
and it adds one important qualification to those already necessary in
department heads--the ability to do team work. This qualification,
however, is so important, quite apart from its necessity in connection
with this plan, that we may consider it an advantage, rather than
otherwise, that the plan puts it forward and insists upon it. On the
whole I think that a library with mediocre department heads having this
qualification is better manned, and will do more satisfactory work than
one with a staff of supremely able experts, cranky, self-centered and
all pulling different ways. The efforts of members of a body like a
library staff are not to be measured arithmetically--they are what
mathematicians call “vectors”--directed quantities, like force, velocity
or acceleration. To know where a man will bring up one must have not
only his speed, but its direction. The sum of two equal forces may be
anything from zero up to their double, depending on their relative
directions, and if the sum is zero, no matter how large the components
may be, the result is precisely the same as if those components are
small, or as if neither existed. It is this sort of thing that an
eminent employer of labor had in mind when he advised, “If two of your
subordinates don’t get along together, _discharge both_ of them, no
matter how good they are.” In this man’s estimation the relative value
of team work evidently stands pretty high. I should not follow his
advice, however, without giving everyone a fair chance. I have known the
opinions of one department head about another and their ability to work
together to improve greatly on acquaintance.

The part necessarily played by the librarian in this scheme may be
regarded by some as an objection. I have already referred to
administrators who, like the late Czar of Russia, prefer to regulate all
the details of the kingdom by personal supervision. There is also the
precisely opposite type, who like to make a good machine, set it going,
and then let it alone. The trouble is that machines will not run of
themselves. They need oversight, oiling, cleaning and repairing. The
best require a minimum of all this, but all must have some of it. And
such machinery as there is in this plan requires a maximum of oversight.
It is, however, not the control of details but rather the watching of
general methods and results. Is everything running smoothly, without
“lost motion” or “backlash,” and turning out a satisfactory finished
product? If not can the trouble be located? Yes; these two cogs do not
work smoothly together. Let us find out which is at fault and adjust or
replace it; but if our investigation is fruitless, possibly the best
plan is to discard both.

I trust I have misled no one by treating here specifically of two
departments. I might have substituted the names of a dozen others. All
through library administration, and especially in the administration of
a system of branch libraries, these possibilities of conflict occur. In
branches they are generally between the branch administration and the
central departments--finance, supplies, cataloging, book-orders,
reference and circulation.

The handling of this whole matter depends, of course, on the librarian.
He it must be who is to decide on general policies or go to his Board
for a decision in cases so important that he feels their action
necessary. If the work of departments overlaps in some field where the
library’s policy has not yet been decided upon and defined, he has no
one to blame but himself if the adjustment is difficult. And if policies
are defined in advance and pains taken to inform department heads
thoroughly of their existence and import, the likelihood of serious
disagreement will be considerably lessened.

It must not be forgotten, also, that the success of any plan may be
increased or diminished by skill, or lack of skill, in handling it.

I am confident that any of the plans about which I have spoken
unfavorably above would work better under a good librarian than the best
would work under a bad one. But I forget myself; we librarians are like
Kentucky whiskey--some are better than others, but there are no bad


The human eye is so constituted that it can see clearly but a small part
of the field of vision at one time. We have learned by habit to move it
about quickly and comprehensively, so that unless our attention is
called to the fact we do not realize this limitation; but it exists. In
like manner, it is difficult for the human mind to take a comprehensive
view of a subject. We are apt to fix upon some one feature and ignore
the rest. In recent times we have been devoting our attention to the
personal element. We talk about the “man behind the gun,” a good deal. I
would not underrate him or what he can do; but it is surely necessary to
have the gun itself before the man behind it can be effective. In fact
the man _per se_ is about the most helpless of animals. His superiority
to the mere brute lies in his ability to use tools; his inferiority in
the fact that he can do almost nothing without them. A man with a gun is
indeed formidable; a wildcat can do nothing with such a tool, but then
he is reasonably formidable without it. I have yielded thus to the
temptation to depreciate the personal element somewhat, at the beginning
of an address in which it is to be discussed, because this defect of the
human mind, that tends to fix it upon one feature to the exclusion of
others, has of late apparently led many to think that a man is valuable
in himself and by himself, without anything to work with or anything to
work on.

A man is making a failure of his job; the first thought is that he must
be replaced. Nine persons out of ten fail to inquire whether anyone at
all could have succeeded under the same conditions. Your cook prepares
an inedible meal; you rage and call loudly for a new regime in the
kitchen; whereas all the time your competent servant has been struggling
with a faulty range, tough meat and bad flour.

Shall we, then, sit down and refuse to do anything at all unless our
tools and our materials are of the best? By no means; one of the chief
distinctions between a capable and an inefficient worker lies in the
ability of the former to make the best of unpromising conditions. No one
can do as well with poor tools and materials as with good ones; but the
good worker will turn out a better job with the former than the
inefficient one will.

These things apply of course to the library worker as to all others,
especially to librarians in small towns where tools and materials are
apt to be not of the best. Among tools we may reckon buildings, books,
and all kinds of library appliances. The material is the community on
which the librarian by proper use of her tools aims to produce a certain

Now it is open to such a worker to view her task from any one of three
different standpoints--to choose, we will say, from three different
kinds of librarianship. She may be a librarian of the day before
yesterday, of yesterday, or of to-day.

The librarian of the day before yesterday is the librarian of a part of
the community. Not only does she make no effort to encourage the use of
her library, but she distinctly discourages certain persons, and certain
classes of persons, from entering it. This grade of librarian includes
as many kinds as there are persons or classes of the community that may
be discouraged. Some, for instance, exclude all the poorly-dressed, or
all of inferior social status; others welcome just these and exclude the
well-dressed and well-to-do. The philanthropic donor of a city branch
library building once waxed very wroth when she saw a carriage standing
in front of the building. Her library, she said, was for the poor, not
for “carriage people.”

These ways of looking at things are sometimes an inheritance from former
conditions. A subscription library turned into a free public library
hesitates to welcome, all at once, the lower strata that have so long
been banished from its doors. On the other hand, a public library that
has developed from a charitable foundation regards these as its proper
users and looks askance at the well-to-do, as in the case of the good
lady with her “carriage people.”

When I speak of the exclusion of a class of persons, I do not mean that
they are formally kept out or even consciously discouraged; this is why
it is so easy to be a librarian of the day before yesterday. That day
was a comfortable day; an easy day to be self-satisfied in; it had its
libraries for the rich and its libraries for the poor. Some class was
always named, even if some were always left out.

It may be that the exclusion operates through features that are in
themselves excellent. I have seen, in a small community, a library
building so fine, with such an atmosphere of quiet good-taste and so
lady-like a librarian, that the great public no more dared to enter
therein than if a fierce lion had stood in the doorway. I have known
libraries, too, in which the books were too good. Certain classes in the
community where not intellectually up to them.

I have also known libraries that were never used by the foreigners in
their communities, or by the colored people. These latter, strange to
say, were largely in the North. The South recognizes the Negro and pays
him much attention--in its way. It settles his status and sees that it
is observed. He has the last four seats on the trolley car and he has
his separate library accommodations. In the North he is on an equality
with the white man--in everything but reality. He is welcomed to the
library in theory and he does not use it in practice. I fear that in
this respect too many of us belong to the day before yesterday.

I trust that I have made it clear that the librarian of
day-before-yesterday is not a bad librarian. He or she is just a
librarian of day before yesterday--that is all.

Now we will step into one of Mr. H.G. Wells’ “Time machines” and take a
short spin ahead into yesterday. The librarian of yesterday excludes no
one at all from his library; for he is within one step of being
up-to-date. He discourages no person nor any class of persons. He stands
in his doors with outstretched arms and announces that his library is
free to all, that it has books for all--rich and poor, old and young,
barbarian, Scythian, bond and free. The selection of books is well
thought-out and adapted to the community in which it is. The
accommodations are ample and fitting. Everyone is welcome. What more
could you ask? Nothing at all; provided you are still in yesterday.
Yesterday this sort of library was regarded as the last word in the
popularization of the book, and it is indeed a long step in advance of
day-before-yesterday. The librarian’s material is before him; he has
good books; is more needed than this? Yea, verily. One may have a nail
and a hammer to drive it; also an egg, and a pan to fry it, yet one
cannot fry the egg with the hammer. Some selective action is necessary
before we can attain the result that we want. A minister, presiding at a
wedding, in which several couples were to be united at once, read the
marriage service and then exclaimed: “I pronounce you men and wives; now
you can sort yourselves.” The trouble is that things will not “sort
themselves”; they must have some one to sort them--and this is what is
the matter with the library and the librarian of yesterday. They fail to
make connection between the man and the book, so that part of the fine
collection remains wholly or relatively unused, and part of the
community that it ought to serve remains apart from the library, despite
the librarian’s outstretched arms and his words of welcome. If he had
read his Bible as his great-grandparents used to do, he would have
realized that to fill the table at the wedding feast of literature and
life a simple invitation sufficeth not. We must go out into the highways
and hedges and compel them to come in. The attitude of passive
expectancy, of ability and willingness to serve those who come, was well
enough for yesterday, but not for the new library day that has dawned in
these United States of America. Apparently the library dawn moves
eastward as the physical day moves westward, for over in the mother
country only a few lofty peaks are yet gilded by its sunshine. Even in
our own land there are gorges where the dusk lingers; there are even
grottoes where darkness will always be. But we are mostly in the light.
We realize that if we have a book on the dyeing of textile fabrics and
if there is an unheeding man in our community who would be helped by
that book, all the complacent receptivity that we can muster will not
suffice to bring them together. And with this knowledge comes an
awakening of conscience. Long ago we stopped crying out “Am I my
brother’s keeper?” We realize that as members of the community we must
bear our share of responsibility for what is done in the community and
that collectively we must take measures for the community’s welfare.
Each of us is a Roman dictator, in that it is our business to see that
the Republic suffers no harm. Thus the community appoints special
officers to look out for the interests of its members in certain
directions. We public librarians are such officers. We are proud of
saying that we stand on the same plane as the teachers in our schools
and the professors in our colleges; nay, even a little higher, for the
facilities for education over which we preside are offered long after
school and college years are over.

Now the teacher does not stand in the doorway and announce that she is
willing and ready to instruct all who may so desire in reading, writing
and arithmetic--that she has a well-equipped schoolroom, blackboards,
globes and textbooks for all who will take advantage of them. Not so;
the community goes out and compels its members to take advantage of all
these things. In like manner, also, the community makes all sorts of
laws for its own preservation and betterment; it does not say “See, here
are good laws; come ye who will and obey them.” On the contrary it goes
out into highways and hedges and sees that all its members obey.

I would not push this analogy too far. No one expects that the community
will require that every one within its borders shall use the public
library so many times a month, or, indeed that it shall be used at all.
The nature of the institution precludes such compulsion. But it should
require that every effort be made to see that no section of the books on
the library shelves shall lie idle and that no section of the community
shall fail to use books, either through ignorance or through doubt of a

The librarian should say: Here is an unused book. Is it without value in
this community? Then let it make place for a better. Has it value? Then
why is it not used? Somewhere, in this community, is the man, woman or
child, who, whether realizing it or not, would derive pleasure or
profit, or both from reading it. It is my business to seek out that

Again: Here is a man who does not read books. Is this because no book
would appeal to him? Impossible! He may think so, but there lives no one
to whom the soul of some fellow man, speaking through the printed page,
will not bring a welcome message. Is there such a book on my shelves? If
so, it is my business to get it into that man’s hands; if not, I must
buy, beg or borrow it as soon as I may.

When the librarian has begun to talk in this fashion, lo! the dawn is
shining, he is a librarian of to-day. The librarian of to-day frowns on
no one, discourages no one; and he stands not passively at his door with
open arms. He walks through his library; he walks through his town. He
knows the books in one and the dwellers in the other, and he knows both
in their relationships, actual and possible. If there are disused books
on his shelves or non-readers in his community, it is not because he has
made no effort to bring them together; his failures are not those of

The other day, sitting in a stalled trolley car, my eye fell upon a
street-cleaner, and I began to watch him with interest. He was
busy--apparently, I was going to say, but that does him injustice. He
was really busy. While I watched him--and the car was delayed for some
little time--he was constantly at work, pushing over the asphalt the
broad scraper that was intended to rid it of dust and refuse. And yet he
did not clean the street, for he took no account of the inequalities of
its surface. These required intelligent adaptation of his movements at
every instant, and to this he paid no attention. He went through the
motions; his actual expenditure of physical energy was probably as great
as if he had mixed a little brain-work with it, but it failed to
accomplish what it ought, simply from that lack. And yet it would have
been difficult for any overseer to give him orders that would have
bettered the matter. It would have been hard to point out at any given
instant, his errors of commission or of omission. The only way in which
one could tell that he was not doing his work properly was by the
result. He was put there to clean the street--and the street was not

So with the librarians of yesterday and the day before. They are hard
workers, not idlers. They have the tools, and they go through the
motions. They may tire themselves out with their labor. Their library
buildings may be attractive and clean; their technique perfect, their
books well selected and in good order, their catalogs excellent. It is
hard to point to any one thing that they are doing incorrectly or that
they are omitting. And yet we must judge their work by its fruits; they
are put into a community of actual or potential readers in charge of a
collection of books. What are these for, if not to be read? Yet many
remain untouched. For what purpose have the schools taught the
townspeople to read? Thousands of them make no good use of that
knowledge. To the librarian of to-day the non-realization of this and
the lack of effort to remedy it mean failure. In order to make a little
more definite our ideas of these three kinds of librarians, let us
consider one or two very practical problems and see how each would
probably view them and act upon them.

First. The library circulates no books on plumbing. For the librarian of
the day before yesterday, this is no problem at all. Probably his
library has no books on plumbing. His library is not for plumbers, and
he has never suspected that it could be. As for the plumbers in his
community, they too have never considered the possibility that they
might learn something of their work from books in a public library. They
are therefore silent and uncomplaining. Peace reigns and there is a
general state of satisfaction all around--the satisfaction of blissful
ignorance and of the day before yesterday.

The librarian of yesterday, on the other hand, sees the problem clearly
and is concerned about it. He has good books on plumbing and nobody
reads them. Evidently the more advanced grade of the librarian has not
affected the plumbers--they still remain in ignorance of the public
library. But what is he to do? Here is the library; here are the books;
here is the librarian, ready and willing to distribute them to all who
may come. If the generation--or any part of it--is so wicked and
perverse that it comes not, what is there to do? What, indeed! And so
library and community remain in the twilight of yesterday just before
the dawn.

The librarian of to-day not only sees the problem and is concerned about
it, but he proceeds to do something. Just what he does or how he does it
is of far less consequence than the fact that he sees action in the
matter to be necessary and possible. He may go personally and interview
the plumbers; he may send them lists; he may get permission to address
the plumbers’ union; he may do one or many of a thousand things to
remedy matters, and although it is certain that what he does will not
be completely effective, it is equally certain that it will have _some_
good effect, which is the main thing.

Problem Second. Examination of the registry list shows that there are
practically no card holders in a certain part of the town. As in the
former case, this is no problem at all to the day before yesterday
librarian. Its existence would in general not appear to him, certainly
not as the result of any kind of statistical investigation. If he were
informed of it he would regard the fact with complacency. The library is
for readers, and if certain persons are non-readers they had better keep
away. Nothing could be simpler. The librarian of yesterday, on the other
hand, feels that all is not right. It is certainly too bad that when
library privileges are offered free to all, so large a portion of the
community should fail to take advantage of them. The library stands
ready to help these people, if they will only come. Why don’t they?

The librarian of yesterday thus stops with a question; the librarian of
to-day proceeds to answer it. He finds out why they don’t come. He may
discover one or more of any number of things; whatever may be the
causes, they are sure to be interesting, at least to him, for the to-day
librarian is a born investigator. It may be that the non-readers are
literate, but take no interest in books; perhaps they say they have no
time to read; possibly the library has not the kind of books that they
like; they may be foreigners, reading no English, and the library may
have no books in their tongue. Whatever the trouble may be, the
librarian of to-day sets about to remedy it. He may not succeed; but it
is the diagnosis and the attempt at treatment, not its success, that
constitute him what he is.

Problem Third. The reading done through the library is trivial and
inconsequential. The fiction drawn is of low order, and there is little
else read. The way in which this will affect the three types of
librarian may be predicted at once. The librarian of the
day-before-yesterday heeds it not; the librarian of yesterday heeds and
perhaps worries, but does nothing. The librarian of to-day finds out the
trouble and then tries to remedy it.

And so it goes: you may construct other problems for yourselves and
imagine their solution, or lack of solution.

Now, it is obvious that there are great and evident objections to being
a librarian of to-day and corresponding advantages in being one of the
other kinds. In the first place the to-day variety of librarianship
involves brainwork and it is always difficult to use one’s brain--we saw
that in the case of the street-cleaner. Then this kind of librarian must
be always looking for trouble. Instead of congratulating himself that
all is going smoothly, he must set out with the premise that all cannot
be going smoothly. There must be some way in which his books can be made
to serve more people and serve them better; and it is his business to
find out that way. Then the to-day librarian must use his statistics.
The librarian of the day before yesterday probably takes none at all.
The librarian of yesterday collects them with diligence, but regards any
suggestion that they might be of use somewhat as the lazy wood-sawyer
did the advice that he should sharpen his saw. “I should think I had a
big enough job to cut up all this wood,” he replied petulantly, “without
stopping to sharpen saws.” The librarian of yesterday has trouble enough
in collecting and tabulating his statistics without stopping to use
them--to make any deductions from them--to learn where the library
machine is failing and where he should use the wrench or the oil can.
All these things and many others make it easier for the overworked
librarian to drop back into yesterday, or the day before. It should be
borne in mind, however, that the difference between the three types of
librarian is not so much difference in the amount of work done as it is
in attitude of mind. The librarian of to-day does not necessarily expend
more energy than the librarian of day before yesterday--but it is
expended in a different direction and with a different object. It is to
be feared that some librarians of small libraries allow themselves to
become discouraged after reading of the great things that have been
accomplished by large institutions with plenty of money to spend--the
circulation of millions of books yearly, the purchase of additions by
the tens of thousands, the provision of exhibitions for the children,
the story-telling by professionals, the huge collections on special
subjects, technology, art or history. It almost seems as if success were
simply a matter of spending and as if without money to spend, failure
should be expected as a matter of course.

On the contrary, all that the money does is to make possible success on
a large and sensational scale--without the proper spirit and the proper
workers the result might be failure on a scale quite as sensational. And
an enthusiastic spirit, a high aim and unflagging energy--these are
things that no money can buy and that will bring success on the small
scale as on the large one.

We are fortunate--we who have charge of libraries and are trying to do
something worth while with them--that there is perhaps less of the
spirit of pure commercialism among us than among some other classes of
workers. For this, in part, we have to thank our inadequate salaries.
Persons who desire to work simply for the material reward will select
some other field. We are glad to get our reward--we certainly earn it;
but I venture to say that in the case of most of us there is also
something in the work that appeals to us. And that something is the
thing that, pushed to its furthest extent, will bring the dawn of to-day
into the most backward library. It is not a very inspiring thing simply
to sit down and watch a pile of books--hardly more so, I should think,
than to take care of a pile of bricks or a load of turnips. Interest,
enthusiasm, inspiration, come with realization of the fact that every
one of those books has a mission and that it is the librarian’s business
to find what it is and to see that it is performed. In the large,
wealthy institution this duty may be accompanied by the expenditure of
vast sums, and may be performed with the aid of things that only large
sums of money can buy; in the small library there may be but a single
librarian and only a few dollars to spend. But, just as in the case of a
city librarian with an ample salary, she has open to her the choice of
those three types of librarianship--the day before yesterday, yesterday
and to-day.

And how about the librarian of to-morrow? Perhaps it may be as well to
leave him or her for future consideration; but I cannot help saying just
a word. May it not be that in the days to come we shall have enough
civic pride to do whatever we may find to do--in our libraries or
anywhere else, not with our eyes fixed only upon the work itself,
important as that may be, but with the broader viewpoint of its effect
upon the whole community? May it not be that this librarian of to-morrow
will ask not, “Will it raise my circulation?” or even “Will it improve
the quality of my reading?” but “Will it better the reading that is done
in this community?” That librarian will not rejoice that his library
circulation of good novels has dropped, when he realizes that twice as
many bad novels are bought and read outside. He will be pleased that the
children in his library have learned to wash their hands, but chiefly
because he hopes that what they have learned may react upon the physical
cleanliness--and perhaps on the moral cleanliness, too--of the
community. Much as he will love the library, he will love it as an
agency for the improvement of the community in which he lives and works,
and he will do nothing for its aggrandizement, expansion or improvement
that involves a change of the community in the opposite direction. We
shall not see one library rejoicing because it has enticed away the
users of some other library; we may even see a library rejoicing that it
has lost its readers in Polish history, we will say, when it becomes
known that they have gone to another library with a better collection in
that subject.

I confess that I am looking forward to the day when we shall take this
view--when the adage “Every man for himself and the devil take the
hindmost” may be forgotten among institutions in the same town. The
policy that it represents makes for high speed, perhaps, but not for
solidarity. In a fight such as we are waging with the forces of
ignorance and indifference we should all keep shoulder to shoulder. This
is why the librarian should say: “I am a citizen; nothing in this city
is without interest to me.” That is why he should be a librarian of
to-day, and why he may even look forward with hopefulness to the dawn of
a still better to-morrow.


Is it more important in education to impart definite items of
information or to train the mind so that it will know how to acquire and
wish to acquire? To ask the question is to answer it; yet we do not
always live up to our lights.

In the older methods the teacher, or rather his predecessors, decided
what it would be necessary for the child to memorize, and then he was
made to memorize, while still without appreciation of the need of so
doing. We are perhaps in danger today of going to the other extreme. We
require so little memorization by the student that the memory, as a
practical tool of everyday life, is in danger of falling into disuse. It
is surely possible for us to exercise our pupils’ memories, to develop
them, and to control them, without giving them the fatal idea that
memory is a substitute for thought, or that the assimilation of others’
ideas, perfect though it may be, will altogether take the place of the
development of one’s own. There are still things that one must learn by
heart, but since they must be retained below the threshold of
consciousness, it is well that if possible they should also be acquired
below that threshold. The problem of consciously learning a quantity of
items of any kind and then relegating them to one’s subconsciousness in
such a way that they will be available at any given time is not, of
course, impossible. Most of us have at our disposal many facts that we
have learned in this way; but I venture to assert that most of us have
lost a large proportion of what we thus acquired. Now a man never
learns by rote the names of his relations, the positions of the rooms in
his house, the names of the streets in his town. He has acquired them
subconsciously as he needs them. When the human mind becomes convinced
of the need of information of this kind “in its business,” the acquiring
comes as a matter of course. In a language, the paradigms may be learned
unconsciously when the pupil sees that they are necessary in order to
understand an interesting passage; the multiplication table and tables
of weights and measures require no conscious memorization; or at least
such memorization may be undertaken voluntarily as a recognized means to
a desired end. I say these things may be done; I am sure that they are
in many schools; I am equally sure that they were unheard of in my own
boyhood; that is, as recognized methods in teaching. Of course, in spite
of schools and teachers and methods, a vast amount of information and
training has always been acquired in this way. I do not remember ever
“learning to read” as a set task. I am sure that none of my children
ever did so. We recognized the desirability of knowing how. We wanted to
learn, and so we learned; that is all. Of course our teachers and
parents and friends helped us along.

Is not this what the school is for--to make the pupil anxious to learn
and then to help him? When all schools are conducted on this principle,
we shall be very happy, but apparently it is not so simple as it would

What we should try to approximate, at all events, is an emancipation
from the thraldom of unwillingness on the part of the pupil--to bring it
about that he shall desire to learn and will take what measures he can
to do so, gladly availing himself of what help we can offer him.

I have said that what we need is to stimulate the pupil’s desire and
then to satisfy it. I have known teachers who were competent to do
both--who could take an ignorant, unwilling pupil and make of him an
enthusiast, thirsting for knowledge, in a few weeks. We all know of the
ideal university whose faculty consisted of Mark Hopkins on one end of a
log. I am sorry the creator of that epigram put his teacher on a log.
There are plenty of logs, and, from this fact, too many persons, I am
afraid, have leaped to the conclusion that there are also plenty of Mark
Hopkinses. I fear that one trouble with educators is that, hitching
their wagons to stars, they have assumed the possibility that
terrestrial luminaries also are able to raise us to the skies. If we had
a million Mark Hopkinses and a million boys for them to educate, we
should need only a sufficient quantity of logs; we should be forever
absolved from planning school-houses and making out schedules, from
writing textbooks and establishing libraries. As it is, we must do all
these things. We must adopt any and all devices to arouse and hold the
pupil’s interest, and we must similarly seek out and use all kinds of
machinery to satisfy that interest when once aroused. Of these devices
and machines, the individual teacher, with or without his textbooks,
lectures, recitations, laboratory work, and formal courses, is only one,
and perhaps in some cases not the one to be preferred as the primary
agent. Among such devices I believe that a collection of books, properly
selected, disposed, and used can be made to play a very important part,
both in arousing interest in a subject and in satisfying it--in other
words in teaching it properly.

And first let us see what it may do to stimulate a general interest in
knowledge. Of late I have seen cropping out here and there what seems to
me a pedagogical heresy--the thesis that no kind of training is of
value in fitting the pupil for anything but the definite object that it
has in view. We can, according to this view, teach a boy to argue about
triangles, but this will not help him in a legal or business discussion.
We may teach him to solve equations, and he will then be an
equation-solver--nothing else. We may teach him to read Greek and he
will then be some sort of a Greek scholar, but his reaction to other
attempts to teach him will not be affected. Anything like a general
training is a contradiction in terms. If this is true, a great part of
what I am saying is foolish, but I do not believe it. Doubtless we have
exaggerated the effect of certain kinds of training. The old college
graduate who, having been through four years of Latin, Greek, and
mathematics, considered himself able with slight additional training, to
undertake to practice law or medicine or manage a parish, was probably
too sanguine. Yet I refuse to believe that a man’s brain is so shut off
in knowledge-tight compartments that one may exercise one part of it
without the slightest effect on the others. I cannot now write with my
toes, but I am sure that I could learn to do so much more quickly
because I know how to use my fingers for the purpose.

And it is indubitable, I think, that the best general preparation for
mental activity of whatever kind is contact with the minds of
others--early, late, and often. It tones up all one’s reactions--makes
him mentally stronger, quicker, and more accurate. Some children get
this at home, where there is a numerous family of persons who are both
thoughtful and mentally alert. Some meet at home, besides members of the
family, visitors who add to the variety of their contacts. Few get it in
school, with much variety. And it is futile to expect most of our
children to get it anywhere directly from persons. This being the case,
it is wonderfully fortunate that we have so many of the recorded souls
of human beings between the covers of books. With them mental contacts
may be numerous, wide, and easy. To interest a man in a stretch of
country take him up to a height whence he may overlook it. There is a
patch of woods, there a hill, there is a winding stream. He will see in
imagination the wild flowers under the trees, the windswept rocks behind
the hill, the trout in the stream. He will wonder, too, what unimagined
things there may be and he will long to find out. To interest a pupil in
a subject turn him loose in a room containing a hundred books about it.
He will browse about, finding a dozen things that he understands and a
hundred that he does not. He will get such a bird’s-eye view that his
stimulated imagination will long for closer acquaintance. And if you
want to interest him in the world of ideas in general, turn him loose in
a general library. The things that he will get are not to be ascertained
by an examination. They are intangible, but their results are not.

In an illuminating article on the events just preceding the present
European war, Professor Munroe Smith holds that it was precipitated
chiefly by bringing to the front at every step military rather than
diplomatic considerations. The trouble with military men, he says, is
that they take no account of “imponderables”--by which he means public
opinion, national feeling, injured pride, joy, grief--all those things,
intellectual and emotional, that cannot be expressed in terms of men,
guns, supplies, and military position. I have been wondering whether
some other technically trained persons--educators, for instance, do not
tend toward a similar neglect of imponderables, measuring educational
values solely in terms of hours, and units, and the passing of
examinations. It is a fault common to all highly trained specialists.
The Scripture has a phrase for it, as for most things--“ye neglect the
weightier matters of the law--judgment and faith.” These, you will note,
are to be classed with Professor Munroe Smith’s “imponderables,” whereas
mint, anise, and cummin are commercial products.

At least one noted educator, William James, did not make this error, for
he bids us note that the emotional “imponderable”--though he does not
use this word--possesses the priceless property of unlocking within us
unsuspected stores of energy and placing them at our disposal. “I thank
thee, Roderick, for the word,” says Fitz-James in “The Lady of the
Lake”: “it nerves my heart; it steels my sword.” One would hardly expect
to find educational psychology in Scott’s verse, but here it is. The
word that Roderick Dhu spoke (I forget just what it was, but I think he
called his rival a bad name) unlocked in Fitz-James an unexpected store
of reserve energy, and the result, as I recall it, was quite unfortunate
from the Gaelic point of view. We cannot afford to neglect the
imponderables; and it is their presence and their influence that are
fostered by a collection of books. If you will add together the weight
of leather, paper, glue, thread, and ink in a book you will get the
whole weight of the volume. There is naught ponderable left; and yet
what is left is all that makes the thing a book--all that has power to
influence the lives and souls of men--the imponderable part, fit for the
unlocking of energies.

I would not have you think, although I believe this to be at bottom a
matter of principles, that it is not possible to apply these principles
very directly and concretely in the daily practice of an educational
institution. I desire to call your attention for a moment to the
testimony of one who has had great experience and practice in the
administration of a collection of books in such an institution and in
their use for the purposes already outlined--Mr. Frederick C. Hicks,
assistant librarian of Columbia University, New York City, from whose
recent review article on this subject I propose to quote a few
paragraphs. Mr. Hicks is writing primarily of college instruction, but,
as he notes in the first paragraph that I shall quote, what he says
applies with equal cogency to the secondary school. He writes:

     The general tendency in all instruction today, including even that
     in preparatory and high schools, is from what may be called the
     few-book method to the many-book method--a recognition of the power
     of the printed page for which librarians have always stood sponsor.
     The lecture, note-taking, text-book and quiz method of instruction
     is fast passing away in undergraduate as well as in graduate study.
     Textbooks are still in use in undergraduate and Master of Arts
     courses, but they have been relegated to a subordinate position.
     Emphasis is laid on work done and the assimilation of ideas
     gathered from many sources rather than upon memorizing the treatise
     of one author. Necessarily, references are chiefly to easily
     accessible works of secondary authority, and reading instead of
     research is the objective.

     From the library point of view, the growth of the laboratory or
     case method of instruction appears to be an independent phenomenon.
     It should be noticed, however, that coincident with it is the
     general tendency to adopt a policy of teaching each subject with
     emphasis on its relations to other subjects.

     Most universities now give courses for which no textbook is
     available. For instance, Professor Frederick J. Turner, of Harvard
     University, announces in a syllabus of 116 pages that there is no
     textbook suitable for use in his course on the History of the West
     in the United States. He thereupon gives citations to about 2,100
     separate readings contained in 1,300 volumes, and says that his
     course requires not less than 120 pages of reading per week in
     these books. Professor James Harvey Robinson’s course in Columbia
     University on the History of the Intellectual Class in Western
     Europe has no textbook; and the reading for a class of 156 students
     is indicated in a pamphlet of 53 pages, containing references to
     301 books. Illustrations could be taken from almost any subject in
     the university curriculum.

This is essentially a teacher’s view. Listen now to that of a public
librarian, Mr. John Cotton Dana, of Newark, New Jersey. He says:

     In our high schools we spend literally millions of dollars to equip
     laboratories, kitchens, carpenter shops, machine shops, and what
     not, to be used by a small part of the pupils for a small part of
     the short school day. This is partly because so to do is the
     fashion of the hour, partly also because the products of work in
     those shops, kitchens, and laboratories can be seen, touched, and
     handled, are real things even to the most unintelligent.

     For books, the essential tools of every form of acquisition, we
     spend, outside of textbooks, a few paltry thousands. The things a
     child makes we can see, and we are impressed by them; the knowledge
     he gains, the power of thought he acquires--these cannot be made
     visible and are not appreciated by the ignorant; they can only be
     certified to by the teacher and demonstrated by the student’s words
     and deeds as he goes through life.

     Mastery of print is mastery of world-knowledge. Our young people do
     not have it. Surely they should be led to acquire it, and where
     better than in the high schools? To aid them in this acquisition
     the high schools, should have ample collections of books, and these
     collections of books should become active teaching organisms
     through the ministrations of competent librarians.

     Of all teaching laboratories, there is one which is plainly of
     supreme importance--that of books.

I trust that you are with me so far; for I am about to make a further
advance that experience teaches me is very difficult, except for
librarians. I am going to urge that your collection of books, when you
have made it, be put in charge of one who has studied the methods of
making the contents of books available to the reader--their shelving,
physical preparation, classification, cataloguing; the ways in which to
fit them to their users, to record their use, and to prevent their
abuse. This means a trained librarian.

In all departments where expert knowledge and skill are necessary it is
difficult to explain to a non-expert the reasons for this necessity and
exactly in what the expert knowledge consists. We are so accustomed to
accept the fact in certain departments that it passes there without
question. Unfortunately that is not the case with the selection and
administration of a library. Most persons understand quite well that
special training is necessary before one can practice law, or medicine,
or engineering. No one would undertake to drive a motor car or even ride
a bicycle without some previous experience; but it is quite usual to
believe that a collection of books may be administered and its use
controlled by totally untrained and inexperienced persons--a retired
clergyman, a broken-down clerk, a janitor, perhaps. I once asked a
young woman who came for advice about taking up library work what had
inclined her toward that particular occupation. She was quite frank with
me; she said: “Why, my father and mother didn’t think I was good for
anything else.” This estimate of the library is by no means confined to
the parents of would-be library workers. And even where it is recognized
that some training and experience are necessary in administering a large
public institution, there is a lingering feeling that a comparatively
small collection, like that in a school, needs no expert supervision.
The fact that there are in a school plenty of experts in other lines
seems to have been not without its effect on this attitude. “Why,
Professor Smith is one of the best chemists in the state; Miss Jones is
an acknowledged authority on oriental history; do you mean to tell me
that either of them would not make a perfectly satisfactory librarian?”
Which is something like saying, “Mr. Robinson is our foremost banker;
should he not be able to superintend the dyeing department in a textile
mill?” Or, “Rev. Mr. Jenkins is our most eloquent pulpit orator; he can
surely run the 2:15 express!”

Are my metaphors too violent? I think not. We are dealing here with
imponderables, as I have said, but the most imponderable thing of all,
and the most potent, is the human mind. To wield, concentrate, and
control our battery of energies we want a correlated energy--one whose
relations to them all are close and one who knows how to pull all the
throttles, turn all the valves, and operate all the mechanism that
brings them into play. It takes two years of hard work, nowadays, for a
college graduate to get through a library school, and it should not be
necessary to argue that during these two years he is working hard on
essentials and is assimilating material that the untrained man however
able, cannot possibly acquire in a few month’s casual association with a
library or from mere association with books, no matter how long or how
intimate. You will pardon me, I am sure, some further quotation from Mr.
Hicks’s illuminating article. After calling our attention to the fact
that the effort to meet changing conditions in instruction is purely
technical, he goes on:

     The librarian stands in the position of an engineer to whom is
     presented a task which by the methods of his profession he must
     perform. Numerical growth, expansion, addition of new schools and
     new subjects, and the introduction of the laboratory method by
     which books are made actual tools for use, all mean to the
     librarian more books, larger reading-rooms and more of them, a
     large staff specialized and grouped into departments, the
     supervision of a complicated system, and capable business
     administration. These are all technical matters and are of
     sufficient magnitude to require all of the time and strength of
     those to whom they are entrusted....

     In a reference library, open shelves, whether in department
     libraries or in the general library, require much high-grade
     library service. The reference librarian becomes a direct teacher
     in the use of books and gives constant assistance not merely in
     finding separate books but in dealing with the whole literature of
     a subject....

     The whole development from the few-book method to the many-book
     method presupposes a system of reserve books. By this expression is
     meant the placing of a collection of books behind an enclosure of
     some kind from which they are given out by a library assistant for
     use in the room. The reserve collections, continually changing in
     accordance with the directions of instructors, are in reality
     composite textbooks....

     The mere clerical work of maintaining an efficient reserve system
     is large, its success being dependent upon intelligent co-operation
     between the teaching faculty and the library, but it involves also
     a technical problem to be solved by the librarian. What relation
     does the number of copies of a given reserve book bear to its use?
     To put the question concretely, how many copies of a book are
     required to supply a class of 200 students, all of whom must read
     thirty pages of the book within two weeks?

I like so much one of Mr. Hicks’s expressions that I desire to emphasize
it at the close of what I am saying. A library, used for teaching
purposes in a school, is indeed, “a composite textbook.” It insures
contact with a composite instead of a single mind. The old idea was
that contact of this kind always resulted in confusion--in mental
instability. There was a time when the effort was to protect the mind
through life from any such unbalancing contact. The individual
was protected from familiarity with more than one set of
opinions--religious, political, social, philosophical, scientific. He
was taught facts as facts and no emphasis was placed on the more
important fact that there are degrees of certainty and points of view.
The next step was to give the individual a free head after the formal
processes of education had terminated. Getting out of college was like
escaping from a box, where one had been shut up with Presbyterians and
Free Traders and Catastrophists and Hegelians--or their opposites, for
the contents of all the boxes were not alike. Now, we set the boy free
when he enters college and we are beginning to give him a little fresh
air in the high school. Why not go back to the beginning? Why not, at
any rate, avoid the implication that there is the same backing behind
all that we teach or tell? Some teachers, and some parents, have made
this plan succeed. One of them is Mr. H.R. Walmsley, who writes in the
_Volta Review_ (Washington, April, 1915), on “How I Taught My Boy the
Truth.” Says he:

     I pondered over these things, and determined that I would never
     tell a falsehood to my child; that I would tell him the truth upon
     every subject, and that I would not evade or refuse to answer any
     question. I kept my resolution and have obtained most excellent
     results. The child doubted nothing I told him. He knew that as far
     as I was able I would reply truthfully to any question he might
     care to ask. In answering him I was always careful to qualify my
     statements thus: “This is so,” “I believe so,” “It is believed to
     be,” “It is claimed to be,” “Those who should know say,” etc. So he
     knew the basis from which I spoke. Throughout his life, when he was
     told anything that looked doubtful, he would say, “I will ask

This plan is practicable from the child’s earliest years. As soon as he
learns to read we may begin to supplement it by reference to original
documents. This means a library at the very beginning, and at high
school age it means a large library. It need not all be in the school.
In the smallest towns there are now respectable public collections; the
school may confine itself to the subjects in its own curriculum. But
whatever we do, let us not teach the child, with the implication of
equal authority, that twice two is is four, that material bodies are
composed of molecules, and that the Tories in the Revolution were all
bad. Tell him that there are other aspects, if they exist, and as soon
as he is able let him examine those aspects. He will be able far sooner
than some of us are willing to admit.

We librarians feel somewhat strongly on this matter because our own
institutions possess by their very nature that form of neutrality that
exposes both sides without advocating either. It seems to be assumed by
some persons that neutrality means ignorance. Of course, ignorance is
one method of insuring it. If a fairy story opens with the announcement
that the King of Nowaria is at war with the Prince of Sumboddia, you
cannot take sides until you know something about the quarrel. The
trouble is that we do not live in fairyland. In my home city the school
authorities have been trying to cultivate this kind of neutrality by
cautioning principals not to discuss the European war with their pupils.
What is the result? One of my branch librarians says in a recent report:
“I have been greatly interested by the fact that the high-school boys
and girls never ask for anything about the war. Not once during the
winter have I seen in one of them a spark of interest in the subject. It
seems so strange that it should be necessary to keep them officially
ignorant of this great war because the grandfather of one spoke French
and of another, German.” With this I thoroughly agree. I am not sure
that I do not prefer a thorough and bigoted partisanship to this
neutrality of ignorance. Better than both is the opportunity for free
investigation with enlightened guidance. The public library offers the
opportunity for the fullest and freest contact with the minds of the
world. We try to give guidance, also, as we can; but we have not the
opportunities of you teachers. Guidance is your business and your high
privilege; and if some of you have in the past guided as the jailer
guides his prisoners--for a walk around the prison yard with ball and
chain--let us be thankful that this oppressive view is giving place to
the freer idea of a guide as a counselor and friend. Such guidance means
intellectual freedom. Freedom means choice, and choice implies a
collection from which to choose. This means a library and the school
library is thus an indispensable tool in the hands of those teachers to
whom education signifies neutral training, the arousing of neutral
energies, and a control of the imponderables of life--those things
without physical weight which yet count more in the end than all the
masses with which molecular physics has to deal.


The electricians have a word that has always interested me--the word and
the thing it signifies. It is “hysteresis,” and it means that quality in
a mass of iron that resists magnetization, so that if the magnetizing
force is a moving one the magnetism always lags a little behind it. We
see this quality in many other places besides magnetic bodies--the
almost universal tendency of effects to lag behind their causes. I like
to watch it in the popular mind--the failure to “catch on” quickly--the
appreciation that comes just a little after the thing to be appreciated.
Lag everywhere, in apprehension, in knowledge, in the realization of a
situation. Everywhere hysteresis. Of course, sometimes the lag is great
and sometimes it is slight. It may be affected by physical distance, as
when the European thinks that Indians camp in the suburbs of Pittsburg
and that the citizens of Indianapolis hunt the buffalo of an evening; or
it may be a function of mental distance, as when the Wall Street
financier fondly imagines that this country is still populated chiefly
by lambs, as it undoubtedly was fifty years ago. I like to watch it as
it affects the idea of the public library as some people hold it. Now of
course, without progress, change, motion of some kind, there could be no
lag. In a permanent magnet there is no hysteresis. If the Indians and
the buffalo were still with us, the European would be thinking the
truth. If we had not learned that the gold-brick and the green goods
were frauds, we could still be fleeced. And if libraries were still what
they were fifty years ago, there would be no lag in the ideas that some
people hold about them. Libraries have changed. Some of you know it and
some of you do not. Libraries have changed in the kind of printed matter
that they collect and preserve; in the kind of people to whom they make
their appeal; in the way in which they try to make the former available
to the latter. They have utterly changed in their own conception of
their status in the community, of what they owe to the community and how
they ought to go about it, to pay the debt.

The old library was first and foremost a collection of material for
scholars; the new is for the busy citizen, to help him in what he is
busy about, to make it possible for him to do more work in less time. It
has taken some time for the library to see itself in this light, but it
has taken the great body of our citizens still longer to recognize and
act on the change--else I should not be talking to you to-day about the
library and the business man. The modern library is concerned, much more
largely than the old, with contemporary relations, with what is
happening and what is just going to happen. It sympathizes with the men
who do things. It tries to let them know what is going on about them,
and to assist them in what they are attempting--whether it be to achieve
a world-wide peace or to devise a new non-refillable bottle.

The library has placed itself in a position where it can do this better
than any other institution, for it is essentially non-partisan. Probably
it is our only non-partisan institution. Mr. Bryan’s impartial
government newspaper has not yet printed its first number. The school
must take sides, for its deals solely with children. The library alone
can store up material on all sides of every mooted question and offer it
to him who reads, without in any way taking sides itself. It may run the
risk of misconception. We had a big exhibit of war pictures last year.
The Pacifists protested. It was very dreadful, they said, to see a
library encouraging the militaristic spirit. This year we have a peace
exhibit--prepared by the Union Against Militarism. The Preparedness
people are horrified. They hate to see a library siding with those who
would drag our country in the dust of humiliation. The trouble with all
these good people is just hysteresis--lag. It may have been fifty years
ago that a portrait of a monarch in a library meant that the institution
was for him, body and soul. Now it means simply that he is an
interesting contemporary thing. Display of a cartoon representing
Woodrow Wilson doing something disgraceful does not imply on our part
detestation of the president, but only a willingness to let the public
see a good bit of drawing or perhaps to show them how some part of the
community is thinking and feeling. It is all a part of our efforts at
up-to-dateness--our struggles to brush off the dust and sweep away the
cobwebs of medievalism.

As an incident of these struggles, we have discovered the existence of
the Business Man. We have tried to find out what he is driving at and to
help a little--to stock the kind of information that he wants and to
help him get at it. An obstacle in the way has been the fact that much
of what he wants is to be obtained best from material that the older
libraries knew nothing of and would have despised had they known
it--partly, printed matter that had no existence in those days, like the
huge trade catalog and the informative railway folder; partly material
that was ignored because it had no connection with scholarly
pursuits--time tables, statistical schedules, directories, lists of
names and addresses, commercial publications, maps, information
regarding trade-routes and conditions. If the scholar of fifty years
ago wanted to be set right about a Greek preposition or to find the
color of Henry VII’s hair, he knew where to go: the library was the
proper and inevitable place for such data. He brushed the dust from a
pile of books and proceeded to look them up. But if he wanted to know
the quickest way to ship goods to Colombo, Ceylon, or the comparative
exports of cereals from Russia during the last decade, or the design of
the latest machine for effecting a given result, did he go to the
library? Remember that this is supposed to be fifty years ago. I am
afraid I must confess that I don’t know where he went. I fear that in
most cases he didn’t go at all, for business men as well as libraries
have grown in the last half century--but I am quite sure that he went
nowhere near the library.

The reason was that printed information of this kind either did not then
exist or was thought improper for collection by a scholarly institution.
If anyone had asked for it I know what the librarian would have said,
for the same thing is occasionally still said by librarians, and I hear
it at department stores and everywhere else where there is distribution
of objects necessary to our lives. They would have said--“There has been
no demand for it, so we don’t need to keep it.” Demand for it! Of course
not. Is there any demand for fish in a sand-bank or for free-trade
arguments in a stand-pat Republican newspaper? People go for things
where they know the things are to be found; and they knew well fifty
years ago that none of these things were to be found in a library. The
sad thing is that altho the libraries have reformed, hysteresis is still
getting in its deadly work. There is a lag of apprehension and
appreciation among our business men, many of whom think the library is
still the same old dusty, cobwebby institution of 1850. Take my word
for it, it is not. It stocks all the things that the librarian used
contemptuously to call _biblia abiblia_--books that are no books--city
directories by the hundred, trade maps, commercial information, trade
catalogs, advertising folders, railway announcements, hundreds of things
that will answer the questions that every business man wants, or ought
to want, to know. We, or any other library, may not have precisely what
you want. We are not yet perfect and we have much to learn. But we are
buying and putting at the business man’s disposal the kind of material
that will help him in his business.

The modern library is democratic, not autocratic. It does not hand you
down a volume from a very high shelf and tell you that is exactly what
you want and you mustn’t ask for anything else. It says: we are the
agents of a co-operative concern. For convenience sake, just as in the
case of the public schools, you conclude to tax yourselves to maintain a
public collection of books, instead of having to form private
collections of your own, smaller and vastly more expensive. We are in
communication with every one of you by telephone. The machine for which
you have paid is all ready to work--stoked and cleaned and oiled. Why
don’t you press the button? Those who don’t are just suffering from
hysteresis--lag of apprehension. They think the library is what it was
in 1850. They are behind the times.

Am I not afraid that if all the business men should press the button at
once, the library would be swamped? There would be a little swearing at
first, I fear. But ultimately there would be a realization that a
library built and stocked and manned to serve perhaps 50 business men at
once cannot serve 500 or 5000. There would be pressure on the
legislature; we should have the necessary funds and in short order we
should be serving our 5000 as smoothly as we served our 50.

Now let us get down to something concrete. Just what information are we
prepared to give to business and industrial houses? Here are some actual
questions asked lately and answered in our reference departments--many
of them by telephone:

     The uses of lye in baking powder. History and development of the

     Substitute for such commercial products as dyes, sealskin,
     fertilizers, etc.

     Receipts for preparing in the wholesale manner mustard and
     salad-dressing, and for bottling olives.

     Methods of installing a refrigerating plant.

     Addresses of the manufacturers of toys in the United States.

     How far from the curb may vehicles be parked in St. Louis.

     Names of manufacturers of bottled buttermilk.

     Dates of traffic legislation in England.

     Names of the officers of the Wabash R.R.

     How to calculate the depreciation in shop fittings in taking

     Change in prices in Wall Street for the last year.

     History of speculation in the 16th century.

     Examination of the State Board of Pharmacy relating to the laws of
     the State of Missouri on the sale of narcotics.

     Pictures for advertising posters, such as “a Pullman porter,”
     “Hops,” used in a Bevo ad.

     “Two dogs playing” for the title-page of a piece of music entitled
     “Puppy love.”

     Designs for book-covers, posters, letter-heads, by the million.

I think I hear someone say--“Do you call that library work? One man at a
telephone and a pile of circulars at the other end?” Yes. I do; didn’t I
tell you that libraries had changed? When Archbishop Glennon first
visited our new building, he walked into the magnificent central hall
and, looking around him said: “Where are the books?” The books were all
in their places, but they were not in the delivery hall. The books in a
library are quite as important as ever. There could be no library
without them. They are the library. But we are laying more and more
emphasis on the man behind the book. In nine cases out of ten he is a
woman, and increasingly often he is at the end of a telephone wire. We
find that information slips over a telephone wire quite easily. It saves
the business man an annoying trip and sometimes it saves our assistant
from hearing all about the business man’s last attack of sciatica. Not
always; for sufferers have been known to seek sympathy even by
telephone. The more they do it, the more trunk lines we have to pay for,
so the telephone company doesn’t mind.

But it is true that in meeting the business man’s needs the library is
assimilating itself more and more to a huge information bureau. This is
the case especially at our Municipal Reference Branch in the City Hall,
where we have few books, properly so called, many reports, pamphlets and
clippings, properly indexed, and a great deal of manuscript material,
gathered by correspondence in answer to queries and waiting for more
queries on the same subject.

It matters little whether what you want is bound between covers, or
slipped into a pamphlet case, or slipped into a manila envelope; it
really matters little whether it is printed at all, so long as it is
indexed so that it can be found quickly. We may perhaps look forward to
the day when all the bound books in the library will be for home use,
and will give information at second hand, too late for the business man
to act promptly on it. The real sources of up to date knowledge will be,
as they often are now, manuscript letters, circulars, newspaper
clippings and trade catalogs. With their inevitable index they form a
huge encyclopedia, absolutely up to date.

The printed cyclopedia in umpty-seven volumes is lucky if it catches up
with year before last; it may do for your private library where the
skilful agent has induced you to put it, but it is worthless in the
Business Man’s collection, except on the rare occasions when he wants
the life of Epictetus or the location of the Dobrudja. For the Business
Man we want this morning’s material. Shall we deny it, collectively, the
name of a library just because the book-binder has not been at work on
it, and in many cases will never get the chance?

Not that the Business Man may not read books if he wants them--books on
commerce, the industries, transportation, salesmanship, advertising,
accounting. He may have them sent to his home if he likes, with no more
trouble than sitting down again to his telephone. We use Uncle Sam’s
messenger service--his parcel post. The only annoying thing about it is
that he will not deliver C.O.D. and we are accordingly forced to ask for
a postage deposit in advance--anything you choose, from the postage on
one book one way to several dollars. We will notify you when the money
is used up. This combination of telephone and parcel post seems to me
the ideal of library service when you can name the book you want and
don’t care to be merely browsing along the shelves. If the book is out,
you will be put on the waiting list and will get it automatically when
your turn comes. Why does not every citizen of St. Louis avail himself
of this easy service? Hysteresis, I suppose; thinking of the old library
of 1850 and neglecting that of 1917. Or perhaps it is that provoking
little advance payment. Pay beforehand may be a poor paymaster, but
those who work with Uncle Sam have to make his acquaintance.

So much for the information to be obtained from the library by business
men. You are advertising men. Your business is the dissemination of
information. Your boast is that it is your business to tell the truth,
and I believe it. How can the Library help you tell it? Well--I believe
the Library to be the greatest publicity field in the world--largely a
virgin field, for you men, like everybody else, have got the
hysteresis--you are suffering from brain lag--not brain fag. You think
the library is back where it was in 1850, when it was the last place in
the world where any sane man would go for publicity. It was a good place
to hide. They tell the story of a library in Philadelphia, a beautiful
old mausoleum, where an escaped criminal once stayed in its public
reading room for three days before the police found him. We don’t covet
that reputation. The modern library, I repeat, is the very best
publicity field in the world. First, as we have seen, it is absolutely
non-partisan. If you get your publicity material into the library it is
because the library thinks it is good for something, not because you
have some kind of a pull. Next, the people who frequent the library are
intelligent. Publicity there is like that obtained from a high-class
periodical: it is gilt-edged. Last and not least, the publicity given by
the library is incidental. It accepts your publicity material and makes
it available, not because it wants to boom your product at the expense
of some other, but because it thinks that your material contains
something of value to the business man. In most cases its publicity is
general, not specific. You know that splendid Eastman ad--“There’s a
photographer in your town.” That makes a thrill run down my spine
whenever I see it, just as Tschaikovsky’s Sixth symphony does or Homer’s
description of Ulysses fighting the Cyclops; and for the same reason--it
is a product of genius.

Advertising is more and more bending this way. Why couldn’t we have seen
it before? For the same reason that we can’t all write plays like
Shakespeare’s or compose Wagner’s operas. When two shoemakers, Smith and
Jones, had little shops opposite each other, Smith’s chief idea of
advertising was to tell what trash Jones was making, and Jones’s to
assure people that nothing good could come out of Smith’s store. What
was the result? The same that induced the darky to say after he had
heard the political orators: “If bofe dese fellers tells de trufe, what
a pair of rascals they must be!” The net effect was to put people’s
minds on the worthlessness of the product, instead of its excellence.
Nowadays Smith and Jones are getting together, even if they haven’t been
gobbled up by the Trust, and are assuring people that shoes are good
things to have--that we ought to wear more of them; more kinds and
better quality. The result is to fix the public mind on the excellence
of shoes and both Smith and Jones sell more of them than under the old
method. The library is willing to boom shoes for you, and labor-saving
machinery, and food-products, and textiles and seeds, and lighting and
heating devices. It does this to some extent without your co-operation,
by the books that it places on the shelves; but no one who knows will go
to a book for up-to-date information of this sort. If you want a
description of the very latest device for any purpose, go to the
publicity material of the concern that makes it.

We trust to you ad-men and your campaign for truth in advertising, that
it is no fake. Here is where you can help us and help your clients by so
doing. We stock every bit of good, informative publicity that we can
find. We miss much of it. You can help us get it all. Your clients will
get more publicity and better publicity for nothing than they have often
bought for hundreds of dollars. Perhaps it is another effect of
hysteresis that makes us afraid of anything that is offered free. You
remember the story of the man who all day long, on a bet, offered
sovereigns unsuccessfully in exchange for shillings on London Bridge.

If we were allowed to charge for our privileges I believe we could turn
ourselves into a money-making institution on this count of publicity
alone. I believe that it would be profitable for publishers to pay us
for putting their books on our shelves. If we charged for the space we
are giving to trade catalogs, circulars and other publicity material the
issuers, I am sure, would not wait for us to ask for what they print. We
have been trying for several years to get framed pictures of St. Louis
industries to hang in our Business and Industrial Room. If we had asked
$50 per, for the privilege of using space on the walls of a public
institution I am sure we could have had it. But since we offer that
space absolutely free of charge--a sovereign for a shilling--we can’t
get what we want.

This is special publicity too, not general. There are some other cases
where something about a piece of special publicity makes it so valuable
to us that we display it, letting the advertiser get his advantage as a
side issue. Within the last few years we have put up boldly in our art
room, big glaring poster ads of beer, cigars and breakfast foods. How
much could one of you have extorted from an advertiser if you had made
him believe that you had some kind of a pull that would enable you to
placard his wares not on Smith’s fence or Jones’s barn, but actually on
the inside of the St. Louis Public Library? Now these posters were
displayed, of course, not as inducements to smoke Fatimas or to drink
Satanet, but because they were good and interesting commercial art. We
believe that more people see the art on the fences than that in the Art
Museum, and we want to do our part toward making it good. It has made
great strides of late, as I think you will acknowledge. But answer me
this: was not that valuable publicity for these products? Will not the
knowledge that similar publicity may await the manufacturer who gets out
a good poster, work out to the advantage of all concerned?

You know those articles in _System_, of course, telling what the writer
would do if he were an undertaker, or a druggist, or a farmer. Well, if
I were an ad-man I would get up an exhibition of St. Louis-made
commercial art, advertising St. Louis products, and offer it to the
Public Library. We will display it, our only condition in each case
being that it is artistically worth display. Your clients will have
their products advertised gratis, in a place where space could not be
bought for a million dollars a square foot. You will gain in reputation
as a man who puts over big things: we shall get an interesting display
of commercial art, and better than all else, an impulse will have been
given toward improved quality in the poster art of St. Louis. This is
only one instance of the fact, which I believe to be a fact, that there
is almost no kind of advertising that cannot be done in a live, modern
public library, if one only goes the right way about it. Many go about
it quite the wrong way, and do not succeed.

We do not assist Mrs. Smith to get piano pupils by placing on our
bulletin boards a scrawled announcement. We are not willing to
distribute by the million, small dodgers announcing that Jones’s
clothes-wringers are the best. We do not allow Robinson to lecture in
one of our assembly rooms in order to form a class in divine healing
from which he, and he alone, will profit.

Publicity furnished by us must be incidental, as I have said; or it must
be general, but I believe it to be all the more effective for this, and
I invite your attempts to make more frequent and better use of it in
such ways as I have suggested. Study the business and industrial
material in our Applied Science Room, or the commercial art material in
our Art Room. Examine the collection of travel folders on display in our
delivery hall. See our bulletin of daily attractions in St Louis,
entered months ahead when we can get the information--and see whether
you do not agree with me.

Now let me remind you that you are paying for all this service, whether
you make use of it or not. You are members of the best club in St.
Louis. I don’t mean the Advertising Men’s Club, good as that is; I mean
the Library Club. The taxgatherer collects the dues: if you are not a
taxpayer you pay just the same, the burden being passed along to you in
some of the many ways familiar to economists. The dues amount to about
three cents a month for each inhabitant of St. Louis--not excessive. The
club has the finest club house in the city, the most comfortable reading
and study rooms, the finest and most useful books, the most intelligent
and helpful attendants. You may have to belong to other clubs that you
do not use; this, at least it would be folly to neglect.


We are met to dedicate a temple of the Book on the birthday of a man who
did more than any other American, perhaps, to bring the book to the
hearts of the masses. All poetry, all song, begins with the people, in
the mouths of humble singers. Elaboration, refinement, unintelligent
imitation, carry them both away from popular appreciation, until finally
someone like James Whitcomb Riley brings them back. Great poetry is
always about familiar things. Homeric epics tell of the kind of fighting
that every Greek knew at first hand. The shepherds and shepherdesses of
the earliest pastorals were the everyday workers of the fields. It was
only at a later day the epic and pastoral grew artificial because the
poets did their best to keep them unchanged while the things of which
they told had passed away. Only when the poets forget the stilted
symbols which once were real and discover that they themselves are
surrounded by realities worthy of verse does poetry again become
popular. It is this phenomenon that we are witnessing today.

Everyone who has had occasion to keep in touch with popular taste will
tell you that the increased love for poetry shown in the publication of
verse, the purchase of it, the study of it, the demand for it at public
libraries, is nothing less than astounding. That this represents any
sudden change in the public, I cannot believe. The public has always
loved verse. The child chants it in his games; he drinks it in greedily
at his mother’s knee. He begs for it, even when he cannot understand it,
just for the joy of its rhythm, its lilt. But when the great poets go to
the abodes of the gods, or to regions as far away in esthetics or
metaphysics, for their subjects, they carry their product beyond public
appeal. When our great verse is all remote and the familiar things are
left to folk-lore and rag-time, then folk-lore and rag-time will
monopolize public attention and fill the heart of the people. It is this
feeling, on the part of many poets, that the familiar things of life are
beneath their notice, that has made poetry so long unpopular. The
feeling is quite unjustified. All the great elemental things are also
among the most familiar--birth, death, love, grief, joy, in human
experience: in the outer world, day and night, winter and summer, storm,
wind and flood. And affiliated with these are all the little everyday
things of which Riley sings--the bathing urchins, the ragged farm hand,
the old tramp, the little orphan girl with her tales of fright, the
rabbit under the railroad ties. When the modern reader first read in
verse about such things there was a rush of red blood to the heart, with
a recognition of the fact that verse had come down from Olympus to
earth, and that after all, earth is where we live and that life and its
emotions and events are both important and poetical.

I am not denying the poetry of romance, but we should remember that this
too, has its roots in reality. Even the most imaginative works must be
based, in the last analysis, on the real. Take for instance such works
as Poe’s. Poe despised realism. His best work is about half imagination
and half form. Yet when he succeeds in rousing in us the mingled
emotions of fear and horror on which so many of his effects depend he is
using for his purposes what was once a defensive mechanism of the human
organism, causing it to shrink from and avoid the real things--wild
beasts, enemies, the forces of nature--that were striving continually to
overwhelm and destroy it. Without the survival of this defensive
mechanism of fear and horror, Poe’s tales would have no dominion over
the human mind. In fact, the main difference between what we call
realism and romanticism is that while both have their relations with the
real facts of life, the facts on which romanticism depends are
unfamiliar, distant and distorted, while realism deals with that which
is near at hand and familiar. Knights in armor, distressed damsels,
donjon keeps and forests of spears were once as everyday affairs as
aeroplanes are now, or gas attacks, or the British tanks. These all have
in them the elements of romance; and when they too have passed, as God
grant they may, they will doubtless take their place in the equipment of
the poetical romanticist. Not these realities that pass, but those that
are with us always, are the ones that inspire verse like Riley’s.

Those who love to study group-psychology, and who realize that we have
in the motion-picture audience one of the most wonderful places to
observe it that ever has been vouchsafed to mortals, may see every night
the hold that this kind of realism has over the popular mind. Armed
hosts may surge across the screen, volcanoes may belch and catastrophe
may be piled on catastrophe. The eyes of the spectators may bulge and
their mouths may gape, but they remain untouched. But let a little dog
appear with his tongue out and his tail awag; let a small babe lie in
its cradle and double up its tiny fists and yell, and at once you have
evidence that the picture has penetrated the skin of the house and got
down to the quick. Homely realities make an appeal that neither the
knights in armor of the fourteenth century nor the tanks in armor of the
twentieth are able to exert. Gilbert, who wrote many a truth in the
guise of jest, never said a truer thing than when he made Bunthorne
proclaim that in all Nature’s works “something poetic lurks”--

    Even in Colocynth and Calomel.

That is the poet’s mission--to show us the poetry in the things that we
had never looked upon as within poetry’s sphere. They are all doing it
now--Noyes, Masefield and all the rest, and the public has risen at them
as one man.

If James Whitcomb Riley were here today I should take him by the hand
and say, “Beloved poet, you have known how to touch the great heart of
the people quickly and deeply. That is what we must all do, if we are to
succeed. We librarians must do it if our libraries are to be more than
paper and glue and leather. Teach us the way.”

Our libraries are closer, far closer, to the people today than they were
fifty years ago. They can never get as close as an individual voice like
Riley’s, for they are a combination, not even a harmonious chorus, but a
jumble of sounds from all regions and all ages. Yet we must not forget
that in every instrument of music there is a potential mass of discord.
The skilled player selects his tones and produces them in proper
sequence and rhythm; and lo! a sweet melody! So the librarian may play
upon his mass of books, selecting and grouping and bringing into
correspondence his own tones and the receptive minds of his community,
until every man sees in the library not a jumble but a harmony, not a
promoter of intellectual confusion but a clarifier of ideas. In some
such fashion it is allowed him to get close to the minds and hearts of
his community as Riley did to his readers.

We are realizing today, we of the library world, that it is a poor
instrument that yields but one tune, and a poor player who is able to
produce only one. The librarians of the early days were of this kind; so
were their libraries. The time they played was the tune of
scholarship--a grand old melody enough, and yet with the right keyboard
one may play not only fugues and chorals but the waltz and even the
one-step. The scholar will find his refuge in this great building, but
here also will be a multitude of functions undreamt of in the early
library day--the selection of literature for children and their
supervision while they use it, co-operation with the schools, the
training of library workers, the publication of lists and other library
aids, helpful cataloging and indexing, the provision of books and
assistance for special classes, such as engineers, business men or
teachers, a staff and facilities for all kinds of extension work,
filling the space around the library as a magnet’s field of force
surrounds its material body. A modern library is a city’s headquarters
in its strife against ignorance and inefficiency; its working force is a
general staff--books, ammunition for the fighter and food for the

Of the poet I have said that his ability to gain the public ear and to
reach the public heart is closely bound up with the portrayal of
realities. This is true also of the library. Every step of its progress
from a merely scholarly institution to a widely popular one has been
marked by the introduction of more red blood, more real life, into its
organism. The frequenter of the older library went there to find books
on the pure sciences, on philosophy, in the drama, in poetry. These we
of today in no wise neglect, but we entertain also those who look for
books on plumbing, on the manufacture of hats, shoes and clothing, on
salesmanship and cost accounting, on camping and fishing, on first aid
to the injured, on the products of Sonoma county, California. Our
assistants take over the telephone requests to furnish the population of
Bulgaria, the average temperature of Nebraska in the month of June,
plans for bungalows not to cost more than $1750, pictures of the Winter
Palace in Petrograd, sixty picture postals of Baltimore for a
reflectoscope lecture, a copy of a poem beginning “O beauteous day!” the
address of the speaker’s uncle who left Salem, Massachusetts, for the
West twenty-six years ago. Everyone of these queries throbs with the red
blood of reality. Few of them would have been considered within the
library’s scope fifty years ago. Books are written nowadays about all
such subjects, whereas in the earlier day the knowledge of these things
and the ability to write of them did not reside in the same person. So
the library’s progress toward the realities is but the expression of
that same progress in literature, using the word in its widest sense to
signify all that may lurk between the covers of a book. The contemptuous
name of _biblia abiblia_--books that are no books--which the earlier
writers bestowed upon dictionaries, directories, indexes, lists and the
like, is disregarded by the modern librarian. He prizes a list of all
the grocers in the United States; he points with pride to his collection
of hundreds of telephone directories; he has names galore in
alphabetical array--indexes to places, persons, pictures, events and
books. All these things are as much a part of his library as the Iliad
of Homer or the dramas of Calderon.

But the librarian does not stop here. He conceives that it is his duty
to deal not only with books but with what we may call adjuncts to
books--things which may lead to books those who do not read--things that
may interpret books to those who read but do not read understandingly or
appreciatively. Some of our brothers beyond the sea have criticized us
American librarians for the freedom--nay, the abandon--with which we
have thrown ourselves into the search for such adjuncts and the zeal
with which we have striven to make use of them. It has been our aim of
late years, for instance, to make of the library a community center--to
do everything that will cause its neighbors to feel that it is a place
where they will be welcome, for whatever cause and that they may look to
it for aid, sympathy and appreciation in whatever emergency. If the life
of the community thus centers in the library, we have felt that the
community cannot fail ultimately to take an interest in the library’s
contents and in its primary function. The branch libraries in many of
our cities are such local centers. Here one may find the neighbors round
about holding an exhibition of needlework, the children dancing, the
young men debating questions of the day, the women’s clubs discussing
their programs, the local musical society rehearsing a cantata, Sunday
schools preparing for a festival, the ward meeting of a political party.
In one of our own branch libraries, in a well-to-do neighborhood, the
librarian said to one of the young men at a social meeting, “I am
curious to know why you come here. You could all afford, I know, to rent
a larger and better hall; or you could meet in your own homes.” The
young man looked at her with surprise, “Why,” he said, “we like this
place. We all grew up in this library.” I confess that this anecdote
sends a little thrill of satisfaction thru me every time I tell it.
What could a librarian desire more than to have his neighborhood “grow
up” in his library--to have the books as their roommates--to feel that
they would rather be in that one spot than any other? On what a point of
vantage does this place him! How much more readily will his neighbors
listen to the good genius of a much-loved spot than to the keeper of a
jail! Just here, of course, is the strong point of the so-called Gary
system, which has so much in common with our modern library ideas.
Whatever may be its faults, it at least makes of the school what we
librarians have long sought to make of the library--a place that will be
loved by its inmates instead of loathed. This once gained there is
hardly any result that we may not bring about.

And now let us consider at least one thing more that we may gain from
this intimate contact with the life of the community around us.

Formalism has been the death of art, of literature, of science, in many
an age. It has atrophied an entire civilization, as it did in China. It
paralyzed Egyptian art; it would have paralyzed Greek art, if the Greeks
had not had the vitality to throw it off. Art, literature and science
are never sufficient unto themselves. They must all drink continually at
the fresh springs of reality. To move up to date with our metaphor, they
must all get fresh current from the feeders of nature if the trolley
wire is to be kept “live” and the motor running. Those perennial
currents that Ampere conceived of as chasing themselves round and round
the molecules of matter could keep going only in the absence of
resistance, and that is something that we may imagine or talk about, but
that does not really exist. Every electric current will stop unless a
continuous electro-motive force is behind it; every river will dry up
unless fed by living springs. All art, all literature, all science, will
shrivel out of existence, or at any rate out of usefulness, if those who
practice it think that all they have to do is to copy some trick, some
method, some symptom perhaps of real genius, of their predecessors.
Aristotle was a real scientist, tho his outlook was not ours. But those
who kept on copying Aristotle for centuries and would not believe what
they saw with their own eyes unless they could confirm it with a passage
from his writings--they were no scientists at all. We have recovered
from their formalism as Greek art recovered from the formalism of the
lions of Mycenae.

Who shall say that James Whitcomb Riley did not do just this when he
chose to abandon the stock in trade of the standard poets and put into
verse what he saw about him here in Indiana? It is not beyond the
possibilities, of course, that his own fresh point of view may one day
succumb to formalism--that his little Orphant Annies and his raggedy men
may become familiar to posterity through the work of a school of
copyists who prefer to write about an Indiana that they never saw in a
period when they never lived, instead of going themselves to the fresh
inspiration of the realities about them. Now, of course, the current or
the river of art or poetry must run a little while by itself; it cannot
be all spring. Only, the fresh inspiration must not be delayed too long,
lest the current or the river be dried.

In a recent article on current British novelists, one of our own most
gifted writers, Mrs. Gerould, says with some truth that the stories of
the younger realists in England--Compton Mackenzie, Oliver Onions, Hugh
Walpole, Gilbert Cannan and their kin--are so similar in subject,
treatment and style, that they might almost be interchangeable. She
wittily develops the idea of a syndicate--the British Novelists,
Limited--in which one writer is told to do the descriptions, another the
character-drawing and a third the thrills. Mrs. Gerould is hardly fair
here. These young men are almost the first writers in the English
language to do just what they are accomplishing. They are by turns
engrossing and boresome, but they are like the boy who has, all by
himself, picked out a succession of chords on the piano. The harmony
thrills him, but he is in danger of keeping it up so long that he will
drive his hearers daft. When our British realists have over-worked their
new vein, their sales will fall off and their publishers will see that
fresh ore is brought to light ere more of their work reaches the public.
How shall we ensure that this new ore shall be at hand--the jungle
cleared so that there may be a fresh vista?

I may be taking too much upon my chosen profession; but I cannot help
thinking that this is one of the tasks with which we librarians shall
have to grapple. We have ourselves, as we have seen, come lately into
more intimate touch with the realities about us. Can we not put into
literature what we are taking from life and so act as the feeders that
shall keep civilization from drying up or turning to stone? This is
perhaps a startling idea. A book is a record. In the nature of things
there is no progress in a record. And we are the keepers of the records
of civilization; how then shall we be also founts of inspiration?

In this way; records stand, but the things that they record progress. We
must go to the library to find out where humanity stands on the road and
what lies before us. If our public comes to us naturally to read these
records and if our writers know this and write for a public interested
in reality, the library has done its part. Before this linkage can
function truly, we must have authors who realize that there is a
special library public and who write for it. We are told that the
English publishers, before they accept a manuscript ask, “How many will
the circulating libraries take?” They mean the great commercial
subscription libraries like Mudie’s and Smith’s. The patronage of these
libraries is more important to them than that of the public at large, or
at any rate, they feel that they can rely upon it as an indication of
what that of the public at large will be. There is a library public that
they recognize and respect. We have nothing in the United States to
correspond to Mudie’s and Smith’s. Our great circulating libraries are
our free public libraries. Do authors or publishers or booksellers
recognize the public library as a force to be reckoned with, either
apart from other readers or as indicative of what other readers will
think or do? I once made an investigation of this question and I was
compelled to acknowledge, as I am still forced to admit, that there is
no such recognition. Neither author nor publisher consciously does
anything different, because there are public library readers, from what
he would do, if all our public libraries were wiped off the face of the
earth. My hope for the future lies in a justified suspicion that though
neither is consciously affected, both do recognize the library public
unconsciously and indirectly. Both would admit that their output has
been affected by the great extension of the reading public and its
consequent alteration in quality. A discussion of the exact effect would
lead us too far afield. The point is that the literary product has been
changed by a change in the numbers and quality of the reading public,
and that this change has been brought about in no small degree by the
establishment and popularity of public libraries. Possibly it is not too
much to expect that this unconscious recognition will give place to a
conscious one, and that the producers’ mutual influence bring each other
into more frequent contact with reality.

Now, there may be some here who, wondering at my classification of the
Hoosier poet, are saying to themselves, “Was Riley also among the
Realists?” And I ask in turn, why has Realism come to connote a
proportion of things that do not enter at all into the lives of most of
us? We have all known and loved the old swimmin’ hole; how many of us
are familiar with the man who commits suicide, not to end an intolerable
situation, not in a frenzy of grief or remorse, but just to see what
will happen? Yet when a Russian writes about such anomalies as this our
critics say, “What wonderful realism!” If realism is anything, it must
surely be real. There is morbidity in life; we cannot avoid it or
overlook it. But is there anything in life that corresponds to
ninety-nine per cent of morbidity? Not in my life, nor in yours. For you
and for me, Riley is a realist. God forbid that he may ever be anything

There is something in the situation of this city in which we are
assembled, that encourages men to look life straight in the face. Those
who dwell amid rocky heights and caverns may be excused for looking
behind them when they walk and for trembling at shadows. The sailor
between whom and eternity there stands only a two-inch plank may live
largely among unrealities. But the man of the open prairie, with God’s
solid earth stretching away north, south, east and west, and God’s free
air above and about him, stands firmly and sees clearly. What interests
him is the present and its necessary relationships with the future, with
only so much of the past as is able to consolidate these relationships
and illumine them. Here, as one would expect, is growing up a school of
representative artists, working some with the pen and others with the
brush, whose aim and whose high privilege it is to record those
relationships on canvas and on the printed page, each in his own
fashion, of course, for a love for the outer realities can never do away
with that supreme inner reality, a man’s own self that which looks out
upon the world and sees that world through its own spectacles. It is the
triumph of all art that faithfully as it may represent what it sees, its
representations will still be, in large part, functions of the artist’s
own mood, so that the same scene, the same event, portrayed by different
writers or different painters, may arouse in us emotions as varied as
joy, grief or mere restfulness. And of course, although we may praise
James Whitcomb Riley portraying what he saw about him there would be
little to praise if he were not at the same time portraying James
Whitcomb Riley and if that portrayal were not worth while.

I like to think that what we librarians are doing is in some measure
akin to the work of the artists of pen or brush, though perhaps in a
secondary way. The writer interprets reality; we interpret the writers
themselves. Here is a case where we cannot have too many middlemen, for
each, instead of piling up cost to the consumer, piles up the value of
the product. How many men could sit in a country churchyard at evening
and see unaided what Gray saw? Gray in his Elegy records that churchyard
and himself as well. But how many men does Gray fail to reach? How many,
whom he would rejoice or comfort, never heard him? And to Gray, in this
query, let us add the names of all the good and great in literature.
Here is where the librarian steps in. He presents Gray and Gray’s fellow
artists in words, to his public.

Years ago the library was merely a storehouse and the librarian the
custodian thereof. Today the library is a magazine of dynamic force and
the librarian is the man who exerts and directs it--who persuades the
community that it needs books and then satisfies that need, instead of
waiting for the self-realization which too often will never come. Does
not the librarian in some fashion interpret life and nature to his
public, through books in general, even as the writer interprets them
through one particular book?

This may seem fantastic, but I like to think that it is true. The
October air in these autumn days is full of megaphonic voices, each
insisting on its right to be heard above all the others. We are urged to
enlist in the British army, to buy Liberty bonds, to build huts for the
Y.M.C.A. and the Knights of Columbus, to work for the Red Cross, to buy
tobacco for the soldiers, and at the same time to support all our local
charities and pay our club dues as usual, not neglecting to respond to
the calls of the tax collector. We librarians have ourselves used the
megaphone to some purpose, having as you know, raised a million dollars
to establish and maintain camp libraries, giving our soldiers the same
public library facilities that they enjoy at home.

But in the midst of all this distracting chorus let us not forget that
our normal lives must function as usual, despite the abnormalities that
surround and interpenetrate them. The opening of this noble library
building and the character of this assembly are proofs that we intend to
live as usual, even amid so much that is unusual.

I see no limit to the usefulness of this building and of the
institution whose home it is to be. The house is new but its occupant
has been long and favorably known to your citizens. Indianapolis has
library traditions, and is what we librarians call a “good library
town.” Your library has had good leadership and it is to continue,
adding the force and freshness of the new to the strength and experience
of the old. The memory of your dearly loved poet will be brought to the
mind of each library user--by the children’s room that bears his name,
by the land that he gave to enlarge its site, by this enduring
portraiture--by a thousand and one things, none the less cogent for
being intangible. I look to see this library, in the home city of James
Whitcomb Riley, grow into a place in the public heart comparable with
that which was attained by Riley himself. It should be loved for its
broad minded humanity, for its sympathy with mankind, especially with
little children, for its readiness to “rejoice with those that do
rejoice and weep with those that weep,” for its quick response to the
personal and spiritual needs of every reader, and above all for its firm
hold on the realities of life and its appreciation of life as something
that is lived on the farm, in the city street, in the office, the school
and the club, not in the clouds, not in fog and mist, not with the
improbable or the impossible. That it will do and be all these things we
may be confident. Riley the well beloved is gone. His memory lives on;
let it live with peculiar force and vividness in this library, in its
attitude toward those whom it serves--in the affection which they in
turn feel toward an institution that has long been, and will long
continue to be a center of literary, civic and intellectual force in the
city where Riley lived and wrote.


The years immediately succeeding the great war are to witness great
progress in team-work. The war is teaching us to get together, and it is
impossible to believe that the lessons we are now learning will be
suddenly and totally forgotten with the advent of peace. The world is
full of institutions, associations, corporate bodies of all kinds,
founded on a knowledge of what may be accomplished by the cooperation of
individuals; but the cooperation of these bodies themselves, one with
another, has been faulty until recently.

The public library is cooperative in its very essence. Its business is
to help others. Were there no public for it to serve, its very necessity
for existence would go. In the older days it merely sat with folded
hands, ready to serve. Of later years it has become a compelling force,
reaching out into the community by a thousand tendrils and attaching
them to whatever individual, or body of individuals, seems to be in
need--often without knowing it--of library service. The public library’s
relations with the schools, with the business man, with the industries,
with the military service--you will find these all discust over and over
again, not only in the technical magazines devoted to library work, but
in the public press.

And yet we look in vain for a discussion of the public library’s
relations with the Church. Why is this? The Church itself is in the
cooperative class with the library. It exists to help mankind. Without
a humanity to help, and a humanity weak and fallible enough to need
help, its mission would be over. In studying this question I find an
unaccountable timidity on both sides. On the one hand, librarians and
libraries seem to be shy of religion. They rarely purchase religious
books in any systematic way. They are afraid of denominational
literature, both books and periodicals, apparently on the ground that
those presenting the view of one religious body might be objected to by
other bodies. Some libraries refuse to subscribe for any denominational
papers, but will accept them as gifts. Many libraries refuse to allow
the holding of religious meetings in their buildings, probably for a
similar reason.

On the other hand, the churches, as churches, seem often to ignore the
existence of the public library, even when their members use it
constantly. They maintain libraries of their own in their
Sunday-schools, for their young people, and these libraries, I am sorry
to say, are often far below standard! They rarely show interest in the
public library’s collection of books, not seeming to care whether the
library does or does not contain their own denominational literature.

There are some noteworthy exceptions. The Roman Catholics are aware of
the library and seem to appreciate its value as a publicity agent and an
educator. They are concerned when it contains books of which they
disapprove, and are anxious to put on its shelves works that will
interest their own people. Of late they have published in several of our
large cities lists of books in the public library written by their
coreligionists, or, for some reason of special interest to them. These
lists have usually been prepared with the assistance of the library
staff and paid for and distributed either by a special committee or by
some denominational body such as the Knights of Columbus. That they
have a sympathetic attitude toward the library is shown not only by
these facts, but by the fact that libraries in several cities, organized
specifically as church libraries, have been turned over to the local
public library as branches.

Another religious body that appreciates the aid of the public library is
that of the Christian Scientists. This Church has committees specially
charged with seeing that public libraries are supplied, free of charge,
with its literature.

During the present Luther anniversary there has been some activity on
the part of the Lutheran churches to see that libraries are supplied
with material bearing on their organization and doctrines. With these
exceptions I have not met, during my library experience of a quarter of
a century with the slightest interest on the part of religious bodies
regarding the book-collection of a public library--either about what it
contained or what it did not contain. Occasionally, however, a church
library has been transformed into a public library branch. In New York
there are three branches that began their existence as parish libraries
of Protestant Episcopal churches. Doubtless there are instances in other
cities of which I have no knowledge.

I am sure that more active cooperation between the public library and
the various religious bodies would benefit both and, through them, the
public. In the first place, the library should devote more attention to
its collection of religious books, and it would do so if those
interested showed their interest actively. There is much material of
great value to teachers in Sunday-schools that should find a
resting-place in the library. In a town where there are, say, a dozen
Sunday-schools, it may be quite impossible for each to buy several sets
of commentaries, concordances, works of travel and description, &c., but
they might well club together for the purchase of this material and give
it to the library or deposit it there, where it would be at the service
of all. In larger towns, where the library fund is greater, united
effort on the part of the churches would doubtless result in the
expenditure of part of the book-money for this purpose. Librarians are
anxious to serve the public. If they can be shown that the public wants
books of one kind rather than another they are only too glad to respond.
They do not like to buy books in the dark, but the apparent indifference
of the public often forces them to do so.

Such works as these are of common interest to all Christians. But in
addition every library ought to contain a certain amount of
denominational material. The library is not, except possibly for some
occasional reason, interested in propaganda, but facts about the
Methodists or the Baptists are surely of as much value, and should be
preserved with as much care, as facts about a constitutional convention
in Nebraska or the proceedings of a plumbers’ association in Salem,
Mass. Every good library should have one standard work on the history of
each of the prominent religious denominations, especially those that are
strong in its home town. It should include the biographies of its
principal divines and laymen. There should be also its year-book,
renewed annually, its official confession of faith and statement of
organization, its liturgy, if it has one, its official collection of
hymns. Its chief periodical should be on file.

I do not know of any library that makes a specialty of obtaining this
material and seeing that it is all up-to-date. Most librarians would
exclaim that their meager funds would not stand the strain, and that,
besides, there has never been the slightest demand for such material.
There is a demand for all the latest novels by Harold Bell Wright,
Robert W. Chambers, and Marie Corelli, and so these are purchased. Here
is where the indifference of most of our religious bodies toward what
the library does or does not contain is bearing legitimate fruit.

Does your public library contain reference-material that is of interest,
or ought to be of interest, to your co-religionists? If not, whose fault
is it? Extending our inquiry beyond reference-material, we may next
assert that there are many semipopular books of a denominational
character, sermons by a favorite divine, advice to young people, words
of comfort to those in trouble, which it is to the interest of Christian
people to see more widely read. The libraries will never waste their
money in the purchase of these if they are to remain idly on the
shelves. They will buy freely in response to a demand. Whose fault is it
that the demand does not materialize?

I have said that such a demand might easily divert part of the library’s
book-fund now devoted to other purchases. But the churches could afford
to buy these books and present them to the library if they would cease
to duplicate the library’s work in directions where such duplication is
useless. Why should a Sunday-school library buy stories, for old or
young? There was good reason for it in the day, now far distant, when
the public library was non-existent and the Sunday-school was the only
general source of decent books. Even in that day the Sunday-school
library largely bought trash--the kind of wishy-washy, mock-pious stuff
turned out by hack-writers at the rate of several volumes per day.

The rapid rise of the public library is doubtless due, in part, to the
neglect of its early opportunities by the Sunday-school library. But no
one can say that the public library has not risen to the occasion. The
very best part of its collection, the most carefully selected, the most
conscientiously distributed, is that which contains its books for
children. We have schools for the training of children’s librarians, and
we give their graduates special charge of rooms for children in our
library buildings. There is no reason now why any church should maintain
a library of general literature for any purpose whatever.

I have alluded above to the library’s value as a publicity agent. As a
matter of fact, both the Church and the library are the greatest and
most valuable means of publicity that we have. Both are unpurchasable.
Both reach selected elements of the community, partly the same, partly
different. To have an event announced from the pulpit, especially with
commendation, gives it a prestige that it could attain in no other way.
Similarly, to have something published on the library’s bulletin-boards,
or on slips inserted in each circulated book, or in any one of a dozen
ways that have been practised by libraries gives publicity of high
value. Both the pulpit and the library utilize these methods for
themselves and often for outside bodies, but not often for each other.
It is rare for a clergyman to mention the public library from his
pulpit, altho it is occasionally done. It is also rare, tho not totally
unknown, for a library to give publicity to a church in any of the ways
that are proper for this to be done.

In particular, every library, especially in a small city where there is
no local guide-book, should be a repository of local religious
information. Any one should be able, not only to ascertain there the
location of any particular church, but to consult its literature, if it
issues any; if not, to find on file authentic information about it
corresponding to that usually put into print--the names of officers, a
list of parish organizations, &c. Such things can be had for the asking,
and there is usually no one place in a town where they are all
assembled. There should be such a place, and that place may well be the
public library. Large libraries quite generally collect this material;
the smaller ones should follow suit. They will be apt to do so if the
church people manifest an interest. If the collection and continual
“following up” of the material involve more work than the smaller staff
of the library can do, it ought to be easy to divide it among volunteers
from the different congregations, this being the church’s part of this
particular item of cooperation.

It is safe to say that the Church and the public library may help each
other in at least six ways:

1. The substitution of the library’s children’s room for the
Sunday-school library in the purveying of general literature.

2. The more careful and more generous provision of religious books in
the library, with increased interest on the part of the church in the
character of this part of the collection.

3. The offer by the library of facilities for religious meetings.

4. Utilization of religious gatherings in the church to call attention
to the library and its willingness to aid and advise.

5. Publicity given in and by the library to the churches and their work.

6. Publicity given in and by the Church to the library and its work.

As a basis on which cooperation of these and other kinds is to rest
there must be personal acquaintance and confidence between the clergy
and the librarian. This is something of which increase will bring
further increase, as in the accretions to a rolling snowball. For
instance, the pastor of a church must have a certain degree of
confidence in the librarian’s good-will and ability to venture to
recommend the purchase of a book; the librarian must have the same to be
willing to entertain and act upon such a recommendation. But the contact
once made, the book once bought, there is ground for increased
confidence and acquaintance and for additional advice, and so it goes.

It will be noted that this counsel lays a greater burden on the
librarian than on the clergy. It is no great task for any clergyman to
make the acquaintance of the librarian; it is quite another thing for
the librarian to do the same by each and every clergyman in his city. If
the city is large and the clergy of various denominations are numbered
by thousands, it is practically impossible. Recognizing this fact, the
clergy should take some steps toward making collective take the place of
individual acquaintance. They should invite the librarian to their
meetings and he on his part should be ready to attend and to address
them if requested to do so.

It should hardly be necessary to warn both parties to such cooperation
as this, that the obtrusion of considerations of personal advantage,
where this conflicts with public service, will be fatal to its success.
For instance, a clergyman who is preparing an address on some rather
unusual subject must not expect the librarian of a small city to expend
public money for books which will aid him, and him alone, in his work.
Fortunately, this particular issue can generally be avoided, owing to
the growth of facilities for inter-library loans. Altho the librarian
might properly refuse to buy these particular books, he would doubtless
offer to attempt to borrow them from some larger library, and this
attempt would have a good chance of success. Interlibrary service of
this kind is bound to increase largely in the future and offers a most
promising field for the rendering of aid by the smaller libraries to the
scholar, literary worker, and investigator, including, of course, the

The getting-together of public library and church has possibly been
hampered in the past by an idea, common to both librarian and clergyman,
that religious bodies and their work ought to be ignored by all public
bodies, and that this is in some way a part of our American system of
government and public administration. It is, of course, a feature of
that administration to treat all religious bodies with absolute
impartiality; but that does not involve ignoring their existence any
more than treating all citizens with impartiality involves the ignoring
of the individual. One way of being impartial, of course, is to turn
one’s back equally upon all, but that is not the only way. One may treat
one’s children alike by starving all of them equally, but our idea of
impartial treatment would be better satisfied by an equality of adequate

It is time that the public library and the Church stopt the starvation
treatment and began to mete out to each other a supply of the aid and
good-will that each has at its disposal. Each has its fight to make
against the forces of darkness; neither is in a position to neglect an


When a railroad train is on its way, its future history depends on which
way it is heading, on its speed, and on whether its direction and its
speed will remain unchanged. With these premises, one may confidently
predict that a train which left Chicago at a given hour on one day will
reach New York at a given hour on the next. Of course, something may
happen to slow the train, or to wreck it, or even to send it back to
Chicago, in which cases our predictions will come to naught. This is
what the weather man finds. His predictions are based on very similar
data. Our weather conditions travel usually across the continent from
west to east at a fairly uniform rate. If that rate is maintained, and
the direction does not change, and nothing happens to dissipate or alter
the conditions, we can predict their arrival at a given place with a
fair degree of accuracy. Those who rail at the weather man’s mistakes
are simply finding fault with our present inability to ascertain the
causes that slow up storm centers, or swerve them in their course, or
dissipate them. When we know these things, and know in addition what
starts them, we can give up making forecasts and write out a pretty
definite weather time-table--as definite and as little subject to
change, at any rate, as those issued by the railroads.

My business at this moment is that of a forecaster. We know just where
and what the library situation is at present, and some of us think we
know where it is headed. If it should keep on in the same direction and
at the same rate, we ought to be able to describe it as it will be,
say, in 1950. Of course, it may get headed in some other direction. It
may slow down or speed up; it may melt away or strike a rock and be
irrecoverably wrecked. If I see any chances of any of these things, it
is my business to mention them. If my forecast should turn out a failure
no one can prove it until 1950 arrives, and then I shall not care.

To begin with the necessary preliminaries of our forecast--what and
where are we now? I have said that I know; probably you think that you
do; but as a matter of fact our knowledge is neither comprehensive nor
accurate. We need a general library survey. We have, as a sort of
statistical framework, the figures now printed annually in tabular form
in the A.L.A. Proceedings, but probably no one would maintain that these
do, or possibly could, give an adequate idea of the character or extent
of the work that our libraries are doing. Those of us who think we know
something of it have gained our knowledge by experience and observation
and neither is extensive enough in most cases to take the place of a
well-considered and properly-managed survey of existing conditions and

In default of a survey, we must, as I have said, fall back upon
observation and experience. I can certainly claim no monopoly of these,
and what I say in this regard is, of course, largely personal. But it
seems to me that the distinguishing marks of library work, as at present
conducted, include the following. As you will see, they are all
connected and overlap more or less. They are all growth-products. They

    1  Size and expense.
    2  Socialization.
    3  Professionalization.
    4  Popularization.
    5  Nationalization.

First, library work in our country to-day is large and costly.
Extensively it covers a great territory and reaches a huge population.
Intensively it embraces a large variety of activities--many that one
would hesitate, on general principles, to class as “library work.”

Secondly, a large amount of this increase of activity has been of a kind
that we are now apt to call “social.” It deals with bodies or classes of
people, and it tends to treat these people as the direct objects of the
library’s attention, instead of dealing primarily with books, as
formerly, and only indirectly with their readers. In fact, the persons
with whom the library now deals may not be readers at all, except
potentially, as when they are users of club or assembly rooms.

Thirdly, librarians are beginning to think of themselves as members of a
profession. At first sight this may seem to be a fact of interest only
to library workers, and not at all to the public. Its significance may
appear if we compare it to the emergence of the modern surgeon with his
professional skill, traditions and pride, from the medieval barber who
simply followed blood-letting as an avocation. Professionalism is a
symptom of a great many things--of achievement and of consciousness of
it and pride in it; of a desire to do teamwork and to maintain
standards; to make sure that one’s work is to be carried on and advanced
by worthy successors.

Fourthly, libraries are now conducted for the many; not for the few. It
is our aim to provide something for every one who can read, no matter of
what age, sex, or condition. We do not even limit ourselves to readers,
for we provide picture books for those who are too young to read. We are
transferring the emphasis of our work from books to people. This
characteristic is closely connected with what I have called
“socialization,” but it is not the same thing. An institution may deal
with all the people without dealing with them socially or in groups; and
it may deal entirely with groups without dealing with everybody. The
library now does both.

Fifthly, the library is now a national institution, at least in the same
sense as is the public school. It is national in extent, national in
consciousness, if not national in administration. Our own association
has played its part in this development; the present war has given it a
great stimulus. Those who see no nationalism without complete
centralization and who say that we are not yet a nation because all our
governmental powers are not centered at Washington, will doubtless deny
the nationalization of the library. They take too narrow a view.

We may now combine two or more lines of inquiry. In what direction is
the library moving in each of these respects? Is it speeding or slowing
up? Is there any reason to look for speeding or slowing up in the

As regards size and cost, our development has been swift. We cannot, it
seems to me, keep up the rate. Twenty years ago the institutions now
constituting the New York Public Library circulated a million books.
They now circulate ten million. Does anyone believe that twenty years
hence they will circulate one hundred million? There must be further
increase, because we are not now reaching every person and every class
in the community, but it will not and cannot be a mere increase of
quantity. We must do our work better and make every item and element in
it tell. We must substitute one book well read for ten books skimmed. In
place of ten worthless books we must put one that as worth while. There
are already signs of this substitution of quality for quantity in our

Extension, as opposed to intension, has appealed to many enthusiastic
librarians as “missionary work.” Perhaps the term is well chosen. Some
of it is akin to the missionary fervor that sends funds to convert the
distant heathen when nominal Christians around the corner are vainly
demanding succor, material, mental and spiritual. We have too much of
this in the library; attempts to form boys’ clubs with artificial aims
and qualifications when clubs already formed to promote objects that are
very real in the members’ minds are ignored or neglected; the provision
of boresome talks on “Rubber-culture in Peru” and on “How I climbed
Long’s Peak,” when members of the community would be genuinely
interested in hearing an expert explain the income tax; the purchase of
new books that nobody wants when an insistent demand for old standards
of sterling worth has never been adequately met; all sorts of forcing
from the outside instead of developing from the inside. This kind of
thing, like charity, begins properly at home, and the real missionary
takes care to set his own house in order before he goes far afield--to
fill the nearby demand, when it is good, before attempting to force
something on those who do not want it.

It is in this direction that our promise of continued progress lies when
we cannot see grounds for expecting great future increase of income.

This leads us naturally to discuss what I have called our socialization,
which is just beginning. It is running strong, but there is room for a
long course, and that course, I believe, it will take. In the first
place, we are functioning more and more as community centers, but there
is enormous room for advance. We are straggling all along the line,
which is one sign of an early stage. Some of us have not yet awakened to
the fact that we are destined to play a great part in community
development and community education. Others are reluctantly yielding to
pressure. Others have gone so fast that they are in advance of their
communities. Take, if you please, the one item of the provision of space
for community meetings, regarded by some as the be-all and the end-all
of the community center idea. It is really but one element, but it may
serve as a straw to show which way the wind blows. Some libraries are
giving no space for this purpose; some give it grudgingly, with all
sorts of limitations; others give quite freely. None of us give with
perfect freedom. I suppose we in St. Louis are as free as any. In 15
assembly and clubrooms we house 4,000 meetings yearly. Our only
limitations are order and the absence of an admission fee. I incline to
think that the maintenance of order should be the only condition. If an
admission fee is charged, part of it should go to the library, to be
devoted to caring for the assembly and clubrooms and improving them.
There are many community gatherings that can be best administered on the
plan of a paid admission. These ought not to be excluded. Most of our
restrictions are simply exhibits of our reluctance to place ourselves at
the complete social disposal of the community. A community is not a
community unless it has political and religious interests. If we are
going to become socialized at all, why balk at these any more than we
should exclude from our shelves books on politics and religion? I look
to see socialization, in this and other directions, proceed to such
lengths that the older library ideals may have to go entirely by the
board. Some of them are tottering now. I have said that I consider this
matter of the use of assembly rooms only one item in what I have called
socialization. It may all be summed up by saying that we are coming to
consider the library somewhat in the light of a community club, of which
all well-behaved citizens are members. Our buildings are clubhouses,
with books and magazines, meeting rooms, toilet facilities,
kitchens--almost everything, in fact, that a good, small club would
contain. If you say “then they have ceased to be libraries and are
something else,” that does not affect me any more than when you show
that we are no longer speaking Chaucer’s language or wearing the clothes
of Alfred the Great.

When we were trying to explain to the architects of the New York branch
buildings exactly what we wanted in those structures and met with the
usual misconception based on medieval ideas of a library, one of the
most eminent architects in the United States suddenly sat up and took
notice. “Why, these buildings are not to be _libraries_ at all,” he
said, “they are to be reading clubs.” He had learned in a few minutes
what many of us still see through a glass darkly.

An even more important manifestation of what I have called socialization
is the extension of occupation groups to which the library is giving
special attention and special service. The library has always had in
mind one or more of these groups. Once it catered almost entirely to a
group of scholars, at first belonging predominantly to the clergy. In
later years it added the teachers in schools and their pupils, also the
children of the community. These are definite groups, and their
recognition in the rendition of service is a social act. Other groups
are now being added with rapidity, and we are recognizing in our service
industrial workers, business men, artists of various kinds, musicians
and so on. The recognition of new groups and the extension of definite
library service to them is progress in socialization, and it is going on
steadily at the present time.

Just now the most conspicuous group that we are taking in is that of
business men. In adjusting our resources and methods to the needs of
this group we are changing our whole conception of the scope of a
library’s collection. As Mr. Dana has pointed out, we now collect,
preserve and distribute not books alone, but printed matter of all
kinds, and in addition records of other types, such as manuscripts,
pictures, slides, films, phonograph discs and piano rolls. Some of these
of course are needed to adapt our collection to others than the business
group--to educators, artists or musicians. We shall doubtless continue
to discover new groups and undergo change in the course of adaptation to
their needs.

The recognition of special groups and the effort to do them service has
proceeded to a certain extent outside the pubic library, owing to the
slowness of its reaction to this particular need. The result has been
the special library. I am one of those who are sorry that the neglect of
its opportunity by the public library has brought this about, and I hope
for a reduction in the number of independent special libraries by a
process of gradual absorption and consolidation. The recent acquisition
of some formerly independent municipal reference libraries by the local
libraries is a case in point. There must always be special libraries.
The library business of independent industrial and commercial
institutions is best cared for in this way. But every group that is
merely a section of the general public, set apart from the rest by
special needs and tastes, may be cared for most economically by the
public library. If its service is not adapted to give such care, rapid
and efficient adjustment is called for.

In a library forecast made several years ago, Mr. John C. Dana stated
his opinion that the library, as it is, “an unimportant by-product,” is
to be of importance in the future, but will then have departed from the
“present prevailing type.” Without necessarily agreeing to our present
insignificance, we may well accept, I think, this forecast of future
growth and change.

Professionalization, too, has by no means reached its limit. As has been
pointed out, it is a symptom, rather than the thing itself. It is like a
man’s clothes, by which you can often trace the growth or decay of his
self-respect. Pride in one’s work and a tendency to exalt it is a
healthy sign, provided there is something back of it. The formation of
staff associations like that recently organized in New York is a good
sign, so is the multiplication of professional bodies. The establishment
of the A.L.A. in 1876 was the beginning of the whole library advance in
this country. It was only a symptom, of course, but with the healthy
growth of libraries I look for more signs of our pride in what we are
doing, of our unwillingness to lower it or to alter its ideals.

The familiar question, “Is librarianship a profession?” reduces to a
matter of definition. We are being professionalized for the purposes of
this discussion if we are growing sufficiently in group consciousness to
let it react favorably on our work.

One of the earliest developments of a feeling of professional pride in
one’s work is an insistence on the adequate training of the workers and
on the establishment of standards of efficiency both for workers and
work. Here belongs a forecast not only of library school training, but
of official inspection and certification, of systems of service, etc.
Standardization of this kind is on the increase and is bound to be
enforced with greater strictness in the future. In our professional
training as in other professions the tendency is toward specialization.
With us, this specialization will doubtless proceed on the lines of
facilities for practice. An engineering school cannot turn out
electrical engineers if the only laboratories that it has are devoted to
civil and mechanical engineering. A specialist in abdominal surgery is
not produced by experience in a contagious disease ward. Similarly we
ought not to expect a school remote from public library facilities to
specialize in public library work, or a school in close connection with
a public library to produce assistants for the work of a university
library. Increasing professional spirit among us will demand
specialization according to equipment.

Popularization, some may think, has already gone to the limit. How can
we be more of the people than we are to-day? Are we not, in sooth, a
little too democratic, perhaps? Personally I feel that a good deal of
the library’s social democracy is on the surface. Any member of a
privileged class will assure you that his own class constitutes “the
people” and that the rest do not matter. The Athenians honestly thought
that their country was a democracy, when it was really an oligarchy of
the most limited kind. England honestly thought she had “popular”
government when those entitled to vote were a very small part of the
population. A library in a city of half a million inhabitants honestly
thinks that a record of 100,000 cardholders entitles it to boast that
its use extends to the whole population. We cannot say that we reach the
whole number of citizens until we really do reach them. The school
authorities can go out to the highways and hedges and compel them to
come in; we cannot. Herein doubtless lies one of our advantages. Our
buildings are filled with willing users. It is our business to
universalize the desire to read as the schools are universalizing the
ability. But we have not yet done so, and popularization proceeds
slowly. I cannot say that I see many indications of speeding up in the
rate, although our increase in the recognition of groups, noted above,
may have an influence here in future. As groups develop among that part
of the population that uses the library least, our opportunity to extend
our influence over that part will present itself. One such group is
ready for us but we have never reached it--that of union labor. The
recognition of the unions by the library and of the library by the
unions has been unaccountably delayed, despite sporadic, well-meant, but
ineffective efforts on both sides. No more important step for the
intellectual future of the community can be taken than this extension of

Nationalization has just begun. It is speeding up and will go far, I am
sure, in the next twenty years. Our libraries are getting used to acting
as a unit. We should not like administrative nationalization and I see
no signs of it; but nationalization in the sense of improved
opportunities for team work and greater willingness to avail ourselves
of them we shall get in increasing measure. For instance, one of our
greatest opportunities lies before us in the inter-library loan. It
knocks at our door, but we do not heed it because in this respect we
have not begun yet to think nationally. But having begun national
service in the various activities brought to the front by the war, we
shall not, I am sure, lag behind much longer. The national organization
of the A.L.A. has long provided us with a framework on which to build
our national thoughts and our national deeds, but hitherto it has
remained a mere scaffolding, conspicuous through the absence of any
corresponding structure. The war is teaching us both to think and to act
nationally, and after it is over I shall be astonished if we are longer
content to do each his own work. Our work is nationwide, in peace as in
war and our tardy realization of this fact may be one of the
satisfactory by-products of this world conflict.

Now it is not beyond the possibilities that the library movement, headed
right and running free, may still fall because it meets some obstacle
and goes to pieces. Are there any such in sight? I seem to see several,
but I believe that we can steer clear. If we split on anything it will
be on an unseen rock, and of such, of course, we can say nothing.

One rock is political interference. The library has had trouble with it
of old and some of us are still struggling with it. It is assumed by
those who put their trust in paper civil service that it has now been
minimized. This overlooks the undoubted fact that in a great number of
cases the civil service machinery has been captured by politicians, and
now works to aid them, not to control them. The greatest danger of
political interference in public libraries, now lies in well-meant
efforts to turn them over to some local commission established to
further the merit system, but actually working in harmony with a
political machine.

Another rock on which we may possibly split is that of formalism.
Machinery must be continually scrapped and replaced if progress is to be
made. It will not grow and change like an organism. The library itself
is subject to organic growth and change, but its machinery will not
change automatically with it. If we foster in any way an idea that our
machinery is sacred, that it is of permanent value and that conditions
should conform to it instead of its conforming to them, our whole
progress may come to an end. I have called this a rock, but it is rather
a sort of Sargasso Sea where the library may whirl about in an eternity
of seaweed.

Another obstacle, somewhat allied to this of formalism, is the “big
head”--none the less dangerous because it is common and as detrimental
to an institution as it is to an individual. Just as soon as a person,
or an institution, sits down and begins to appreciate himself or itself,
to take stock of the services he or it is rendering the community, to
wonder at their extent and value, those services are in a fair way to
become valueless. The proper attitude is rather that of investigation to
discover further possible kinds of service, with the exercise of
ingenuity in devising ways to render them effectively.

We have occasionally been accused of taking the attitude of
self-laudation, but I really do not think there is great danger of an
epidemic of this malady. We do not receive enough encouragement. Once in
a while, to be sure, someone tells us, or tells the public, what a great
and valuable institution the public library is but the treatment that we
receive is generally mildly humorous when it is not characterized by
downright indifference and neglect. Whenever a book comes into my hands
telling of some movement in which I know that the library has borne an
honorable part I always turn first to the index and search for
recognition under the letter L. Generally it is not there; when it is,
it is almost always inadequate. If we are attacked by the “big head,” it
will have to be a case of auto-intoxication.

Exploitation is another possible rock. I have already alluded to the
danger of capture by a political machine, but there are other interests
more subtle and quite as dangerous. Many a useful institution, intended
to be nonpartisan, has been captured and used by some interest or other
while remaining non-partisan on the surface. Our safety, so far, has
resided in the inability of most interests to see that we are worth
capture. When the drive comes, as I believe it will, our continued
safety will lie, not in resistance, but in an equal yielding to all--a
willingness to act as the agent for all isms, religious, economic,
political and industrial without exalting one above another or
emphasizing one at another’s expense. Something of this we are already
doing, and in so far as we succeed in it we are placing ourselves in a
position of vantage from which it will be very difficult to dislodge us.

Assuming the truth of all this--and it is something of an assumption, I
grant you--what then, is our library of 1950 to be? An institution not
very much larger or more expensively operated than our present maximum,
although with a higher minimum, carried on with a more careful eye to
economy and watching more jealously the quality of its output. It will
have two units of service, as at present, the book and the citizen, but
it will tend to regard the latter as primary, rather than the former and
will shrink from no form of service that it can render him. The higher
quality of its work will be reflected in the greater pride of the
worker--in a spirit of professionalism that will insist on adequate
training and proper compensation and possibly will use organization to
enforce these ideals. It will reach out somewhat further among the
people than it does now, although not so much that the difference will
be notable. Finally the teamwork between different libraries will be
more frequent and effective, assistants will be exchanged freely,
readers’ cards used interchangeably and inter-library loans will take
place easily and often.

What effect will these changes have on the desirability of library work
as a profession? The only conclusion can be that it will be greatly
increased. By this I mean that it will be more interesting, more likely
to give pleasure to the worker as a by-product. I do not mean that it
will necessarily pay very much better. The most interesting and
pleasurable occupations are generally, I think, those that do not pay
well in money. One should not expect full payment in both cash and
pleasure. The exception is where the acquisition of money is itself the
feature of the occupation that gives the pleasure. I do not quarrel with
those who pursue this form of pleasure, but they certainly have no
business to be librarians or teachers, or artists or authors, or to
engage in any occupation which in itself constitutes to the worker the
fullness of life and its illumination. The library profession will make
its appeal in 1950, as it does today, to men and women who like to work
with and among and through books; who also like to work with and among
and through people; who enjoy watching the interplay of relations
between the man and the book and using them for the advancement of
civilization. This is an intellectual and spiritual appeal, and it is
not likely to be replaced by that which glitters on the metallic face of
the dollar.

In taking leave of our subject we may go back to our opening simile of
the railroad train. The flier that reaches New York is the same train
that left Chicago; its passengers have not greatly changed, and yet its
environment is wholly different, so that the outlook of those within it
has totally altered. It is in some such fashion that the library of 1950
will differ from that of today. It will be the same institution with the
same staff, but it will have traveled far on the rails of time. Its
environment, its outlook will be different, and in its response to that
variation it must needs do different things and render a different
service. May its motive power never fail, its machinery be kept well
oiled, and the crew maintain their strength, intelligence and sanity!


The purchase of music by a public library is justified by the assumption
that its use is to be somewhat analogous to that of printed speech. The
analogy is, in fact, somewhat closer than most persons realize, and its
consideration reveals some mistaken ideas about the use of music in a
library and may give rise to suggestions for the improvement of that
use. A page of music, like a page of written language, is a record of
something whose primary expression is obtained through sound. Anyone who
understands the notation in either case may reproduce the sounds. In one
case this is “reading aloud”; in the other it is a performance of the
music. In the case of the music the sounds may be made with the voice,
or with an instrument or with one or several of both at once, but this
is only an apparent complication and does not affect the principle. The
reader, of course, may learn the language, or the music, by heart and
then dispense with the written record. In practise there are important
differences between the treatment of records of speech and music. As
sound is readily imagined as well as actually produced, both speech and
music may be enjoyed by a reader without making a sound. If the reader
of a book cannot do this, he is not regarded as at all skilled. Most of
us, I think, do not consider that a person knows completely how to read
when he is not able to read “to himself”, but finds it necessary to
make the actual sounds of speech, whether loudly, or only under his
breath. In the case of music, however, only the skilled musician, as a
general thing, is able to read a page of music “to himself”, as he would
read a page of written language. This is especially the case with
instrumental music and with music where there are several parts. An
accomplished musician, however, may run over an orchestral score and
hear the performance “in his mind”, with the quality of each instrument
brought out, the harmonies and the shading of intensity.

We may go a step further as a matter of curious interest. Language is
not necessarily connected with sounds at all. A deaf mute, who has never
heard a sound, and is incapable of understanding what sound is, may
nevertheless learn to read. He is, however unable to appreciate a page
of written music, and I do not know how it would be possible to explain
to him what it is like, except the rhythm of it, which may be made to
appeal to the senses of sight and touch, as well as to that of sound. In
general, however, the reader of music must at least imagine the sounds
represented by the notation before him. This is not the case with the
reader of speech. Anyone who can read fast and well enough may, like the
deaf mute, understand what he reads without even imaging the sound of
the words. One may even read so fast that the mere speed forbids any
thought of the corresponding oral language. Skilled readers may take in
a sentence, a paragraph, almost a page, at a glance. This is the sole
point of difference between reading language and reading music; and it
does not greatly concern us here because all that it practically affects
is speed of appreciation.

Something that is of greater importance is the difference of purpose
usually found between those who read words and those who read musical
notes. When we say of a child that he is studying music we usually mean
that he is learning how to sing or to play on some instrument with the
special view of being able to perform before some kind of audience. A
music-teacher in like manner is one who teaches his pupils how to play
on the piano or the violin, or how to sing.

But when we teach a child to read we are not primarily concerned with
his future ability to read aloud or to recite so as to give pleasure to
an audience, what we are thinking of is his ability to read rapidly to
himself so as to understand what is in books. Looked at in the same way
the main thing in musical instruction would be to teach rapid
sight-reading so that the reader should get the ability to become
acquainted with as large a number of musical masterpieces as possible.
One learns to talk by talking; one learns to read by reading; and the
same is true of reading music. And as the omnivorous reader of books
always wants to express his own thoughts in writing, so the omnivorous
reader of music will want to compose. Neither the one nor the other may
produce anything great, but the effort will aid in mental development.
As a matter of fact, the child begins to put his thoughts into words
before he knows how to read. He is encouraged to do so. No mother ever
tried to stop her baby from learning to talk because its first efforts
were feeble, halting and unintelligible. How differently we treat the
child’s attempts at musical expression--for that is the explanation of
many of the crude baby noises that we hear. As the child grows, its
expression in this direction is discouraged, and seldom is any effort
made at encouragement or development. Is it not a wonder that anyone
succeeds in composing original music? How many great poets or novelists
should we have if every baby were discouraged in its efforts to express
itself in words; if it were never taught to talk and never to read?

By the time we librarians are able to exert an influence on the reader,
this period is past, but it is still possible to do something. Our first
job is to disabuse the public of the idea that enjoyment of music has
necessarily something to do with mastering the technique of some musical
instrument. The phonograph has done good work in removing this
impression, but we should never be content with the phonograph any more
than we should consent to do away with all printed books and rely wholly
on works “read aloud” on the victrola. There will always be pleasure and
profit in doing one’s own reading, whether in speech or in music. One
must understand musical notation of course, just as one must know the
notation of written speech before he can read books. He must also
understand a little of some instrument, preferably the piano; though
only enough for sight-reading, his object being to understand and
appreciate the music himself, not necessarily to bring understanding and
appreciation to others.

I think I have gone far enough along this train of thought to show the
principle on which I should select the music for a public library
collection. I should form such a collection in precisely the same way as
my collection of books. A very large proportion of the books in a public
library are properly intended for those who will read them for their own
delectation, enjoying and appreciating and profiting personally by what
they read. A much smaller proportion are books for study and research. A
still smaller number are dramatic or other selections intended
principally for recitation or declamation. So, in selecting my music I
would acquire chiefly selections for reading. I do not mean elementary
reading--one does not limit his language books to primers. I should buy
works of all grades of difficulty, but I should have always in mind the
primary use of these for sight reading. Comparatively few would be
pieces written solely for display--to dazzle the hearer or to show off
technique. Few would be pieces whose interest is chiefly historical or
academic. I do not say that I should exclude either of these kinds, but
I certainly should not include them in greater degree than I should
include analogous material in buying ordinary books. Bear in mind also
that I am speaking of an ordinary public library, of average size, not
of a university library nor that of a music school; nor a public library
so large that it may properly have some of the functions of both of

Just as it is a conspicuous duty of the library to raise and maintain
the level of literary taste in its community and to keep this fact in
mind in the selection of its books, so it is the business of its musical
collection to raise and maintain the level of musical taste.

My own opinion, which some may regard as heretical, is that taste can
not be cultivated, in literature, or art, or music, to any considerable
extent by study. The study of these things must have to do largely with
history and technique, and while a knowledge of these is desirable it
can not affect taste, although we may imagine that it does. We may
reduce this matter to its lowest terms by thinking for a moment of
something that depends on the uncomplicated action of an elementary
sense--physical taste. If one does not like an olive when he eats one
for the first time, that judgment can not be reversed by studying the
history of olive culture. If he dislikes cheese, it will be useless to
take him into a cheese factory and explain to him, or teach him the
technical processes of manufacture. The only way to make him change his
mind is to induce him to keep on eating olives, when one of two things
will take place--either his dislike of olives will be confirmed, or it
will disappear. As most people like olives when they become accustomed
to the taste, the latter result is to be expected. Now suppose that
someone does not care for Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”. My contention
is that he cannot be made to like it by studying the history of music,
or that of this particular selection, nor by analyzing its structure,
but that he may be led to do it by listening to it repeatedly. As
persons familiar with good music do generally enjoy this piece, it is
probable that this result will follow.

I know that I must now justify this comparison. When I make it I am
accustomed to indignant protest on the part of some of my students. Is
it not unworthy to compare the music of the Moonlight Sonata to a mere
physical sensation like the taste of an olive? Only as it may be
considered unworthy to compare the great and the small; the complex and
the simple. Both the taste of the olive and the sound of the sonata,
have a physical origin and impress the brain through the agency of the
sense organs. And as a matter of fact I doubt whether the sensation of
the music is much more complicated than that of the taste. We know that
an acoustic sensation is a unit. When a chorus is singing with
orchestral accompaniment the result is not a hundred sound waves, but
one; it strikes the ear drum as a unit, and that vibrates as a unit, so
that the impression on the brain, about whose mechanism we are ignorant,
must also be a unit. The popularity of the phonograph enables us to
illustrate this familiarly. Examine with a microscope a record of a
complicated musical performance, with many voices and many different
kinds of instruments, and you will find a single wavy line. When the
needle causes the disk to vibrate by following this line, it vibrates as
a unit, just as the ear-drum does. There is but one disk, yet its
vibration enables us to pick out separately the different voice parts,
and to recognize the separate quality of the stringed instruments, the
woodwinds and the brasses, with the drums, bells, and what not. When we
taste the olive, we get a sort of chemical effect. We do not know what
happens as definitely as we do in the case of a musical sound, but the
various atoms, each vibrating in its own way, act upon the taste-buds of
the tongue so that a sensation is transmitted to the brain--transmitted
as a unit, just as the sound is. I want to be fair, so I will
acknowledge that instead of comparing a single sensation of taste to a
sequence of sounds, I should have likened it to a musical chord. To get
a taste analogy with a sonata we should have to use a sequence of taste
sensations, possibly that presented by a course dinner. I submit,
however, that this does not affect my argument.

Let me repeat my conviction, then, that art is primarily a matter of the
heart and not of the head--of the feelings and not of the intellect, and
that the feelings are trained by personal experience, not by study. One
cannot learn to appreciate a poem, or a picture or a piece of music by
examining it historically or structurally, only by experiencing it and
others like it again and again, and also by experiencing in life the
emotions that the art is intended to arouse. Of course I do not mean to
say that knowledge of history and technique is not interesting and
valuable. It is highly interesting to know the recipe for the pie and to
watch the cook make it; but this does not affect the taste.

Knowledge obtained by study does affect ability to reproduce or create.
One must know how the pie is made before he can make one himself. One
can not write a poem or paint a picture or compose a song, without
preliminary study. This should be understood, but it is outside the pale
of our present discussion, which relates to the chief purpose of the
music collection in a library and of its chief uses. My contention, to
repeat, is that it is related to musical art precisely as the purpose of
the book-collection is related to the art of literature.

Now the present status of the music collection is precisely what that of
the book collection would be in a community where the percentage of
literacy was small, where a considerable number of persons did not
understand the language of the books, even when spoken or read aloud,
where those who knew the language understood it only when spoken or read
and where readers were obliged to read aloud before they could
appreciate what they were reading. A community, moreover, where teaching
generally meant solely teaching how to recite or read aloud acceptably
to others, with only enough ability to read to get the sense of an
extract and enable the reader to commit it to memory. A librarian set
down with a collection of books in such a community would not be true to
his vocation if he did not attempt to better this state of things, while
admitting the elements of good that it contained. For instance, the
imaginary situation that I have described would be quite comparable with
a real appreciation and love of good literature.

In the first place, the librarian would wish to see that all the members
of his community were able to understand the language of his books, if
not to read it. To remember our analogy for a moment, he would
practically fit his books to his people. If they were predominantly
French, for instance, he would buy many French books. But one can not do
this with music, for music is a language by itself, for the most part
untranslatable into any other. We must assume that in the world to which
our imaginary community belongs there is but one language, and that to
understand the books those who do not know that language must be taught
it. School instruction in language is largely limited to reading.
Children who go to school understand and talk their language already,
having been taught it at home. It is to the homes, therefore, that the
librarian would have to look for this instruction and he would have to
bring to bear on parents whatever influence might be at his disposal to
make them see its value and uses.

Secondly, he would have to see that as many as possible were taught to
read the language. This would be the function of the schools.

Thirdly, it would be necessary to see that facility in reading proceeded
so far that readers would not find it necessary to read aloud, but could
when they desired, read rapidly “to themselves”. It would be necessary,
of course, to show many of the teachers and almost all of their pupils,
that reading is primarily not to enable the reader to recite to others,
but to make an impression on his own mental equipment. It is quite
possible for one to learn to read out loud after a fashion, in a foreign
tongue, without understanding a word of it, but so that listeners may
get a fair idea of it. The effect on the reader in this case is
absolutely zero.

Musically, this kind of community is precisely the one that public
libraries have to deal with. Many of our clients do not like or
understand music at all, or they care for only the most elementary
melodies, harmonies and rythms--comparable to the literature that one
gets in a child’s primer. Of those whose range of appreciation and love
is fairly wide, comparatively few are familiar with musical notation,
and can not read music. Of those who can read, few can read rapidly and
with assurance, and fewer still can read without audible utterance; that
is, they can not read to themselves. It is common to hear persons who
can sing or play on some instrument with a fair degree of success and
taste say “Oh, I can’t read; I have to pick out the notes and get my
teacher to help me.” This is exactly as if someone who had just recited
an oration or a poem with some feeling should proclaim complacently:
“Oh, I can’t really read. I had to pick out that piece word for word,
with my teacher at my elbow to help me out.”

In the face of such a situation the librarian should feel and act
precisely as he would feel and act if the situation existed with regard
to books, as it has already been imagined and described.

First, he should try to influence the growth of musical appreciation
through the home, so that all the children in a family shall come to
understand and use musical language as they do the language of the
spoken word.

Secondly, he should try to influence the schools so that they shall
teach the reading of musical notation as thoroughly as they do the
reading of the printed word, and to persuade teachers of music to teach
music really and not simply the art of performing on some musical

Thirdly, he should point out to his musical clients that music may be
read “to oneself”, just as language can, and encourage them to try it,
beginning with easy examples. Note that reading to oneself can be done
only by those who already know how to read aloud, and only by practise.
There is no way in which it can be taught.

Fourthly, he should have in his library a selection of music picked out
to a great extent to further the ends outlined above. Much of it should
be for readers, not for performers. His lists should be made for readers
and the comments on individual titles should be for readers. Moreover,
they should at present be such as will help the beginner; for a very
large proportion of our musical readers are beginners although they may
be in the anomalous position of the reader who knows and appreciates his
subject matter very thoroughly, while he can read about it only
hesitatingly and haltingly. Imagine a well-informed and intelligent
student of history who has completely forgotten to read, owing to some
concussion of the brain which has not impaired his knowledge in any
other way, and you have the situation of many music-lovers.

There were doubtless poets before the invention of alphabets, and one
may appreciate a symphony concert without knowing his musical alphabet
or being able to use it; but we are accustomed now to considering
thorough ability to read as a prerequisite to the requirement of a
general education; and I do not see why as complete an ability to read
music should not be a prerequisite for such a musical education as all
persons ought to possess.

The analogy between the reading of music and that of language is very
close, as we have seen, and we may be guided by it largely; but there is
one respect in which it fails. Music and poetry may both be bad in the
sense that they are ugly, of faulty construction, or trivial. But poetry
may also be bad because it conveys a bad moral lesson or causes one to
accept what is false. I can not see that it is possible for music to do
this, except by association. A tune that has always been associated with
improper words may in time come to be considered as itself improper, but
there can be nothing objectionable about the music in itself. Again,
music may be improperly used. Anyone would say that a largo in a minor
key was out of place at a wedding, or a jig at a funeral. Association
may have, but does not necessarily have anything to do with this; but
here again the music in itself is not objectionable. This simplifies the
selection of music for a library; for it excludes at the outset almost
all the problems of censorship. Music is rejected usually for negative
reasons--because it is not worth buying; not for any active evil
influence that it is likely to exert.

This question comes up especially in connection with certain adjuncts to
a music collection--pianola rolls and phonograph records. These are both
of great aid in assisting the public to understand the language of
music, which they must do before they learn to read it. They may be
profitably used, of course in connection with reading, and yet the
pleasure of following a piano player or a phonograph with the printed
score seems to be known to few. Every library must judge for itself
whether it can afford to put money into these adjuncts but in most
cases it is unnecessary to do so, it being easy to get the rolls and
records by donation. In doing this at my own library I have been struck
with the trivial or so-called “popular” character of most of the rolls
received. I am told, also that those who borrow them (and they have gone
out “like hot cakes”) are largely persons who have not visited the
library before. I believe that this sort of music is popular not because
it is trivial or “trashy”, but because it is easy to understand. There
is some music that is both good and easy--easy to understand and easy to
read. Schumann’s Album for the young will occur to anyone. The
compositions of Ludwig Schytte are modern examples. But the general
impression that good music is difficult both to read and appreciate--is
“high-brow”, in fact; and that easy music is always trivial and poor, is
a deduction, I am afraid from experience. It is certainly not in the
nature of things. However, so long as we want easy music, both to hear
and to read, and a good deal of it is trashy, I can see nothing to do
but to use the trashy music. With the music rolls triviality is all we
have to object to--the ceaseless repetition of the same phrases and
harmonies. We must remember, however, that these are not boresome to the
beginner. It takes a good deal of repetition to make one tired of a
musical phrase. And there is absolutely no question of active badness
here--only of worthlessness.

When we come to phonograph records, however, we encounter something
different. So far as these are purely musical, what has been said of the
music rolls applies to them also, but many of them are vocal, and the
words are often far below library standard. When a record is rejected
for its words, the music, of course, must go with it, although as music
it may be quite unexceptionable.

The location of the music collection is affected by the purpose for
which it is maintained. A collection for scholars alone should certainly
be in a separate room, with an expert custodian. But when we regard the
collection as a means of popularizing music and of improving popular
musical taste, the matter takes on another aspect. A person who comes to
the library for the purpose of visiting the music room will find it, no
matter where it may be, but the reader who needs to have his attention
called to it or in whose case it must compete for use with other books,
will never do so. Going back to our analogy with general literature we
may note that when a librarian wishes to promote the circulation of some
special class of literature or call attention to some particular book or
books, the last thing he would think of doing would be to set them apart
in a special room. What he does do is to place them conspicuously in the
most frequented spot in his library.

This is, of course, only one side of the question. No one can browse in
a collection of books unless he knows how to read; and so long as music
readers can not read “to themselves”, the reading of instrumental pieces
can not be done without the aid of the actual instrument. Even when one
can read music to himself well enough to pick out what he wants it may
aid him to be able to perform the piece on the instrument for which it
was written. Now the most frequented spot in the library, where I
recommend that the music collection shall be displayed, is not the place
for a piano or for its use. This must necessarily be in a separate

These are not, however, absolutely irreconcilable requirements. It is
not necessary that the music and the instrument should be in the same
room. A sound-proof or a distantly-located room, for the instruments,
may be used by those who wish to perform pieces before selecting them,
even if no music at all is shelved in the room. This room should
preferably be as near as possible to the music shelves, and if it is it
must of course be sound proof.

Going back again for a moment to our analogy, the provision of a sound
proof music room corresponds to the creation of a similar room for the
ordinary reader, where he may take his books and read them aloud to see
how they sound. The mere statement shows us how far behind our ability
to read language is our ability to read music.

When I first began to present these ideas, which seemed to me to be
absurdly self-evident, it was gradually borne in upon me that most
people considered them new and strange, both those who agreed with me
and those who disagreed. But without going into the question of what
music can and can not convey to the human mind, it seems clear to me
that both music and language succeed in conveying _something_ to the
human organism, and do it principally by sound-waves. In the case of
both, there is a way of writing down what is to be conveyed, so that the
record may be used by another person who wishes to convey it by sound,
or so that a person, sufficiently skilled, may convey it to himself,
without making an audible sound. These facts seem to me to establish so
complete an analogy that we may treat music in a library precisely as we
treat ordinary books, both in selection, distribution and use. If to
complete the analogy we must insist on certain changes in the attitude
toward music of both educators and readers, this kind of missionary
work is after all no more and no other than that which the modern
librarian, especially in America, is often called upon to do.

I am a believer in the mission of music. The public library can do no
more helpful thing to our modern life than to assist the public to
understand and love it. The fact that it is not a representative art
makes it all the more valuable as a means of detaching the mind from the
things of this earth and transporting it to a separate world. A
beautiful picture or statue or poem is anchored to the ground by the
necessary associations of its subject matter. Music has no such anchor.
It is free to soar, and soar it does, bearing with it the listening soul
into regions that have no relations with the things of every day life.
It may rest or it may stimulate; it may gladden or depress; but it does
so by means of its own, not by reminding us of the stimulating or
depressing things of our own past experience.

In the multifarious mission of the Public Library, as we Americans see
it, surely the popularization of good music is to assume no unimportant


The sins of which I purpose to speak are Duplication and Omission. They
are peculiar to no one class of persons, to no one business, profession
or institution. They are ubiquitous and omnipresent. Those who use the
Book of Common Prayer acknowledge them when they confess that they have
done those things that they ought not to have done and have left undone
those things that they ought to have done. This statement covers other
sins, both of commission and omission, than those that I have specified
above, but it includes both of them. The peculiarity of Duplication and
Omission is that they are complementary so far as the labor and expense
involved in them is concerned. Their existence is like that of a surplus
and a debt in the same purse. To bewail them is like complaining because
you have a thousand dollars that you know not how to invest and at the
same time because you owe a thousand that you can not pay. The whole
world is out of joint because it is doing twice things that need to be
done only once, and at the same time is not doing at all things that
ought to be done. The man with the thousand-dollar surplus and the debt
of the same amount may obtain quick relief by paying his indebtedness
with his balance. The world will be relieved when it takes the energy
and the money now expended in wasteful duplication and puts it into the
doing of those things that are now left undone because the energy and
money necessary to do them are expended wastefully. It is very easy, is
it not? As easy as adding plus 10 to minus 10 and getting zero. The
surplus and the debt, the duplications and the omissions, extinguish
each other and neither of them bothers us any more. Unfortunately there
are practical obstacles that do not present themselves in the case of
the algebraic sum. These difficulties might occur in the case of the man
with the surplus who owed money, if he could be supposed ignorant both
of his balance and of his debt, while suffering the inconveniences due
to both. This ignorance is the rule, rather than the exception, in the
case of ordinary duplications and omissions. Either the duplication is
not noticed, because at first sight it does not appear to be a
duplication, or when recognized as such, its existence does not seem to
be of any consequence. Besides this, both duplications and omissions
seem to some to be part of the natural order of things ordained for us
and not to be disturbed by the hand of impiety.

One hardly knows when to begin with illustrations where there is such a
wealth of material, whether we seek it in civics, or history, or
science, or business or in domestic economy. As you have doubtless
surmised I intend to take the Public Library as my chief field of
research, but I must maintain or at least justify my thesis of
universality by a preliminary trip through a much broader field.

First let us take the age-old universal grievance, the unequal
distribution of wealth, which from our present standpoint we may
simplify by saying that one man has two dollars where he needs only one
and another has no dollars at all--omission in his case where there is
duplication in the other. I know there are some people who fail to see
two sins in these simple and well-known facts, but most of us nowadays
are recognizing that it is at least an unsatisfactory state of affairs.
Where we disagree is that some feel that however unsatisfactory it may
be there is nothing to be done about it; that others who agree that it
is unsatisfactory are unable to agree on what they would consider
satisfactory; and that even those who think they know this are unable to
get together on a method of attaining what they desire. These various
kinds and degrees of disagreement constitute the reason why these two
particular sins of duplication and omission continue to be committed.

Now let us take a very big jump, from the general theory of socialism
down to the golf-clubs of Middlefield, Mass.--a real place, though I
have taken the liberty to change its name. With a population of about a
thousand, this model village supported until recently two of these
institutions for no other reason than the general tendency to wasteful
duplication, already noted. The links on the West Side and those on the
East Side had both their ardent partisans. Each club considered the
existence of the other a shame and an outrage and each was only too
willing to abolish duplication by consolidation, always provided its own
particular links should be the ones to survive.

For years this small place supported these two clubs, each with its
club-house, grounds, dues and assessments. Those who were not partisans
had to belong to both, to keep the peace. Meanwhile, the town greatly
needed a small social club where the retired city merchants,
professional men and artists who largely made up its population could
assemble occasionally, have a game of pool or bridge and drink a cup of
tea. But their incomes were not large and they had to keep up those two
golf clubs. The situation is so typical that I am enlarging on it a
little. I wish that the outcome were typical too. That outcome was that
after years of discussion the clubs were merged, one of the links was
discontinued, and the village now enjoys the little social club that it
needed. An omission has been filled by doing away with a duplication.

The church history of many a small place is very much to the point. We
see three or four denominational bodies struggling with small
congregations, inadequate buildings and general poverty when by uniting
they might fill all these lacks simply by saving what they are now
spending on duplication. Doctrinal differences are said to keep them
apart; but to the non-theological mind these differences are not greater
than these that must always exist between thoughtful men in the same
religious body. It is pleasant to see an occasional lapse into sanity,
shown by the union of such churches and the consequent strengthening and
growth of a town’s religious life. Probably it is not too much to say
that the whole problem of Christian Unity is but a phase of this general
question of duplication and omission.

In the business world our two sins flourish like green bay trees. Small
villages have two groceries and no hardware store; large cities may be
overrun with one trade while there is lack of another. These things
ought to adjust themselves, but they do not. One can pick out
duplication and omission in the stock of a single institution. On asking
for something at a department store recently I was met with the remark,
“Isn’t that funny? You are the fifteenth person who has asked for that
in the last three days!” The fact was noted as merely curious and
interesting and there was apparently no intention of remedying the
omission, even by cutting out some of the superfluous styles of

The most flagrant example I know of duplication in the business and
industrial world is the duplicate telephone company. A telephone company
is a good example of a mutual enterprise; its value to any subscriber
depends on the existence of all the other subscribers. If a man could
afford to buy up the company and discontinue all the telephones but his
own, the value would disappear. Two companies are simply a nuisance,
involving duplication of plant with no resulting convenience. The same
is not true of gas or water companies, because here one user does not
depend on the others. You would get just as good service if the electric
company concluded to serve you, and you alone. There is, to be sure,
wasteful duplication in these cases also, but in the instance of the
telephone it is accompanied with necessary deterioration of service.

I suppose I need say little about the existence of our two sins in the
household. We are honeycombed with them from the rural dinner table
where there are no soup and three kinds of pie, to the housewife who
yields to the temptation to buy another evening dress and “can not
afford” an outing costume. What we need everywhere is some kind of a
Board of Equalization, with autocratic powers, that will rigourously
suppress all our duplication and with the money saved supply our
omissions for us.

We may learn something from the efforts that have recently been made to
minimize these two sins in charitable work and social service. Every
city contains numerous charitable bodies, all trying to relieve want and
alleviate suffering. They are frequently the prey of unscrupulous
persons who manage to get their wants alleviated by three or four
societies at once--by each, of course, without the knowledge of the
others. The result is that there are no funds to relieve many worthy
persons who accordingly suffer. The two sins in this case are being
avoided by the simple establishment of a card-index at a central point.
When an application is made for relief the index-office is informed by
telephone, the index is consulted, and if it is found that the applicant
is already receiving aid from some other source his request is politely
but firmly refused.

The present production of books gives us an instructive example of the
existence of duplications and omissions on a large scale; and the
elucidation of these will bring us a little nearer to the application of
our principles to the library, toward which we are tending. I know not
which is the more striking fact in connection with the publishing
business--the continual issue of useless books--fiction and non-fiction,
or the non-existence of works on vital subjects regarding which we need
information. Of course this is due partly to the fact that the men who
know things are also the men who do things. They are too busy to write
them down. It is also due to the abnormal appetites of the
semi-educated, which create a demand for the trivial and fatuous. The
semi-educated person is intellectually young; he has the peculiarities
of the child. Foremost among these is the love of repetition. The little
one would rather hear his favorite fairy tale for the hundredth time
than risk an adventure into stranger fields of narrative. There is
something admirable about this when it leads to the adult’s love of
re-reading great literature. But in the semi-educated it appears as an
unlimited capacity for assimilating unreal fiction with the same plots,
the same characters, the same adventures and the same emotions, depicted
time after time with slight changes in names and attendant

An African explorer told me recently that the events attending the
southward progress of the French through the Sahara and down into
Central Africa were the most thrilling and the most important, from the
standpoint of world history, among those of recent times. The story of
them remains unwritten, except for a few episodes in French that have
not been thought worthy of translation into other tongues. Yet in this
period how much trivial incident, how much banal reminiscence, has been
thought worthy of enshrinement in bulky octavos, selling at four dollars
each! The money spent in putting forth the same idle stuff that has
oppressed the world for centuries would have supplied great gaps in our
catalogues of history, travel and science and have given us vital
literature that we may now have lost forever.

In fiction, the sin of repetition is largely due to the substitution of
imagination for observation. No two actual things are alike and no two
events happen in the same way. Observation and accurate description will
never result in duplication. But the semi-educated imagination sees
always the same things and sees them in the same way; and its use in the
writing of fiction results as we have seen.

Would that we had, to-day and here, realism like that of Turgenief in
his “Memoirs of a Sportsman”--the detailed account of every-day
happenings; the hardest thing in the world to write interestingly. When
we try it, which we seldom do, we seem to revert at once to the dreary
side of life, which doubtless exists but surely not to the exclusion of
other things. Turgenief’s book helped toward the emancipation of the
serfs. I will not dwell on that, for Mrs. Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin--a
very different sort of book, performed a like office for us. I will
rather insist that Turgenief wrote simple, vital descriptive
literature; something that you will look far to find in our modern

Our books of reference are full of duplications and omissions. Search
the commoner dictionaries and cyclopedias on the library shelves and you
will find countless instances of items of information given twice or
thrice and others left out altogether--of words entered under more than
one form and completely defined under each, while cross-references lead
the seeker to nothing at all. After working a good many years on books
of this kind I am convinced that the art of making a perfect dictionary
or cyclopedia is the art of avoiding duplication and omission. This can
not be done until publishers are willing to allow sufficient time to
elaborate a plan before beginning work on one of these books. This, so
far, has never been done, and the two sins continue to be committed,
here as elsewhere.

It is doubtless time for our application of these principles to the
library. We have not to look far to begin.

Take any city of average size and inquire how many libraries it
supports. Is there any necessity in a town for more than one library? I
am open to conviction, but I doubt. There are excellent reasons for the
duplication in each case, I know, just as there were for the two golf
clubs in our little town. The duplication in buildings, staff and books
is very costly, and the service, no matter how good it may be, is not
bettered by this duplication. The trouble may be minimized by
co-operation, but it still exists. Take, if you please, the one item of
book-purchase. I shall not speak here of private owners, though they
must bear their share of blame and of punishment for our two sins; but
add together the book funds of the two or three large libraries--public
or subscription--and of the dozen small ones--special, denominational,
associational--in a community, and see to what a considerable sum it
amounts. If it could be administered and expended as a unit, is there
any one who will maintain that the precise books would be bought that
actually are bought? We find all these libraries buying copies of the
same book when one copy is all that the community needs, each ignoring
the others and each lamenting the insufficiency of its funds. I have not
forgotten such conspicuous instances of co-operation in book-purchase as
that of the three large libraries in Chicago, but I also do not forget
that it is rare, and that even in Chicago it has been found difficult to
carry it out in the perfection in which it is to be found on paper. If
we add private purchasers to the libraries I have little hesitation in
saying that the money spent on books in any community is quite enough to
buy all that the community needs. The lacks are due to the fact that the
sum needed to supply them is spent on useless duplicates.

I am not proposing plans, here or elsewhere, to perform the addition of
plus and minus quantities that is so easy in pure algebra; I am merely
pointing out their existence. From my point of view the ideal situation
in a community is the administration by a single body of all its library
activities, even private owners co-operating to a certain extent. Let us
refresh our memories with a bit of library history. There are at present
a great many separate libraries in greater New York. That is, from my
point of view, a bad thing. But there were once a great many
more. New York and Brooklyn were full of small circulating
libraries--denominational, charitable and associational; and many of
them had succeeded in obtaining small subsidies from the city. The sum
of these was considerable--or would have been considerable had it been
administered as a sum, instead of in separate driblets. All the
considerations noted above applied in this case, but the Board of
Equalization for which we have been sighing actually existed here. It
was the city government, which bestowed and controlled a large part of
these institutional incomes. A city comptroller with a business-like
mind saw all this and proceeded to act upon it. The small libraries
became branches of the public libraries of New York and Brooklyn. The
city subsidy, in a lump sum went to those institutions. If there is any
one who now wishes to return to the old system of separate control and
duplication of effort, I am unacquainted with him; notwithstanding the
fact that I know many trustees of the consolidated institutions who were
filled with rage at the summary action of the city. That action was in
the nature of both a threat and a bribe--a threat to discontinue the
appropriation of city funds for a library that should refuse to
consolidate and a bribe in the shape of a hint of additional favors to
come if it should not refuse. Mr. Andrew Carnegie’s offer to build
branch libraries, coming at about this time, made it possible to
reinforce this hint very effectively.

Our federal government is being held up as the model for a future world
federation, and its successful operation confutes the fears of those who
doubt the workability of any such plan. In like manner I beg to point to
the library consolidations in New York and Brooklyn as an evidence that
such removal of duplication elsewhere would enable us to supply
omissions in library service. All we need is a motive--if not the
threats and bribes that forced the New York consolidation, then
something of equal effect. But as I have said I am not proposing plans.

The abolition of this kind of duplication requires pressure from an
outside body or agreement among those concerned; no one of us, acting
alone, can do away with it. But there are duplications and omissions in
the work of every library that it is in the power of the librarian to
remedy. Many of these are the result of growth. I know of no profession
whose members are more continually and consistently looking for more
work to do than that of librarianship. This quest is rarely carried on
cooperatively in a library. The head of each department grasps every
opportunity to enlarge her sphere of influence, with the result that her
sphere first touches that of another department and then intersects it,
so that they possess certain parts of the field of service in common.
The departments concerned may not know of this duplication, or they may
realize that it is going on and be unwilling to stop it for various
reasons. Each department-head, like the golf-clubs mentioned above, may
be willing to abolish duplication by driving her fellow-worker out of
the field, but not otherwise; and her fear lest she herself may have to
be the one to retire may induce her to keep silence. Sometimes the
librarian himself, observing the interference, contents himself with
seeing that individual items of service are not duplicated, leaving the
two departments to do, in part, the same kind of work, though not in
precisely the same items. This is but a partial atonement for our two
sins. Although there is, perhaps, no longer actual duplication of work,
there is duplication of administration, duplication of thought and
planning. All this is waste of effort that should be devoted to doing
some of the things that every library leaves undone. I have elsewhere
treated of what I call “conflicts of jurisdiction” in libraries. This
comes under the same head, though there may be no actual clash of

Sometimes we have cases resembling those of the applicants for
charitable aid from various sources. Members of the public entitled to
library service, the amount of which has been limited by the rules to
ensure proper distribution and to prevent monopoly, manage to get two or
three times as much as they should get, by applying to different
departments, or to the same department under different names. There has
been much removal of restrictions of late, in libraries, with the intent
to give fuller and freer service to the public. There should be no
restriction that interferes with such service. But many restrictions are
intended merely to check those whose tendency is to hamper service; and
removal of these will evidently injure the public, not benefit it.
Traffic regulations are a great bother, but their removal would not be
in the public interest. Neither would the removal of necessary
regulation of library traffic--the free distribution of books through
the appointed public agencies. I sympathize with our modern desire to
let Mr. A have as many books as he wants and to keep them as long as he
wants; but this sympathy changes to indignation when Mr. A proves to be
a library hog, taking advantage of his privileges simply to keep away
from Mr. B and Miss C the books that they want. Now and again we find a
reader who understands increase of library privileges to mean taking a
book away from someone else and giving it to _him_. There could be no
more flagrant example of the double sin of duplication and
omission--giving A more than he can use and thereby depriving B of what
he needs.

The expenditure of time is a domain in which our two sins become
especially noticeable. If one has plenty of money he may waste a good
deal without serious effects; but waste of time is different. The total
extent of time is doubtless infinite, but not its extent as available to
the individual. He has only his three-score years and ten, and
astronomical happenings have chopped this up for him into years, months,
weeks and days, any one of which is largely a repetition of those that
have gone before. So many of our duties, for instance, are daily that
the average man has only a few hours out of the twenty-four to deal with
emergency work, “hurry calls” and all sorts of exceptional demands on
his time. If he gives ten minutes to something that requires but five,
he must often neglect a duty, and this constitutes duplication and
omission of time, to be remedied by taking the unnecessary five minutes
from one task and bestowing it on another. Here again, however, our
algebraic addition is simple only on paper. We are hindered not only by
our own propensity to waste time but by those whose own is of no value
and who therefore insist on wasting ours for us.

This is a subject on which most executive officers can speak feelingly.
Such officers are troubled with two kinds of lieutenants--those who keep
them in ignorance of what is going on and those who insist on putting
them in continual possession of trivial details--more omission and
duplication, you see. One special kind of time-waster is the assistant
who comes to her chief with a request. Foreseeing refusal she has primed
herself with all sorts of arguments and is ready to smash all opposition
in a logical presentation of the subject calculated to occupy thirty
minutes or so. But the request, as stated, appeals to her chief as
reasonable, and he grants it at once without hearing the argument. Do
you think the petitioner is going to waste all that valuable logic? Not
she! She stands her ground and pours it all out, the whole half hour of
it; and when the victim has granted a second time what he had already
granted without argument, she retires flushed with triumph at her
success. And while this duplicator was duplicating, the other sinner,
the “omittor”, was performing some innocent and valuable administrative
act without her chief’s knowledge, causing him to give wrong information
to a caller and convict himself of ignorance of what is going on in his
own institution.

Time-wasting, of course, is by no means confined to the library staff.
Much of every one’s time, in a library, is consumed in fruitless
conversations with the public--the answering of trivial questions, the
search for data that can do no one any good, efforts to appease the
wrath of someone who ought never to have been angry at all, attempts to
explain things verbally when adequate explanations in print are at hand.
All these things consume valuable time and thereby force the omission of
public services that would otherwise be performed. Some of them are
unavoidable. We must always change up a little time to the account of
courtesy, the avoidance of brusqueness, the maintenance in the community
of that tradition of library helpfulness that is perhaps the library’s
chief asset. This we can not afford to lose. But without sacrificing it,
can we not eliminate some of the bores, cut down our useless services
for the sake of performing a few more useful ones, and increase the
amount of library energy usefully employed without enlarging the total
sum expended? This is one of our most vital problems, did we but realize

We have gone far enough, perhaps, to realize that our two sins are
indeed cardinal and fundamental. The authors of the Prayer Book were
right. We have done those things that we ought not to have done and we
have left undone those things that we ought to have done; and we are all
miserable sinners.

If I had nerve enough to add a new society to the thousand and one that
carry on their multifarious activities about us, I should found a League
to Suppress Duplications and Supply Omissions.


History may be described as an account of the conflict between the
tendency of things to move and efforts to fasten them down so that they
will keep still. Where they have been moving in the wrong direction
these efforts have been praiseworthy; but in too many instances motion
has been resisted simply because it _is_ motion, quiescence being looked
upon as the supreme good. In his interesting “History of Fiji”, Dr.
Alfred Goldsborough Mayer notes that the difference between the savage
and the civilized man is not one of content of knowledge, for the savage
often knows far more than we do, but is due to the fact that the savage
is bound hand and foot by tradition--he is a slave to his imagination,
and to that of his forefathers. The conflict in his case has ended
definitely with the triumph of the fastening down process. There is no
more motion. He can not fall back, but neither can he move forward. He
is locked in one position--that of the particular generation, five,
fifty or five hundred years ago, when his fight for progress was lost.

With the civilized man the fight still goes on. It is not yet won nor
lost and the story of it, as I have said, is history. Read it in this
light and it will assume for you new significance. Wars, revolutions,
changes of dynasty, racial migrations, linguistic changes, the
achievements of art, the triumphs of science, the evolution of social
systems, the development of justice, the rise of literature and the
drama--everything that marks the story of what has been going on in the
world--is but a phase of this age-long struggle between forces and
obstacles of whose origins, at bottom, we know little. So far as the
obstacles have won, there are still savage elements lurking in us; so
far as we have thrust them aside, we are advancing further toward
civilization. The one title that we have to call ourselves civilized is
the fact that no set of traditions or customs--no institution--has yet
become crystallized into the fixity that obtains with the savage
races;--not the Church, not government, not science, nor art nor
literature. All these are changing, despite efforts to pin them down.
Our language, our social customs are altering; our fashions of dress
change from year to year. Our old people, for a man often reverts to
savagery in his old age, pass away with words of regret on their lips
for the good old days of their youth, when things were different. A
savage has never to do this, for the days of his youth and his age are
precisely the same--custom, speech, habit, observance, tradition, all
are locked up into fixity.

The education of the savage is directed toward perpetuating this fixity;
that of the civilized man should be a force in the opposite direction.
Recognizing that change is the life-blood of civilization, it should be
devoted to controlling and directing that change, leading the mind of
the pupil to anticipating and welcoming it and bracing that mind against
all feeling of shock due to the mere starting of the machinery of
progress. I say this is what education should be. I believe that it is
tending in this way. But a large part of it is still savage--an effort
to keep our customs, thoughts and actions to standards set up by our

The Public Library, we are fond of saying, is an educational
institution; which kind of education shall it dispense? Shall it be a
motor or a brake? Shall it look back into the past or forward into the

To many persons, the idea of a forward-looking library seems absurd. It
is essentially a repository of records, and records are of the past. You
will find somewhere, unless oblivion has overtaken it, an address by
your lecturer on “The Public Library as a Conservative Force”. Such it
doubtless is and such it should be--but its conservatism is that of
control, not of stagnation. It is the skilled driver who keeps the car
in the road--not the ignoramus who stalls it in the ditch. Records are
assuredly of the past; but the past and its records may be looked upon
in either of two ways--as standards for all time, or as foundations on
which to build for the future. The civilized man rejoices in
foundations--he builds them deep and strong, and erects upon them some
noble superstructure. The savage puts up his great stone circle, mighty
and wonderful perhaps, but complete in itself and of no manner of use.

So I ask you, what is our collection of records to be--a stone circle or
a foundation?

Now the records themselves--the books--can never determine this any more
than the great monolith can determine whether it is going into a
Stonehenge or into the foundation of a Parthenon. It is what we do to
the books--to and with them--that matters.

The world would never move on without records of the progress that had
already been made. Just as surely, it would never move on by reliance on
those records alone. What we have accomplished brings us merely to a
mile stone in the path of progress. To reach a given point, one must
pass the mile stones on the way; but they must be passed and left
behind. We shall never get anywhere merely by sitting down upon any of
them. To make a personal application to yourselves, you will never make
good librarians unless you master what good librarians before you have
learned and taught. But just as certainly, you will never be good
librarians if you regard this as a definite stopping point. The trouble
with most of our education is that it is static and not dynamic; it
looks backward, not forward; it teaches what has already been
accomplished and fails to equip the student for devising and
accomplishing something further, on his own account.

I am warning you in the midst of a course intended to fit you for
librarianship that the course alone will not so fit you. But it will
start you--and a start in the right direction is of great value--nay, it
is indispensable. When the fielder throws the ball directly into the
baseman’s hands there is a preliminary motion of his arm. At the end of
that motion the ball begins its flight; its start has enabled it to go
straight. Your library course will be the throw that enables you to go
straight to the mark, but you must not forget that the whole flight
remains to be made. My metaphor is a bad one. The ball has no power to
adjust or alter its course. You have that power; you can better a good
start, or you can nullify it. You may even hit the mark after you have
been started in the wrong direction; but to say this is by no means to
recommend a wrong start.

All this is a series of platitudes; but to insist on the obvious is
often useful. There are so many obvious things that we are apt to
neglect some of the most necessary, just as we may fail to see a sign on
a building because it is all plastered with signs. Nothing is more
common than to assume that a period of formal education, general or
special, makes its subject “fit”, either for life or for a vocation.
Some never get over this idea and fail in consequence; some discover
their mistake and blame their training because it does not do what it
can not do and was not intended to do. Formal training trains one to
start; it makes one fit to run the race. The race is not won when the
training has ended; it has not even begun. The man with a B.A. degree is
not ready to tackle the problems of life and vanquish them. The graduate
in law or medicine is not a trained lawyer or physician, and when you
have completed your library course you will not be trained librarians.
You will have been started right, the rest of your training will depend
on your reaction to the forces, the stimuli, that surround you on all

What the executive officer is looking for all over the world is
initiative, guided by common sense; but it is rare. Possibly our
education fails to develop it; possibly no system of education could
develop it. But it exists; and we are all happy when we find it.
Throwing out of consideration the really lazy, ignorant or incompetent
assistant, competent subordinates may be of three kinds--first, he who
has been trained to do certain things in certain ways and continues to
do only those things in only those ways, not realizing the possibility
of change or improvement; secondly, he who does realize this possibility
but has been taught, or at any rate believes, that it is not his place,
but only his superior’s, to take active steps toward something more or
better; and thirdly he who both realizes and acts, who does what he can
to see that such steps as he can properly take to improve matters are
taken and that such as he can not take of his own accord are suggested,
in a proper manner, to his superior. If I were asked to sum up, in a
few words, the things that differentiate a well run from a poorly run
institution I should say, first, the existence of a staff composed of
persons of this third variety, and secondly a chief executive who
appreciates and uses them. A progressive executive with a staff of
assistants who faithfully obey orders and do nothing more will not go
far. His institution may make no mistakes; it may run like a machine,
but it will have the faults of a machine--its product will be machine
made. With a live staff and a poor executive there will be a maximum of
mistakes, absurd and ill-judged plans--a failure to co-ordinate effort
in different lines. With plenty of initiative in the staff, and with an
executive to select, restrain, encourage and control, we have an
approach to the work of a single living organism, the most perfect tool
of evolution.

While this means the encouragement of suggestion it also means rejection
and selection. It means that while the staff will have to bear
disappointment with good nature and without diminution of initiative,
the executive, on his part, must realize that a hundred impractical
suggestions do not disprove the possibility, or even the probability,
that the assistant who makes them may ultimately offer some plan,
method, or device of great value. Some of the greatest improvements in
library service are due to persons with an imagination and an initiative
especially prone to run wild in impractical suggestions.

I realize that I may be regarded as tossing a firebrand among you when I
tell you to develop your initiative. An unwise or uncontrolled
initiative may do harm, but I fervently believe that greater harm is
done every day by the lack of all initiative. Better than any stagnant
pool is a running stream, though it break bounds and waste itself in
foam and spray. There may be those who will say: Let the student first
learn to obey without question; when he has done this it will be time to
talk to him about initiative. Alas! that will also be the time when he
has lost the chance to develop it intelligently. No, the accepted
standards and the ways of progress must be assimilated at one time.
Rather than unquestioning obedience to an order, a rule or a formula,
let us have appreciation of the reason for it and disobedience whenever
a breaking of the letter may keep us more closely to the spirit.

I can assure you that you will make better assistants if this is your
temperament, that librarians are looking earnestly for more of this
kind, rejoicing when they see the spark of life among the dead wheels
and cogs of the library machinery, determined to give any one who shows
it an opportunity to show more of it, by promoting him to a place of
greater effort and of higher responsibility and service. When such a
promotion comes, perhaps over the heads of others with better training
and longer experience, there is often wonder and a disposition to
explain it all by “favoritism”. And viewed from the proper angle, this
is correct; every chief librarian has his favorites; they are those on
whom he has learned that he can depend, not only for solid and accurate
knowledge of facts and methods but also for quick and ready response to
the slightest change of conditions--for appreciation of what is needed
in a given set of unusual circumstances and resourcefulness in devising
new methods or modifying old ones to meet the emergency--what I have
already summed up in the one word initiative.

Every teacher, and every student knows that a good arithmetician may
fail utterly when he comes to state and solve problems in algebra. His
success has been due to the memorizing of rules and their application.
When he is confronted with the necessity of putting into mathematical
symbols the fact that A, B and C can do a piece of work in 3, 4 and 5
days, respectively, he is stumped because an entirely different sort of
demand is made on his intelligence. And when his teacher explains how
the statement may be made, although he has learned how to state that
particular class of problems, he is just as much at sea when he is
confronted with the question of how soon after 12 o’clock the hands of a
watch will again be together on the dial.

In other words, he has left the land of rules and entered the region of
common sense. If he is bright, he very soon realizes that all
mathematics is common sense; that rules are very useful indeed, but only
as short cuts to mechanical processes.

So, at least so I trust, all the methods and tools of library work are
based on common sense--catalogues and charging systems and
classifications are very useful indeed, but only as short cuts to
certain results that would otherwise not be achieved or would be arrived
at too late or too confusedly. We must learn all about these, but the
time will come when we shall leave the library school and enter the
library. Here no sort of rule, formula, method or process will suffice
for us, essential though they all are; if we are to make good we must
add common sense, adaptability, resourcefulness, initiative.

Possibly you think that I have been applying the principle of conflict
between progression and stagnation somewhat carelessly--now to your own
training as librarians and again to the service rendered by the library
itself. In truth these are intimately connected. Progressive assistants
make a progressive library. A staff that does its work mechanically
will operate a library without initiative. If your habit of mind has
grown to be a habit of regarding all the technical detail of library
work as part of nature’s law, you will be shocked at a suggestion that
the library of which you are a part should undertake some public service
that a library never undertook before.

You may know already--you certainly will know soon--that this question
of the extension or limitation of library service is still a burning one
in many minds. Libraries to-day are doing a thousand things that no one
of them would have thought of doing fifty years ago. That some of these
things are foolish or ill advised I have no doubt. We now occasionally
hear it said that there should be some authoritative statement or
agreement on what public libraries, at any rate, ought to do and what
they ought not to do. But we Americans do not take kindly to limitations
of this sort, although they are familiar in countries where service of
all kinds is more standardized. We read in a recent magazine article of
the trials of Mrs. James Russell Lowell with English servants, when her
husband was American minister in London. Wishing to have a loose corner
of carpet nailed down, she called on one after another of her domestic
staff, only to be told that the clearly-defined duties of each did not
admit of that particular item of service. She finally lined them up on
one side of the room, tacked down the carpet herself and then discharged
every one of them. This sort of thing does not seem to Americans like
efficiency. If some needed bit of service in an American town remains
undone, and church and school and library all look the other way because
it does not fall within a carefully-limited sphere of duty which each
has assigned to itself, we shall count them all blameworthy, especially
if it shall appear that one of them is equipped to perform that
particular service easily, cheaply and well. The church and the school
have both taken this view, and the modern extension of the library’s
functions shows that it has been doing likewise. It has gone further
than either of the others, probably, because it finds itself in many
ways better equipped for the doing of civic odd jobs. It is related of a
railway manager that an employee whose work was over once asked him for
a free ticket home. The manager refused, saying: “If you had been
working for a farmer you would hardly expect him to hitch up and drive
you home, would you?” “No”, said the man, “but if he had a rig already
hitched up and ready to start, and he was going my way, I should call
him darned mean if he didn’t take me along.”

In many cases the library has been hitched up and standing at the door
when the necessity has arisen, and it has been “going the same way”--in
other words, the need of the community is nearly related to the work
that the community’s support has already enabled it to do. Under these
circumstances it is in the position of Coleridge’s Wedding Guest--it
“can not chuse but hear”.

When we look at the library’s recent history, we shall see that it is in
precisely this way that it has taken on all its additional functions.
The old libraries lent no books. But home use of books seemed presently
desirable. After experimenting with separate institutions for this kind
of service, we have all come around to considering it a legitimate
function of the Public Library. Libraries gave no attention to children.
When this became necessary, another function was added. These and other
duties were very closely related to the library’s older functions. Soon
there was a further step, in making which the library took over services
whose connection with its primary business was not so clear. To draw an
example from what is most familiar to me at present, in the St. Louis
Public Library you will find a room for art exhibits, collections of
post-cards and textile fabrics, a card index to current lectures,
exhibitions and concerts, a public writing-room with free note-paper and
envelopes, a class of young women, studying, like yourselves, to be
librarians; meeting-places for all sorts of clubs and groups, civic,
educational, social, political and religious; a photographic copying
machine, placed at public disposal at the cost of operation; lunch-rooms
and rest-rooms for the staff; a garage, with automobiles in it, not to
speak of an extensive telephone switchboard, a paint-shop, a carpenter
shop, and a power-plant. Not one of these things, I believe, would you
have found in a large library fifty years ago, and yet they are probably
all, in one shape or another, to be found in all large modern American
libraries. They are extensions of function; in many cases it would be
hard to justify them on general principles. Why should a library allow
young people to dance, or men to hold a political meeting or the
neighbors to exhibit local products, in its building? Our English
friends hold that it is the height of absurdity to do so. Doubtless we
should be absurd if we should attempt to formulate a principle about
what cognate activities might properly be admitted to the library and
should include such things as these. But that is not the way in which it
all came about. There was some group of citizens, anxious to engage in
some activity, beneficial to themselves and to the community. They
wanted a place to meet. Church and school, for one reason or another,
real or imaginary, were out of the question, and they came to the
library. The Library had an unoccupied room, heated and lighted. It had
the choice of locking out citizens of the community that were supporting
it out of the public funds, or of admitting them. Put in this way the
library’s duty seems clear enough. But there is a step further still.
Some demands for help are so old that the knocking at the door has
passed out of the consciousness of both those who knock and those who
hear. In this case it becomes necessary for the library to undertake
what a recent scientific writer calls the “re-education of its attentive
control”. When an institution reaches the conclusion that it is doing
all that it can, or all that the community can properly ask of it, the
chances are that it is losing its ability to concentrate. Its duty is to
fix its attention on one element of community life after another and ask
itself whether it is not overlooking some really insistent demand for

I well remember when, in the New York Public Library we used
complacently to explain our failure to purchase Hungarian books for
circulation by saying that there was no demand for them. But the time
came when we put in a few hundred books in that tongue. At once it
became evident that we needed not hundreds but thousands. Hungarians
came to us from far distant parts of the city only to find empty
shelves. This overwhelming demand had been present all the time; only it
was latent. It lacked active expression, simply because our lack of
Hungarian books was a well known fact. Since then when librarians tell
me that their libraries have no books in Ruthenian, or on sanitary
plumbing, no out-of-town directories or no prints for circulation,
because “there is no demand for them”, I am inclined to smile. No matter
how near you may be to dying of thirst, you will not be likely to visit
an obviously dry sand-bank in search of water.

The intelligent search for these latent demands requires the kind of
interested ability that I have already spoken of as one of the library’s
chief needs. The library must keep on growing if it is to live. It must
take on new functions, and when it assumes some new duty, some group in
the community must exclaim “Of course! that is just what we have been
wanting all the time”. And at the same time there will always be some
outworn function that may be dropped off quietly to make room for the

Only the librarian must not mistake unintelligent imitation for
initiative. Imitation in itself is unobjectionable. If what someone else
has devised is obviously the very thing you have been looking for to
solve your problem, you would only waste energy in trying to devise
something else. But if you think you can create in your community a
library as good, we will say, as Mr. Dana’s in Newark, or Mr. Brett’s in
Cleveland or Mr. Jennings’ in Seattle, simply by copying every detail of
those institutions, you are as foolish as if you thought you could make
yourself look like your well-dressed friend simply by borrowing his
clothes. The library must fit the community; also, in some respects, the
librarian. I have recently visited Miss Hewins’ office in the Hartford
Public Library. I think it is the most fascinating office a librarian
ever occupied. But I certainly shall not go home to St. Louis and try to
make mine look like it.

This warning applies particularly to the added functions of which we
have been speaking above. They should be assumed in response to a
demand--expressed or latent. The demand may be obvious and insistent in
one library and non-existent in another. If you suspect a latent
demand, experiment will generally reveal or disprove its existence, just
as those few hundreds of Hungarian books brought out the demand for the
present thousands. We have on the east side of our library a broad
terrace, balustraded, elevated above the street, paved with brick and
stone. It is shady on summer afternoons, and swept by the south breeze.
What an ideal place to read in the open air, instead of in the stuffy
building! We equipped it with tables and chairs, relaxed the rules to
make it easy to take books and magazines there, did everything in our
power to encourage terrace readers. The public press saw and approved.
Everything worked well, except that nobody came! A failure, do you say?
Not at all. We had tried our experiment, tested for our possible latent
demand and found that there was none. We had asked our question and
received our answer. There are no tables and chairs on that terrace
to-day, but we are not discouraged: why should we be? A real experiment
never fails: you always get your answer--yes or no. Of course if your
experiment is a sham, and you have assumed that the answer is to be the
one that you want, you may be disappointed.

It is always a pleasure to watch things grow, to be able to keep them on
and guide their growth in useful directions. A library is no exception
to the rule. Even growth in size--the simplest kind--has its
satisfactions, but extension of service is still more interesting. It is
well that there should be a little mystery between the librarian and his
public--a consciousness of problems yet to solve, of service yet to be
rendered. It is well that he should be on the lookout for latent
demands--those hungers and thirsts that he knows must exist somewhere
and that he is eager to satisfy; it is well that his community should
regard the library as a place with opportunity and willingness for
service yet unrevealed as a reservoir of favors yet unbestowed. This is
a living relation, not one of mere juxtaposition. I never envied the
kind of service that old Atlas did the world, in standing eternally with
it on his shoulders. That was an image of dull, burdensome despair. How
much better our modern vision of a spinning globe, circling through
space, with all its brother and sister globes dancing around it! And
however miraculous it seems, we know that whenever we get up and walk
across the room there is a tiny adjustment of balance throughout the
whole vast system. There are social balances, too, as well as celestial,
and when the library puts out its foot to take a forward step, I believe
that they all respond.

These things that libraries are doing have their part in the vast social
adjustments in the midst of which we live. Some day a social historian
will arise to describe them and set them in their place. I am frequently
disappointed when I take up some book describing a movement or an
application of energy in which I know that the library has borne a part,
to find that its share has been absolutely without recognition; that the
word “library” is not even in the copious index. We have been busy doing
things--here in the seclusion of the library family we may say that they
have been things worth the doing. Some day we, too, shall have our Homer
or our Milton.

Let me remind you that this has all been illustrative of my principle
that library service, like every other kind of mundane activity, is a
phase of the eternal struggle between keeping still and getting
somewhere else. At the close of a recent novel one of the most
thoughtful of current English writers, Mr. J.D. Beresford, states the
issue thus (I quote from memory): “Virtue is only continued effort; a
boast of success is really a confession of failure”. Of course,
continuance of effort, virtuous though it may be, will be of little
avail without ability, intelligence, common-sense--at least a modicum of
those qualities whose complete combination makes up that wholly
impossible creature, the Perfect Librarian. Training will not give you
these--the Almighty bestows them at our birth--but it will develop such
as you have already--and none of us lacks all of them.

Keep on moving, then, and when you score a point, rejoice only because
it proves that scoring is one of your possibilities, and that you are
likely to score many others before your race is run.


“It is better to be born lucky than rich”, says the old proverb. “Is he
lucky?” Napoleon used to ask when anyone was recommended to him.
Literature is full of allusions to luck; history is full of the belief
in it and of the influence of that belief on the course of events. Do I
believe in luck? Most assuredly, if you will allow me to frame my own
definition. One of the most important and fascinating branches of modern
mathematics--the theory of chances or probabilities, deals with what may
be called luck, and with its laws. Chance, we are told, is “the totality
of unconsidered causes”. When an event is conditioned entirely by chance
we say that it came about by “luck”, though the unconsidered causes are
there just the same. A tyrant, we will say, stakes his victim’s life on
the cast of a die. Whether he perishes or not is solely a matter of good
or bad “luck”. When a basket contains ten marbles, of which five are
black and five are white we know that in the long run the number of
black and white marbles drawn at random tends toward equality, and we
express this by saying that the chance of drawing either black or white
is one in two, or ½. Whether black or white appears at any single
drawing is purely a matter of luck. In this sense, luck confronts us at
every turn, and no one can deny its existence. Now let us go a little
further. May chance happenings be affected by circumstances that have no
apparent connection with them? Doubtless; but so far as they are they
are no longer subject to the laws of chance. It is because we know this
that we are able to study nature by experiment. If in a long series of
drawings, from a basket containing an equal number of black and white
marbles, we draw chiefly black, we recognize at once the fact that some
cause, distinct from the mass of slight and unconsidered causes whose
combined action we know as “chance”, is acting. We try at once to get at
that cause by varying the conditions. If we find, for instance, that by
plunging the hand deeper into the basket we get white balls as well as
black, we conclude that the white balls were heavier and so settled to
the bottom when the mass was shaken. So it may be that a particular
series of happenings may be affected by locality, by personality or by
season. So far as this is true, chance or “luck” has ceased to act and
we must look for the cause. These, however, are precisely the
circumstances in which many persons are accustomed to invoke a luck of
higher grade and more potent qualities, a luck that clings to person,
place, or time. If in a series of happenings more turn out to the
advantage of a particular person than pure chance would warrant, he is
said to be “lucky”. In other words, the necessity of assigning a cause
is recognized, and it is easier to call this cause “luck” than to search
for it and to identify it. I am not sure that we are right in objecting
to this procedure. We do not object to lumping together the totality of
unconsidered causes and calling them “chance”. It is legitimate to do so
when it is impossible to discover and treat them separately. In like
manner it may be considered proper to call a man “lucky” when the causes
of his success evade detection, though we may be sure that they exist.
It is in this sense that it is better to be born lucky than rich. This
was what Napoleon meant, I have no doubt, by his question, “Is he
lucky?” He might have said, “Is he uniformly successful, for reasons
that do not lie on the surface? If so, we must assume the existence of
causes, though we cannot detect them. Doubtless he will continue to
succeed, even if we can not always tell why. That is the kind of man
that I prefer.”

Just a little philology here may throw additional light on our subject.
I have said that Napoleon’s question was, “Is he lucky?” Now of course
Napoleon did not use these words, because they are English words, and he
spoke in French. What he said, doubtless, was “_Est-il heureux?_” We
translate _heureux_ in two ways, “happy” and “fortunate”, but they are
really the same, for happy means “of good hap”, or good fortune. When we
say “by a happy chance”, we go back to this primitive meaning. The word
_heureux_ is derived by the French lexicographers from the Latin
_augurium_, so that its basic meaning is “of good augury.” I think you
will agree with me that there is something more here than mere chance.
The augur’s business was to ascertain the will of the gods, and all
through we have the idea of some impelling force that makes things turn
out as they do. If this force, whatever it was, was on the side of the
candidate, Napoleon wanted him.

As for our word “luck” itself, it is purely Teutonic and our
lexicographers do not trace it beyond its earlier forms. It should be
noted, however, that in many of these, as in the modern German _glück_,
it means happiness as well as chance. This wide association of ideas may
be taken to mean that happiness was regarded by our forefathers as
always the sport of chance; but I prefer to regard it as an evidence
that a life in which everything is for the best--where no mistakes are
made and where all is fair sailing and successful outcome, is dependent
on some fundamental cause.

These “lucky devils”, that we see all about us--the ones who “always
fall right-side-up”--the men whose touch turns everything into gold--the
college students who pass examinations because the questions happened to
be the very ones they knew--all these are people whose “luck” can
usually be depended on to last. It is all right to explain their success
by calling them “lucky”, so long as we do not forget that this is merely
a word to cloak our ignorance of the real causes.

The trouble is that this is what we do often forget. We have been
forgetting it since the dawn of civilization, and we inherit our
forgetfulness from the twilight of ignorance that preceded it. If the
cause of a man’s success was not immediately apparent, he must, it was
concluded, have effected it by magic or sorcery, or he was in league
with the Devil, or Fortuna or some other goddess guided his hand. If he
was a consistent failure, someone had hoodooed him, or blasted him with
the evil eye, or worked upon him some magical charm, or the fickle
goddess had turned her back on him. Nowadays we simply say “lucky dog!”
or “unlucky dog!” and let it go at that; but the words carry with them
the meaning that something occult is at work--a meaning quite as
unreasonable as the specific supernatural causes assigned in earlier
days, and possibly still more objectionable.

I am quite willing to recognize that Jones is “lucky”. His success is
due to something that I can not detect; in fact, he seems to me rather
an ordinary young man. He may possibly not understand, himself, why he
gets ahead so fast. He may believe that there is something occult about
it. Plenty of successful men have believed in their “stars” and trusted
them, and this worked well until it encouraged them to be reckless. Luck
and stars are all very well as symbols, but they will not perform

So far I have not openly mentioned the public library, but I have been
thinking of it a good deal, and I hope that you have also. It is one of
the beauties of public library work that the points at which it touches
life in general are many. He who is given the honor of addressing
librarians, as I am doing at present, may talk about pretty much what he
pleases, when he begins, serene in the confidence that its application
to library work will not only be reached in good time, but will even
obtrude itself prematurely on his hearers.

In the first place, I believe we librarians should ponder that question
of Napoleon’s--“Is he lucky?” and should make it part of our tests for
employment and promotion, asking it in substance of the candidates
themselves, of their sponsors and of the institutions where they gained
their training and experience.

Extending Shakespeare a little, we may say with Cæsar, “Let me have men
about me who are fat”--fat with achievement. Those who are lean and
hungry with failure are not for me. Where the cause of achievement or
failure is obvious, this attitude needs no defense. I believe that it is
justifiable where the success or failure is generally attributed to
“luck”. The general feeling that an “unlucky devil” will probably
continue to be unlucky is founded on the idea that his ill luck is due
to something more than chance. Whatever it is, it is something that we
must and should reckon with, whether it is visible or not, even whether
it is thinkable or not--certainly whether the person concerned is
responsible for it or not. He may be in no sense responsible for his
“bad luck” any more than he is for a physical defect such as blindness
or one-leggedness; but all these things must be weighed in estimating
the probable value of his work.

I am conscious that such an attitude as this may, in theory, do serious
injustice to the man whose “ill luck” is really due to pure chance, just
as in the case of the man who throws tails ten times in succession after
betting on heads. Such a run as this may happen; it does happen in fact
on an average once in 1024 trials. The fact that there are 1023 chances
against it justifies us in neglecting to take it into account very
seriously. I suppose that the chances against a man’s persistent “bad
luck” being due to pure hazard are very many millions to one. I am not
going to waste any tears over the injustice that I or you or anyone else
might do in _this_ way.

I once heard a man of great intelligence, the ex-president of a small
college, firmly maintain that if one had a basketful of letters of the
alphabet, written on cards, and dumped them all out on the floor, it was
absolutely impossible that they should be found so arranged, we will
say, as to spell out Milton’s “Paradise Lost”. Now such a happening is
extremely unlikely, but the chance that it should occur can be
calculated mathematically and expressed in figures. The arrangement in
which “Paradise Lost” is spelled out, however, is no more unlikely than
any other possible arrangement, and some one of these arrangements is
bound to occur, no matter how unlikely any particular one is beforehand.
No one of them, therefore is impossible, including Paradise Lost. But I
admit that where chances are so adverse, we may use the word
“impossibility” in a rough sense, and so I use it in asserting that it
is impossible for persistent “bad luck” to be due to pure chance.

Just here we may consider whether a man may rise above ill-luck, may
conquer it, may turn it into good fortune. The ancients evidently
believed that he could; that is why they represented Fortuna’s wheel as
turning. Its rotation may not only “lower the proud”, as Tennyson puts
it, but may also elevate the humble--change a run of ill-luck into a
“lucky strike”. The Psalmist ascribes both these functions to the
Almighty himself. “_Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles_”.
All this was occult to them of old time; it need be so to us only in the
sense that occult means “hidden”. If the hidden causes of a man’s ill
luck may be revealed to him, wholly or partially, by study, or even if
he can make a plausible guess at them, and if he finds that they are
within his control, he can of course mitigate them or perhaps abolish
them. I greatly fear that in most cases of this kind they are beyond his
regulation, either because they are congenital or because they are due
to habits so ingrained that changing them is impossible. The very fact
that he attributes his failures to “luck” shows that he has made some
effort to get at the cause and has failed in that, as in other things.
The use of the word “luck” enables him to keep his self-respect. It does
not, however, make him a more valuable assistant, and his superiors must
not fail to take it into account in an estimate of his work.

I believe that some inquiry into possible physical causes may repay us.
Teachers tell us of cases where incredible stupidity turned out on
examination to be due to deafness. I personally knew of a maid servant
whose apparently idiotic actions were caused by near-sightedness. She
did not know--poor girl--that her eyes were not perfectly normal. In
all such cases treatment of the physical cause, if it is
treatable--alters the “run of luck” at once. All of our libraries should
have medical officers, as the New York Public Library has, and the
members of the staff should be periodically inspected. There should be a
rigid physical examination on entrance.

I ask you to consider, in this connection, the career of Ulysses S.
Grant, which has always seemed to me one of the most remarkable in our
history. As I walked down the Gravois Road in St. Louis the other day,
along which Grant used to drive his loads of wood from the farm, to sell
in the city, it seemed as if I could see the stumpy figure clad in its
faded army overcoat seated on the load and urging his slow-going mules
toward St. Louis, then far away. If there ever was a man who was “down
and out”, it was Grant at this time. He had been uniformly “unlucky”. He
had had his chance--a good one--and had passed it by. Opportunity, which
we are falsely told knocks only once at a man’s door, had sounded her
call and he had made no adequate response. A graduate of West Point,
with creditable service in the Mexican War, with good connections by
birth and marriage, here he was, living in a log cabin on a small farm,
hauling wood to city customers. Yet just three years later this man’s
name was the best known in the country and had gone around the world. He
was a victorious general in command of armies. A few years more and he
was President of the United States. He was uniformly “lucky”. His “luck
had changed”. What made it change? I can not find that Grant the
successful military commander was a different man in any way from Grant
the farmer and teamster. He was supremely fitted for military command
under a particular set of conditions. When those conditions arose, his
genius took the line of least resistance. Such a career is not unique.
We learn from it that ill luck may be simply negative--due, not to
active causes that force one back, but simply to the absence of the
conditions under which alone one may move forward. Vocational guidance
may help us here--or it may not. It would not have helped Grant. If he
could have been subjected to some miraculous series of tests that would
have brought out the fact that, failure as he was, he could achieve
brilliant success at the head of an army what would that have availed?
There was no army for him, and there was no war in which it could fight.
If the question “Is he lucky?” is to be answered “No--but he might
become so, if he were at the head of the U. S. Steel Corporation”. I am
afraid that the result would be the same as without that qualifying

When a librarian was leaving a large field of endeavor to enter upon a
still larger one, his office-boy, hearing some speculation regarding his
successor, was heard to say, “I could hold down that job myself. I’ve
watched everything he does and there isn’t a thing I couldn’t do”. What
he had watched were the motions and they looked easy. But we should not
laugh at this kind of confidence. An old stager said to me once “Oh,
these young men! They think they can do it all; and the trouble is that
_sometimes they are right_.” A young man is a neutral in luck. His good
or bad fortune is yet to be revealed. The complete vocational test would
be one that could tell whether the office boy were really fitted to be
librarian, and if he were, would see that he ultimately became
librarian. Now we must rely not only on the boy’s own ability to
estimate his powers but on his fighting strength to realize his vision.
And there is more to it than this. A worker may have the ability and
may know that he has it, and yet he may distrust his own estimate and so
fail to follow it up. This is one of the saddest varieties of
“ill-luck”. We often hear it said “He can do that, if he would only
realize it”. Too often, however, the man or the woman does realize it
perfectly well; his self estimate of his powers may be quite high
enough; it may even be too high. Talk with him and you may discover to
your surprise that he thinks highly of himself. But at the critical
moment he loses his nerve. Doubts arise in his mind. Is he, after all,
as able to rise to the emergency as he has always thought himself? He
hesitates; and he is lost. His “ill luck” has again been too much for

Somewhat similar to failures of this sort are those that arise from lack
of initiative. Here I think our training is somewhat at fault. I can
almost pick out at sight the library assistants whose training has been
in schools where obedience has been the chief thing inculcated, the
following of rules and formulas, the reverence for standards and
authority. They are of the greatest value in certain positions, but they
can not advance far. They are afraid to go beyond the beaten path--to
take chances, not, as in the case just considered, because they distrust
themselves or their judgment, but because they have been trained not to
adventure. Now adventuring is the only way in which mankind has ever got
anywhere. There are conditions in which chance-taking is criminal, as it
usually is when much is staked for little. The engineer who risks the
lives of a train-load of passengers in order that he may avoid losing a
minute on schedule time, is a criminal chance-taker. He may have done it
once before with success, and the belief that he is “lucky” may induce
him to do it again. The trouble with the over-cautious worker is that
because he feels that this kind of adventuring is wrong, it is also
wrong for him to stake his personal comfort against a possible great
advance in the quality of service that he is doing. Perhaps I have put
it awkwardly. It is not so much personal comfort that is at stake,
though that is an element, as the feeling that doing things well “in the
way that we have always done them” is better than disorganizing them for
the purpose of shuffling them into a better combination.

I have on more than one occasion, in Library School lectures, urged this
point of view, and I have advised more stimulation to venturesomeness,
less pointing out of old paths and more opportunities to break new ones.
No one ever reached a new place by following an old path. The
path-breakers may be “lucky” or “unlucky”. I agree that the
“unlucky”--the congenital blunderers--ought to be kept out of the
adventuring class--but how shall we tell who they are except by trying?
I have thought, possibly without justification--that I have detected a
slight attitude of disapproval on the part of Library School authorities
when such advice as this has been given. “Let the student first learn
the standards, to do things by rule, to obey authority--then he can
branch out into initiative.” But can he? My fear, somewhat justified by
experience, is that he can not. The standards must be taught. The rules
must be known and followed, but if along with this there is no
stimulation to initiative and the continual instilment of a feeling that
progress depends on the divine curiosity of the explorer--we shall be
training only routine workers and for our advances we shall have to
depend on those whom we stigmatize as untrained. They will be the “lucky

Here are cases where luck is a function of attitudes of mind and may be
reversed if a change can be made in that attitude. There are other such.
Take for instance the case of the grouchy man--the man who has a quarrel
with the world. He is sure that he is unlucky--and sure enough, he is!
He does not expect to be advanced, and no one would think of advancing
him. His attitude and its natural results react on each other until he
becomes a confirmed misanthrope. Then there is the man without interest
in what he is doing. Who would be so foolish as to intrust an important
task to a man who, it is quite evident, does not care whether it is done
well or ill, or whether it is done at all? These persons betray their
lack of interest in ways that are familiar to us all. They utterly lack
initiative, but for other reasons than the persons whose cases have been
discussed above. They have no objections to adventure, but a venture
presupposes interest. No one ever set out to find the North Pole who was
utterly indifferent to its location or the character of its
surroundings. All true success is built on a foundation of lively
interest. Hence persons of this sort are peculiarly unlucky. They watch
subordinates and newcomers pass them in the race, and they are perfectly
certain that this is due to favoritism, or to luck. They themselves are
unlucky, and of course they will always remain so, unless they can alter
their neutral attitude.

In thinking over the lack of initiative of which I have complained above
and the failure of our training to supply it, it occurs to me that we
carry this lack over into our work. We are apt to complain of the
difficulty of finding persons who are fitted for positions of command
and responsibility. What do we do to elicit the qualities that make one
fit for such posts?

We have in our own library a system of efficiency reports, which are
filled out by department-heads yearly, one for each assistant. These
give needed information about the work of members of the staff, and they
also sometimes reveal quite clearly the state of mind of those who make
them out.

Two of the questions are, “In what did the assistant fall short?” And
“What did you like most about the assistant?” It strikes me, on running
over these reports, as I have just done, that the qualities most valued
when present and most lamented when absent, are those of a good
subordinate--the assistant who goes quietly, efficiently and quickly
about doing what she is told to do, is pleasant about it and does not
shirk. Here are some of the things that our department-heads like best:

“earnestness, industry and intelligence”

“alertness; readiness to take suggestion”

“excellent standards of work”

“close application to business”

“absolute dependability”


“excellent worker; steady; reliable”

“enthusiasm and eagerness to learn”

“close attention to business”

“tenacity and faith in herself”

“minds her own business”

“fine spirit in work”

“obliging, willing and ready service”

“industry and intelligence”

“general information”

“calm, cheerful nature”

“honesty of purpose”

“patience under criticism”

“politeness and willingness to oblige”

“loyalty, faithfulness and goodness”

“accuracy and systematic methods”

“neat and ambitious”

All these things are fine, I agree, but there is not one of them that
suggests the possibility of advancement to a position of command where
administrative ability and initiative will count. I do not suggest that
these qualities are absent, but I think the record shows that we are not
on the lookout for them and possibly do not value them as we ought. Only
once in a while do I find a suggestion that a tendency toward such
qualities is of interest, as when, one assistant is commended for
“independence and good judgment” and another for “resourcefulness”.

And when we come to the “weak points” reported, the same facts stand
out. Here are some of them:

“lack of accuracy and system”

“too sensitive”

“too reserved”

“often thoughtless”

“not sufficiently painstaking”

“too deliberate”

“tries to work too fast”

“lack of poise”

“rather slow”

“hesitates to ask for needed help”

“lack of system”

“impractical and idealistic”

“not very responsive”

“so eager that she is a bit aggressive at times”

Here, too, the deficiencies reported are predominantly those that would
make a bad subordinate; although here and there we may detect one of
the other kind; for instance,

“does not know how to find and develop the best in her assistants”

“not self-reliant”

“disinclined to assume responsibility” These are all faults of poor

We shall never be able to pick good officers if we do not know how to
detect in our privates the qualities that would fit them to command and
how to encourage the development of such qualities when there is
anything on which to base it.

Luck may not only be “in” but “of” the library. The whole institution
may be in the lucky or unlucky class. I think you have known both kinds.
The former seem to prosper, to do good work and to win golden opinions
by the very fact of their existence. The latter have small
appropriations, a poor standing in the community, and are finally
destroyed by fire. Now personal ill-luck is and remains personal, but
the ill-luck of an institution may be of various kinds. It may reside in
a person or persons, or in a system, or in a building--or in all three.
If the Jonestown Public Library is unlucky, the ill-luck may be that of
its librarian, or of his staff, or he may be operating an unlucky
system, or his building may be unlucky. I am an especial believer in
unlucky buildings. Some there are in which it appears to be as
impossible to run a successful library as it would be to grow vegetables
in an ash-bin. Sometimes one can pick out the trouble with half an eye,
although the same degree of astuteness seems to have been beyond the
architect, or the board, or the librarian who co-operated to produce it.
But in many cases we know the trouble only by its fruits; its roots are
hidden, and the best we can do is to recognize that the library’s
ill-luck comes from an unlucky building, and leave it at that.

There are so many sources of this kind of general library ill-luck, that
it is a wonder we do not see more unlucky libraries. There are not so
very many lucky ones either, except so far as this proceeds from the
possession of a staff whose members are individually lucky.

The statistician knows that the way to eliminate chance is to multiply
instances. The insurance actuary does not know when you will die, but he
knows that of a million men of your age, very nearly so many will die
within the next year. It is because he deals with a large number of
cases that he can put his system on a business footing. There may be
only one white ball in a bushel of black ones; you might conceivably
draw that white ball at the first trial, but if you did you would
properly refer to it as “luck”. If, however, you could multiply the
number of trials, you would bring up the white ball sooner or later.
There may be only one good way of accomplishing a result among thousands
of bad ones. If you should hit on the right one at the first trial you
would be “lucky”, but, luck or no luck, you will get it if you keep on
long enough. Patience is always a winner in the long run.

This is the way in which much of our knowledge is collected. Edison
found the right substance for his first carbon filament by sending for
all sorts of materials from all over the world, carbonizing them, and
trying them out. The right one proved to be a kind of bamboo. If Edison
had hit on this at the first trial it would have been so “lucky” a
chance as almost to be counted a miracle; as it was, he eliminated
chance by multiplication. Nothing annoys an executive so much as to be
told that the adoption of this or that course will result in a specified
way, when no one has ever tried it. This was a common attitude in the
time of Galileo, when the idea that anything could be found out by
observation or experiment was regarded as a public scandal. That was the
time when a man refused to look through the newly-invented telescope for
fear that he might see something contrary to the teachings of Aristotle.
These people are not all dead by any means. I have heard them assert
that a proposed change would ruin the library and then object to trying
it because they were afraid the result would be contrary to their own
predictions. The medieval philosophers at least had Aristotle to fall
back on; their modern successors would appear to be posing as Aristotles

A housemaid recently said to her mistress “I’ve told everybody to-day ye
weren’t at home; now don’t sit in the window and make me a liar.” No
discovery; no falsehood, you see. So if we librarians can be prevented
from trying experiments, the false predictions of some of our advisers
will not be false in their own eyes, simply because they will not be

My advice to librarians, and to everyone else is to keep on trying
experiments. If you get a satisfactory result the first time, you may
stop, and ascribe it, if you please, to your good luck. If the result is
unsatisfactory, however, you need not stand pat on your ill luck.

    “If at first you don’t succeed
        Try, try again”.

There is more philosophy in that than in all Aristotle. It is also a
practical exposition of the doctrine of chances. Somewhere is the
combination that you want. You will find it, if you only keep on long

Libraries that are afraid of being victimized by chance, or, as we may
put it, becoming martyrs to bad luck, should ponder somewhat more
closely the possibilities of relief from insurance. Of course here I am
using the word “luck” in its simpler meaning of unforeseen occurrence.
Take the case of the library that suffers from the fact that an
influential member of the committee that fixes the amount of its annual
appropriation has eaten something indigestible for breakfast. Such an
unforeseeable occurrence, such a “piece of bad luck”, might cost a
library anywhere from two to twenty thousand dollars, according to the
usual size of its appropriation.

Equally injurious might be the illness of the president of the Board,
throwing upon an incompetent member the duty of presenting the library’s
claims and needs. It is surely unjust that a public-service institution
should be at the mercy of such trivial chances. In some states,
including my own, the library is removed from such ill-luck as this by a
statutory provision fixing its public income, subject to proper checks
and taking away the ability of an individual’s illness or indisposition
to lower it. But where this ill-chance is still in its baleful working
order, why should not the library be protected against it by insurance?
Such protection would be analogous to the corporation insurance taken
out by large industrial companies to offset the loss likely to result
from the death of an officer on whose administrative ability much of the
company’s earning power depends, or to the payment of death duties by
insurance, now being advocated by many companies, and adopted on a huge
scale by Mr. J.P. Morgan. Insurance is the great equalizer; it
multiplies instances, enlarges the field of possibilities and abolishes
ill-luck. We are availing ourselves of it in case of possible damage by
fire or storm, or of loss through our liability as employers. We may in
future use it to cut out chance and luck in other fields also and to
make our resources so dependable that we may devote to the extension and
betterment of service the ingenuity now often spent solely in devising
means “to get along”.

I am afraid that you will compare this address very unfavorably with the
celebrated chapter on snakes in Iceland, because whereas the author of
that was able to announce the non-existence of his subject in six words,
it has taken me a good many thousand. You will do me an injustice,
however, if you think that I have simply been demonstrating the
non-existence of luck. I believe that when we say a man is lucky, we
mean something definite, and that thing surely has an existence. It may
not be the Goddess Fortuna, or her modern successor, but it is very real
and it is worth investigating and taking into account. If you are told
that one of your assistants is “lucky”, do not laugh it away. Find out
the facts, and if they indicate that she is unusually successful in what
she undertakes, be thankful that you have a lucky person on your staff.
Cherish her and promote her. And if you can find such a person outside
of your library, with the other necessary qualifications, prefer him, or
her, in making an appointment, to one of the “unlucky” variety. It is of
the lucky kind that the world’s geniuses are made--inventors like Bell,
Edison and Marconi, captains of industry like Carnegie, Rockefeller and
Henry Ford, soldiers like Napoleon, Grant, and Moltke, statesmen like
Lincoln, Gladstone and Bismarck, poets like Shakespeare, Dante and
Goethe. We have had too few of these in the library profession. They
were all lucky and what we need, especially in the present emergency, is
plenty of “Luck in the Library”.


Boundary regions are always interesting. Close to the line separating
two regions of fact or of thought cluster the examples that fascinate
us. Kipling’s stories of India are so interesting because they tell of
the meeting points of two civilizations--the boundary along which they
come into contact, interact and fuse. The same is true of all tales of
the white man and the red Indian, of the stories of early explorers, of
the narratives of Spanish _conquistadores_ in the south and French
Jesuits in the north. The student of mathematical physics will tell you
that it is not in homogeneous regions, but along boundary lines that the
application of his equations becomes difficult, and at the same time
interesting. Our whole human life is conditioned by boundaries. It is
possible only on a surface separating the earth’s mass from its
atmosphere. It is limited by narrow conditions of temperature,
nourishment, light, and so on. So we need not be astonished when we find
that two related subjects of any kind acquire new vitality and new
interest when we study the region along the line where they touch. This
is especially true of the library and the museum.

I do not intend to dwell on the case where the books in a library are
themselves treated as museum objects, although possibly this is the one
that may first occur to the mind in this connection. Books that are
curiosities on account of their rarity or for other reasons are limited
usually to very large libraries. The Lenox Library in New York, now part
of the Public Library, was almost entirely a book-museum and was so
intended by its founder. The private libraries of great collectors, such
as J. Pierpont Morgan, or the Huntingtons, are often largely
book-museums, and in general, a book that brings a high price, brings it
for its value as a curiosity, not as a book. The freer a book is the
more value it has as a book; the more restricted it is the greater its
value as a curiosity. Of course, even a small library may have one or
two books that are worth display as curiosities, because they are old,
or rare, or have interesting local associations either through the
author, or the owner, or in some other way. The Hawthorne and Longfellow
room in the Bowdoin College Library is an example of this latter case.
But a book, or anything else, owned and displayed as a mere curiosity,
is of not much real value, no matter what price it may bring at auction.
The things that make a good museum what it is are not curiosities at
all, in the vulgar sense. They illustrate some science or art and make
its study easier and more interesting; they throw light on geology or
history or sculpture. Once in a while we see a museum collection of
books made for this object, to illustrate the art of binding or the
history of printing, or the depredations of book-eating insects. The
value of specimens like these has nothing to do with their rarity.
Sometimes the smallest library may have books or pamphlets that may be
displayed with this object, especially where the subject is local. It
may for instance gather a collection of early pamphlets from local
printing offices, or of books once the property of some eminent citizen.

These things belong to a museum pure and simple, which is the reason why
I am mentioning them at first, to get them out of the way before
treating my real subject, which is the debateable ground between
library and museum. There is nothing debateable about a book-museum any
more than about any other kind of a museum--a collection of historical
or geological specimens, for instance, that often finds place in a
library building, not because it is a library, but because it is a
convenient place, or because it has been thought best to build a library
and a museum under one roof, as has been done in Pittsburgh.

There is however a real debateable ground between library and museum,
with somewhat hazy boundaries which I believe that either is justified
in overstepping whenever such an act supplies an omission and does not
duplicate. In other words, there is a boundary region between library
and museum that may be occupied by either, but should not be occupied by

I shall try briefly to define this region and indicate how the library
may occupy parts of it without legitimate criticism when the necessity

Descriptive and illustrative material is to be found in both library and
museum. Speaking generally, the former is of primary importance in the
library and the latter in the museum. Many books consist of descriptive
text alone, without pictures or diagrams, and on the other hand a museum
might contain specimens without labels, although they would not be of
much use. In general, text with illustrations belongs in a library and
specimens with labels in a museum. The mere statement of the distinction
as it has just been given, however, shows that it may be very difficult
to draw a line between the two kinds of collections. A museum has been
defined as “a collection of good labels accompanied by illustrative
specimens.” Here the value of the descriptive text is emphasized, even
in the museum collection. When descriptive treatises are shelved in
connection with the specimens, as in some modern museums, we have an
expansion of the label into the book; and the museum, in this one
particular at least, crosses the dividing line between it and the
library. No one would blame it for so doing.

Similarly the library may occasionally cross the line in the other
direction without incurring blame. Let me repeat that both library and
museum may contain descriptive and explanatory text and illustrative
material. In the museum the text is usually in the form of labels,
attached to the specimens, and these are generally material objects. In
the library the text is in book form and the “specimens,” if we may so
call them, are plates bound into the book.

The first step taken by the library toward the line that separates it
from the museum is when the plates, instead of being bound into a book,
are kept separately in a portfolio. The accompanying text, corresponding
to the “labels” of museum collections, may be on the same sheet as the
plates (often on the reverse side) or on separate sheets, which may be
bound into a book even when the plates are separate.

In the St. Louis Public Library about a thousand volumes, forming one
third of the collection kept regularly in our art room, have separate
plates. These are of course not usually on display but are in the cases
ready to be used in the room on demand. They thus correspond, not with
museum material displayed in cases, but with specimens packed away in
such manner that they may easily be secured for study by those who want
them. One may imagine a whole museum equipped for students in this way,
with nothing on display at all--no popular exhibition features. Probably
no museum was ever so administered, as an entirety; and as you know the
large museums are making more and more of features adding to the
attractiveness of the collection as a popular spectacle. The public
visits the Museum of Natural History in New York, much as it turns the
pages of the National Geographic Magazine--just to look at the pictures.
This treatment of material is justified because it increases popular
interest in the subject-matter and brings people to the museum who would
not otherwise enter it. Also, it predisposes public bodies to more
generous support of the museum. This is true again of such institutions
as botanical and zoological gardens, which have always been show-places
for the public as well as laboratories for the student. The library can
not afford to neglect such an opportunity of attracting the public and
of stimulating interest in its own subject-matter--books. It can not
continuously display any great part of its separate prints, as a museum
does with its specimens, but it can exhibit them from time to time, so
that one or another of them is always displayed in this way. Simple
screens can be cheaply made and the prints fastened thereto with
thumb-pins, taking care not to injure them by perforating with the pin,
but letting the edge of the head lap over the edge of the print to hold
it, and using sheets of transparent celluloid for protection, where
necessary. After beginning such displays in our own library, we found
them so popular with our readers and so helpful in our own work that we
are now holding thirty or forty yearly, sometimes two or three at once
in different parts of the library, supplementing our own material with
loans from interested friends.

The value of exhibitions of plates is so highly estimated by some
librarians that they are breaking up valuable volumes so that the plates
may be used separately. This is a second step toward the museum use of
the library. I have heard a well-known librarian assert that if
permitted by his Board he would dismember every art book in his
library, in this way. Most of us, especially if we are interested in the
exhibition side of library work--which is distinctly a museum side--will
be inclined to sympathize with him.

But although we hesitate, perhaps, to tear to pieces good books, even
for such a good purpose as this, there is much material that can be so
treated with a clear conscience. Many duplicates of art works can be
thus used, and there is hardly an illustrated book which when the
librarian is ready to throw it away does not contain plates or maps
which can be saved and used. In St. Louis when we condemn books they are
never destroyed and consigned to the old-paper dealer before passing
through the hands and before the eyes of all those who might use still
usable fragments of this kind. Taking the item of maps alone, some of
the best special maps are attached to volumes of travel or history, as
folders or in pockets. So long as the book is usable, the map, of
course, must go with it, but if the map has been reinforced with linen
when the book is purchased, as it ought to be, it will probably be in
usable condition when the book is worn out, and may at once be
transferred to the map collection. The same is true of other plate than
pictures--fac-similes of handwriting, for instance. A very fair
autograph collection may be made of such detached plates--not originals
of course, but originals are valuable merely as curiosities, in the way
that we have already noted. Fac-similes are as good for any other

Of course all such torn up or detached material is very convenient also
for reference use--easily filed and quickly consulted. It may be kept in
vertical file cases, in loose-leaf binders or in ordinary portfolios.
One of the interesting things about it is the facility of assembling it
in different ways. In our own library we sometimes tear apart the
leaves of an art book simply to group the plates in an order that will
make them more valuable for reference purposes. This leads us to another
nearly related, though I should call it a still further, step toward the
museum region, which is taken when we deliberately create specimens by
clipping and mounting. Most libraries are now doing this freely, both
for reference work and for circulation. In many cases there are no
separate labels here except a brief descriptive title, the material
being classified according to its subject or its intended use. The
similarity to the school museum or circulating museum--a very recent
development of museum work--is striking. In this field the library has
been ahead of the regular museums. The material clipped and mounted is
usually book material--largely plates from books, magazines or papers.
There is much other material that can be so mounted and used--the kind
of thing that is familiar in memorabilia scrapbooks--theatre and concert
programs, announcements, invitations, tickets of admission, badges,
menus, photographs, advertising material, etc. It is usually a mistake
to make permanent scrap-books of such material. When they need to be
assembled in book form the separate mounts can be brought together in a
loose-leaf binder. A permanent scrap-book ties the material together in
a way that may prove embarassing. Suppose, for instance, that you are
keeping printed material from three clubs in your town, as you ought.
Clubs seldom do this for themselves. Several St. Louis women’s clubs
have told us that they visit the library when they want to indulge in
research into their own past doings. It might be natural to keep a
scrap-book for each club and insert the material as it comes. But
suppose you desire to display all your material on war activities and
that some of the material in these scrap-books falls under this head.
You will have to leave it out or tear out your scrap-book leaves.

Mounting takes time, and it is not necessary to mount everything.
Material used only occasionally may be left unmounted. For instance,
much newspaper-clipped material may be kept loosely in heavy manila
envelopes. Again, some material may be made more accessible if not
mounted, especially if in card form and in standard sizes. Such is the
postal card. The amount of valuable material obtainable in postal-card
form will astonish those who have not looked into the matter. Besides
the usual views of localities, embracing buildings, monuments and
scenery, good collections of sculpture, architecture, portraits and many
other things may be made in postal-card form. Postal cards are all of
the same size and very compact, so that they may be filed in trays and
treated very much like catalogue cards, guides being used with them as
in an ordinary catalogue. The amount of usable material that can be
stored to the square foot in this form is probably greater than any

In all material of this sort, the similarity of collection, treatment
and use may be so close that the passage from the picture to the object
seems almost negligible; yet many persons apparently consider that here
we must draw the definite boundary line between the collections of the
library and those of the museum. They would say for instance that it is
perfectly legitimate for a library to acquire, preserve and use a plate
bearing a printed fac-simile in natural colors, of a piece of textile
goods, but not a card mount bearing an actual piece of the same goods,
although the two were so similar in appearance that at a little distance
it would be impossible to tell the colored print from the actual piece
of textile. Librarians will not be apt to attach much importance to
this distinction, and those whose collections include treatises on
textiles with colored plates will not hesitate to supplement them with
mounted specimens of the actual textile with typewritten descriptions.

Generally manufacturers are only too happy to furnish samples of their
current output, and older specimens, sometimes of historical interest,
can be bought from dealers.

There are precedents for the treatment of this sort of thing as library
material. Probably Hough’s well-known work on American Woods will occur
to everyone. No library, so far as I know, has ever thought of barring
this from its shelves because it contains actual thin sections of the
various woods instead of pictures thereof.

The peculiar adaptability of this kind of material to library use is a
physical one, and is shared by every flat specimen that may be mounted
on sheets. Instances will occur to every one. An actual flower or leaf,
for example, is generally cheaper than a color reproduction of it, and
takes up little more room when mounted. A good descriptive botany with
inadequate pictures may well be supplemented by a herbarium of this
kind. Historical material is quite generally flat--often written or
printed on card or paper--old programs, menus, railroad tickets,
dancecards, timetables, cards of admission, souvenirs of all kinds. One
of the most interesting exhibitions I ever saw was of foreign railway
material--timetables, tickets, dining-car menus, etc. Many Chinese and
Japanese specimens were included. A treatise on forms of railway
tickets, with fac-simile illustrations, would be eagerly sought by
libraries; why should not the objects themselves be equally valuable?
Librarians were glad to have Miss Kate Sanborn’s book on old wall
papers, with its realistic reproductions, but how many of them thought
of the possibility of making their own books of specimens, using the
papers themselves, instead of photographic facsimiles thereof?

This point of view may be commended to the makers of decorated bulletins
in libraries. Much laborious hand-work is often done in the preparation
of these, and the results are seldom worth the trouble. Even when a work
of art has been produced it may be questioned whether the time withdrawn
from other library work has been employed to the best purpose. By the
use of what has been called above “museum material” time may be saved
and better results reached. For instance, I once saw, in an exhibition
of picture bulletins one bearing a list of books and articles on lace.
It was made in white ink on black cardboard, and bore a most realistic
representation of lace, done with the pen, probably at a vast
expenditure of time. The most that could be said for this really clever
bit of work was that it looked enough like a real piece of lace, mounted
on the cardboard, to deceive the elect at a short distance. Why then did
not the maker mount a real bit of inexpensive lace on the board, at an
expenditure of a few minutes’ time? It should not require much thought
to see that bulletins prepared in this way are usually better and more
effective than elaborate decoration with pencil and brush.

Another point of resemblance between this kind of library material and
that utilized by museums is the fact that its value is so often a
group-value--possessed by the combination of objects of a certain kind,
rather than by any one in itself. For instance, a common earthenware jar
designed by John Jones in the Trenton potteries may have little value,
but if you add to it a thousand other earthenware jars, or a thousand
pieces of any kind designed by John Jones, or a thousand other specimens
made in Trenton, the collection acquires a value which far exceeds the
average value of its elements multiplied by thousands. The former may be
five cents--the latter five thousand dollars. In the same way an
illustration by Mary Smith, clipped from a trashy story in a ten-cent
magazine, has little value--zero value, perhaps. But a thousand such
illustrations showing the published work of Mary Smith from the time she
began until she acquired standing as an illustrator, is worth while.

It should not be necessary to tell librarians that the best way to make
such a collection as this is not to search for each element by itself
but to gather miscellaneous related material in quantity and then sort
it. If you have a pile of slips to alphabetize, you do not go through
the whole mass to pick out the A’s, and then again for the B’s and so
on. You sort the whole mass at once, so that while you are segregating
the A’s you are at the same time collecting the B’s and all the rest of
the alphabet. Likewise, if you want the illustration work of Jessie
Wilcox Smith, for instance, you need not hunt separately for bits from
her pen; you need only clip all the illustrations from magazines and
papers that would be otherwise discarded. Then you sort these by the
names of the illustrators, and you have at once collections not only of
Miss Smith’s current work but of that of dozens of other illustrators.
This is applicable in a hundred other fields.

It should be noted that this group value is potentially present in many
large collections of material, whether classified or not into the
particular groups in question. For instance, we have a large collection
of locality post-cards, filed by cities and towns. Here are groups ready
for use. If anyone wants views of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, or Stockton,
Cal., to show to a class, or for use with a reflectograph, or to copy
for newspaper work, they are already assembled. But also if someone is
going to lecture on court houses, it is the work of only a few moments
to assemble from the file a temporary collection of fifty or sixty
examples. The same is true of buildings of any other type, say college
dormitories, railway stations, libraries or warehouses, of parks,
mountain scenery and industrial processes and of a hundred other things.
The value here is a true group value; it is created by assemblage and
becomes dormant again when the items are distributed to their proper
places in the file.

The same is true of lantern-slides to an even greater degree, for slides
are practically never used except in groups. As a collection of slides
may be grouped in scores of ways, it is better to file them in some
order that will admit of quick selection, than to form groups
arbitrarily at the outset and keep these together. A slide in such a
group is practically withdrawn from the possibility of assemblage in
some other group. For instance, a view of Michael Angelo’s “Moses” might
find a place in a group to illustrate a talk on Michael Angelo, or
Renaissance Sculpture, or The Art Treasures of Rome, or Old Testament
Worthies, or any one of a dozen others. If we place it arbitrarily in
any one of these and keep the group together, we shall of course spare
ourselves a little trouble if anyone wants that particular assemblage of
slides, but we shall not only make it more difficult to assemble the
other groups, but practically put them out of the running. Several years
ago we had a valuable gift of a collection of slides illustrating phases
of city-planning, given by the Civic League of our city. They included
many foreign views now difficult or impossible to obtain. The donors
had assembled them in groups to go with lectures prepared in advance and
we maintained this arrangement for a time, although it was not in accord
with our general plan. But we soon found that persons who asked for
slides on London or Munich or Milan were missing some of our best
material, simply because we could not always remember to look through
the city-planning groups for something that might be there. Consequently
we broke up these groups and distributed their slides to the proper
places in our file, which is in trays arranged precisely as if the
slides were catalogue cards, with proper guides and cross-references on
cardboard slips. We have memoranda of the slides that belong in each
lecture group and these can be quickly assembled if wanted. Of course we
allow the public to go directly to the trays if they desire and assemble
for themselves any group that they choose.

This is all borderland material between library and museum. There is
much of it analogous to the lantern slide that libraries have not taken
up yet, but that they might handle to good advantage. I do not see why
we should not, for instance, circulate microscope slides or photographic
negatives. Stereoscopic pictures are now commonly handled by libraries
owing to skilful and perfectly legitimate exploitation.

There is perhaps some doubt whether we should include in this sort of
material musical records, either for the mechanical organ and piano or
for the phonograph. These should possibly be considered as books
containing music written in a kind of notation that admits of
sound-reproduction. The fact that there is this doubt should perhaps
suffice to throw these records into the borderland of which we are
speaking. They are to some extent capable of the group arrangement
spoken of above, as where a library patron asks to take out half a
dozen records from one opera or eight old French dances. They are also
capable of a kind of correlation with other library material that is
quite unique. Thus a reader may take out at the same time Chopin’s
military polonaise in ordinary notation and in music-roll form. The
pianola reproduction serves as a guide to his own reading of the piece,
or he may simply follow the musical notation as he operates the
mechanical player. Similarly, he may take out the miniature orchestral
score of a selection and the phonograph record of the same as played by
an actual orchestra. Here he can not play the piece himself but he can
follow the reproduction with score in hand, much to his own musical
pleasure and profit.

An exactly similar correspondence exists between an ordinary book and a
phonograph record of it read aloud. Such records are not often
available, but I see no reason why they should not become so, at any
rate in the case of poetical and oratorical selections. Our means of
popular instruction in spoken language are deficient and these might
prove useful. At present we teach children in the schools to read and
write, but not to speak. If they do not learn good colloquial spoken
English at home, they are apt to remain uneducated in this respect. This
plan has worked well in the teaching of foreign languages and it is now
possible to buy small phonographs with cylinder records in French,
German or Italian corresponding to printed passages in the accompanying
manuals. I certainly think it legitimate of libraries to purchase these,
and they would be “border-land” material, I suppose, in the same sense
as the musical records.

I may say before closing, in regard to this sort of museum material,
that the largest circulation of music rolls that I know of is that of
the Cincinnati Public Library, which distributes them at the rate of
60,000 per year. We have 3681 rolls and circulated 16,814 in the year
1917. Neither the Cincinnati library nor our own pays out money for this
material. It is all donated.

The status of phonograph records of all kinds as museum material is
hardly as high in this country as abroad. In the Sorbonne, in Paris,
records of French dialect speech have long been acquired and stored.
Records of this kind and moving-picture films, made of permanent
material and carefully prepared to show existing conditions would have
very high future value. I do not know of any systematic effort to
collect them in the United States. Possibly it might be difficult to
find permanent films. A moving picture man told me that only perishable
ones were being made, as it was not for the interests of the trade that
they should last long. There is too much of this spirit in modern
industry and trade, and it is responsible for poor materials of all
sorts--paint, textiles, dyes and furniture. Permanent carbon
photo-prints on paper can be made and doubtless the process can be
applied to transparent films if desired.

This is really museum material, but if no museum takes it up, I should
like to see the Public Library begin the work. We already have the films
of our great St Louis Pageant of 1915, which may serve as a beginning.

It has been said above that museum material adaptable to library use is
so for physical reasons. We may go further and say that the whole
difference between a library and a museum is a physical difference
rather than one of either object or method. The difference is one of
material and of the manner of its display, and these are conditioned by
physical facts. The difference between an object and a picture of it is
physical. It should not astonish us, then, that when this physical
difference is abolished, as it is when the object itself is a picture,
or is minimized, as when the object is flat like the picture and
resembles it closely, like a textile specimen, the boundary between the
museum and the library practically disappears.


There is nothing more important than standardization, unless it is a
knowledge of its proper limits. Probably no more important step has ever
been taken than the introduction of standardization into the industries;
the making of nails, screws, nuts and bolts of standard sizes, the
manufacture of watches, firearms and machines of all sorts, with
standard interchangeable parts. If you take apart a thousand Ford
automobiles and mix up the parts a thousand automobiles may be at once
assembled from those parts, without any effort at selecting the
particular ones associated with each other at first. You know that this
principle is now being applied to what are known as “fabricated” ships
where certain types of freight-carriers are made standard and then
twenty or thirty of a kind are built at once in the same yard, being
assembled from steel parts cut out and punched in what are called
“fabricating ships”.

Now I need not waste time in arguing here that this process can not be
made to apply universally or be used indefinitely. To standardize a work
of art would be to kill it. Standardization is valuable where
interchangeability is necessary rather than adaptation to local
conditions. Portable houses, for instance, with interchangeable parts,
have been standardized to a certain extent, but only within the bounds
of uniform climatic conditions. The standard houses for Michigan and
Alabama would have to be different. It is important, therefore, as I
have said, to know, when standardization is being carried out, the
limits of its advisability and the conditions under which it becomes
useless or injurious. This is of interest to us librarians because our
methods and processes, our buildings, our book collections and the use
of both have long been undergoing this very process. And it is surely
desirable that almost all the routine processes of library work, and the
others to some extent, should be standardized.

This standardization has been going on ever since librarians began to
meet together and began to issue their own professional literature; in
other words, ever since the formation of the A.L.A. in 1876 and the
establishment of _The Library Journal_ about the same time. The
subsequent formation of State Library Associations and local library
clubs, as well as the establishment of other library periodicals, has
greatly multiplied the opportunities for librarians to talk over their
work with each other, to learn of other and better ways of doing things,
to compare existing methods and to determine, if possible, which of them
best serves the purpose for which it was devised. These things having in
some measure been decided, they were then crystallized and fixed by the
rise and success of Library Schools, summer-schools and training
classes, which selected the methods that had stood the test of time and
had emerged from the crucible of discussion and formulated them into
standards which were thenceforth taught to their students. This, I
think, is a fair statement of the way in which our present library
standards came to be standards.

It is a good way to select the best and to ensure that the best shall
not be departed from. If the best always remained best, we should have
no quarrel with it. Unfortunately there is flux and change all about us.
A method is best when it best corresponds to the conditions. We can
ensure that the method shall not be changed, but we have no control over
a large proportion of the conditions. They change, in spite of us; and
then the methods ought to change with them. In some instances we have
erred, possibly, by making it a little hard to change them. We are now
ready to consider some of the cases where standards ought not to
obtain--where one library ought to try to be different from another
instead of exactly like it.

It is evident from what was said above about portable houses, that
difference of locality is apt to introduce important exceptions into any
rule of this kind; and it is on these exceptions that we are to dwell
particularly to-day. There are thousands of particulars in which it is
desirable that a library in one town should be conducted exactly like
one in another town. What are the particulars in which the library must
or should be different?

First, let us consider the stock of books. If these have been selected
properly, differences between the two towns will perhaps be first
reflected in these, for a library’s ability to serve its community
depends primarily on certain correspondences between the books and the
readers. These correspondences may be summarized by saying that the
books in a library must represent a combination of the readers’ wants
and their needs. These might always coincide in an ideal community, but
in practice no librarian thinks of paying attention to the one to the
exclusion of the other. At the same time the demands of the readers
should always be known and always considered even if they want what is
unnecessary; and we must likewise try to ascertain what they need, even
if they have no desire for it. The extremes in a community without
library taste would be a library of trashy fiction and one of serious
standard works at which no one ever looked. A book-selector who uses
good judgment will of course steer between this Scylla and this
Charybdis, and the result will be a collection that the community can
use with both pleasure and profit. Moreover, as time goes on, the
readers’ taste and the quality of their library will both slowly but
surely rise. No two towns are alike. Where the books have been thus
selected, the collections will reflect the character of the communities,
not only in literary taste but in many other things. The industries of
the towns are likely to differ. In one, perhaps, there are potteries; in
the other, shoe factories. The workers in the industries and even
outsiders interested in them for local reasons, should have an
opportunity to consult their literature. The natural resources of the
regions doubtless differ--their crops, their mineral output, their
attractiveness to the summer tourist. Transportation facilities vary.
All these things have their reflection in books and the differences of
the towns have their corresponding reflections in their libraries.

Many years ago, your lecturer called the attention of librarians to the
fact that they have in their own statistical tables a means of
ascertaining whether they are keeping up with the reading-tendencies of
their communities in book-purchase. Nearly every library classifies both
its stock and its circulation, and tabulates both for the year, giving
also the percentage of each class to the whole. Now suppose, for
instance, that his tables show nine per cent. of history on the shelves,
we will say, whereas the circulation of the same class is eleven per
cent. Evidently his readers are fonder of history than he is. They read
it in greater degree than he buys it. Moral: buy more history. Of course
this would be the moral only where the tendency shown was to be
encouraged. For instance the average percentage of fiction on the
shelves in a public library is probably about thirty, whereas its
circulation runs from sixty to sixty-five. We do not say here “Buy more
fiction”, because fiction reading needs no encouragement, but rather
judicious restraint, although I certainly am not one of those who
condemn it. I wish, however, that we could divide our novels into three
classes, good, indifferent and bad, and then test the public demand by
the method outlined above. I am convinced that some surprises might be
in store for us.

Among the subjects that differ totally in two localities, local history
and biography are conspicuous. Both citizens and visitors are often
interested in them. There are features of each that are of more than
local interest, but the purely local side must generally be taken care
of by the library or not at all. Sometimes there is a local historical
society whose work, of course, the library will not try to duplicate;
but there is always room for co-operation, stimulation and aid. A
moribund historical body may often be galvanized into life by an
interested librarian. The library may offer such a body the hospitality
of its building and shelf-room for its collections with mutual benefit.
But in scores of towns there is only languid interest in local history
or local worthies, and the library itself must do all that is done.
Material bearing on these local matters rarely consists of books. It
will include local newspapers, clippings, a pamphlet or two, menus,
leaflets, programs--all sorts of printed things issued by churches,
schools, clubs and societies, and lost as soon as issued unless caught
at once and preserved. Here is the library’s chance to possess a
collection that is the only one of its kind in the world; for outside
the home town no one would think of getting it together. Supplementing
these printed records may be all sorts of manuscript material--letters,
diaries, reminiscences or narratives written or dictated especially for
the library by persons who have something locally interesting to tell.
If there are maps showing the growth of the town or anything else of
interest about it, the library is the place for it. The collection and
arrangement need take none of the busy librarian’s time, for there is
always someone in the town whose interest and labor can be enlisted. If
nothing else can be done, at least a file of the local newspaper can be
kept and indexed on cards, especially for names of localities and
persons. Work of this kind done currently and not allowed to accumulate,
does not take much time.

In these days of universal snapshots, local photographs are easy to get.
The librarian may take a few herself and the library may well defray the
expense. A hundred years from now, twenty views of your main street,
taken at five-year intervals from the same point and showing the
progressive changes, would be worth their weight in gold. Groups taken
“just for fun” or for family reasons, are often worth keeping because
they show the fashions of the day. These are of no particular interest
to us now, but any of us would be glad to have in our libraries a
collection of groups showing prevalent modes of dress in our towns
during each year in the last century. Old buildings are often torn down
to make room for new. These should be photographed before they go.

All material of this kind is peculiar to the library where it is
preserved and helps to make that library’s collections a departure from
standardization whose importance we need, perhaps, insist on no further.

It may not be possible to collect in the library all of the interesting
local material in the town. Much of it may be in the hands of private
owners who will not part with it. Some of it may be owned by clubs,
churches or public bodies. In this case there should be an index
somewhere to indicate where it is, and there is no more appropriate
place for this index than the library. I have elsewhere suggested that
where this privately-owned material consists of books, cards for them
may be inserted also in the library’s public catalogue. But, in
addition, there is no limit to the extent to which the library may go in
indexing material, and this work may well enlist the interest and
efforts of volunteers. There may be an index to old furniture, one of
colonial houses, possibly illustrated and annotated like the fine one
prepared by Mr. Godard for the Connecticut State Library, one of
soldiers sent by the town to various wars, one of noteworthy storms or
of very high or low temperatures, one to local organizations, past and
present. The special interests of the community will guide those
efforts, and here too the library of one town will differ materially
from that of another.

Possibly library standardization has affected buildings more than
anything else about a library. There was a time where its absence was
doing a great deal of harm, especially in the case of small or
medium-sized libraries put up under the Carnegie gift. Every board and
every local architect had a different idea, but all seemed to agree that
the building, no matter how small, was to be a monument, with a rotunda
and a dome; and a good deal of waste resulted. There was a loud call for
some kind of a standard plan, and small library buildings, whether for
branches or independent libraries, are now a good deal alike, so much so
that we can often pick out a library building by its outward guise, and
that we will sometimes say of a post-office or an art gallery, “That
looks exactly like a library”. This ease of identification is of course
good as far as it goes; but it should not interfere with a certain
degree of adaptation to local conditions. This is obvious in the case
of sites offering local peculiarities. For instance, the High Bridge
Branch of the New York Public Library is built on a steep hillside. The
architect has taken advantage of this fact to arrange an entrance on the
ground level on each of the three floors. The lowest is a service
entrance, the next above leads to the children’s room and the upper-most
to the adult department. Each door opens on a different street and the
three facades are respectively three, two and one story high. Evidently
no standard plan would have been of use here. The building, inside and
out, had to be planned for this site and this alone. And although not
many sites require such special treatment as this there are many that do
not lend themselves to the erection of a rigid standard building. In
Detroit the Carnegie Committee, I am told, were inclined to insist on a
basement assembly room in branches to be built on ground where any
basement at all would involve wasteful expense of construction. The
proposed contents of a building should often affect its plan. Some
architects have not yet learned the difference between an independent
library and a branch of the same size and probable circulation. An
independent library may have to house treasures, and should be of
fire-proof construction. A branch rarely houses anything that can not
easily be replaced and it may be waste of money to make it fire-proof.

The architectural style of a library building is often properly made to
conform with some style peculiar to the locality or regarded as suitable
for it. The Riverside Public Library in California is properly in the
Spanish colonial or Mission style; that of New Haven, Conn., is a
modified New England Colonial, the Jackson Square Branch in New York is
Dutch, the Chestnut Hill Branch in Philadelphia and the Public Library
in Harrisburg are of the irregular stone masonry so familiar in many
parts of Pennsylvania. Some of the branches in Portland, Ore., used to
be and perhaps still are of wood, built of the Douglas fir of the
surrounding region.

The power of the purse is an important thing in libraries as elsewhere,
and possibly we should have taken up earlier the variations of library
income with locality. Not only are some communities better able to
support a library than others, but of two with equal ability one will
excel in interest and willingness to give. An attempt to regulate income
by rule is the requirement of the Carnegie Committee that a municipality
shall appropriate for the support of a library in a Carnegie Building,
not less than ten per cent. of its cost. I know that the condition is
primarily stated the other way around. The town is supposed to decide
what it can give to support a library and then the Carnegie Committee is
willing to capitalize this at ten per cent. But the library once built,
its cost becomes the fixed item and the appropriation the variable one,
and in many cases it has varied so far downward as to constitute a
violation of the town’s library contract. Of late the Committee is
making an effort to detect and tabulate these violations and to use them
as a basis for withholding donations in neighborhoods where they have
been frequent. A man is known by the company he keeps, and it may be
just to regard with some suspicion one who lives in a neighborhood where
dishonest persons congregate. Still, towns are unlike men, since their
locations are fairly permanent, and it scarcely seems right to turn down
Jonesville’s request for a Carnegie library because Smithtown, 35 miles
away, has been unable to appropriate the ten per cent. that it promised.
The Committee has also made what I regard as the mistake of finding
fault with the library that suffers from an unduly reduced
appropriation, instead of with the city or town government that is
responsible for the reduction. To throw blame on the head of an
institution that has just been robbed of its birthright would seem to be
adding insult to injury. But despite the failure of this particular
effort at standardization, there seems to be a feeling that library
incomes should be so far standardized as to be calculable from the
particular set of circumstances under which the library is working. The
State of New York once attempted to regulate its library appropriation
by home-use alone--so many cents per volume circulated. This was a very
crude attempt, but possibly we ought to be able to say just how many
dollars ought to support a library in a building of specified size with
so many books, and a circulation of so many per year. This matter was
the subject of earnest discussion for a year or more in the American
Library Institute, but no definite conclusion was reached. It has always
been my belief that some sort of formula could be deduced by
mathematical methods from a large number of observed data, that is, the
statistics of a series of normally-conducted libraries. Observe that
this is not so much standardization as an attempt to systematize the
recognition of differences.

With the average librarian the practical question is not so much what
sum he ought to have to run his library, as how he can and shall run it
with what he has. Limitation of income invariably limits service, and
unfortunately the kind of service on which it bears most sharply is that
which is the library’s specialty--namely the provision of books. The
purchase of books should be the last thing in which the library ought to
economize but in practice it is generally the first. The building must
be cared for--lighted and heated; the public must be served. But it is
easy to stop buying books, and it is in book-purchase that the library
with small income differs from its neighbor with plenty of money. There
are some curious exceptions where the library can not wholly control the
expenditure of its money, which is regulated by the dead hand of a
testator. Thus the Forbes Library of Northampton, Mass., now sensibly
consolidated with the Public Library of that city, was obliged for years
to expend most of its income for the purchase of books, leaving
practically nothing for keeping up its building or paying its staff. It
was thus rich where a library is usually poor and _vice versa_.

The earliest efforts at standardization among librarians were directed
toward cataloguing; and probably cataloguers are our greatest sticklers
for a rigid adherence to rules. Those who read Mr. E. L. Pearson’s
column in _The Boston Transcript_ realize that there are some librarians
who consider this fact a legitimate target for ridicule. And it is
clear, I think, that both the methods and results of cataloguing ought
not to be immune from modification to adopt them to local peculiarities.
Some public libraries are used so much for scholarly or antiquarian
research that their catalogues need to approximate that of a university
library; others are of so popular a nature that they hardly need a
catalogue at all. The needs of a certain community may require the very
full analysis of certain books, whereas elsewhere these could do very
well with less analysis, or possibly none at all. The selection of
subject headings may have to be made with due regard to the use that a
catalogue is likely to receive. Books on open shelves do not need
precisely the same kind of cataloguing as those to which access is not
allowed. A library’s public, too, sometimes gets into habits, and if
these are unobjectionable, it may be better to humor them than to try
to change them. Some bodies of readers like as many printed lists as
possible; others rarely use them. In some places there is great demand
for a monthly bulletin; elsewhere it is little used. Any librarian who
does not stand ready to adapt his catalogue in some respects to the
character and needs of his readers runs the risk of limiting his field
of service.

Methods of distribution may require selection or modification to suit
local peculiarities. Take, for instance, the choice of a charging
system. “Which is the best charging system?” is a question frequently
asked of experienced librarians or library school instructors. This
query is on a par with “What is the best material for clothes?”, or “Is
paregoric or ipecac the best medicine?” A librarian who finds in her new
job a charging-system that she dislikes, which has been used without
complaint for years, should investigate before changing. Acceptance of
the system may be simply due to habit. Even then, as we have seen, there
may be reason for retaining it. And there is a fair chance that it may
have held its ground because it is in some way better adapted to the
community. Of course the adaptation may be to something else--size, for
example. A rapid rise in the circulation may take a library out of the
small-library class and necessitate changes not only in charging system
but in many other things.

Some day an industrious student of library economy will tabulate these
things that are independent of local conditions, or so nearly so that it
is better to standardize them, and tell how the others should be varied
with local topography, climate and population. There is no time for that
in a single lecture; and if I can leave firmly fixed in your minds the
idea that some things are better standardized, while others should be
functions of variable local conditions, I shall have accomplished all
that I set out to do.

I have already noted some of the differences between a branch library
and a central library. Possibly these deserve further mention as an
instance of the adaptation of methods of distribution to locality. I
have frequently had occasion to deal with complaints which on
investigation proved to be due to the fact that the complaining reader
expected to find at a branch library all the facilities of a central
library. He had lived near the central library in one city, and had
moved to another where it was more convenient for him to use a branch.
The first thing that strikes him is that the reference collection is
inadequate. He does not realize that the central reference collection
can not possibly be duplicated at branch libraries. Such complaints,
however, may often give the librarian a hint. He may have equipped all
his branches with the same small, good reference collection, forgetting
that reference work varies with locality. Several complaints of this
sort from the same branch may indicate the necessity of enlarging the
reference collection there or perhaps of adopting some such scheme as we
are trying in St Louis of a central reference collection of duplicates
for supplying temporary branch needs.

It is not always realized that the character of the book-collection in a
branch library is influenced by the mere fact that it is a branch, apart
from considerations of size, circulation and character of readers. There
are many standard books, in small demand, that no library should be
without. One copy will serve the needs of the whole town. If there is
but one library there the book must form part of that library’s
collection, whereas if there are a central building and branches, it
should be in the central library--not in the branches. It is for this
reason that the A.L.A. catalogue should not be used for stocking a
branch. I know of cases where numbers of books lie idle on the shelves
of every branch in a city system, because they are not branch books at
all. One or two copies at Central would have been sufficient, and to
place them in branches has been waste of money.

When the New York Public Library took in a considerable number of small
independent libraries as branches I had the opportunity, a year or so
after the event, of ascertaining from the librarians, what difference to
them and to their readers the change of status had made. They were
unanimous in saying that although they, as librarians, felt less
independent, the service to readers was vastly improved, owing to the
fact that the library now formed part of a large system. This is always
the result of any kind of union of effort, whether by consolidation or
co-operation. The individual is somewhat hampered but the community is
benefited. This, of course, is something of a departure from our

Sometimes the chief difference between two localities is in the
character and temper of the readers. The whole scheme of relations
between library and public needs often to be altered in moving from one
place to another. This is perhaps most noticeable in a city where there
is a system of branch libraries. The assistant who has been transferred
from a Jewish to a Scandinavian district and then to one occupied by
well-to-do Americans will understand what I mean without further

But this difference in readers is of course much wider than mere racial
difference. It may be a difference in social status. We Americans are
too apt to pretend that this sort of thing does not affect a public
educational institution, but it decidedly does. Some librarians make
the mistake of thinking that these differences are racial also. It is a
matter of common knowledge among city librarians that in a “slum”
library the problem of discipline is simplicity itself compared with a
library where the readers are nearly all well-to-do. This is often
asserted to depend merely on the racial difference between the newly
arrived immigrant--Russian Jew, Italian or Pole--and the native
American. But we find that when the immigrant has learned the customs of
the country and has made enough money to raise him in the social scale
and enable him to move from his slum surroundings, he quickly takes his
place with the well-to-do library patrons. He is more exacting and his
children are harder to manage. The difference is really a social one.
The immigrant is accustomed to being looked down on in his native
country, to living on little and having few principles. He is humble and
thankful for small favors. What he gets at the library fills him with
amazement and gratitude. Mary Antin has told us all about it. But the
well-to-do citizen, whether by birth or recent acquirement, realizes
that the library is being supported by his taxes. He realizes it, in
fact, so keenly, that he gives it somewhat undue prominence in his mind
and sometimes shows this in his treatment of the library staff. Knowing
that the library belongs in part to him, he may often forget that it
belongs in equal degree to others. He is impatient or even resentful of
rules intended to maintain equality of service. His children
unconsciously absorb this same attitude. They resent control and are
hard to keep in order. Much of the librarians’ time must be given to
smoothing down ruffled feathers and maintaining discipline--time which
ought to be given to bettering the quality of service.

Evidently these two kinds of communities must be handled differently.
They call for different training on the part of the staff--a different
stock of books--almost for different buildings. Then there is the
indifferent community, which may be anywhere in the social scale and
which requires special handling. It is even difficult to tell at times
whether or not a community is really indifferent. Their reaction to the
library is often a phase of the local feeling that is the subject of
this lecture. It is present in some communities and absent in others,
but its presence does not always mean real appreciation of library
privileges, nor does its absence mean lack of such appreciation.

Not more than a few months apart, about ten years ago, two branch
libraries were opened in New York. One was in Greenwich Village, a
district of strong local peculiarities, which I fear it is about to lose
because writers have taken to describing them in the magazines. The
other was on 96th street, which was a part of New York like any other.
The “Village” took the greatest interest in the library from the moment
when its site was selected. The building was watched from its foundation
up. Bad little boys annoyed the workmen. Local politicians and merchants
congratulated the neighborhood and told us how fine they thought it was
all going to be. Everybody wanted to take part in the opening exercises
and nearly everybody did. There were floods of oratory and crowds of
visitors. But having obtained the library and done what it considered
its whole duty in the premises, Greenwich Village, not being a community
of readers, proceeded to leave us to our own devices and it was only
after months of up-hill work that the Branch succeeded in getting
anything like a respectable circulation.

On the other hand the establishment, construction and opening of the
96th Street Branch were treated by the surrounding residents with
supreme indifference. No one had asked to have a branch located at this
point, which had been selected solely for reasons of topography and
population. As the building went up, no one asked whether it was a
school or a bank. Nobody came to the opening exercises. And yet when the
library began to circulate books the community responded to such an
extent that in a short time the branch was giving them out at the rate
of 40,000 a month. Here the interest and pride of a community in the
possession of a library building and its disposition to make use of the
library are clearly shown to be two different things. In this case the
two communities were parts of the same city, but separate towns often
show the same phenomenon. Some of the most indifferent library towns,
for instance, are the ones where superhuman efforts were put forth to
secure a Carnegie building.

A kind of standardization of which we can not have too little is that
controlled by the man who takes himself as the standard--his own ideas,
prejudices and habits. This kind of standardizer is not always aware of
what he is doing. He believes that his methods are the best. They may be
best for him and possibly for the particular environment in which he has
been working. I am not sure that some of our most cherished library
habits did not originate in this way--were not originally simply the
personal whims of some able and forceful library administrator who was
in a position, in the formative stage of library progress, to impress
them on the fabric of our work. Fortunately for us, the men of this
kind, in the early history of the library movement, were not only men of
force but generally of common-sense as well. Possibly their habits and
customs were as good as any others that we might have adopted. I am sure
that they were better than some. But individual points of view may in
some cases prove disastrous. I remember an English novel in which a
local librarian personally interested in the history of the French
Revolution, uses all the available funds of his institution for years to
buy books on the subject, building up a fine collection, but making his
library useless for its ordinary purposes. His successor, a man with
other interests, threw out the whole collection. I have often wondered
which of these two librarians one ought to condemn most. Both are
examples of the injury that may be done by what we may call

I am preparing this whole lecture with a fear that some one of this kind
may think he is adapting his library to his locality when he is only
standardizing it by himself. Self-deception may go far in matters of
this kind, and there is something to be said in favor of hard and fast
standardization without departure of any kind, in that it prevents
aberrations such as I have just hinted at. I trust that no
self-standardizer is in my present audience.

Our conclusion from all this should be, I think, that a library should
not only assimilate its methods to those of other libraries--which is
standardization, but should react to the needs and conditions of its own
surroundings, which is localization. If you would know the extent of
this local reaction and the character of its results, ask the members of
the library’s community, especially if that community is small. And we
must remember that no library community is large, so far as its direct
popular use is concerned. Whether it is in a village or a city, whether
it is a central library or a branch, it is effective as a community
centre only within a small circle, of perhaps half a mile radius. The
residents of this circle are in a position to give testimony regarding
the library’s local services. If it has succeeded in adapting itself to
local needs its reputation will be that of a valuable, helpful,
well-disposed institution; if not, the neighbors will be hostile, or at
least indifferent. Libraries that are in constant trouble with their
readers--the object of continual complaint and controversy, generally
have the feeling that the fault is with the public. Sometimes it is; for
a maladjustment is seldom on one side alone. But more often it is
chiefly due to the fact that the library has overlooked its purely local
functions, while possibly at the same time conforming most admirably to
what are considered the best library standards. No library can afford to
neglect its special duties to its locality and if these conflict with
standardization, it should be the general standards and not the local
adjustments, that should go by the board.


Administration, Cost of, 217

Advertising. General, 277;
  In the library, 35, 172

Age limit for children, 210

Allen, James Lane, quoted, 66

A. L. A. catalog, 422;
  President’s address, 121

American Library Institute, 418

American idea of delegated authority, 57;
  Of propriety, 133

Americans as money-lovers, 156

Antin, Mary, quoted, 423

Appointments, 95

Appropriation for books, 24

Architecture of libraries, 315

Art, Not intellectual, 331

Assassins, Persian sect, 129

Autograph collections, 398

Auto-standardization, 425

Badness, Three kinds in books, 207

Beginners, Message to, 357

Beresford, J. D., quoted, 372

Best books defined, 141

_Biblia abiblia_, 288

Bibliographies for book selection, 19

Binding, Choice of, 25

Boards of trustees, 39, 49, 93

Book committees, 22, 147

Book-lovers, 99

Book selection, 17, 125;
  Raising standard of, 141

Book-taught Bilkins, 106

Books, Distribution of, 30;
  Love of, 97;
  Waste of, 163;
  Influence of locality on stock of, 411

Booksellers’ League (N.Y.), 85

Boston Public Library, 186

Boston Transcript, 419

Bowdoin College library, 394

Branch dep’t., Jurisdiction of, 233

Branch libraries, 93, 421;
  Gifts of sites, 178

Brooklyn Public Library, 12;
  Scheme of service, 189

Bryan, William J., 270

Buildings, Future, 81;
  Standardization of, 415

Bulletins, Picture, 31, 402

Business man’s library, 269

Ca’Canny policy, 155

Carlyle, Thomas, quoted, 64

Carnegie, Andrew, Gifts of, 90;
  quoted, 105

Carnegie Committee, Requirements of, criticized, 417

Cash-registers, 11

Cataloguing, Local modifications of, 419

Catholics and the library, 300

Censor, Librarian as a, 121

Center, Definition of, 111;
  Functions of, 114

Chance, Definition of, 374

Charging systems, 420

Chestnut Hill Branch, Phila., 416

Children, Work with, 85

Children’s department, Jurisdiction of, 233

Christian Scientists and the library, 301

Church and library, 299

Churches, Duplication of, 344

Circulation, Statistics of, 75;
  At long range, 221

Civic League, St. Louis, 405

Civil Service Commission, N.Y., 190

Civil Service in libraries, 183

Class-percentages,  Comparison of, 148

Classification of work, 222

Clippings, 399

Closed-shelf issue, 221

Commercial system in libraries, 160

Conflicts of jurisdiction, 231, 351

Connecticut State Library, 415

Contract system, 94

Cost of libraries, 85

Cyclopedia, Library as a, 146

Dana, John C., quoted, 261, 317

Decameron, criticized, 137

Delivery service, Frequent, 228

Delivery station work, 221

Detroit branches, 416

Distributer, Library as a, 29

Dont’s, for book-selectors, 150

Downtown branch, 228

Drudgery, 102

Duns on postal cards, 13

Duplication, Sin of, 341

Education, 257;
  Through libraries, 59, 87;
  University of, 111

Educational center, Library as, 111

Educational results, 52

Efficiency records, 199;
  quoted, 385

Eliot, Charles W., quoted, 80

Envelopes for filing, 400

Ephemeral books, 34, 89, 104

Examinations, 186

Exclusion of books, Grounds for, 122;
  Of readers, 242

Exhibits in a library, 397

Expenditures, Division of, 418

Experiments, 370, 389

Expert advisers for book-selection, 125, 145

Experts, Control by, 40, 49

Exploitation of libraries, 321

Extension of library service, 365

Falsity in books, 123

Feed-wires, Compared with books, 168

Fiction, Appraisal of, 23;
  Selection of, 147

Finance, 51;
  Statistics of, 73

Fines, 4

Forbes Library, 419

Force, Fields of, 115

Forecasts, 310

Foreign books, 133

Formalism in libraries, 290, 320

French ideas of propriety, 132

Genius, Definitions of, 64

Gerould, Mrs., quoted, 291

Gifts, Undesirable, 173

Gil Bias, criticized, 137

Glennon, John J., 274

Godard, George, 415

Grades in the staff, 186

Grant, Ulysses S., Life of, 380

Greenwich Village, New York

City, Library in, 424

Group-education, 116

Group-psychology, 285

Group-value of collections, 402

Groups, Recognition of, 315

Harrisburg Public Library, 416

Hicks, Frederick C., quoted, 261, 264

Hierarchy, Control by a, 42

High Bridge Branch, New York City, 416

House-to-house delivery, 87

Houses, Index to, 415

Hungarian books, 368

Hysteresis, 269

Imponderables, 260

Income from fines, 7

Indecency and immorality distinguished, 127

Indianapolis Public Library, Address at opening, 283

Initiative, Need of, 361

Insurance, A relief of “ill luck,” 390

Interest and initiative, 384

Inventory, 70, 74

Jackson Square Branch, New York City, 416

James, William, quoted, 117, 260

Japanese, Heritage of, 167

Kent, William, quoted, 206

Kipling, Rudyard, quoted, 168

Language, Best of, 142

Lantern-slides, 404

Lay control in libraries, 39, 49

Lecky, W. H. H., 128

Lectures, Collections taken at, 175

Lenox Library, 393

Librarians, Three kinds of, 241

Librarians’ libraries, 50

Library, The small, 29;
  And the business man, 269;
  The subscription, 293

Library schools, 95

Library work, Future of, 309

Local history, 413;
  Material, 117

Locality, Library and, 409

Luck in the library, 373

Lutherans and the library, 301

Machine-work, 157

Mal-employment in the library, 205

Mallock, W. H., Quoted, 153

Mayer, Dr. Alfred G., quoted, 357

Medical officers, 380

Meetings in libraries, 314

Militarism, Union against, 271

Miller, Elsie, quoted, 224

Missionary work of libraries, 313

Morgan, J. P., 390, 394

Moving pictures, 285

Museum, Library as a, 393

Music, Popularization of, 325

Mutilation of books, 14

Napoleon, Anecdote of, 373

Nationalization of libraries, 310

New Haven Public Library, 416

New York, Consolidation of libraries in, 350

New York Free Circulating Library. Scheme of service, 185

New York Public Library, 312, 422;
  Science circulation, 18;
  Scheme of service, 192

Newman, Cardinal, quoted, 66

Newspaper science, 124

Newspapers, 105

Ninety-Sixth St. Branch, New York City, 425

Non-partizanship, 180, 270;
  In book selection, 126

Omission, Sin of, 341

Open shelf libraries, 82

Organization of idleness, 153

Othello criticized, 137

Overdue books, 8

Pains and penalties, 3

Pay-duplicate system, 6

Pearson, B. L., 419;
  quoted, 208

Phonograph records, 336, 405

Photographs, Local, 414

Pianola rolls, 336, 405

Plates as museum material, 396, 397

Play defined, 112

Poe, Edgar A., 284

Poetry, Increased taste for, 283

Poets, libraries and realities, 283

Political interference with libraries, 320

Popularization  of information, 123;
  Of libraries, 310

Portland, Ore., branches, 417

Postal-card material, 400

Postal-cards, Illegal, 13

Prairie psychology, 294

Private collections indexed, 415

Problem novel, 130

Professional training, 318

Professionalization of libraries, 310

Profit in a library, 161

Promotions, 186

Property, Waste of, 163

Public Control by, 42, 49;
  What is it? 91

Public-opinion, Power of, 166

Publicity, 35, 280, 304

Publishers’ Weekly, 20

Racial or social status? 423

Readers, Statistics of, 76

Reading of music, 326

Realism, 285

Recreation through libraries, 60

Recreational results, 53

Reference use, Statistics of, 75

Registration, size and growth, 36

Reich, Emil, quoted, 118

Repetition in fiction, 347

Reputation, Importance of, 165

Reserves, Unlocking of, 117

Reviews, 21

Riley, James Whitcomb, 283

Riverside Public Library, Cal., 416

Rules, 352;
  Authority for, 12

St. Louis Pageant, 407

St. Louis plan (pay duplicate), 6

St. Louis Public Library, 314, 367, 396;
  Efficiency records, 200;
  Scheme of service, 194

Savage, Characteristics of, 357

Scholarship in libraries, 287

School and library, 60, 88

School, Function of, 113

School libraries, 255

Scrapbooks, 399

Screens for display, 397

Service systems, 183

Shaw, George Bernard, 127

Sight-reading, 333

Simplicity, Best of, 142

Smith, Munroe, quoted, 259

Social results, 55

Socialists, Mistake of, 155

Socialization of libraries, 310

Special libraries, 316

Standardization, Limits of, 409

Statistics, 69, 161;
  Use of in book-purchase, 412

Sumner, William G., quoted, 133

Sunday school libraries, 301

Superficiality defined, 135

System, Magazine, 280

System in the library, 153

Talk, Unnecessary, 214

Taste, Cultivation of, 33, 329;
  Test of 142

Telephone use, 274

Text-books, Composite, 264;
  Unsatisfactory, 124

Textiles, 400

Theft of books, 14

Time, Waste of, 163, 353

Trade-lists, 19

Travelling libraries, 86

Triviality, 135

Trustees, 39, 49

Trustees’ Section, A. L. A., 44, 49

Truth in advertising, 278;
  In books, 123;
  As a test, 142

Turgenief as a realist, 347

Vacations, 212, 215

Vincent, George B., quoted, 116

Volta Review, quoted, 265

Walmsley, H. R., quoted, 265

Wister, Owen, quoted, 132


[1] Read at the Magnolia Conference of the American Library
Association, June, 1902.

[2] Figures for 1901.

[3] Read before the Trustees’ Section of the American Library
Association at the Niagara Conference, 1903.

[4] An address before the Trustees’ Section of the American Library
Association, Narragansett Conference, 1906.

[5] Presidential address before the New York Library Association, Lake
Placid, September 21, 1903.

[6] Read before the Pennsylvania Library Club, Philadelphia, May 9,

[7] Read before the New York State Library Association, Twilight Park,
September, 1906.

[8] Presidential address before the American Library Association, Lake
Minnetonka Conference, June, 1908.

[9] Read at a meeting of the library commissions of the New England
States, Hartford, Conn., February 11, 1909.

[10] Read before the Missouri State Library Association, Columbia,
October 28, 1909.

[11] Address before the American Library Association at the Pasadena
Conference, May 19, 1911.

[12] Read before the Iowa Library Association.

[13] Report to the American Library Institute.

[14] Read before the round table of branch libraries at the Washington
conference, May 28, 1914.

[15] Read before the Missouri Library Association, Sedalia, November
18, 1914.

[16] A luncheon address to the Advertising Club of St. Louis.

[17] Address at the opening of the new building of the Indianapolis
Public Library.

[18] Read before the National Association of Music Teachers and
reprinted from the published Proceedings for 1918.

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