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The Longsight Branch Free Library, formerly the Mechanics' Institution, Stockport Road, was opened by Mr. Alexander Ireland on the afternoon of Saturday, July 23, 1892, in the presence of a large audience. The Mayor of Manchester (Alderman Bosdin T. Leech) presided, and the ladies and gentlemen on the platform included the Mayoress, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Ireland, the Misses Ireland, Mr. and Mrs. John Mills, Councillor J. W. Southern (chairman of the Free Libraries Committee), Councillor Harry Rawson (deputy-chairman), Aldermen Dr. Russell, Hugo Shaw, and Abraham Lloyd, Councillors Charles Rowley, Reynolds, S. H. Brooks, Norris, Hoy, and Uttley ; the Rev. C. P. Roberts (rector of St. John's, Longsight), the Rev. H. Norburn (rector of St. Agnes's, Birch), Messrs. John H. Nodal, Frank Hampson, Thomas Ashbury, C.E., W. H. Flinn, G. H. Swindells, Richard Gill, John Finlayson, Isaac Gleave, F. W. Lean, S. Dewar Lewin, Charles W. Sutton (chief librarian), W. R. Credland (deputy chief librarian), and Lawrence Dillon (superintendent of branches).
The MAYOR said the Longsight Mechanics Institution dated back to 1854, and it had recently been handed over by the trustees to the Manchester Corporation. He was pleased that they had on the platform that afternoon Councillor Harry Rawson, deputy-chairman of the Free Libraries Committee, who rendered service in the establishment of the institution. Mr. Rawson had long laboured and was still labouring in the cause of free libraries. In 1858 the foundation stone of the present building was laid by Mr. Ivie Mackie, then or subsequently Mayor of Manchester, and the cost was £2,000. Soon afterwards an addition had to be made in the shape of a schoolroom, and the institution had been of great use to the district, the library having been in existence almost from the beginning. time went on the
promoters disappeared from various causes, and in 1890 a resolution was passed to hand over the institution to the Corporation, and last year dissolution was determined upon. There had been a danger of the library going to decay, as had been the case with many large subscription libraries in Manchester, notably the Portico, through the falling away of the original supporters, and the advantage of the transference here was, he believed, in the permanency of the Corporation. The number of books taken over by the Corporation was 2,701, but they now started with 4,203. The decrease of crime, the quickening of intelligence, and the higher tone in amusements in the county of Lancaster he attributed in great measure to education. But education was a sword which might be used to disadvantage if the people were not taught how to apply it, and he believed that libraries did a great deal in teaching its
The libraries of the Manchester Corporation were well looked after. No books were admitted that were not instructive, moral, and of high tone. Ho congratulated Lonsight upon having a free library, and he hoped that the young men and women of the district would make good use of it. They were favoured at the meeting with the presence of their old friend Mr. Alexander Ireland, and they were glad to see him so vigorous in his eighty-third year. Mr. Ireland, in addition to being a literary man himself, has been the friend of Carlyle, Emerson, Froude, Russell Lowell, and William and Robert Chambers, and in his youth had conversed with Sir Walter Scott, which was something to be very proud of.
Mr. ALEXANDER IRELAND then delivered his address as follows:
It is perhaps not altogether inappropriate that the Committee should have asked me to deliver the opening address on this occasion, for I am the last survivor of the original committee which in 1851 originated the Manchester Free Library, the first of its kind in the United Kingdom, its example being followed by Liverpool in 1853, Birmingham in 1860, and by Leeds in 1870. Forty years have since elapsed, and there are now, I rejoice to tell you, 250 free libraries established and in operation throughout the kingdom, containing probably 31 million volumes. It is strange to think that the only one now living who assisted at the birth of the first free library should this day be taking a prominent part at the christening of the 250th bantling of that prolific mother. Manchester contains, besides the Reference Library, nine lending libraries and reading-rooms, and three reading-rooms apart from libraries. In Salford there are five libraries. The number of books used last year in the two towns was 1,838,722. We are still far behind the United States in the extension of free libraries. In the State of Massachusetts alone there were a few years ago 175 free town libraries.