Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

issued to each borrower in the year are poses than to apply for books. But at from sixteen to eighteen in England and the Manchester libraries in 1868–9 an Wales and more than forty-four in Scot. attempt was made to count the numbers land.

of persons making use of the institutions Of course, books suffer more or less in one way or other.* It was found that damage from incessant reading, and no there had been altogether 2,172,046 small numbers of books in free libraries readers, of whom 398,840 were borare sooner or later actually worn out by rowers of books for home reading ; 74,steady utilisation. Such books, how- 367, including 228 ladies, were readers ever, can almost invariably be replaced in the reference library ; 91,201 were with ease ; in any case, how infinitely readers to whom books were issued on better it is that they should perish in the their signature in the branch readingfull accomplishment of their mission, rooms; and 1,607,638 made use of the instead of falling a prey to the butter current periodicals, books, pamphlets, man, the waste-dealer, the entomologi- and other publications, in the newscal book-worm, the chamber-maid, or room, in regard to which no formality is the other enemies of books which Mr. required. Taking the population of Blades has so well described and anath- Manchester at 338,722, we might say ematised.

that every man, woman, and child visitOne natural result of the extensive ed the libraries on an average 6 times circulation of public books is the very in the year ; or, putting it in a more low cost at which the people is thus sup- sensible manner, we might say, perhaps, plied with literature. Dividing the total that every person of adequate age visited expenditure of some of the principal the libraries on an average about 13 free libraries by their total issues, we times in the year. find that the average cost of each issue The figures already given seem to is, at Birmingham, 1.8d. per volume ; at show that there is probably no mode of Rochdale, 1.92d.; at Manchester, 2.7d.; expending public money which gives a at Wolverhampton, the same. At Liver- more extraordinary and immediate repool the cost was still lower, being only turn in utility and innocent enjoyment. 1.55d. ; and at Tynemouth it was no It would, nevertheless, be a mistake to more than 1.33d. In the smaller libra- rest the claims of the free library ries, indeed, the average cost is, as we simply on the ground of economy. Even might reasonably expect, somewhat if they were very costly, free libraries larger ; but, taking the total returns of would be less expensive establishments issues and expenditure as given in Mr. than prisons, courts of justice, poorCharles W. Sutton's most valuable houses, and other institutions main“Statistical Report on the Free Libra- tained by public nioney ; or the ginries of the United Kingdom, we find palaces, music-halls, and theatres mainthe average cost per volume issued to be tained by private expenditure. Nobody 2.31d. This is by no means

can doubt that there is plenty of money inode of estimating what the public get in this kingdom to spend for worse or for their money. We must remember for better. The whole annual cost of that, in addition to the borrowing and free libraries does not amount to more consulting of books, the readers have than

hundred thousand in most cases a cheerful, well-warmed, pounds per annum ; say, one fifth part and well-lighted sitting-room, supplied of the cost of a single first-class ironwith newspapers and magazine tables. clad. Now, this small cost is not only reTo many a moneyless weary man the paid many times over by the multiplicafree library is a literary club; an un- tion of utility of the books, newspapers, exceptionable refuge from the strife and and magazines on which it is expended; dangers of life. It is not usual to keep but it is likely, after the lapse of years, any record of the numbers of persons to come back fully in the reduction of who visit free libraries for other pur- poor rates and government expenditure

on crime. We are fully warranted in * “ Transactions of the Second Annual Meeting of the Library Association," Manchester, Seventeenth Annual Report to the Coun1879, Appendix II. See also Proceedings, cil of the City of Manchester on the Working pp. 92–3.

of the Public Free Libraries," 1869, p. 5.

a fair

one

an

looking upon free libraries as are in want of padding, there springs up engine for operating upon the poorer a crowd of correspondents who advocate portions of the population. In many cheap literature. A new novel, instead other cases we do likewise. Mr. Faw- of costing 315. 6d., ought not to cost cett's new measure for attracting small more than 55. or even is. Cheapness, deposits to the post-office savings banks we are assured, is the secret of profit, by postage-stamps cannot possibly be and, as the post-office raises a vast reyapproved from a direct financial point enue by penny stamps, so we have only of view. Each shilling deposit occa- to issue books at very low prices in sions a very considerable loss to the de- order to secure a vast circulation and partment in expenses, and it is only the great profits. The superficiality of such hope and fact that those who begin with kinds of argument ought to be apparent shillings will end with pounds, or even without elaborate exposure. It ought to tens and hundreds of pounds, which can be evident that the possibility of cheap possibly justify the measure. The post- publication depends entirely on the office savings banks are clearly an en- character of the publication. There are gine for teaching thrift-in reality an some books which sell by the hundred expensive one ; so free libraries are en- thousand, or even the million ; there are gines for creating the habit and power others of which five hundred copies, or of enjoying high-class literature, and even one hundred, are ample to supply thus carrying forward the work of civil- the market. Now, the class of publicaisation which is commenced in the pri- tions which can be profitably multiplied, mary school.

almost to the limits of power of the Some persons who are evidently quite printing press, are those always vapid unable to deny the efficient working of the and not unfrequently vicious novelettes, free library system, oppose arguments gazettes, and penny dreadfuls of various somewhat in the nature of the “previ- name, whose evil influence it is the work ous question. They would say, for of the free library to counteract. instance, that if there is so wonderful a Practically, the result of establishing demand for popular books, why do not free libraries is to bring the very best the publishers issue cheap editions which books within the reach of the poorest, anybody can purchase and read at while leaving the richer classes to pay home?' Some astonishing things have the expenses of publication of such no doubt been done in this way, as in books. Any boy or beggar who can the issue of the "Waverley Novels” at raise sixpence may enjoy from that sixpence each. Even this price, it will “coign of vantage,” the gallery, some be observed, is three, four, or more excellent play or opera, which is really times the average cost of the issue of all paid for by the stalls and boxes at ros. kinds of literature from the larger free 6d. or a guinea a head. A little obserlibraries. Any one, moreover, in the vation will convince any one that there least acquainted with the publishing are many social devices which carry the business must know that such cheap benefits of wealth to those who have no publication is quite impracticable except wealth. Public ownership is a most in the case of the most popular kinds of potent means of such vulgarization of works. Quite recently, indeed, a pleasures. A public park is open to Pictorial New Testament" has been

every one. Now, if the burgesses of a issued for a penny per copy, and Bun- British borough are wise enough to open yan's “Pilgrim's Progress" in like man- a free library, it is a free literary park, ner. But the copies of these issues where the poorest may enjoy as a right which I have met with are devoid of what it is well, both for them and everyanything to call binding, and I presume body else, that they should enjoy. it is understood that such publications Judging from the ample statements of could not have been undertaken from the occupations of book borrowers given pecuniary motives. In the same way,

in the annual reports of various librathe Bible Society, of course can issue ries, or the summary of such reports Bibles at whatever price they like, so long printed as a blue book,* it is quite plain as their subscription list is sufficient.

* Return. Free Libraries Acts, No. 439. Every now and then, when the papers

1877.

that the borrowers are, for the most less than 10,000 ; in 39 cases the popupart, persons of no wealth, few probably lation lay between 10,000 and 50,000 ; having an income of more than £100 a in 16 cases between 50,000 and 100,000; year. Too many science lectures, cheap and in 15 cases the population exceeded entertainments, and free openings of 100,000. In the few remaining cases exhibitions, intended for the genuine the population could not be stated. In working man, are taken advantage of almost all the towns in question, too, chiefly by people who could well afford the new census will doubtless show to pay ; but in the free library the work- greatly increased numbers of inhabiing man and the members of his family tants.' Opinions may differ as to the put in an unquestionable appearance. number of people which we may in the Thus, we find that at the Birmingham present day assign as adequate to the Library, out of 7688 readers in the ref- efficient support of a library ; but, lookerence library 56 are accountants, 17 ing to the number of towns of about actors, 115 agents, 27 apprentices, 80 20,000 inhabitants which already sucarchitects, 153 artists, 31 bakers, 7 bed- ceed with their libraries, we cannot stead-makers, 25 book-binders, 48 book- doubt that every town of more than sellers, 44 bootmakers, 141 brass-work- 20,000 inhabitants should possess its ers, 3 bricklayers, 17 brokers, 15 brush- rate-supported library. makers, 26 builders, 18 burnishers, 7 It is quite an open question whether butchers, 14 button-makers, 43 cabinet- all towns of ten thousand inhabitants makers, 90 carpenters, 14 carvers, 18 ought not to have libraries ; the number chain-makers, 85 chemists, 167 clergy- of such towns, even in 1871, was 221, men, 1562 clerks, 19 coachmakers, 8 since greatly increased. The question coal-dealers, 140 commercial travellers, must soon arise, too, whether literature 30 curriers, and so on to the end of the is to be confined to towns-whether alphabet. Similar statistics are shown rural parts may not share in the advanby all the libraries which record the tages of a library seated in the nearest occupations either of borrowers or refer- market town. Owing to the simple inence library readers.

tervention of distance country people It must not be forgotten, too, that the never can have the facilities of town cost of a book is not the only inconveni- dwellers, but on market days almost ence which attaches to it. If a book is every farmer's family could exchange to be read only once, like a newspaper books. or penny dreadful, and then destroyed, Thirteen or fourteen years ago, Mr. the cost must be several, if not many, George Harris proposed the establishtimes as great as if furnished by a circu- ment of parochial libraries for working lating library. If books are to be kept men, in small towns and rural districts.* in the home, so that different members The ground upon which he advocated of the family may use them successively his plan is very good as applying to free when of suitable age, there is the cost of libraries generally-namely, that the the bookcase and the space taken up in country already spends a great deal of a small house where it can ill be spared. money in promoting education, and yet No doubt a great deal of cheap litera- omits that small extra expenditure on a ture is passed from hand to hand universal system of libraries which would through the second-hand bookseller and enable young men and women to keep thus multiplied in utility ; but there is up the three R's and continue their edumuch inconvenience in this method, and cation. We spend the £97, as Mr. Harris the second-hand dealer likes to have a put it, and stingily decline the £3 per good percentage.

cent really needed to make the rest of the Mr. Sutton's valuable table of statis- £100 effective. But as applied to rural tics enables us to form a clear idea of districts his scheme is weak in the fact the extent to which the free library that numbers and concentration are movement is capable of further develop- needed to make an efficient, attractive, ment. The number of rate-supported and economical library. A small collibraries, not counting branches, is now at least 86 Of these only five are found *“ Transactions of the Social Science Asin boroughs having in 1871 a population sociation," Manchester Meeting, 1866, p. 416.

lection of a few hundred books is soon non-residents to pay a small subscripexhausted by an active reader, and fails tion, the really satisfactory method ever afterwards to present the novelty would be for the parishes to adopt the which is the great incentive to reading. Free Libraries Acts, and pay a small The fact is that there exists no legal im- contribution to the funds of the nearest pediment to the establishment of paro- free library district. chial libraries, because the sixth section If this were frequently done, there is of the Public Libraries Amendment Act little doubt that some arrangement 1866 (29 and 30 Vic. cap. 114) provides could be devised for circulating the that the Public Libraries Act of 1855, books of the lending department through and the corresponding Scotch Act, the surrounding parishes, as proposed "shall be applicable to any borough, by Mr. J. D. Mullins. It would be district, or parish, or burgh, of whatever rather too Utopian to suggest the adoppopulation. Moreover, the fourth tion in this country of the method of section of the same act enables any book-lending which has long been in parish of whatever population to unite successful operation in the colony of with the town council of a neighboring Victoria. Thus, under the enlightened borough, or a local board, or other com- management of Sir Redmond Barry, petent authority, and provide a free lib- whose recent death must be a serious rary at the joint expense. So far as I loss to the colony, the duplicates of the am aware, these powers have hardly been Melbourne Public Library are placed in put into operation at all.

cases of oak, bound with brass clips, According to Mr. Sutton's tables, lined with green baize, and divided by there is only one free library district, shelves. Each case contains about fifty that of Birkenhead, which has succeeded volumes, and is transmitted free of cost in incorporating the “out-townships.” by railway or steamer to any public At Leamington, Newport, Northamp- library, mechanics'institution, Atheton, Southport, Thurso, and Wigan at- næum, or corporate body which applies tempts have been made to get neighbor- for a loan. When a series of lectures ing districts to join, but without success. on any subject are about to be given in In several important boroughs, such as some remote part of the colony, a box Liverpool, Salford, Manchester, even of suitable books bearing on the subject the lending libraries are open to resi- will be made up at Melbourne upon apdents of the country around, and in plication. The volumes may be retainother places the librarians interpret their ed for three months or more.

The rules with great liberality. It goes number of volumes thus circulated in without saying that the reference depart- 1876–7 was 8000, and by the multiplicaments are freely open to all comers, any tion of utility, they were rendered equivquestions which are asked having a alent to 32,000 volumes, in seventy-two purely statistical purpose. The Man- towns of an aggregate population of chester librarians printed in 1865 a table 440,000. A full description of this showing the residences of readers. method of circulation was given by Sir While 62,597 belonged to Manchester Redmond Barry at the London Conferand Salford, 5666 came from other parts ence of Librarians in 1877, in the report of Lancashire, 3 from Bedford, 849 of which important meeting it will be from Cheshire, 124 from Derbyshire, 2 found (pp. 134-5,*194-9) duly printed. from Devonshire, 2 from Durham, 3 An account of an enterprising village from Leicestershire, 83 from London, library club in the New York county 139 from Yorkshire, 5 from Ireland, 8 will be found in the American Library from Scotland, 4 from Wales, and 6 Journal, vol. iii. No. 2, p. 67. from America. Although this liberality This method of circulating libraries is is wise and commendable in the case of not, however, so novel as it might seem such wealthy cities as Manchester and to the average Englishman. Not to Liverpool, it is obviously unfair that speak of the extensive systems of counsmall towns should provide books for try circulation maintained by Mudie, half a county, and though the difficulty Smith, the London Library, and some is surmounted in a few places, such as other institutions, there has long existed Dundalk and Rochdale, by allowing in East Lothian a system of Itinerating

of some note.

Libraries, originally founded by Mr. Sam- For these there are nineteen divisions, and fifuel Brown of Haddington. The oper

teen stations, four divisions being always in

use at the chief town, and two at another town ation of these libraries is fully described

An individual at each station in a very able and interesting pamphlet acts as librarian. There are 700 or 800 readupon “The Free Libraries of Scotland,' ers, and the expenses, under £60 a year, are written by an assistant librarian, and defrayed by the produce of a sermon, the sale

of some tracts, and subscriptions, in small published by Messrs. John Smith &

sums averaging 55. This plan is now adopted Son, of 129 West George Street, Glas- in Berwickshire, by Mr. Buchan, of Kelloe, gow. Samuel Brown's plan was to with this very great improvement, that the make up a collection of fifty books, to current expenses are defrayed by the readers, be stationed in a village for two years,

who pay twopence a month, and I hope choose

the books.' and lent out gratuitously to all persons above the age of twelve years who would I cannot help thinking that this plan take proper care of them. At the end of itinerating libraries, or a cross beof the two years the books were called tween it and what we may call the Redin and removed to another town or vil- mond Barry plan, as carried out at Mellage, a fresh collection of fifty different bourne, is just the thing needed to exworks taking their place. The impera- tend the benefits of the free library to tive need of novelty was thus fully pro- the rural parts of England and Wales. vided for, and the utility of the books Every three months, for instance, the was multiplied in a very effective way. central library in the market town might The scheme was for many years very dispatch to each principal village in the successful, though hardly so much so as neighborhood a parcel of fifty books in the more recent free libraries. The a box like that used at Melbourne ; after books appear to have been issued on an remaining twelve months in use there, average about seven or eight times a the parcel should be returned to the year. At one period there were as principal library for examination and many as fifty of these local libraries, all repair, and then reissued to some other confined within the limits of East village. A farthing or at the most a Lothian. The system is said to have halfpenny rate would amply afford a been started about the year 1816, and it sufficient contribution from the country reached its climax about 1832. In that parish to the market town. The hooks year a charge of one penny per volume might be housed and issued in the board was imposed during the first year of school-room, the parish school-room, issue, Samuel Brown being of opinion the workman's club, or other public that he had so far educated

the popula- building, at little or no cost. Even the tion that they could bear this small im vestry of the parish church would not be post. In this he was mistaken, and the desecrated by such a light-and-life-givnumber of readers began to fall off. ing box of books. Should this plan of The death of the originator in 1839 ac- circulation be eventually carried into celerated the decline of his admirable effect, we might expect that every town scheme, and at present but slight ves- of 5000 inhabitants would become the tiges of his remarkable network of libra- centre of a district. Estimating roughly, ries remain.

we ought to have some 500 free central It is interesting to find that this sys- libraries and news-rooms, with a great tem of itinerating libraries attracted the many more, perhaps 3000, village circuspecial attention of Lord Brougham, lating libraries. and is described in his “ Practical Ob- It ought to be added that even should servations upon the Education of the the free library system assume in time People”' (London, 1825), a tract which the dimensions here contemplated, there marks an era in social reform, and con- is no fear of injury to the interests of tains the germs of much that has since any respectable publishers, owners of been realized. Lord Brougham says of circulating libraries, newspaper proprieSamuel Brown's plan :

tors, or others. It is the unanimous " It began with only a few volumes ; but he opinion of those who observe the action now has nineteen Itinerating Libraries of fifty of free libraries that they create rather volumes each, which are sent round the differ- than quench the thirst for literature. As ent stations, remaining a certain time at each. Mr. Mullins says : “ Booksellers, who

« VorigeDoorgaan »