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Edited and with an Introduction by Carl A. Hanson

Special libraries Association

Edited and with an Introduction by

Carl A. Hanson

Special Libraries Association
Cover Design by
Leanne Poteet of
Cutting Edge Graphics

Copyright © 1991 by Special Libraries Association

1700 Eighteenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009
Manufactured in the United States of America
All rights reserved
ISBN 0-87111-368-6

Printed and bound in the United States of America.Dana, John Cotton, 1856-1929.
Librarian at Large : selected writings of John Cotton Dana/edited by Carl A. Hanson
p. cm.
ISBN 0-87111-388-6 : $15.25
1. Library science.
2. Libraries.
I. Hanson, Carl A.
2720. D2A5 1991

Illustrations vii
Preface ix
Introduction xi

I. Dana at Large
A Librarian to His Friends 3
The Library Field as Illustrated by a Certain Library 6
Bad Habit of Having Law Makers and Lawyers 11
Library as a Practical Aid in the World of Affairs 16
II. Dana in Denver
Denver (Co.) Public Library 21
A Novel Library 22
Are the Books Pure 24
Colorado Goldite 27
III. Public Libraries
The Children in the Public Library 31
Some French Libraries 34
The Legitimate Field of the Municipal Public Library 40

IV. Special and Academic Libraries

The President's Opening Remarks 53
The Evolution of the Special Library 55
The Business Man and the Special Library 65
Libraries as Business Research Centres 67
The College Library 71
V. Library Organizations
A. L. A. Organization 79
A. L. A. Membership 81
What State and Local Library Associations
Can Do for Library Interests 83
A. L. A. Booklist 88
[The Library Survey—^Mr. Dana's Criticism] 89
What Will the Survey Accomplish? 92

VI. Library Training
Library Pupils 97
Women in Library Work 98
Training for Librarianship 102
To Make Librarianship More Attractive 104
VII. Library Purposes, Methods and Issues
Hear the Other Side 107
Learning One's Own Library 113
Public Libraries as Censors 115
Efficiency 120
Certification and Civil Service Control 122
Standardization in Libraries 125
VIII. Promoting the Library
Advertising a Library 129
Making a Library Known 131
Library Promotion 135

IX. Education
The Public School 141
Corn and Culture 145
The Librarian's Spirit and Methods in Working with the
Schools 146
Thoughts on the Library and Adult Education 154
What Is Education? 156
X. Readers and Reading
Library Patrons 161
Librarians and Teachers 162
Book-Using Skill in Higher Education 164
The Supreme Importance of Reading 169
Changes in Reading 173
XI. Fiction
Fiction in Public Libraries 181
The Place of Fiction in the Free Public Library 184
Why I Do Not Read Modern Fiction 187
Libraries and Fiction 189

XII. Non-Book Media
Newspaper Readers 193
Sunday Supplements and Their Comics for Children 195
Motion Pictures Freed Man's Prehistoric Appetite 199
Moving Pictures and the Passing Show of Daily Life 202
XIII. Print and Printing
History Repeats Itself for 20,000 Years and Then—
The Printing Press 205
The Use of Print in the World of Affairs 207
Library Printing 212
XrV. Art and Literature
Some of the Extra-Artistic Elements of Aesthetic Emotion ... 217
Relation of Art to American Life 222
What Is Poetry? 230
Literary Hypocrisy 232
The Literature of Libraries 234
XV. Museums
Libraries and Museums 239
Increasing the Usefulness of Museums 243
Schools and Museums 249
The Use of Museums 253
XVI. The Changing Nature of Libraries and Museums
All Progress Is Change 259
In a Changing World Should Museums Change? 261
Changes in Library Methods in a Changing World 265


1 John Cotton Dana Cover

2 John Cotton Dana circa 1895 2
3 Dana, his wife Adine Rowena, and her parents 20
4 The Children's Room, Denver Public Library 30
5 Interior of the Business Branch, Nev^rark Public Library 52
6 Nine former presidents of the American Library Association 78
7 The picture collection at the Nevsrark Free Public Library 96
8 The City Library, Springfield, Massachusetts 106
9 Library booth at the Newark Industrial Exposition 128
10 An engraving depicting Denver High School 140
11 The Springfield Avenue branch of the Newark Free
Public Library 160
12 The Women's Reading Room, Denver Public Library 180
13 The Newspaper Room, Denver Public Library 192
14 The Free Public Library of Newark, New Jersey 204
15 The Teacher's Room, Newark Free Public Library 216
16 View of Newark Museum, Newark Public Library 238
17 The Technical Department, Newark Public Library 258


This work did not begin in a straight line. Instead, as is so often the case in scholarly
work, it is the outgrowth of another project. As it happened, I was doing research on
Charlotte "Ma" Baker, a noteworthy western academic librarian who pursued her career in
Colorado. Baker's training as a librarian took place at the Denver Public Library, where
John Cotton Dana served as her mentor in the 1890s. It soon became clear that I could not
adequately discuss Baker's career without first gaining a better understanding of Dana's
life and work.
Dana has long been regarded as one of the foremost figures in American library
history. The American Library Association memorializes him with the John Cotton Dana
Publicity Awards. But, as I believe the writings selected for this volume show, library
promotion was but one aspect of Dana's professional activities that contributed significantly
to educational advancement in the United States.
Dana published prolifically in dozens of journals and newspapers. Moreover, as a
devotee of fine printing, he published numerous works in small runs with the Elm Tree
Press, a family-owned printing enterprise based in his native Vermont. As will be seen in
one of the following selections, Dana chastised librarians for being ignorant of works on
library history that he and Henry Kent had published with the Merrymount Press. Whatever
the merit of that charge, Dana did not always place his writings in publications commonly
read by colleagues. Probably because he was so busy as a library administrator, Dana often
dashed off" essays on topics of interest and submitted them to a welter of journals. He became
an effective popularizer, clarifying issues in librarianship and education for a much wider
audience than just his fellow professionals. But the result of this approach is a fragmented
oeuvre, a body of work appreciated for some of its more familiar parts instead of the whole.
When taken together, Dana's writings show him to have had a much broader vision
than that of a publicist for libraries. It is hoped that the selections in the present volume will
in some measure reveal the breadth and coherence of Dana's thinking on American
libraries, museums, education, and culture.
I owe thanks to a number of people for helping me put this volume together. I am much
indebted to the staff of the Western History Department of the Denver Public Library.
Special thanks go to Eleanor M. Gehres, Manager of the Western History Department, and
Dr. Fred Yonce, director of the Bear Valley Branch of DPL. Though busily involved in
preparing a history celebrating the centennial of DPL, Fred repeatedly helped me ferret out
materials on Dana's career in Denver. I am also grateful to James Stuart Osboum of the
Newark Public Library and Dorothy Wonsmos, Interlibrary Loan Librarian at the
University of New Mexico. I could not have gathered many of Dana's far-flung publications
without their help. I am likewise indebted to Dorothy Williams and Ruby Wehmeyer of
Trinity University's Maddux Library. They lent their computer skills to readying the
manuscript for publication. A final salute is owed to Dr. David Kaser, School of Library and
Information Science at Indiana University, who encouraged me to pursue research on John
Cotton Dana.
Carl A. Hanson
Maddux Library
Trinity University


John Cotton Dana (1856-1929) was one of the foremost librarians of his era. He is
most typically remembered for his innovative efforts to promote library services and public
education. During his forty-year career as a public librarian, Dana's accomplishments
included terms as president of the American Library Association (1895-6) and the Special
Library Association (1909-10). His work as a librarian began in Denver in 1889 when he was
appointed head of the Denver Public Library. In 1898 he took charge of the public library in
Springfield, Massachusetts. From 1902 until his death in 1929 he directed the Newark Public
Library. Although much remains to be done in illuminating and assessing Dana's life and
career, several biographies have appeared over the years and are noted below.
students of library history largely agree that Dana was a maverick librarian who
facilitated advancement of his profession by attacking cant and convention. One scholar
described him as "an iconoclast, an explorer, a smasher of traditions,... a constant thorn in
the flesh of his more conservative colleagues."^ Dana's role as gadfly was exemplified by his
criticism of various programs of the American Library Association. It is also generally
recognized that Dana was a progressive librarian who was at the forefront of numerous
innovations in library philosophy and practice. His early advocacy of open access to materials
in public libraries placed him in opposition to the curatorial approach of most contemporary
librarians. Dana realized that the great expansion of publishing and readership in America
rendered custodial librarianship obsolete in public libraries. To his mind, the people who
bought the books, the taxpayers, should have free and easy access to them. Dana saw little
point in using pubUc funds to purchase materials that would gather dust on library shelves.
He summarized this view in his motto, "The worth of a book is in its use."
Beyond giving taxpayers their money's worth, Dana saw great social utility in
promoting reading. He urged reading on citizensfi-omall walks of life as a means of
increasing their awareness of the world arovmd them. Developing the reading habit among
an ever-widening circle of people promised greater understanding and appreciation of
different cultures and races. According to Dana, "Knowledge begets sympathy." And as
knowledge increased, suspicion, discrimination and conflict would diminish. Though
invariably modest about the social leverage of libraries, Dana believed that the
understanding bom of reading might one day alleviate the sickness of war.
Unlike most librarians of his era, Dana realized that the public would be more likely
to read and benefit from books they found interesting and useful, rather than works
esteemed by the academic establishment. He thus promoted reading of current fiction, local
history, business literature, and other materials that had clear and immediate connection
with the lives and activities of library patrons. The worth of a book was not only in its use,
but also in its relevance to reader needs and interests. As people read and understood more,
they would eventually find their way—^helped by librarians—to writings of more
transcendent and lasting value.
In many respects, Dana is best understood as an educator who happened to work in
libraries. Throughout his career as a librarian, he consistently saw libraries and
librarians as intermediaries in the transfer of information fi"om producers to users. From
his earliest days at the Denver Public Library, which occupied the west wing of Denver

High School, Dana worked closely with teachers in providing instruction for students. He
established America's first separate children's library there in 1894, prepared materials for
classroom instruction, and mounted numerous exhibits in the library. From his perspective,
schools, libraries, and museums were a complementary triad that should work together in
educating society. Dana was, however, wary of attempts by librarians to supplant teachers
in areas of knowledge where they were deemed deficient. He thought it far more productive
to have librarians share their expertise with teachers, who could then pass it on to students.
Dana's interest in the display of objects for educational purposes later led to advocacy
of radical reforms for American museums, which he criticized as bastions of elitism.
During the early twentieth century Dana led the movement to make museums instruments
for the visual instruction of whole communities. Using the museum he installed on the
fourth floor of the Newark Public Library in 1904 as his testing ground, he sought to promote
public instruction via well-publicized exhibitions and also to demonstrate the possibilities
Jbr greater cooperation between libraries and museums. Much to the consternation of
conservative museum directors, he published numerous essays attacking their institutions
as remote, gloomy, dull, and even dead. The maverick librarian thus established himself
as the enfant terrible of the American museum profession.2
Dana's numerous and often imaginative efforts to publicize libraries and museums
stemmed in part from his realization that they were inadequately involved in the
educational endeavor. He also saw that institutions such as high schools and colleges could
not by their very nature offer continuing instruction to all sectors of society. Businessmen,
immigrants, retirees, enrollees in correspondence schools, and others had specific
information needs that could be met if libraries and museums did a better job of advertising
their wares. Moreover, mass readership of popular publications such as newspapers and
dime novels insured a great pool of ready and capable recipients of the knowledge that
libraries and museums could impart. In keeping with his idea of meeting taxpayers on
their own ground, Dana established a separate business collection (the Business Men's
Branch) at the Newark Public Library in 1904 and later mounted displays of local
industrial products in the city museum. Dana understood that his goal of an ever-more
knowledgeable citizenry was advanced through outreach, not by expecting the public to come
unbidden to classical texts or rare and ancient cultural artifacts.^
Nowadays there is much discussion of the information explosion that came after
World War II and the concomitant need to manage the outpouring with computers and other
technological innovations. Perhaps ironically, the present-day explosion has to some extent
obscured the fact that after the Civil War librarians confronted a similar avalanche of
publications. Many librarians dismissed the bulk of those publications as unfit for
inclusion in library collections and instead held doggedly to the notion that they should
collect materials appropriate to the interests of educated elites, of devotees of humane letters.
Dana was one of the first to recognize that information, whatever its nature, had
constituencies that should be serviced through the mediation of librarians.
Dana's promotion of special libraries for businessmen exemplifies his realization that
topical, ephemeral information in pamphlets, reports, directories, etc., could be made
available to grateful users often unaware of their existence or utility. Five years after the
opening of the Newark Business Men's Branch, this realization culminated in the
establishment of the Special Libraries Association. The idea for the association arose with
Sarah B. Ball, head of the Newark branch, and Anna Sears, Librarian for the Merchant's
Association of New York. Sears initially suggested that a regional association be created.
Dana apparently extended the idea to one of national scope. At his suggestion, Sears and

Ball wrote to dozens of librarians overseeing collections in insurance, law, engineering,
business, museums, and other fields, inviting these individuals to meet at the next
conference of the American Library Association, to be held at Bretton Woods, New
Hampshire. On July 2, 1909, the Special Libraries Association, a name proposed by Dana,
was formed at the mountain resort and he became its first president.
On November 5, 1909, SLA held its first separate meeting at the Merchant's
Association in New York. In opening remarks given to about forty members of the new
association, Dana observed:

The library idea has always been more or less academic, monastic, classic. The
impression has prevailed that the library appeals first of all to the reader of polite
literature, to the student, the philosopher, the man of letters. This modern rapid
development of special libraries managed by experts who endeavor from day to
day to gather together the latest things on the topic to which his library is devoted,
to present to the firm and employees, is simply an outward manifestation of the
fact that the man of affairs has come to realize that printed things form the most
useful and most important tools of his business, no matter what that business
may be.*

Dana's early advocacy of special libraries is clearly consonant with the old business
slogan of finding a need and filling it. As is especially clear in the case of the Special
Libraries Association, Dana championed information services tailored to the needs and
perceptions of actual and potential clientele, rather than simply the interests of traditional
library users.
Though Dana died just as the age of computers was dawning, his recognition of the
need for efficient delivery of information to discrete user groups may well have influenced,
or at least helped stimulate, later insights and methodologies that came under the rubric of
information science. One can only speculate as to what he might have said on the role of
computers in libraries and society had he lived longer. Yet, as may be seen in the last essay
of this collection, Dana early recognized the potential importance of television as a tool for
dissemination of information by libraries. Readers will no doubt note other instances of
Dana's prescience.
Much remains to be done in discerning the nature and sources of Dana's thought on
libraries and, for that matter, the world around him. Although he did not insist on library
patrons reading the classics, Dana was himself an accomplished student of Roman texts.
He was, for example, much taken by the commonsensical and often caustic poetry of
Horace. If the eclectic reading lists he compiled are any guide, Dana was also influenced
by Shakespeare and nineteenth century novelists such as Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis
Stevenson, and Mark Twain. He was also attracted to the social reform writings of Jane
Addams and the socialism of Henry George and George Bernard Shaw.
Dana was an avid student of the history and philosophy of librarianship. Thus, for
example, he apparently drew considerable inspiration from the writing of Gabriel Naude,
the librarian of Cardinal Mazarin. Dana also read widely in the library literature of his
day and doubtless derived ideas from pioneer American librarians such as William F.
Poole, Justin Winsor, Charles Ammi Cutter, and Melvil Dewey. One often finds echoes of
earlier librarians in Dana's ideas on heeding taxpayer wishes, the importance of fiction,
and other issues.^ He thus advanced the ideas of other librarians while also promoting his

Although the origins and contours of Dana's thought have yet to be adequately
explored, it is probably fair to say that he was an eclectic, independent thinker who found
insights in writings ranging from the classics to those associated with the progressive
movement of his day. Dana was familiar with the moralist and reformist writings of his
era and appears to have valued the moral idealism of Ralph Waldo Emerson. It also seems
likely that pragmatists like Charles Peirce, William James, and John Dewey helped shape
his thinking. Some of Dana's writings suggest that he was influenced by the economic
thought of Thorstein Veblen. A scholarly study of Dana's intellectual patrimony would
doubtless discover numerous other influences.
Dana once described himself as a philosophical anarchist, a term apparently meant to
convey the idea of non-adherence to any "ism." He was, like Emerson, a shrewd and
sagacious Yankee who appreciated the role of both books and business in society. Dana was
subtle enough to allow pragmatic and idealist views to cohabit in his thought. Moreover, his
thinking suggests an acute appreciation of the strengths and limitations of human nature
and society. He nevertheless held to a vision of a better world populated by citizens
increasingly enlightened by widening access to knowledge sheltering in schools, libraries,
and museums. In addition to using the term philosophical anarchist, Dana might well have
described himself as a pragmatic visionary.
In his essays Dana repeatedly addressed the question of purpose in the public library.
He often advanced cogent, cautionary views aimed at tempering unrealistic, even
messianic, enthusiasm for the latest cause c4l4bre in the profession. Moreover, as one would
expect of a thoughtful commentator, Dana changed his stance on various issues over time.
This can be seen, for example, in his brief essays on the educational value of movies.
Dana's writings on issues such as service to children, outreach to immigrants, and adult
education helped sharpen debate on questions of purpose and undoubtedly influenced their
resolution.^ Unlike many prominent public librarians of his time, Dana was a staunch
opponent of censorship and an early advocate of librarianship's role in promoting
intellectual freedom.'
During his career, Dana gave countless speeches and wrote literally hundreds of
essays on a wide variety of topics. Many of his more significant speeches and essays on
librarianship were compiled in three anthologies. The first and most significant, Libraries;
Essays and Addresses, was published in 1916 and reprinted in 1966 and 1969. The second,
Suggestions (1921), contained pithy quotations from other papers and essays. The last, Now
That Everybody Has Enough to Read, What Should Libraries Do? (1930), was quite brief,
containing only four of his later essays. Though useful, these collections do not include
many significant works, especially those written between 1916 and Dana's death in 1929. It
was during this period that Dana wrote many of his seminal essays on museum practice, as
well as reflections on the progress of librarianship during his lifetime.
The present volume brings together many previously uncollected writings of John
Cotton Dana. These writings range from 1889, when Dana published his first extended
newspaper article, until late 1929, when his last essay appeared posthumously. Also included
are three newspaper articles which contain remarks made by Dana to reporters. Though
most of the writings collected here did not appear in the three previous anthologies, some
classic pieces such as Dana's "Hear the Other Side" are republished here. The selections are
in most instances arranged chronologically within categories. While by no means
comprehensive, these categories denote Dana's broad range of interests, both within the
realm of libraries and librarianship, and the wider world. Essays such as Dana's
discussion of French libraries allow readers to compare contemporary American library

practice with a foreign example. The selections on librarianship range from philosophical
ruminations to practical essays on methodology. Readers interested in works by Dana
beyond those included here, or in the three previous anthologies, should consult the
bibliography compiled by Hazel Johnson and Beatrice Winser in Library Quarterly (1937),
pp. 68-98.
A thoroughgoing biography of Dana remains to be written. Shortly after his death
Beatrice Winser published John Cotton Dana, 1856-1929 (Newark, 1930), a brief, flattering
account. In 1937 Hazel Johnson wrote "John Cotton Dana," which appeared in Library
Quarterly (pp. 51-68) together with the bibliography that she and Winser had prepared. The
most detailed biography is Frank Kingdon's John Cotton Dana, a Life (Newark, 1940).
Useful as this work is, it does not provide adequate detail on Dana's early years. Most
lamentably, Kingdon seldom cites the sources of his information. This same lack of
scholarly citation afflicts the most recent book-length biography of Dana, Chalmers
Hadley's John Cotton Dana, a Sketch (Chicago, 1943). Nonetheless, Hadley does provide
useful detail on Dana's years in Colorado. Recollections of Dana's activities in Newark
appear in John Cotton Dana: The Centennial Convocation, Addresses by Arthur T. Vanderbilt
and L. Quincy Mumford, with a Preparatory Note by James E. Bryan (New Brunswick, N.J.,
1957). A brief but valuable discussion of Dana's influence on the library profession may be
found in Dee Garrison, Apostles of Culture; the Public Librarian and American Society, 1876-
1920 (New York, 1979), pp. 93-6. Also helpful are two recent encyclopedia articles: Norman
D. Stevens, "Dana, John Cotton (1856-1929)," in Dictionary of American Library Biography
(Littleton, Colo., 1978), pp. 115-20; and Rose L. Vermelker, "Dana, John Cotton (1856-1929),"
in ALA World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services, 2nd ed. (Chicago, 1986),
pp. 244-6. An interesting account of Dana as publisher (and prankster!) may be found in
Wayne A. Wiegand, History of a Hoax: Edmund Lester Pierson, John Cotton Dana and The
Old Librarian's Almanack (Pittsburgh, 1979).
It is hoped that the present volume will help stimulate further study of Dana's life and
contributions. The essays included herein show that he was a versatile man of wide-
ranging interests who saw librarianship as a vital profession in the human enterprise. He
had little patience with professional pettifoggery and constantly reminded librarians that
their first responsibility was to society at large. The following essays clearly show that John
Cotton Dana was, first and last, a librarian at large.

1. Earnestine Rose, The Public Library in American Life (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1954), p. 211.

2. For an excellent chapter on Dana's promotion of "The Museum of Community Service,"

see Edward P. Alexander, Museum Masters: Their Museums and Their Influence
(Nashville, Tennessee: The American Association for State and Local History, 1983),
pp. 377-411.

3. Lawrence A. Cremin, American Education: the Metropolitan Experience, 1876-1980 (New

York: Harper and Row, 1988), p. 452.

4. "The President's Opening Remarks," Special Libraries 1 (1910): 5. For ALA's response to
SLA requests for affiliation, see Wayne A. Wiegand, The Politics of an Emerging

Profession: The American Library Association, 1876-1917 (New York: Greenwood Press,
1986), pp. 210-214.

5. On the "fiction problem," see Patrick Williams, The American Public Library in
American Life (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988), pp. 9-22.

6. Background on these issues will be found in Ibid., pp. 29-45.

7. Dee Garrison, Apostles of Culture: The Public Librarian and American Society, 1976-1920
(New York: Free Press, 1979), p. 94. for an incisive account of Dana's run-in with the
Vigilantes, an anti-German group bent on censoring books during World War I, see
Wayne A. Wiegand, "An Active Instrument for Propaganda" The American Public
Library During World War I (New York: Greenwood Press, 1989), pp. 96-99.

[Now out of the City.]


^c- -^

John Cotton Dana circa 1895 with his dictum, "The worth of a book is in its use." Courtesy
of the Denver Public Library, Western History Department.

"*** We have thus with much labor and expense gathered and fitly housed many
good books. But if now we can with justice hide all their lights beneath a bushel,
can condemn all the brave spirits they embody to eternal silence and solitude,
then do we utterly fail to understand the purpose of a library **** In vain does
one buy many books and lavish money on their care if he has not in mind their
consecration to public use, if it is in his heart ever to refuse access to them even
to the humblest who may have need of them."
Written by the Librarian Gabriel Naud4 in 1644.

To my friends and fellow-workers in the City Library of Springfield, Massachusetts:-

We have worked together four joyful years. This is something which even envious
time cannot take from us. We have found pleasure in our tasks; and then a doubled
pleasure when we saw those tasks themselves as the very bond of our good fellowship. We
hope we have accomplished something; we believe we have learned something. We think we
have gained a clearer and a wider view—even though we frankly admit it is shadowy
still—of the public library and its relations to our fellow citizens who build it and maintain

The people establish a library that by it they may be cheered, and stimulated, and
broadened, and helped to wiser thoughts and better deeds. And first they find a home for
their library. This home, no matter how small or humble, they wish to be dignified, that it
may speak of the dignity of learning, of the reverence due to wisdom; to be cheerful, that it
may discourage no visitor, may chill no inquirer, however humble, may charm all comers
to a second visit and a longer stay; in a word, to be homelike, for this is the home of the good
and wise whose thoughts our books contain, and the one home common to all those who have
established it and maintain it.
Religion divides men; and the churches, dedicated to solemn uses, have not the power
to unite us all about the hearthstone of our common interests. The library may touch the life
of all, may stir all intellects and warm all hearts.
Of the school the essence is discipline. Here are the teacher and the taught, the ruler
and the ruled. In the library all are learners side by side, guests at a banquet which all may
enjoy because all have contributed to it.
In the city hall are management, finance, and despotism. The majority rules here
and cannot let us forget that it rules. The library effects the most when it least betrays its
power and simply points the way.
Justice has her seat in the courts of law; but she is blind and stem, and could never act
as a gracious hostess. The library adds to justice sentiment, and aims to temper conduct by
a charity born of the widest view.

Reprinted from A Librarian to His Friends (Springfield, Massachusetts, 1902).

The theater is perhaps nearer to the library in its possible aims than any other
institution. The people meet here on common ground, and might here find—but do not yet
here find—a means of instruction and a source of pleasure akin in its wide influence to
that of a collection of good books hospitably kept.
The library, then, is the one public institution which can serve as a center of pleasure
and learning for all the city. To its service all can give their sympathy and aid without
restraint of politics or creed, and without thought of difference in station or in culture.
Recreation, good cheer, research, business, trade, government, social life, conduct, religion,
all of these in every aspect can turn to books for help.
The people having thus conceived of their library, they wish, so we have believed, that
the keepers of this home of theirs should carry out their thought. It has been our pleasure to
try to Hve up to this belief. Whether we have come in sight of success or not, this we are sure
of, that the very nature itself of the library we have had in view has given us day by day
deep pleasure in our work. If to the attraction of good books we could add an atmosphere of
welcome and good cheer the chief of our tasks was already done; and the pleasure of giving
pleasure was ours.
The city draws Hfe and support from the country about it. Brain and muscle leave the
village and the farm and contribute to the city's growth. It is well if the city can draw from
this fact a sense of obligation, and can return in suggestion and sympathy, if in nothing
more, something of what it has gained. The obligations of ability, power and wealth rest
upon the city. They most plainly rest on the library, the outward symbol of the city's best
thought. With this in mind we have ventured to give a little of our time and thought to
cooperation with our fellow-workers in smaller fields about us; and if we have given to
others a tithe of what we ourselves have gained through the sharing of inquiries, answers,
experiments, failures and successes, we can be content.
The people ask not only that their library be cheery and inviting; they ask, also, that
those who have charge of it be helpful so far as in them lies. The library, they think, as the
one institution of the city where all interests meet on common ground, should be the center
of all that life in the city which touches in any way on literature, history, art, civic
improvement, education, science; and should have as guardians of its books those who add
to some knowledge of those books an eager interest in all these and kindred matters and
delight in an opportunity to be of help therein. We have not thought that we ourselves could
make our library a center for the best of the city's life; but we saw that the people themselves
wished to make it such a center; and we tried not to stand in the way of the fulfillment of
their wish but to help as we could. The central home was there; the masters of all that's best
were present in their books; others gave the opportunity; we have wished to add to that
opportunity, invitation and good will.
There is much print; good books are few. It is part of this day's business to help the
young to find their way past the much of print that is useless and worse, to the little that is
helpful. The wise teacher can do this. Given the opportunity the wise teacher is glad to do it.
And so, still carrying out what seemed to us the thought of those who established the library
and maintain it, we have tried to make it easy for teachers to reach it, to direct their pupils
to it, to guide their pupils in its use. Here there is much to do, perhaps still more to learn. We
have seen the beginning only of what we believe is a library's most helpful work. How great
the pleasure we have taken in that beginning!
No one can think we are boasting as we talk of these things. We are simply telling
one another of the good times we have had! We owe them, in part, to our occupation, an
occupation full of possibilities of pleasure; in part to the great store of good books which the

tireless zeal of Dr. [William] Rice of happy memory collected through the generosity of the
city and the library's many friends; in part to the good will of you, my friends, who did not
stay your interest or zeal through queries, doubts, troubles and changes—most especially, 0
friends, the changes—which growth and development compelled; in part—one might say, for
the most part—to the wilHng cooperation of those who use the library, and of those who, not
using it, none the less wish it success; and in part, in great part, to the continuing help of the
journals of the city, and most especially to that one [the Springfield Republican] which is in a
measure committed to the library's support by many years of precedent and by many years
of directive interest.
How pleasant it is to work in a library! How pleasanter still it is to work in a library
with one's friends! We have had this pleasure for four joyful years. May we all continue to
have it for many years to come.
J. C. D.
Springfield, Massachusetts, January 11, 1901.


I select the Newark library, not because it is the best library; but because I know it best.
And because it illustrates fairly well, by the things it is doing, and the things it hopes to do,
and the things it would like to try, the field of work which lies before every library in the
Newark has a population of about 300,000. It is seven miles from New York. It is a
manufacturing suburb of that city. But it is more. It has an identity, a civic consciousness,
of its own. Founded by Connecticut Yankees in 1667, further established by the Dutch, it held
to conservative ways for nearly two centuries. Germans brought to it a touch of their
liberalism after their revolution in '48. As the industrial development of the last 30 years
came on, men found Newark had cheap sites, good land and water transportation, moderate
taxation and a fair municipal administration; and they came and built factories and made
things. They are still making things, of every kind. To the factories came many workers
from foreign countries. Newark outgrew its own conception of itself It felt, to the older
folks, like the quiet, conservative residence village it once was. It was, in fact, a great city.
Hardly more than a dozen years ago, it woke up to a realization of this. It equipped itself
with a superior water supply. It was foremost in acquiring great tracts of land for a system
of parks for the county. It built an adequate high school. It established a free public library.
Soon the library needed a building, and the building came. It cost, with the land, $425,000. It
is large enough for 25 years to come, without considering economy of space. It is light in
every corner. It is simple and dignified in its exterior. Within it is impressive, and gives
the taxpayer that pride of possession which perhaps every public building should produce.
The presence of this fair and worthy structure on their main street has helped the people to
wish for others like it—and a court house and a city hall appropriate to a great municipality
are now under way.
I have said our building is large enough and well lighted. Perhaps that is sufficient
praise. Of few library buildings can those things be said. It is also conveniently arranged.
It has rooms not at present needed by the library proper on all four floors; and it has its own
plant for producing heat, light, and power.
I feel free to praise this building highly, as I had nothing to do with its planning. Mr.
[Frank P.] Hill and his directors put it up, not on theory or precedent, but on a careful study
of their needs. I can speak more freely, also, of the work of the library itself than I could
were it not, primarily, Mr. Hill's organization I am carrying on, his plans in g r e a t
measure which I am trying to carry out.
Newark is a manufacturing city, consequently it has a very large proportion of
laborers and mechanics, skilled and unskilled, in its population. It is 30 minutes and ten
cents from New York; consequently, most of its artistic, literary, scientific and musical,
and much of its financial and social interest centers there. The result is, that it has
relatively, to other large cities which are remote from the greatest centers of wealth,
population, and general human attraction, a rather slight educational, recreational, and
generally self-centered life of its own. Not that the lawyers, doctors, preachers,
manufacturers, business men, teachers—and women—may be considered slow, apathetic, or

Reprinted from Public Libraries 8 (1903): 449-453.

uninterested. But they have the habit in matters such as those I have named, of looking
elsewhere. The city has no art gallery, no museum of natural history, no music hall worthy
of itself, no adequate art school, no sufficient technical school, and joins with the state in
permitting the historical library to languish for lack of funds.
Now in any community, old or young, large or small, which for causes peculiar to
itself has not, or has in poor estate, the institutions and interests which I have mentioned,
what should be the attitude of the free public library which the people of that community have
had the forethought to build, equip and provide with sure income? We have a building which
is in itself a stimulus to the broader interest and the wider view; ideally arranged for
library work proper and for work outside of book-lending, an annual income of $50,000, and
a community which, with a business view arising naturally in a city devoted chiefly to
business, looks for a maximum of result from all its investments—and what should we do?
We should make ourselves in effect a part of all the school work of the city, public and
On our fourth floor—with elevator—is a large unassigned room. Pending the
completion of the new city hall, offices were needed for certain school supervisors. We were
glad of an opportunity to give them this room. In other unassigned rooms these and other
supervisors hold meetings with their teachers. Naturally the teachers come to think of the
library as part of their own equipment. They call on us for help in many ways. We believe
they feel that we are working with them.
Most of their organizations hold their meetings in the library. The pleasant relations
already established between the library and the schools have been in this way widened £ind
strengthened. Thousands of pupils hear of our books through teachers who freely advertise
us. Our little school-room libraries—20 to 40 books in a case lent for a term or a year,
selected by the teacher, and changed at her request—were taken with pleasure and interest,
and three times as many of them as we had (about 90) would have been gladly taken could
we have purchased them.
We should aid in such work as school-room decoration.
Newark is interested as are most cities in making its school rooms more beautiful
and attractive. In furnishing our library rooms we have had this fact in mind. We framed
some of the German lithographs from Teubner; some of the French lithographs by Riviere,
some of the Historical series of Langl, and some of his Geographical series; showed the
Seeman black and white prints, gave an exhibition of fine carbon photographs, and next
month we are to have a display of all the different kinds of pictures suitable for this purpose
that we can discover, framed, cataloged, described and priced. This is not done at random.
All decoration of school rooms should be under the direction of a committee, of which the
supervisor of drawing in the schools should be the head. And we put forward nothing that
does not approve itself to the proper authorities. The possibilities of work in this direction are
not yet realized. A simple, inexpensive, appropriate, attractive furnishing of our school
rooms would train our teachers themselves and then the pupils in the elements of good taste
in decoration and design, and would hasten the coming of the day when more of our
manufactured products shall have that final touch, born of skill in design and cultivated
taste, which so many of them now need.
We should help to establish a museum of science.
One of our rooms is admirably adapted to the beginning of such a museum, and there
are intimations that a few small collections, especially suited to school use, will make this
room a center of arrangement and distribution. Our building can not house a museum
really worthy of the name. But it can, and most appropriately, furnish space for its

beginnings, rooms for the meetings of those interested in it, and needed books and papers;
and the library can materially help in arousing interest in it.
We should help local musical interests.
Newark is a musical city, more so than what I have said would lead you to suppose.
Possibly our building can not accommodate the musical meetings proper, even of small
organizations. But the library can assist in making a collection of music for general use
and can keep its collection of books on music and musicians well in advance of interest in
Study clubs—literary, artistic or musical—it is of course our function to aid by all the
means at hand.
Those of Newark, many of them, meet in our unused rooms, and are given light,
attendance, and are supplied with books, papers, Usts, and pictures to the limit of the
library's resources. This brings to us the good will and the help of women's clubs of all
We should help charitable organizations of all kinds, like those working for vacation
schools, which originated in Newark many years ago, for summer playgrounds and
kindred organizations.
These meet in our rooms, day or evening, without charge. And these and others are
supplied with light for lantern exhibitions when needed.
We should encourage the development of an interest in art, both fine and applied.
We have tried to do this. Our directors have secured the services of three of our leading
citizens to serve as a Fine arts commission. This commission, primarily appointed to
decide if the pictures and other art objects which are offered to the library are worthy of a
place in it, has been of the greatest assistance to us in many ways. Chiefly through the
efforts of its chairman, Monsignor Doane, they furnished our assembly room on the fourth
floor with reflectors for lighting suitably pictures and other objects. Then, with the
assistance of a local dealer in pictures, they gathered for us a loan exhibition of fine
paintings, almost the first notable public display of the kind ever held in the city, and
followed it with another brought together by another expert. To the two came 50,000 visitors;
ten times as many as most of the older residents of the city would have said would come to
such an attraction. To the same room came the architects of the state for the first exhibition
ever held of their drawings and sketches. Here also we held an admirable poster show and
a display of fine photographs.
We have received a few gifts of pictures and sculpture. Even the beginnings of an art
gallery or museum may be a long time in coming; but our building, so wisely provided with
rooms not now needed by the hbrary proper, with such exhibitions and meetings as our
friends secure and arrange for us, is sure to raise the thought of a permanent exhibition and
a general desire for it. We can not properly house an art gallery worthy of the name; but we
can provide space for one in its earlier years and are sure to have that pleasure.
The evening drawing school of the city, part of our public school system, looks to us for
books, pictures, and designs of every kind. The work of the day schools in manual training
and sewing has already been exhibited on the fourth floor. We shall soon have a lantern, a
screen and a supply of slides for illustrating talks on applied art and other topics, at the '
service, without charge, of all the educational workers of the city.
We are compihng a dictionary of illustrations, a universal, iconographic
encyclopaedia. From all possible sources we gather pictures. We mount a few of the best,
those chiefly for special purposes as needed. Most of them are grouped by kinds in simple
folders of manila paper. They already number about 20,000, and cover a thousand subjects.

though it is hardly more than a year since we began to gather them. We lend them to all
comers for many purposes.
Every city is capable of betterment in streets, parks, schools, public buildings,
monuments, drives, cleanliness and sanitation.
Newark, like most cities, has an active Board of trade, civic improvement societies,
and kindred organizations which give attention to these matters. Meetings of some of these
organizations are held in the library, and we try to provide the literature they need. The
Board of trade is trying to help the schools to include more study of Newark, its advantages
and disadvantages, its beautiful and its unsightly features, its history and its future, in the
curriculum of the first seven years. This is with the hope of fostering more rapidly a proper
local civic pride in the thousands of children of foreign parents or foreign parentage who
come to our school rooms every year. The library tries to keep posted on this work and to
provide appropriate literature therefor in advance of the call for it. You can get golden
conduct only from golden instincts. Every city is a mirror of its citizens. Cleanliness and
beauty in a municipality reflect the manners and taste of its people, not its ordinances, its
board of health, and its street department. Beautiful American cities are taking birth today
in every school-room in the land or should be.
As I told you, all this being my inheritance and not my creation, I can speak of it with
considerable freedom. If I have told the story properly you will have seen that our library
tries to present itself as the proper center for so much of the literary, scientific, artistic,
industrial, and general social life of our city as finds association with it sympathetic and
helpful. The story, let me assure you, outruns the reality. We try for much, we can do so
little. But if I have illustrated clearly the main point of my paper—that a city's free public
library is a city's school without age limits, rules or masters; a city's temple without a creed;
a city's friend who gives help without reproof or blame, a city's center of enjoyment and
good will—then is the story worth telling even when its anticipations outrun its needs, when
its hopes outrun the realities.
Let me add just a word. I have written down a few lines, summing up very broadly a
librarian's view of the world, her library, and her work.
Imagine her alert, vigorous, cheerful, standing on the steps of her library and looking
out over her town. She says: Behind me is the Diary of Humanity, the Autobiography of
Man, the record of all that he has done, of all his imaginings, of all his experiments,
failure and success alike. Here is the knowledge—lacking which civilization would pass in
a day; and here the wisdom which, applied but for a day, would change our imperfect society
into one better than we can fashion out of our dreams. And all this is set down in skilfully
chosen words cunningly put together by the wisest and the wittiest and the most human of
our forbears.
Before me is the world, still struggling and striving, condemned to strive and
struggle for so many ages—^yet to advance so little! Here to gain for a time friendship, love,
mutual aid, and that social effectiveness we call civilization. There, to lose all, thus gained,
for a day, for generations, through envy, greed, hatred, strife, and all unkindness.
It is mine to help put into the hands of these my fellows, who have here almost by
merest chance selected me for the task, so much of this record of man's strivings,
attainings, hopes, prophecies and fears, of this library, of this composite volume, of this
veritable Book of Books, as they will take with pleasure, they hoping with me that they may
learn from the wisdom of the elders how to live with more joy, how to work together more
happily. I may see no harvest of the seed their library may sow. But can I make the many-
volumed work of human history—this Book of Books, to be the every-day book of my

friends? If I can, even in slight degree, I have earned my hire, I deserve my place, I find
my labor play, my duty opportunity, and every day too short.


In the process of social development early societies invented certain customs and
institutions to satisfy certain more or less well-defined needs. That is to say, all customs
and institutions have had their origins, in part, in sheer utility. All of them were therefore
good; for they all helped, if they did nothing more, to establish and maintain that social
stability which is a prime essential to progress. It is probable that we owe our present
advanced position to cannibalism in precisely the same sense, though not necessarily in the
same degree, in which we owe it to slavery, to polygamy, to autocracy, to monogamy and to
property in land. At certain points in society's advance one and all of these customs were
demanded by circumstances, were developed and gave humanity an uplift.
These several customs were adopted by social groups of a relatively low order. They
were beaten out, as it were, by pressure of adverse circumstances, under the guidance of the
barbarous and the semi-civilized. Crude as are many of our methods of so modifying our
own customs as to meet wisely the changing conditions of our social life, the methods used
in early days were very much cruder. The results were unsatisfactory. Cannibalism was
doubtless a helpful custom in its day; but was not good for all time and in due course was
abandoned. Slavery was more useful and for a longer period. It even helped bring to full
flower a very refined civilization. But it demonstrated its own ill effects and was duly
It is obvious that in all customs in the early days of primitive society there are defects.
Having been devised in a society of the socially unskilled they must all partake of a certain
coarseness and crudity, and they must have fitted but ill the needs for which they were
devised. If one of them by rare chance proved perfectly adapted to its purpose in the society
for which and by which it was fashioned, it could not possibly fit the far more advanced and
far more complex society into which the crude society gradually developed.
Now the law, meaning the power behind the law; and the law, meaning both rules
given by legislators and judges and legislators and judges themselves; and the law,
meaning the technique of its alignment as practised by a privileged class, the lawyers—the
law in all these three forms or aspects, is a social eject of extreme antiquity. It is one of
those ancient folkways, whose ancestry bespeaks its imperfections and whose close kinship
to other folkways, long since found injurious and sloughed off, prophesies for it a like fate.
It is an ancient and imperfect tool, retained thus far partly
because it is still of some use in our still very imperfect society, and partly because its
harmfulness is not yet fully recognized. It never fitted perfectly the purpose which it is
supposed to serve. It fits less well each succeeding generation and works upon each more
and more harm.
If it is said that the law in its three-fold form differs from all other institutions in that
it underlies them all; that the sum of all habits is the very law itself, this answer is offered:
We speak of the bad habit of polygamy, of the bad habit of cannibalism, of the bad habit
of having slaves; and we speak in the same way, and with as little thought of the law, of the
bad habit of having absolute monarchs. Now, the absolute monarch is the source of all law.

Reprinted from Popular Science Monthly 85 (1914): 87-92.

In theory, he states it, ahgns it and enforces it. Yet we conceive readily of the habit of
having an absolute monarch as a bad habit, to be in due course given up.
It is precisely upon this thought of the law as a bad habit that this argument for its
harmfulness is based. It was essential in a certain stage of social development that one
man should rule a tribe, just as it was essential that the same tribe should eat its neighbors.
It was essential that a few men—kings, nobles or what not—should rule a nation, just as it
was essential that that nation should make slaves of its neighbors. It was, and in a sense
still is, essential that the majority of a nation should rule the minority; just as it was, and
in a sense still is, essential that the same nation wage perpetual commercial warfare with
its neighbors.
Now the king, the aristocracy and the majority are each and all of the essence of the
law; the cannibalism, the slavery and the commercial warfare are not. Formal statements
of the existence of the latter institutions, if such were made, might be called laws; and
kings, aristocracy or majority may be said to have enforced them. But the difference
between them and the first three is that they are not thought of as touched with legality, with
the majesty of law-givers and courts. They may be thought of directly as evil customs
working harm to those who practiced them. And just as we may think of having
cannibalism or slavery as bad habits, so may we think of having a king or an aristocracy
or a ruling majority as bad habits.
The first aspect, then of the law as I defined it—kingship, rule of man by man—is
itself a habit and not an aggregate of all habits. It was born to fill a certain need, and was
therefore good; but it was born of the ignorant and socially inept, and is therefore bad. Like
other ancient devices, it is outliving its usefulness. Our native conservatism holds it fast
long after its evil results have begun to outweigh its good results.
As to the laws themselves, being the second aspect of the law as defined, that these are
full of harm is universally admitted. Ten thousand new ones are yearly made; and
straightway ten thousand more are made to modify and ameliorate the first ten thousand.
We confess by their constant revision and repeal that we find the law-making habit
persistently injurious.
As to the law-makers themselves, they are, like kingship and cannibalism, survivals
of an ancient device. The primitive tribe which conquered had learned to obey, else it had
not conquered; obedience meant conformity to rules; the rules were set down by others, not
by those who obeyed them. The habit of having rules which others made had its advantages.
Naturally we have held fast to the habit. And now, though better equipped than ever before by
virtue of our racial experience, our individual training and our inherited tendencies, to
guide ourselves wisely, we hug to ourselves too closely still the bad habit of having law
makers. We are to-day strengthening the habit's hold upon us instead of weakening it.
That our lawmakers can not be otherwise than blunderingly if not maliciously
harmful seems a foregone conclusion, if we consider, not their origin, but merely their
manner of selection. We do not pick them for proven skill in guidance, for experience
gained as leaders in great social enterprises, or for their mastery of the problems of modern
society—not at all. We do not even invoke in their selection the aleatory gods and submit
our legislative fortunes to the unprejudiced decisions of a handful of black and white beans.
We do not select them with the aid of signs and omens such as are granted by the flight of
birds or the entrails of hens. The last two methods would have some of the advantages of
chance, for they would, if honestly conducted by a government priesthood, occasionally point
to a man peculiarly well fitted for the task of law making.

But while the choice of our law makers is not determined by sacrificial inspection, it
is accompanied by ceremonies and incantations of a quasi-religious nature; and it turns
often on the relative persistence of the several candidates in the repetition of certain
formulae and the honoring of certain taboos. The law-maker group, like the group of
privileged speciahsts in the technique of the law's action, the lawyers, derives itself from
the king as high priest, and its work, as maker of laws, has a strong ecclesiastical and
even a religious flavor. This is almost more true of the judge as law giver than it is of the
legislator proper. The judge seems the more direct of the two in his descent from the god-
given king. About his position and his utterances there is a special odor of sanctity. While
both are in large degree taboo, the greater relative sanctity of the judge is illustrated by the
fact that one may quite openly condemn a legislator, or even a legislative body as a whole,
and be not greatly criticized therefor; whereas openly to condemn a judge, qua judge, shocks
certain of our quasi-religious sensibilities.
This very ancient and now quite harmful habit of ascribing a certain sanctity to law
makers means that we tend to look upon them with a certain religious reverence and
submission. In further accordance with this habit we select our law makers primarily or
largely for their adherence to a creed and for their activity in securing converts to that
creed. The intrusion of those elements of religious enthusiasm, which make for the
destruction of all judicious decision, into the work of selecting our law makers is alone
sufficient reason for the conclusion that they must do us much harm.
The habit of having, in the alignment of the rules the king or the majority enforce an
elaborate technique, practiced by a privileged class, the lawyers, has a peculiar
The habit of having kings, or law-enforcers in any form, and the habit of having
legislators or other kinds of law makers, are both survivals and both are doing injury
through their failure to fit the more civilized communities which still retain them. But both
were once quite essential to progress, and seem still to possess advantageous features, even
to societies as advanced as our own. The tribal chief and abject obedience to him were once
quite important factors in the struggle for tribal survival. In later forms of society it was as
important that the elders of the tribe lay down rules adapted to changing conditions as it was
that the grand chief enforce them. That is, the habit of having laws made, and the habit of
obeying the one who was there to enforce them, were once quite markedly helpful habits and
have some excuse for survival even down to our own day. But for the habit of having a
privileged class in charge, as it were, of the technique of the distribution of the effects of the
law, of this not so much can be said.
The origin of the lawyer-having habit at once discloses to us a sufficient reason for the
power and persistence of the custom of making him a privileged member of society, and
points also to its harmfulness.
The tribal chief of early days took on, from his earliest appearance, certain
ecclesiastical trappings and powers. He was often a god himself, either during his life or
immediately after his death. He was often chief priest as well as head man. The priestly
class which grew up about him performed the accustomed sacerdotal rites, led the people
through the mummeries of the tribal religion, took on much of the sanctity which custom
gave to the head man himself, and, inevitably, became a specialized class with peculiar
powers, immunities and dignities.
The fact of the descent of the lawyer class from this priestly class is familiar enough.
The lawyer's special privileges have descended directly from those enjoyed by medicine
men and priests who surrounded the tribal leader and helped him to exercise his more god-

like functions and shared his god-like prestige. The habit of having a privileged priestly
class was never as distinctly helpful to the tribe as were the king habit and the rules-of-
conduct habit, and it was also, from the very nature of its origin, inevitably increased as the
social organism developed, expanded and became more sophisticated. In so far, therefore, as
the lawyer caste of today takes its peculiar and exclusive powers from its direct precursor,
the priestly caste, so far is it predestined to harmfulness.
And in so far, again, as it takes its special powers by direct inheritance from a quasi-
ecclesiastical source, so far is the habit of tacitly granting those powers guarded with a
quasi-religious zeal by those, the ignorant populace, who hold it. The divinity that was once
of the very essence of the tribal chief, hedges still the kingly majority of the present social
hierarchy and that majority's priest-born, privileged law exploiters. The creed of the devout
behever in the efficacy of the law in all the aspects of it I have named—the law enforcer, the
law maker and the law exploiter—this creed includes by implication, if not in so many
words, an article declaring the divine origin of the power of those who give, those who
enforce and those who align the law.
Inevitably, in view of its origin and character, the lawyer class forms the most
powerful and self-assertive of labor unions. It is the most powerful, for it has behind it the
authority of both the law-enforcing and the law-formulating powers. Indeed, it is itself, as
already shown, the third in the trinity of powers which constitute to-day the whole of that
habit-of-having-the-law which was once the habit-of-having-an-autocrat. A labor union,
possessed of some of a ruler's supreme authority, of necessity becomes, in accordance with
well-known laws of human nature, arrogant, overbearing and prone to serve its own
personal ends at some sacrifice of the ends for which it was constituted. For an example,
one may cite that habit of procrastination in which the caste still indulges in the exercise of
its functions, a habit the painful effects of which an elaborate ritual and an esoteric
terminology tend somewhat to mystify but not at all to mitigate.
Gaining its authority and its sanctity largely from the remote past, being desirous of
retaining both, and feeling that both are accentuated by constant reference to their ancient
and noble Hneage, the lawyer caste draws constantly for its pronouncements not on the
merits of the case in hand, but on the whole body of ancient doctrine. Herein this caste
resembles its foster sister, the ecclesiastical group; but while the latter is moved constantly
to look forward, if not by the good sense of its units, then at least by the pressure of the
internal competition, the former is supported in its enjoyment of reminiscence and its scorn
of evolution by the whole law-giving habit of which it is part.
In one aspect of the special powers of the lawyer class we find an astonishing survival
of a rather special ancient custom. The tribal chieftain surrounded himself with satellites,
priests, kin-folk and courtiers. He was compelled to delegate to these the exercise of some of
his functions. It suited their needs to make it difficult for the common people to approach
him and present their petitions and their grievances. In time it became the custom for the
wealthier and more influential of those who would get word with the chief, or would, through
his immediate friends, gain favor from him of a promise, a gift or a decree, to purchase,
outright or indirectly, the help of an intermediary. This custom was handed down, became
fixed in its details, and survives to-day in the lawyer's fee. Now as in the early days of this
custom, a person specially authorized for the purpose stands between the faithful and the
law-enforcing power. One may almost say that we license the door-keepers of the halls of
justice and permit them to take toll of all who enter.
The chief direct beneficiaries of the survival of this law-having-habit are the lawyers.
As such, one can not hope to find them zealous in modifying or weakening the habit. But

lawyers are as ready as is any other special class to declare their devotion to the general
welfare, and they are better situated and better fitted than is any other class to check the
growth of this injurious law-having custom. And nearly all lawyers admit, when the
question is of law-making by legislatures, that the law-habit is most harmful, and that its
constantly grows stronger.
Ten thousand generations taught our race to love a king; we seem unable to get over
the habit. We love him; we believe in him; we think he can make us prosperous, wise and
happy; and when he comes to us in the guise of a legislative majority from our own political
party our faith enjoys a veritable renaissance.
There was a time, say 50 or 80 years ago, when the law-having habit, among English
speaking peoples at least, seemed on the decline. Then a change came, merely, one may
dare hope, the inevitable temporary reaction we must always look for in such cases, and to-
day we are again in the full tide of law building.
Now, are lawyers as a class attempting to check the growth of this law worshiping
habit? Do they point out again and again to the populace that it is, after all, but the habit of
worshiping a divinely appointed king under another nomenclature and another set of
In the layman's observation, they do not. They profit by the law's growing complexity.
They hasten to become legislators themselves if only to equip themselves in the way of
profitable legalizing.
But is there not here an opportunity for this social group, harmful in its very essence,
to lessen to some degree the harm its existence causes, by attacking in an organized way
this hurtful habit of worshiping the law?


The war has shown us that we are quite uncivilized; are still able to act like dogs
quarreUng over a bone. Even in this country the war spirit is so prevalent as to show that
our work with "best books," our children's libraries, our classics, our stories and all our
other well meaning exertions have not abated and probably never will abate man's native
ferocity. In spite of twenty-five or thirty centuries of books, five centuries of printers and
forty years of zealous and mission-hearted American librarians, our fellow men have
proved themselves fundamentally uncivilized. In the face of this, what are we librarians to
do? I find no maxim suited to the occasion, unless it is, "Let us be humble." And in the
midst of our humihty let us take a lesson from the EngHsh and find humor in our own
doings, and in the antics of our enemies' ignorance and sin.
Do you say that we should go right on, putting the right book in the right hands at the
right moment? And will that persuade any not to fight, or to make shells or to sell
munitions or to lend money to those who are fighting? Some have said to me that it were
better for mankind if in my own library work I put less emphasis on industry and more on
culture and uplift; less on mere books and more on "books of power"; less on directories and
more on Walter Pater and Henry van Dyke. And I must reply by saying that the nations
that have most freely wallowed for centuries in "books of power" are the ones that are now
wading deepest in one another's blood.
These observations may seem to you to have little to do with the subject of my address,
but I think they have.
The first thing to do when you are going to build is to survey the site. The site for the
practical, the useful library edifice we hope to build is right in the center of poor human
nature, and this center is now a morass of greed, servility, prejudice and national hatred,
as Europe demonstrates. Surely it is an entirely practical proceeding to look frankly at this
morass, and inquire if with libraries, we can help a httle in its drainage and purification,
before we draw our plans, and certainly before we venture to gaze with holy joy on the mere
mirage of a noble and useful structure, born of the heat of a baseless enthusiasm.
The practical Hbrary, the library that is to count in the future as a useful and
important factor in the world of affairs, is one that must be based on human nature and
human interests as they exist; and that means that it must be far more closely allied with
the daily affairs of life, the practical activities and industries of the world than it has ever
been in the past.
Its advance in this direction is right now very rapid, and so open to the observant eye
that any librarian who does not see it may be sure that his or her library is not of the kind
which most of the libraries of the country soon will be.
In time the library will be of great importance in the world; but this importance will
not be very fully shared in by libraries of the present prevailing type. We shall be obliged to
change our scope and methods a good deal if we are to become usefully important or
importantly useful.

Reprinted from New York Libraries 5 (1915): 8-10. This essay was drawn from a paper
presented before the New York Library Association, Twilight Park, October 1, 1915.

You see what the book does, it does quietly. Even in education the results of its work
are not obvious. One boy studies books and his brain develops; but father and old Vox Populi
can not see his brain and can not realize that his work on books is producing results.
Another boy hammers a piece of perfectly good copper into something as ugly as sin, and
this the father and Vox Populi can see at once is a result, a product, and they admire, and
wonder, and say, "Behold what practical training can do for a boy!"
And thereupon cities and universities proceed to spend millions on equipment for
practical training, and a few begrudged hundreds on books with, perhaps, for the university,
a preposterous monument thrown in to fill the eye and store the few books.
The silence of the book and the invisibility of its handiwork—these are two of our
great handicaps. In spite of them, however, it is perfectly obvious that the book—and the book
in the new library nomenclature means print in any form—will soon be an important
factor in every bit of the world's handwork. In time we shall become those veritable print-
using animals which we librarians have long praised as the highest of created beings.
To illustrate and emphasize the prodigious change in the print-producing and the
print-using habit that has recently come upon us and the accompanying changes that should
be made in library administration, permit me to tell you about three things with which I
have come in touch in recent months.
It has been my pleasure this summer to have had a hand in the beautification of, and
the work of, a county fair in Vermont. Among the other things which the committee I was
connected with carried on, was this: They sent, at my suggestion, to about one hundred and
fifty state institutions and social service organizations having to do with any aspect of rural
life, a circular letter asking these organizations each to send to the county fair a supply of
the pamphlet literature they issue, there to be distributed. As the result of these letters we had
at the county fair over a thousand pamphlets on farm life. They covered farming in
general, fertilizing, fence making, care of stock, raising chickens, hygiene in the home,
care of infants and many other topics. It is not too much to say that if these pamphlets had
been printed in a little different form, after the manner of the conventional book, they would
have formed a library of a thousand volumes of the best and latest literature on the farm
and farm life. These books, or pamphlets, were displayed on shelves by kinds and
distributed to all comers. So much of the literature as not taken on these two days will be
distributed by the local superintendent of schools. This is library work of a new kind.
One of the most interesting and intricate of all modern callings is that of the credit
man, the man who decides for a business house to whom credit shall be given, and for how
much, and under what circumstances. To do this work wisely he must know his United
States well, the character of the population in the different centers, and the character and
possibilities of the industries here and there. These credit men have learned that the printed
page is, above all other things, the most valuable tool they can use in acquiring the
information they need. The local association in Newark has asked us to prepare a list of the
best books for the use of credit men in equipping themselves for work and have said that
they wish this list made as good as possible and that they will pay the cost of publishing the
same, regardless of its length. This, again, is, perhaps, library work of a new kind.
The Associated Advertising Clubs of the World is one of the most powerful
organizations of its kind. Among the many activities of this organization is the
establishment of collections of books for the use of advertising men, either independent
libraries or departments in public libraries. I have the good fortune to be chairman of a
committee on libraries under the direction of the general committee on education of this
organization and hope to be able through this position to be of assistance in promoting the

acceptance by public libraries of the doctrine that library management must in some
respects be notably modified to meet changing conditions in the use of print.
And here comes my practical suggestion. It is based on the fact that by far the greater
part of all print today is outside the field of the conventional library; and on the further fact,
partly a result of the first, that the library of today is not a very important factor in human
The suggestion is that you appoint a committee or group of committees to examine into
and report upon the use of print today and the relation of the present prevailing type of public
library to that use.
The pi;inting press is pouring out a mighty stream of print. This stream is helping to
turn the wheels of the machine shops of human activity. Conventional public libraries seem
as tiny skiffs on this stream, and their occupants as almost solely concerned with the
navigation of their respective skiffs. Or, if you prefer the figure, these libraries are as
backwaters and eddies, turning flotsam and jetsam slowly round and round, with bits of
treasure trove scattered here and there through the mass.
In any event, and regardless of figures good or bad, my advice is that you discover
where libraries are today, what relation they bear to the world's use of print and then
discover, if you can, how that relation can be made one of indispensable utility.

Dana, his wife Adine Rowena, and her parents, Sarah and Thomas Waggener, on the steps
of the Denver Public Library. Courtesy of the Denver Public Library, Western History
Denver, May 28,1889

This institution is coming into life. We have the first story of the west wing of the
Denver High School building for a home. The library-room is 45 x 55 ft, lighted north and
west. The reading-rooms (3) cover some 1500 sq. ft. About 4000 v. of what has been the High
School Library are the nucleus, and funds come from a small percentage of the school tax.
The reading-rooms are to be opened in a few days and are comfortably furnished.
About 150 periodicals, home and foreign, outside of city, state and religious
periodicals, are taken. The books will not be ready for loaning for several weeks. All
entirely free.
This is not connected with the Mercantile Library, C. R. Dudley, librarian—also free,
containing 16,000 v., well chosen and well given out, as you have noted, some 38,000 v. per
year. Denver needs and promises to support well both institutions. The leading bookstore
here carries about 30,000 v., bound miscellaneous stock, outside of text-books, and 10,000 to
15,000 best paper books.
Our growth will depend mainly on the size of donations to come. Aaron Gove, City
Superintendent of Schools, has nursed this institution in his mind and heart for 15 years,
nearly, and hopes for much.
I wish to make the acquaintance of my brothers in books. If you can intimate for me
that circulars, notes, suggestions, Usts, catalogues, ideas, helps, and God speeds from the
brave army of librarians will be gratefully received, and acknowledged with thanks, I
shall be obliged.

John Cotton Dana

Reprinted from Library Journal 14 (1889): 304.


The Work Accomplished by a Denver Institution—

How an Art Collection Was Secured.

Denver, CO., June 25. [189,4]

To a patron of quiet, steady-going store houses of books a visit to the Denver Public
Library is something of a surprise. It is a modern library in every way, in its freedom and
its energetic efforts to attract readers, old and young, believing in a liberal use of printer's
ink to interest the public in it. Indeed, its persistence in not hiding its light under a bushel
is one of its unique features.
Beginning about four years ago with one or two thousand reference books, the library
has grown with the rapidity of a "boom" town, the number of its patrons increasing
proportionately, all the time extending its scope, until now its volumes include everything
in the field of literature. There are some rules, of course, but generally speaking, any one
can come and go, browse among the books, select what he wishes to carry off, or sit down to
solid enjoyment surrounded by volume-laden shelves. There are always a few children
about; occasionally even a barefooted urchin finds his way to the library, and the bars are
let down for him. The illustrated weeklies and like Hterature are held out as a bait for
juveniles. The idea is to interest them and so to get them to make use of the library, and to
take up something better in the future. The plan works well.
A library school, similar to those now found in most of the leading libraries of the
country, is in operation here. The pupils—there are now four or five—receive a thorough
training in all details of library work, at the same time getting a business education and
acquiring a general knowledge of books.
Mr. J. C. Dana, the librarian, talks interestingly of the library and its work, which is
unique in some ways. "The chief characteristic of the library," says he, "is its freedom. We
give any reputable appearing adult resident of the city a book, on his own representation.
We lend to children of any age, if they are able to read, and a reputable resident signs for
them. We lend books all over the state, to old and yoimg, and for every purpose. We open the
shelves—except those allotted to fiction, and that only because we lack room—to everybody.
We lend a large number of books for the size of the library—16,000 a month, with only 20,000
volumes. We do everything we can to get the books used and worn out. We buy no rare
books, scarce books, fine bindings, etc.; they belong only to the museum, and not to the
library which aims to be an education institution—at least not until it is so large that it can
extend its field beyond the wants of the vast majority of the public. We keep the average of
fiction high, though not so high as we would like to. The line generally is drawn in the
vicinity of E. P. Roe and Marion Harland. We find that if we have plenty of copies of the
good accredited novels, we can circulate as many books as the staff of the library can

Reprinted from New York Post, July 6, 1894, p. 2.

handle. We lend books by the armfuls to teachers for use in school. They use them in their
rooms, or lend them again as they see fit. To our httle institution now four years old as a
lending library, beginning with 1,509 volumes, there came in the past twelve months over
365,000 people for study, reading, or to borrow books."
Up to three years ago the nearest medical library was 600 miles away from Denver.
Then, at the suggestion of a number of doctors, the librarian began to buy medical books.
Assistance was freely given in the way of gifts and now the library has about a thousand
medical works on its shelves, thousands of pamphlets, and regularly receives forty or fifty
of the best foreign and American medical journals.
As to the literary taste of the library's patrons, fiction is the choice of the majority, as
is generally the case in any community. About 69 per cent of the books loaned are fiction,
adult and juvenile. History, travels, biography, etc., cover 10 per cent. "Les Miserables" is
the most popular work.
The library has a unique "Art department," established after some labor and a small
outlay of money. Its collection of pictures now numbers thousands of mounted wood
engravings, colored prints, designs of all kinds for painting, wood-carving, etc.,
mechanical drawings from trade journals; everything, in fact, of an artistic nature to be
found in odd numbers of periodicals has been cut out, mounted on durable paper, and filed
away in cabinets. This department of the library's work is designed to interest school-
children, and pictures are lent in stacks for use in the classes. This work would have been
a task beyond the powers of the regular library staff, so outside assistance was secured in a
somewhat novel method. The library management from time to time has given what it calls
"cutting" or "pasting" bees. Each of the half-dozen assistants invites a friend or two to come
in on a certain evening and wield scissors and paste-brush for an hour or two. A very jovial
party gathers under the electric lights in one end of the gallery in the book-room; pictures,
paper, scissors, and paste are produced and work begins, ending with refreshments.
The "great seal" of the library expresses the idea that books stored and hoarded away
are rightly food for donkeys. Standing alone among cobweb-covered bookcases filled with
dusty volumes, a hungry-looking Rocky Mountain burro munches away at books which he
has plucked from the shelves, tearing and throwing aside what he cannot swallow. Beneath
is the legend:

"Books which too jealous care forbids mankind to use.

Rightly the worthy burro, 'just for roughness,' chews."


Rev. Kerr B. Tupper Investigating

Public Library Volumes

Allegations that Prurient French

Literature Had Crept Upon the Shelves—
What the Preacher Found Was the Fact—
Superintendent [Aaron] Grove Expects That
a Slight Weeding Out Is Necessary—
Librarian Dana Stands by the Character
of the Literature He Dispenses.

For some time past it has been an open secret that there was some criticism among
certain patrons of the public library at the High School over a certain class of books that was
allowed to remain in the library and to be read, promiscuously, by those in tender years as
well as the more mature. It had even been intimated that among those books were a number
which belonged to the most salacious French school, as well as others of a somewhat milder
tone, but yet equally objectionable in a library of this character.

Rev. Kerr B. Tupper Investigating

The Rev. Kerr B. Tupper, pastor of the First Baptist church, whose interest in the
prosperity of the library is well known, and to whom some complaint had been made as to
the character of certain books, was seen yesterday. He said:
"I was greatly surprised, about a week or so ago to receive a letter from one of the
ladies of my congregation, complaining bitterly that certain books of an improper character
were permitted to remain in the hbrary, within the reach of the young. She mentioned a
number of the books, among them 'Mademoiselle Giraud, My Wife,' and two more, whose
titles, I think, were The Soil' and 'Madame Bovary,' all translations from the French, I
believe, although I had never seen or heard of them before. Immediately upon receipt of this
note I wrote to Superintendent Gove, giving him its purport. In reply I received a very
courteous invitation to visit the library and inspect it for myself.

Reprinted from The Denver Republican, April 16, 1892, p. 12.

Inspecting the Books
"In company with Mr. Gove and Librarian Dana a few days afterwards I spent about a
half hour, not more, in the library and satisfied myself that some of the books I have
mentioned were there, although I did not see them. In the short time I spent in the library I
was not able to examine as to all the books complained of, but I propose to do so at an early
date. Until I do so, of course I am not prepared to say anything one way or the other, as to the
"Do you regard such books as those mentioned fit publications to be placed in the hands
of the young?" asked the reporter.
"Certainly not. While I recognize the fact that different ideas prevail among different
people in regard to what is and what is not meritorious literature, I would exclude
everything that by the faintest suggestion would inculcate vile ideas. I would not allow my
children to read certain trashy books, not necessarily immoral, while other parents would
see no objection to them.

The General Standard is High

"In regard to the general character of the books in the library, I must say that they are
of a high standard. I suggested to Mr. Dana that I would be only too glad, at any time, to be
one of a committee to examine the books and eliminate therefrom any that should not
remain there."
Superintendent Gove, when seen in relation to the matter, said his attention had been
called to the matter by Mr. Tupper, and he had spoken to Mr. Dana about it. He said he had
no doubt a number of books would be relegated to a back seat, upon a close inspection; but he
took the position than many of the books that the children get hold of would not be read by
them if parents exercised the proper supervision over their reading.
If the children desire to read this prurient literature he maintained that they could
obtain it at the bookstores, but he acknowledged that it should be placed as far from them as

Books that are Pernicious

While Mr. Tupper was perfectly frank in his remarks, it was evident that he was
scarcely well enough posted to speak authoritatively upon the matter. Of the books he
mentioned, "Mademoiselle Giraud, My Wife," by Adolph Belot, is one of the most broadly
salacious stories to be found in French realistic literature. Vice peeps out from every line,
although so delicately is it veiled under elegant literary expression that it does not shock as
a coarser presentment might. "La Terre" (The Soil), by Emile Zola, and "Madame Bovary,"
by Gustave Flaubert, are fraught with the peculiar raciness of those realistic authors, and
while in the hands of the mature and experienced reader they possibly would do no harm,
placed before young lads and misses their possibilities for evil are great.

Librarian Dana's Views

Librarian Dana, when interviewed, said that "Mademoiselle Giraud, My Wife," is not
in the library. At one time there was a paper copy of the book left in the library, but it was
never on the shelves. "I never bought it nor any of Belot's works for the library," said Mr.
Dana. "Some have been given to us, however. As far as any of these publications getting in
the library is concerned I am entirely responsible. The responsibihty must rest somewhere,
and I might as well take it. That does not mean that I have not taken a great deal of advice

from the management and exercised care in the selection of books. I am greatly pleased to
find that sufficient interest is taken in the library to inquire into the character of the books
which go into it. In order to reach this end I have had a card posted in a conspicuous place in
the library asking people to make suggestions, and I am always glad to meet any one at
any time and take advice upon books to be added to the library.
"Now as to the particular class of books to which objection is raised, a number of them
have been given to the library, and many of them I have had bound and kept because they
represent a certain class of French literature that should be represented in every public
library. Let me quote two criticisms upon "Madame Bovary," which is considered the
masterpiece of modern French fiction. George Saintsbury, the EngUsh critic, says he should
as soon think of calling 'A Dance of Death' or 'A Last Judgement' immoral as of applying
that epithet to 'Madame Bovary,' and Mr. Henry James has suggested that 'Madame Bovary'
might make a useful Sunday-school tract.

Books That Have Been Excluded

"We have excluded from the shelves of the library the works of about twenty-five
authors whose writings can well be called literary mush, but which can generally be found
in public libraries. In the selection of books I have taken the testimony of such men as Sir
Edwin Arnold, Professor Lombroso and Henry James, as to the value of works of literature,
without considering what some people would call their morality. For example, we don't have
Mary J. Holmes, nor E. P. Rowe, nor Amanda M. Douglas, nor Augusta Evans Wilson, nor
Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth.

French Realistic Works

"As for the works of the French realistic writers, or other similar works, getting into
the hands of the young is concerned, people are mistaken in thinking that if children do not
get "immoral" books in a pubHc library they will not get them at all. And, besides, it is
impossible for a public library, that aims to cover the field of literature generally, to restrict
books on its shelves so as to keep out all the works that some people think children ought not
to read."


An Anomaly Supported
at the Public

Public Library Used for

Circulation of Anti-
Silver Doctrines.

Goldbug Proselytism Con-

ducted by an Employe of
the Public Schools.

Hon. N. P. Hill Criticized for Per-

mitting Silver Editorials
to Appear.

Maunderings of One in Place of Trust

Who Calls Himself a Philo-
sophical Anarchist.

John C. Dana, librarian of the High School library, is, according to his own statement,
a pronounced believer in the gold standard, and has been instrumental in circulating
goldbug literature at the library. This fact was reported at a meeting of the Woman's
Educational club yesterday, and a News reporter was instructed to investigate. When
approached upon the matter Mr. Dana replied:
"Yes, I have distributed the literature to those whom I thought would be interested in it."
He produced two specimens of the literature, which proved to be leaflets sent out by the
New York Reform club, and consisted of an alleged historical work on the subject, and a so-
called answer to "Coin's Financial School," whose chief argument consisted in hurling the
epithets "fool" and "liar" at [William Hope "Coin" Harvey] and all who are so audacious as
to agree with him. When informed that his course in distributing the literature had been
criticized, Mr. Dana replied:
"I consider that it was entirely within my province as librarian to keep and circulate
literature on both sides of the money question, as of the tariff, labor and other questions of
the day. We have books on both sides of the question upon our shelves, and I consider that I
have quite as much right to distribute Reform club leaflets as to give out Senator [Edward
Oliver] Wolcott's speeches. Nevertheless, if anyone desires information on the fact, I am
perfectly willing they should know that I am not a free silver man. I believe the editorials
on the silver question in the local press are injuring the state of Colorado and the United

Reprinted from Rocky Mountain News, May 24, 1895, p. 1.

Senator Hill Impeached
Mentioning Senator N. P. Hill, Mr. Dana continued:
"I am astonished that a man of such intelhgence, culture and social standing should
allow his paper to be made the medium of conveying such fallacies on the financial
question. I do not believe he beheves them himself. I think the Denver papers do very wrong
in not publishing the other side of the question."
Continuing the subject of the reprehensible practice of the Denver papers in publishing
silver editorials, Mr. Dana named an editorial writer on the Republican, and said:
"I often have a good laugh with him over his silver editorials."
Upon the News reporter suggesting facetiously that he not ought to condemn the Times
and Republican too severely, as they were not really very good silver papers, Mr. Dana
responded very earnestly:
"Well, I don't think they are; they know too much to beHeve in their own position."
Continuing upon the future of the white metal and the silver question generally, Mr.
Dana said:
"I will venture on a little prophecy. In three years the silver question will not be heard
of. It will vanish from the public arena, just as other questions have vanished that have
agitated the public greatly at their height. It is only a craze of the hour. Within three years
[Henry M.] Teller and Wolcott will both be within the goldbug ranks."

New Era Coming

Upon the interviewer making an exclamation of horror at this heresy, Mr. Dana
"This country within three years will see a new era of prosperity."
When pressed to explain how this devoutly to be wished for consummation was to
arrive, Mr. Dana contented himself with simply remarking that "business will revive."
Mr. Dana's last and most startling statement was that "wages are higher now than they
have ever been at any previous time in the history of the country." When questioned more
minutely as to his financial theories, Mr. Dana stated that he did not believe in the present
financial system in any way, but was an advocate of the banking system promulgated by
the philosophical anarchists who think the government should have nothing to do with
issuing money, but that anybody that wants to start a bank should do so without restriction.
The entire tenor of Mr. Dana's remarks, however, was in favor of the single standard and
against the double. The contributions of the Reform club which have thus been put in
circulation at the library are tjrpes of the most pronounced essence of Wall street teachings.

The Children's Room, Denver Public Library, circa 1895. The quote on the wall is from one
of Dana's favorite authors, Robert Louis Stevenson. Courtesy of the Denver Public Library,
Western History Department.

What to do with the children in the free public library is still one of the unsettled
problems in library economy. For the comfort of elder readers it is certainly desirable that
children should not come in large numbers into the main part of any library in which the
public is given access to the shelves. It is desirable also, and for the same reasons, that they
should be admitted only to a moderate degree to the main reference-rooms or reading-rooms
of any library. On the other hand, if they are chiefly confined to a room of their own, one
containing only the books in all classes which their elders think adapted to children's use,
they will have some of the advantages which come from access to and contact with books
intended primarily for older needs than their own. And when we consider the horrid
dreariness of most of the books—and especially of those outside of fiction—which well-
meaning souls have written for children, the possible loss in this direction seems very great
and very deplorable.
The following account of one library's experience is designed, not as an answer to the
question of how to manage childish visitors, but as showing one way of doing it. It also casts
some light on the question of the trustworthiness of the younger patrons of a library.
The plan shown herewith is that of the front part of the free public library in [Denver,]
a Western town of about 120,000 people. It is open twelve hours every day in the year to both
borrowers and readers. The whole library contained, September 1,1894, about 22,000
volumes; December 24, 1895, it contained about 27,000 volumes. The total number of visits
paid to the library, by readers and book-borrowers, old and young, on each day between the
two dates given, was about one thousand.
Visitors are admitted freely to all parts of the library, and are permitted to handle,
examine, and select their books at will, except English adult fiction—and this exception is
made only because of lack of room. This English adult fiction is kept on shelves
immediately in the rear of the delivery counter. Access to the main library is through the
unlocked gate and the swinging the left of the delivery-counter, near the door of
the Librarian's office. The gate is simply a piece of pine so hung that it lightly closes itself.
Borrowers' cards are issued to any adult resident of the city who can give a good account of
himself or herself Children get a card after having an application slip signed by parent,
teacher, or any responsible resident.
The children's at the right of the delivery-room. Across the open arch which
leads into it there is no gate of any kind. The gate...closes the passageway to the rear of the
counter. Nearly all charging of books is done at the middle one of the three sections into
which...the counter in the delivery-room is divided. One attendant is nearly always behind
the counter, though there are often intervals of a few moments when no attendant is in sight.
The counter in the children's room was designed to be used by a special attendant in that
room. There is no such attendant. The counter is used for other than book-charging purposes
for a short time each evening, and at no other time. An occasional excursion into the
children's room from behind the main counter, to aid visitors in finding books, or to get
books asked for on slips at the main counter, is all the visitation and watching this room
receives during library hours. It has shelves on its four sides. On these shelves, arranged at
such a height that they can be easily reached by a child of ordinary height, were placed, on

Reprinted from Outlook 54 (1896): 555-556.

to their fitness for young people. Maintaining approximately this proportion, these books
were gradually increased in number to about 6,500 by the 24th of December, 1895.
Of these books there is no catalogue, either in print or on cards, which can be well used
by children. It is very doubtful, judging by experience with certain special lists of children's
books of one kind or another, whether young people will pay any attention to a catalogue of
their books, if they can get at the books themselves, unless they are constantly guided and
persuaded to use it by a skillful attendant. The equipment of the rooms is: the books
mentioned; ...two tables and [twenty-two stools]...; a number of pictures cut from art journals,
mounted on white cardboard, and hung in the space in the upper part of the bookcases
unoccupied by books; and a few casts. The pictures are changed from time to time, simply to
add to their interest.
Children enter the library, and, after securing a card—there is no age limit—are
generally directed to the children's room. If for any reason they wish to go into the main
book and reading rooms, they are permitted to do so; though some slight restriction is placed
on their visits to this part of the library, in that, during the busy part of the day, they are
sometimes made to give good reason for wishing to go in. All but a very few are abundantly
satisfied with their own books in their own room. They go to their own room; find out for
themselves, or, have pointed out to them by an attendant, the method of the arrangement of
the books—the system is quite simple; browse about until they find what suits them; perhaps
spend ten minutes, half an hour, two hours, in reading and looking at pictures in one book
or another; and take the books they have selected out of their room, across one side of the
delivery-room, to the center part of the delivery-counter. They hand their books and cards
over the counter, have the proper charges made, and take the books away. When the counter
is left with no attendant, or when the attendants who are there are busy, and especially when
the front of the counter is filled—as it often is on afternoons—with people waiting for books,
it is absolutely impossible for attendants to keep any careful check on the ingoings and
outcomings of children from their room. Nothing could be easier than for a child so
disposed to walk into the library, into the children's room, load himself with books under
his coat, and walk out again.
During the sixteen months from September 1,1894, to December 24,1895, there were
lent, for home use, out of this room 90,000 volumes. A rough estimate would indicate that
during this same period at least 140,000 visits were paid to this room, chiefly by children.
Out of the main library, and over the same counter, there were lent, between the dates given,
180,000 volumes. On checking over the books in the room, at the end of this sixteen months
of use, there were found missing 123 books. The total cost to the library of these 123 books
was probably not over $175. To have kept an attendant in the children's room, not allowing
access to the shelves, making the attendant look up all books as asked for, and compelling
the children to select from catalogues, would have cost, at the lowest estimate, for these
sixteen months, a thousand dollars. To have kept an attendant in the room to watch the
children—the latter being admitted to the shelves—and see that none of them carried books
away without having a record made of them, would not have prevented all loss, and would
also have cost at least a thousand dollars. It is confidently expected that at least 50 per cent,
of these 123 books will turn up in the course of the next twelve months. The library is very
free in lending books in quantity to any one for special purposes, and especially to teachers
for school use. It has not infrequently happened that teachers and others have been found to
have come into the hbrary, made inquiries about certain books, gone to the shelves, found
them, and quietly walked out with them without having any records made. This is done in
carelessness and forgetfulness, not with any intent to deceive. Between the teachers, the

children, and other people, it is safe to suppose, as suggested, that at least half of these 123
books have been carried off in this innocent way, and will, in the course of time, be
It is not easy to make an estimate of the value of this children's room to the
community, any more than it is easy to make an estimate which shall be definite and
precise of the value of a free public library itself to any community. Certainly it has been
highly appreciated. The young people, from little tots who cannot read, to young men and
women, have manifestly enjoyed its privileges. At the close of school in the afternoon, on
Saturdays, and on Sundays, it is more than full for many hours in the day. Its smallness,
relatively to the large number of children visiting it, has made it difficult to keep it as quiet
as a larger room could be kept, even with a larger number of children. Close contact with
one another among the young folks is not conducive to entire peace. It is an interesting and
instructive place to watch. It looks to be a helpful institution. It is a manifest improvement
on the city street corner. It seems to justify itself every day it is open. Many people in the
community have remarked upon it with admiration, and, as yet, from no one has come any
adverse criticism. If public libraries are of value, this form of a children's department must
be, if not the ideal thing, certainly an ideal thing.


The museum and library building of Rouen fronts on Joan of Arc's street, but between
it and the street with its noisy traffic is a charming little park about 200 feet square. Rouen,
you see, has had 1800 years to learn these httle touches of municipal good taste and it is not
strange that she uses sound good sense as well as money in handling her municipal
buildings. The museum is museum and library combined, the two being one in the public
mind. To reach the library you leave the little park, go around either end of the museum
and into a narrow and very peaceful street, hardly more than an alley. Here is the library
entrance, facing exactly the opposite direction to that of the museum. Across the narrow
street rises an ancient church; ancient enough, at least, to be out of repair and to have ceased
to be of use save for looks. Beside it is an open court, shut in on the two other sides by
charming old buildings, over which rises the spire of one of Europe's most perfect and
beautiful cathedrals.
The library doors open upon a great hall, with a large staircase rising at each end. On
the walls, at the level of the second floor, are nine beautiful paintings, four of them full-
length life-size portraits of men of letters, five of them large pictures representing the
development of the arts of writing and printing, the last being the interior of a modern
printing office. The library proper, so much of it at least as the visitor sees, is a large and
lofty room, with three galleries, and rows of books rising almost to the ceiling—all
commonplace enough. It has 132,000 v., 3500 manuscripts, 2700 coins and medals, and 2000
portraits of eminent men of Normandy.
To an attendant I introduced myself in my perfect American French; he disappeared
through a door at one side; in a few minutes another attendant appeared, evidently of higher
rank in the service; at his request (and all went on in whispers, that the dozen serious-
looking students in the room might not be disturbed) I followed him through a door into what
seemed to be an outer catalog room, with perhaps five workers in it; we went across this and
through another door into a more sacred and remote catalog room with only three workers.
Both of these rooms were full of cases, tables and chairs all piled high with books. We
crossed this second room to another door, which let us into a dark entry and up to a door, the
fourth in our journey, of green baize; a rap on this by my conductor brought out a subdued
"come in"—and we were in the presence of the director. Monsieur H. Loriquet, himself.
This was his proper sanctuary; here he can work undisturbed; and work he does, I have no
doubt. His seclusion is the better understood when I say that he who conducted me there had,
of course, previously ventured in himself and found that I would be admitted; yet,
immediately returning, he must rap again for that admission!
If this was to me in the least humorous it was first of all admirable. Here were
courtliness and grace quite at home; and the routine fitted the atmosphere that emanated
from the vast cathedral which towered up only a stone's throw away; fitted the severe beauty
of the library's front, looking across the narrow street to the ancient church; fitted the
beautiful entrance hall, with its rich and noble paintings; and fitted the functions of the
library itself as the citizens of Rouen understood them.
That the collection of books and other things is rich and rare one may easily believe;
rather, one must take this for granted, just as the director genially did in his conversation

Reprinted from Public Libraries 13 (1908): 344-347; 14 (1909): 19-21.

This is not a free public library, though it is supported by the city and is free. The work
of a free public library as we understand it is done to some extent in France by libraries
directly connected with the schools. This is a student's library, just as are the other so-called
public libraries of France which I saw later. To it come about 120 students per day. Books
are lent for home use for sufficient reasons, though not more than 50 or 75 in a month. The
total cost of administration is about $7500 per year.
In the center of the main library stands a replica of the seated statue of Voltaire by
Houdon, the one at which you must look twice before you see the kindly smile behind the
broad cynicism of the face. To find Voltaire thus at home in the public library of this
ancient French town shows how far all France has marched since it drove Voltaire from its
borders 150 years ago.
I found that Monsieur Loriquet is quite well acquainted with library conditions in
America and understood well how widely our work differs from that of the public libraries
of France. His library is, first of all, the storehouse for the history of Normandy; and there
is the general reference collection for all the students of the region. He seemed a little
envious, perhaps, of the generous incomes which so many American libraries enjoy; but he
understood clearly that these incomes are necessary to us, since we must build up our
collections from nothing and must make our libraries in a measure take the place of the
collections of paintings, sculpture, industrial art, antiquities and science, and the
monuments of architecture with which every great French city, and Rouen in particular, is
so bountifully supplied.
As I note several times later on, in these brief records of my observations, every
French city has inherited from its forbears the permanent possibilities of that cultivation in
history and the arts which our cities do not possess at all or possess only in embryo. From
this difference in environment, in municipal equipment for education, and from the fact
that in France the schools supply books for the young more freely than we generally suppose,
we may draw two conclusions: one, that the American library is wise in extending its work
until it covers, so far as environment and funds permit, the whole field of human culture;
the other, that to make comparisons between French and American public libraries is quite
The public library at Tours is in a large but unpretentious building facing the broad
street and promenade which overlook the Loire. On my first visit the assistant librarian
told me that the librarian in chief was ill, and that in the latter's absence he regretted that
as he could not leave the reading room in charge of the "mere attendant" who was there, he
could not show me the library's books. Not wishing to call again, and thinking to save the
assistant librarian trouble, I suggested in my best manner that I conduct myself. This was
"absolutely impossible"; and the worthy man was plainly grieved that one who seemed so
sensible could make so wild a suggestion! I mention this because it points to certain
prominent facts in the library situation in France today. The public libraries have many
old and rare books. They are often largely composed, as is that at Tours, of books gathered
from monasteries and churches in the past hundred years, as the latter have passed into the
hands of the state. Tours has 140,000 v., neatly ranged in vast cases rising well into the sky,
standing in huge rooms, and all in order upon the shelves with that air of precision and
propriety which the unused library so pretentiously wears. These books are precious;
assistants to care for them are few; guardianship of them must be strict, and the only way
librarians can guard them, with the staffs at their disposal, it to lock them from public view.
On a second visit I was conducted through vast vistas of books, and shown treasures
enough in manuscripts and early printing to make an American lover of such things weep

with envy. The courtesy of these guardians of books is unfailing. The conventions rule
them, though none has seemed to identify seclusion with learning, efficiency and dignity
as closely as did the good man at Rouen.
At Tours few books are lent, and those only to professors, the clergy and other persons
carefully accredited by the mayor of the city. The reading room is ample for its purpose;
with about 30 seats. To get a volume for study you consult the printed catalogs or the
supplements in manuscript volumes, fill out a slip with the name of book and author, and
when the book is found and before you take it into your own hands, you sign your name
against an entry of it in a huge ledger.
If I describe this library with some minuteness it is because details about this one will
serve to describe quite well others I have seen, and will roughly indicate the place which the
public library holds in France today.
The building, as I have said, fronts on the esplanade by the river. Its upper windows
look across the ancient stone bridge to the bluffs on the right bank, which here come close to
the stream and are dotted with suburban homes. To one of these delightful houses on the
right bank of the Loire, across from Tours, I shall come in my second incarnation, after
having divided the closing years of my first between Bath in England, Woodstock in
Vermont, and a farm in Sussex county. New Jersey.
On the ground floor you enter through a wide door into a large hall. In the rear is
certain city fire apparatus ready for instant use. At the door were several uniformed
officials, checking over applicants for registration for a coming election.
To the left on the ground floor, in rooms, opening from the main room or covered
court, lives the janitor with his family. To the right a glass door opens into a stairway court,
bare £md cold. The cold should be mentioned, for none of these public buildings is ever
heated and they are never warm. The guide-books tell of this; but a hundred guide-books
could not do it justice. The cold is not mixed with much dampness in spite of the stone walls
and floors, and it is not surprising that the paper and leather of books stored in these old
buildings seem never to mold or to turn to powder. No heat, no fumes of gas, no moisture, no
extreme of cold or dryness—these structures seem ideal preservatories of books; and, after
all, they are not as unhealthful for human beings as are the houses of ice of our friends the
You climb the long winding stairs of stone, push open a door in the hall at the top and
are greeted almost at once by an attendant seated near the door, who asks what you wish[.]
The room you enter is the reading room, and in most libraries such a room is the only one
to which the public is admitted. At Tours it is about 50 feet square, is high and well lighted,
has walls of stone and—is very cold! Eight or 10 persons are here reading. At a raised desk
at one end sits another attendant, and in the Tours library, as at most of the other French
libraries, this person is neither the librarian himself nor an assistant of high rank. The
more important functionaries are concealed in distant rooms, and are concerned with
books, not the public.
No books are visible in this reading room, save a few bound catalogs of the library, a
manuscript catalog and a few volumes in the hands of readers. Students, as I have already
indicated, never see any books save the few that are brought to them on request. The catalog,
and it is typical, is quite inadequate. It enters books only under authors, and is divided into
classes which seem too general to be of much help to the inquirer.
If I seem to take on a critical or superior air in the above description, it is a seeming
only. The library men I have met are all courteous to the last degree; they all seem to have
some knowledge of the library movement in America; they all wish to see a similar

movement inaugurated in France; and they all have more than they can do to preserve and
keep in order the vast mass of treasures that has been put into their hands. They can buy few
of the recent books; they cannot with their income open popular lending libraries, even if
they could buy the needed modern books and current journals for such institutions; and they
work on along their predestined lines with zeal and intelligence.
This Tours library is one of the oldest and richest in France. Its 140,000 v. have come
largely from the religious houses in Touraine. It was established at the time of the
Revolution in 1791, under the title of Municipal library. It has 1500 manuscripts, dating
from the seventh to the eighteenth centuries, many of them richly illuminated, and over 400
books printed before 1500. Besides the libraries of old religious institutions, which form a
large part of its riches, it has received many gifts of books and collections from private
individuals. When I say that it has more than doubled in size in the past 20 years—growing
from about 60,000 to over 140,000 v.—^you can see how difficult it is for a small and poorly
paid staff of assistants to do more than keep it in order, and roughly cataloged, without
undertaking emy popular book-lending work. It is open from 9 to 12 and from 2 to 5 daily,
except Sundays, with shorter hours in mid-summer....
From Tours, with 60,000 inhabitants, I went to Carcassonne, with 30,000. Here I did not
succeed in my several efforts to get inside the library, whose 50,000 v. are housed in the
Museum building. The uninviting entrance hall, stone stairs, dim light and depressing
chill of Tours are all found at Carcassonne. At the latter place this entrance hall below is
made the more forbidding by a collection of Roman and medieval objects—columns, busts,
broken statues and the like—seemingly heaped in a desultory way behind a rough wooden
fence and looking most neglected. Here as in many other old cities time has furnished the
local museum with treasures which good judgement says should be preserved, while the
public income forbids their receiving proper care. The result would be quite disheartening
did not the mere fact that these things are kept from destruction, justify any apparent
neglect of them. Of course, they are not in fact neglected. They simply lack the attractive
installation which only money could secure for them.
I failed to get into the library at Carcassonne because on my first visit I reached there
a few minutes after 5, the closing hour, and on my second I was there a few minutes after
12, another closing hour. In France from 12 to 2 or 2:30 is sacred to dinner; and when I say
sacred I mean it. A Paris cabby has been known to refuse a fare because his dinner was
waiting for him! From 5 to 7 is equally sacred to a cigarette and a drink under an awning
on the sidewalk—the universal ceremony preceding the evening meal. Most public
institutions, including libraries, close during these hours of repose, these hours which are
not hours. No impatient public was clamoring for admission when I was twice late at the
Carcassonne library. The close supervision of its treasures, and it has many, was
illustrated by the fact that even the janitress had no key to the library rooms. At any rate,
she said she had none, and even the sight of a fee did not move her to let me in.
If I missed what seemed not a very good thing at Carcassonne, I made up for it by what
I saw at Nimes. I shall always believe that all the library people I did not see in France are
trying to be the equals of Victor Jeannin, the conservatoire of the library of Nimes.
He has his inner sanctuary; but it is easily found, and in five minutes after meeting
him you understand how he has been able to make his reading room so attractive as to draw
many to it and how—in spite of the delightful burden of 90,000 v., with many precious
manuscripts to look after and keep clean and in order—he has succeeded in getting money
enough to buy many recent books, to take nearly 100 current journals, to get many gifts and

also to persuade his city to permit him to lend books under proper restrictions to the young as
well as to the old.
The entrance is not prepossessing. The old buildings in which these libraries are
housed do not lend themselves readily to making of cheerful entrances. I went into the dark
and narrow hall below and marched up the crooked, stuffy stairs with the feeling that here
was another of the institutions that time and popular education are going to renovate. But the
reading room is well lighted and cheerful. It seats about 50, and while I was there more than
that number sat and read or came for books. The printed catalog runs to seven volumes, and
still is far behind the accessions and in the older volumes sadly needs revision. But it
should be said that here as in many other libraries the character and age of the books and
the presence of large groups of volumes, given on condition that they be kept together, make
the catalog question a most difficult one.
Books are lent for one month, two to any one borrower, and borrowers need not be over
13 or 14 years old. In other rooms and on the floors above the order and cleanliness are
beyond reproach. One enormous room has windows opening to the east and the west. Great
ranges of books run down its length in cases 12 feet high, with generous aisles between. The
afternoon sun was pouring in and warmed up the yellow vellum and the ancient brown
leathers of theise thousands of volumes, nearly all of which date from the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. I never expected again to see so well illustrated the possibilities of
color that lie in old books. The beauty of the room came from the rich and noble books only,
for the cases were of the simplest and the walls and ceihng were perfectly plain and bare.
The guide-book should set a star, for the stranger's benefit, against a note referring to a
walk through the aisles of old books of the Municipal library of Nimes with the afternoon
light upon them.
At Nice I spent a few moments in taking a kodak of the library's front door, and when
I climbed the stairs to the entrance found the librarian and all of his staff had anticipated
their hours of noon-day repose by about 10 minutes and had left and taken the key! I knew
they had taken the key because the janitor told me so. The janitor is a tailor. His shop is a
little room cut off one end of the hall below by a partition of glass. He pleasantly unites the
care of books with the mending and pressing of clothes. Here is Carlyle's Sartor, ready to
reclothe the body when his books have newly clad the mind.
The next day I came in time, and climbing again the stone stairs, which continue
their cool and winding way up through five high stories, I stopped at the first floor and
entered the library.
Nice is an English colony, with a southern French city attached. If that puts the case
too strongly for the English it is not too much to say that they have greatly modernized the
city in every respect. Although they have lending libraries of their own which they chiefly
patronize, the municipal institution has probably been liberalized through their influence.
Perhaps they also awoke the feeling which led to placing large signs in the hall and in the
hbrary itself asking visitors to wipe their feet and not to spit on the floor, the only signs of
the kind I saw in French libraries. Here the books are in a series of rooms, and are ranged
along the walls behind doors of wire netting. In one room—and this is the only room of the
kind I anywhere noted—are several thousand books on open shelves. They are reference
books, at least in part, and look very convenient and homelike. Unfortunately large signs
tell visitors that they cannot take down books without permission from the attendant. This is
the reading room, with seats for 50 persons. Four readers were there at the time of my visit,
11:30 a.m. In this room was also a large sign saying that books are sometimes mutilated by
readers and that this is a serious matter making offenders liable to punishment. Our Peoria

friend, who feeds his clientele on the baled hay of a catalog instead of letting them through
the bars into the green pastures of their books, perhaps can tell the librarian at Nice how to
check this mutilation
The library has 60,000 v., with many early printed books and many manuscripts. Like
the others that I saw, many of its books came from religious institutions which have been
taken over by the state. About 50 current journals are received. Permission to take books
home is granted to very few.
When I asked if I might see certain editions of Horace the attendant told me that as
the sacred hour of 12 was only 15 minutes away, the hour when all free men rest and eat, he
could show me only two or three. Perhaps this sanctification of eating is well; certainly it is
well if it has helped to make possible the development of the art of cooking in France.
I have seen few libraries, as my notes above show; but perhaps enough to give a fairly
accurate impression of the state of the library in this country. Popular education is not
understood as we understand it. The select few get the best of training, and most learn to
read. Many books and journals are published. These cost very little and are offered for sale
at every news-stand; the newspaper is in everyone's hand; museums, art galleries, science
collections, beautiful specimens of architecture, painting, sculpture and applied art, these
are found everywhere, and perhaps there is no occasion for the development here of an
institution for general delectation and enlightenment such as the public library in America
is coming to be. I have seen little of France, but that little has been sufficient to strengthen
the impression which I had gained, like everyone else, from casual reading, that here is the
country of intellectual alertness. It has fed the printing press and eaten of its products in
turn for several centuries. The book shop and the news-stand are universal. The public
library is today a storehouse, and as a distributor of books seems not to be greatly needed.


A paper prepared for the International Meeting of Librarians

at Oxford, England, August 31 to September 5,
by John Cotton Dana,
Librarian of the Free Public Library, Newark,
New Jersey, U. S. A.

1. Our Title Implies a Question

The question impUed in the title set for this paper is this:
"What is the legitimate field of a free public library established and maintained by a
To this question no answer can be given. Social organisms—^American and English
cities for examples—are always changing in size and character. Their component units
change through death, birth and immigration; and the knowledges, faiths, thoughts and
habits of each component unit change within that unit's own lifetime. With this change in
the organism goes, of course, a change in the institutions which the organism may set up,
either to satisfy its positive needs, or to fulfill its wish to conform to certain customs found
in other kindred organisms, or to favor a habit, like that of universal education, into which
it may have fallen.
It follows, then, that a free public library established by a city, no matter how clearly
defined may have been its character and the scope of its work in the minds of those who
established it, will change that character and that scope as the city organism itself changes
through the inevitable modifications of its component units.
The legitimate field of work of a city's public library is, then, that field which the
temper of that city may at any given time permit it, or encourage it, or compel it to occupy.
As that temper changes, the field will change accordingly; narrowing and widening and
using broad or intensive cultivation as days pass and knowledges, thoughts and feelings
vary. The field actually occupied by a library on any given day can be roughly described—
for that day. The field it will occupy to-morrow, and the field it ought to occupy to-morrow—
this latter being what may be called its legitimate field—neither of these can be delimited.

2. The Question Restated

I have thus far tried to show that no answer can be given to the question implied in our
title, not for the purpose of suggesting that discussion of the topic is futile, for I do not think
it is; but to prepare the way for discussion. If we have no rules or principles which enable us
to say that any given form of library activity is or is not proper, or legitimate, then we can
look upon all forms of that activity with philosophic calm and consider their value from the
rational point of view—that of pure expediency.
Of course it is not necessary to say that there may be found features of library work
which courts or laws pronounce illegal. These our discussion only remotely touches upon.

Reprinted from the Legitimate Field of the Municipal Public Library (Newark: Essex Press,

Let us then restate our question thus:
"What are some of the more interesting, recent and unusual kinds of library work,
and do they seem expedient?"
Discussing this we keep within the range of opinion, and we arrive at tentative
conclusions only. Discussion of this kind should be entertaining, at least; and, if touched
with knowledge and some experience, and tempered by coolness, may be quite profitable.

3. The Cleveland Public Library as a Partial Text

I have before me as I write the last report of the Cleveland Public Library. The
Cleveland Library was the first one of good size in our country, and I guess in the whole
world, to practice open access. This was more than 25 years ago. Since then, under the same
librarian [William Howard Brett], it has taken up many new forms of library activity and
given them full trial and pronounced them, for its purposes, expedient.
It carries on all the conventional activities of a library, such as buying and binding
books and journals and lending them, and binding and rebinding books. On these no
discussion arises.

4. A Library Editor
It has recently added to its staff a Library Editor, who edits library publications,
annotates books and promotes advertising. It is difficult to question the wisdom of this
addition to the staff of a library which expends nearly $400,000 per year, outside of
buildings, owns 300,000 volumes, has eleven large and fourteen small branches, employs
about 400 persons, does much printing and advertising and lends for home use each year
2,700,000 volumes.

5. A Municipal Reference Library

In the City Hall the library recently opened a branch which it calls a Municipal
Reference Library. The name defines its functions, and to define its functions is almost a
sufficient argument for its expediency. It has not been successful thus far. Few know it
exists; few of those who hear of it understand what it is for. Is this a good reason for
withdrawing from this part of the library field? The librarian thinks not, and I agree with
him. Many good institutions have helped to create the need they were established to fill. The
librarian knows that most city officials, like nearly all men of affairs, have never learned
how valuable a tool they have at hand in the printed page and in the precedents, experiences
and statistics in the work of city management which may be drawn therefrom. He suggests
closer co-operation with a City Bureau of Information and Publicity, already in existence,
and more aggressive advertising methods.
A few cities have municipal libraries, independent of the public library. They are not
all successful and some do little more than furnish salaries to incompetents. It seems clear
that it is unwise for a city to maintain two independent institutions for carrying on the
same work—that of gathering print and extracting from it that material which will help the
city government to do better work. The public library has the plant and the experts; it can
easily add to its municipal literature and engage more experts therein. A municipal branch
of a public library seems quite expedient, wherever the need for it appears and the
opportunity is given to establish it.
6. Library Advertising: The Newarker
The Cleveland librarian speaks of advertising his municipal branch; and the
question arises, how far may library advertising be wisely carried?
In Newark we have for three years spent about a thousand dollars per year, about
eight-tenths of one per cent of our total outgo, on the publication of a monthly journal, the
expenditure named being over and above the receipts. It carries no advertising. It declares
itself as a publication intended "To introduce a City to itself and to its Public Library." This
is an extreme case of library advertising. Perhaps none is more so. Is it wise?
The reasons for thinking that it is can not be briefly and effectively stated. It takes up
some of the cost of publishing catalogs and lists; it promotes the use of our Business Branch;
each month it reaches and makes friends and patrons of a few men of affairs in a city
where trade and manufacture are more definitely all-engaging than they are in most
American cities; it promotes interest in our new museums of science, art and industry,
offsprings of the library; it helps arouse interest in the work of the City Planning
Commission, of which the librarian is a member; it gives to the city itself a certain repute
both for the forwardness which it has, and for that to which it aspires.
This journal, The Newarker,—I send you copies for your inspection and your
criticism,—costs less per year than the wages of one good assistant. We feel that thus far it
has done more to promote the wise use of print in Newark, to say nothing of its promotion of
that knowledge of one's city which is an indispensable basis of and a powerful stimulant to
all proper local pride, than the best assistant could do for us in the same period of time.
Many libraries publish bulletins. These are usually book-lists and little more. THE
NEWARKER attempts to be in a very modest way an exponent of civic improvement. It
preaches a little; it expounds much more; and it continually harps upon the fact,—though
usually in very subdued tones—that there is only one cure for poor municipal
management,—education; and that in the library are the essential tools of education for any
man in any calling,—^books.
The trustees do not ask, "Does it pay its way?" but, "Is it worth the price?"
If the answer given them is the true one, then it is evident that a library may wisely go
far in spending money and the time, thought and energy of its staff in advertising.

7. Books for Non-English-Speaking Citizens

Of the books bought by the Cleveland library last year twelve per cent, 7,000 volumes,
were in languages, seventeen in number, other than English. What of the expediency of
thus supplying to our newcomers books in these several languages?
Our immigrants gather largely in cities and in groups by nationalities. They vote,
they learn of the library, they ask for books in their native tongues, and their requests are
granted. But that is a very one-sided statement of the grounds for the foreign language
movement in American libraries. Though we wish to Americanize our immigrants, we
also wish them to retain as long as possible an interest and pride in the countries from
which they come. They adapt themselves almost too completely and too rapidly to our ways.
A savour of their old habits and methods of thought would be a welcome addition to our
national diet of industry. If the more intelligent among them wish to keep up with the
literature of their homes, and to pass that interest on to their children—though this is almost
impossible, as the children always insist on using English as far as possible—then to aid
them, through our public libraries, seems expedient. It is easy to believe that they find their
new home still more homelike, and become all the sooner attached to it, when they find one
of its public institutions giving them a welcome in their native tongues.

8. Work for and with Children
How far is it wise to extend a library's work for children? It is not yet possible to
answer the question.
Cleveland has perhaps gone farther in this direction than any other city. It has a
director of children's work. In every large branch is a children's room, with a specially
trained children's librarian in charge. It puts out "Home Libraries," chiefly for children's
use. It forms and fosters children's "Library Leagues" and reading and social clubs. It has
many story-hours. It opens libraries in school buildings. It lends libraries of children's
books to teachers. Of all its books lent for home use 43 per cent are lent to young people.
To understand why a city offers such devotion to children's reading and general
welfare through its public library, you must be quite familiar with our system of public
education. This is no place to describe that system. It is easily the most prominent and most
expensive of all departments of city governments. In my town our annual budget is nearly
$8,000,000, of which about $2,500,000 goes to the schools. In Cleveland the total is nearly
$10,000,000, of which the schools take $3,000,000.
I believe that while education gets as large a part as it should of the present total
budget, the total should be far greater, and the schools, with certain other departments,
should get far more. The annual cash outlay in Newark on motor vehicles and their upkeep,
not including trucks, is about equal to the total annual receipts through taxes. In Cleveland
the payments for motors are probably still greater in proportion. Where such conditions
exist talk of the excessive cost of city management, and of its heavy burden on the tax-payer,
is quite uncalled for, unless city money is wasted; and our cities are probably run rather
more honestly than many of our big businesses.
I mention these things that you might see that, for the purposes of this paper at least, I
find no harm in large library expenditures for children, per se; and that you may
understand why the people of Cleveland look with approval and proper pride on the work
their library does in this direction.
But, granting that Cleveland's expenditures for children are legitimate, using that
word in the sense we have agreed on, are they wisely directed? I have long thought that they
are in some measure not.
The very fact that Cleveland's school budget is so large, shows that it must have a huge
educational system at work for its young people. Many things done by the library could be
done more widely, more intensively and more effectively by the schools. Stories, pictures,
bulletins, leagues, clubs, debates, home visits,—all these come more properly through and by
an institution with 85 huge buildings, 2,050 teachers and an expenditure of $3,000,000 per
year than from a sister institution of one-tenth its size.
Let me interrupt myself here to say, that I differ thus frankly with Cleveland as to the
expediency of the extending so far its children's work, partly because I am trying to give
you the beginnings of a discussion, and partly because a quarter century's whole-hearted
admiration of the work of Cleveland's library seems to permit a frank word or two of
In spite of the large sums we spend for education we do not get good teachers. I need to
stop to tell you why. Librarians think the schools—meaning the teachers—do not properly
train pupils in knowledge of books, in their right use and in the habit of reading;
consequently, librarians say, we should take over as much of this work as they can, and
show teachers how it should be done.

That is a rough outline of the argument by which libraries justify the wide extension
of work with children.
In reply it is suggested, that as the book-teaching opportunity lies at the teacher's door;
as she outnumbers teaching assistants in libraries a hundred times; as she comes in
personal contact with her pupils about a thousand hours in a year against ten to twenty for
the teaching librarian; as experience shows that she can guide the reading and book-using
habits of her pupils if and as she will, then the children's work in a library should be,
chiefly, not with children, but in guiding teachers.
In my opinion librarians, as soon as they discovered the shortcomings of our schools
in the matter of reading guidance, should have set about the task of correcting those short-
comings at their fountain-head, to wit, in universities, colleges, normal schools, high
schools and with teachers themselves. This has not been systematically done. While this
cries out to be done it seems a misdirection of energy to set a few young women, usually less
well equipped in the pedagogic art than teachers themselves, at the hopeless task of
supplying one all-pervading lack in a giant educational enterprise by direct contact with a
minute percentage of the vast product of that same enterprise.

9. Branch Library Buildings

Libraries in our larger cities, and in many smaller ones as well, have built many
very expensive branch buildings, usually with money given by Andrew Carnegie, one of the
amazing products of our peculiar economic conditions. Concerning these, certain questions
may be raised:—
Are elaborate branches expedient?
Could branches be housed to better advantage in school buildings?
Are the habits and feelings that work for progress awakened when our cities ask for,
and accept as gifts from outsiders, certain costly additions to the mechanism they set up for
their own betterment?
These queries may not be here discussed at any length; partly because such discussion
would lead us too soon from our main topic, and partly because it would be too long.
This may perhaps be said:—
The elaborate and costly library branch teaches by its mere presence, stirs civic pride
in those who live near it, gives the library a certain dignity and importance which
strengthens its hands for its proper work, and has, usually, such meeting rooms as enable it
to act to some extent as a general civic and educational center for its immediate
But its elaborateness perhaps repels some who would most like to use the books it
contains, and promotes the growth of the feeling that the institution it represents is, after all,
not the community's own peculiar product, but a mere bit of bounty, of belated justice in the
garb of charity.
It is now generally agreed that school buildings should be used continuously by their
respective communities for, say, four thousand hours per year instead of for the one
thousand they are now used. We are rapidly feeling our way to a knowledge of what should
be the character of this use. It may soon appear that the schools can properly house library
branches. If so, costly and elaborate library branch buildings will rarely be erected, and
more efficient institutions than they could ever house will find homes within the same
walls that hold that very much larger institution for social betterment of which the library is
the hand-maiden—the public school.

The acceptance of gifts compels a certain complaisance toward the giver and his ways.
This is an inevitable movement of the mind, and may easily prove harmful. In the growth
of municipal socialism, as marked by the rise, among other things, of public schools and
libraries, there lurks an abundance of dangers. These are surely accentuated by an
accompanying increase in willingness to accept what one has not earned—not from one's
fellow tax-payers, but from an unrelated giver whose economic manners, whether good or
bad, we should be able to look upon with perfect freedom and without the squint inflicted by
acceptance of his largesse.

10. An Encyclopedia of Current History

Cleveland has a very large collection of clippings, leaflets and pamphlets alphabetized
by subjects and arranged in many thousand large envelopes. In Newark we have a similar
group of material, kept in a vertical file cabinet. Ours is perhaps used more largely than is
Cleveland's to relieve us of some of the terrific expense of cataloging. We put into it, at a
very small cost, thousands of items which, if treated in the conventional way, would cost
from 25 to 60 cents each to retain and index.
But these groups lie outside, in large part, the generally accepted field of library
collections, in that they cover the latest information, often quite inaccurate, and the latest
opinion, often quite crude, on topics of interest chiefly to business men. As labor-saving
devices they may be important, and I am quite sure they are; but merely as such they are not
in the field of this discussion. As tools for use in catering to the man of affairs, they may be
discussed under this query.
"Should the public library devote more than a very small part of its income to an
attempt to supply local business with things in print of value to it?"
In Newark we answered the query with a yes several years ago. We are still spending
a good deal of money in building up and administering what we call our business
resources. Against this, perhaps the strongest argument is, that the traditional purpose of a
library is to feed and protect the all-too-slender flame of the lamp of learning, to foster those
more humane arts which have never too vigorous a growth; that just now all the training of
our schools tends to look directly to mere gainful ends; and that at least one field, that of the
guardianship of books, should be tended with an eye single to the promotion of things of the
heart and of the mind, and not of the pocket.
In answer, more can be said than can be here set down.
This at least may be noted, that the products of the press come forth in a mighty and
steadily increasing stream; that of these products many are of immediate value to those who
are at work at the very admirable task of making what man needs and what the present
social order leads him, almost compels him, to long for; that it is impossible to divide our
modern Amazon of print into that which plainly makes for culture and that which makes
for better production and better distribution of products; that as all print comes to libraries,
they must receive the mere sordidly helpful as well as the admittedly ennobling; and that it
well becomes a librarian to put to its best use, within reasonable limits of cost, that which
promises materially to profit his constituents in their daily task.
This may also be said in passing, that to use the printed things of the day, even for the
loftiest ends, and certainly for the profit of the man of affairs, the old methods of handling,
by slow expensive cataloging, must be abandoned. We must arrange, use for a time, and
then throw aside much of all that vast mass of print which the press now offers us. We must
no longer attempt to catalog and store for all time more than a minute fraction of it.

Hence that encyclopaedia of clippings in Cleveland and that elaborate and costly
filing system which we in Newark call the most valuable of all our departments.
It may be said that any well-selected city library normally obtains and makes
accessible all the print that the men of affairs in that city will care to use. To which I reply,
that we think our business branch in Newark has demonstrated the contrary. It has been
exploited enough elsewhere, and I can here say only that its strictly business features absorb
only a small part of our annual outgo; its presence and use introduce the library to a part of
the public which in most cities never meet book collections, and that very strong testimony
to its usefulness and its rationality appears in the efforts made in other cities to establish
institutions like it.

11. Deposit Stations and Traveling Libraries

In most cities libraries use deposit stations, which are small collections of books
placed on open shelves, usually in drug stores, with a small bonus to owners of the stores on
each book lent. These are moderately successful. But it is somewhat doubtful if this
unsupervised distribution of books, chiefly recent popular novels, is worth the cost.
An extension of this same method leads to the travelling library, so called, perhaps,
because it travels from the library to its appointed place and back again in one package;
whereas the deposit station books stay where put, save as they are changed in part from day
to day or week to week, as borrowers may make requests.
Cleveland uses many traveling libraries; Newark has eleven. New York has carried
the idea further than any other city. It sends books to 703 centers other than schools and
recreation centers, lending by this means over 300,000 volumes per year.
Thus it reaches at comparatively small cost people in institutions who would otherwise
be without the use of books, being inmates of hospitals or confined in prisons; advertises the
library and the pleasures of books to people not of the reading habit; brings into connection
with the library influential persons connected with many public institutions and with
business enterprises.
Conversely, the use of these books has very little supervision by the library, this
depending on the workers who assume the responsibility therefor, and may do it well or ill.

12. Library Art Collections

A library can promote interest in the fine and applied arts in its city. How far should
it go in doing this? Most libraries go a very little way. They seem content, as to art, with
their material enswathement of brick, stone and mortar, an enswathement usually of
doubtful beauty and of manifest unfitness. Some venture on a bust, or a bronze, or a large
photograph or two of accredited art objects, of a past so remote that in contemplating them
criticism is quite lost in reverence. A good many have photograph collections, and here
again time has usually made the selection and not the needs of the library's clientele. All
libraries collect "art works." The phrase is commonly used to cover any very large and
expensive volume with pictures in it. A book from the Vale press would by most be
considered as unusual and be reverenced for its price; but would not be considered an "art
Four or five libraries have made collections of prints. That more have not done so is of
course due to two things:—the public does not care for them, and, as our schools and colleges
do not mention them in their courses, librarians scarcely recognize them as art.

Now, are fine and applied art subjects in which libraries should concern themselves,
save thru the purchase and cataloging of books and journals thereon? No answer is
In Newark we have collected, partly by gift but chiefly by purchase, a few paintings, a
good many bronzes, a great number of vases, and a group of prints so large that we may
almost say that we have a print department. The paintings are not very good, and as in my
opinion oil paintings occupy much too large a part of the art field in the minds of most, I am
rather glad they are not better. Our bronzes are chiefly inexpensive copies of antique heads.
Our vases are neither rare nor costly; but as rarity and cost have nothing to do with art or
beauty, we feel at liberty to think them beautiful.
Our prints begin with the exquisite auto-lithographs of modern German artists—and
some of these are on the walls of the main building and many of the branches—and go on
through the products of all the processes and methods of reproducing pictures, and are
accompanied by much material illustrative of the manner of print-production. This
collection has cost a good deal of money and a great deal of time and thought. Few admire it
or enjoy our other modest art objects. On first view they have not paid, and to procure them,
has therefore, not been expedient.
Nevertheless, I believe the attention given them has lain within our legitimate field,
and I am sure that most libraries should give more heed to these same things. I do not say
this because our modest art collections and the art exhibitions we have given in our lecture
rooms have led to the establishment in Newark of museums of fine and applied art; but
because it seems obvious that a library, gathering as it does the record of all the arts, should,
in its minor adornments, use some of the very products themselves of some of those arts.
Moreover, noblesse oblige, we are granted by our positions a good opportunity to share
as well as to tell, to suggest by actual object as well as to preach through the chosen page.
Life is far too short, at best; but happily is easily lengthened by multiplying the interests of
the day and of the emotions which the new interests arouse.

13. Large Educational and Decorative Pieces

These are chiefly the lithographs issued by German publishers to illustrate history,
geography—including maps—geology, botany, zoology, ethnology, anatomy, aspects of
nature, architecture, painting and many other subjects. They cost from 30 cents to $1.50
each, unmounted. The library of Newark seems to be the only one that has spent time and
money on the acquisition and lending of these pictures. We have about 1,500, mounted on
heavy cardboard, bound in black, fitted with eyelets for hanging, classified and indexed
and arranged like cards in a catalog for easy inspection. I send a pamphlet descriptive of
them and of the manner of their use.
Each year we lend to teachers for school room use and to principals for school
decoration about 1,400 from our collection.
Is this expedient? No definite answer is forthcoming. The time and money spent on
them would have added a few thousand books to our shelves. The increase of the home use of
books this addition would have brought us would have been about 60 per cent, fiction. Would
the increase in home use of books—or in their reference use at the library—have been of as
much value to the city as has been the use made of the pictures by and for our young people? I
believe not. I am confident that in time the school authorities will take over this work and
carry it out much more fully than the library ever can. Under the peculiar conditions found
in Newark—conditions which I can not here describe—this picture work seems to promise

certain advertising and educational results of value to the whole community. Certain of
those results we feel we have attained.

14. An Iconographic Encyclopaedia

Many libraries formerly spent much time in making picture bulletins. These were
usually groups of rather small pictures, gathered from many sources, mounted on large
cards and accompanied with rather elaborate hand-lettering, intended to be beautiful rather
than legible, and all planned to arouse the interest of children in certain books or certain
groups of books. These bulletins were exposed in children's rooms, usually near the books to
which they called attention.
This work seemed to give more pleasure and profit to the makers than to the beholders.
It was not good from the art point of view, and it had not a very strong pedagogic basis.
The Newark picture collection is not in bulletin form and the appeal it may make to
teachers is only one of the objects had in view in forming it. It is an iconographic
encyclopaedia. It consists of more than 50,000 pictures mounted singly, each on a separate
card, 13 X 17 1/2 inches in size, labeled on the card's upper left corner, classified under 900
headings, and arranged alphabetically in a series of boxes, so adjusted that examination is
as easy as the examination of a card catalog. In portfolios, also classified and labeled,
arranged with and among the cards are about 300,000 more pictures, clipped and classified,
but unmounted. Also there is always on hand a vast mass of material waiting to be clipped
and arranged.
Many groups of mounts illustrate specific subjects, like the days of Queen Elizabeth
and the nesting of birds.
These pictures are open to the public. As they include such subjects as design (3,000
items under 65 heads), architecture, lettering, portraits, sculpture and painting, they meet
the needs of a wide range of inquirers. We lend for home use about 57,000 per year.
One must question the expediency of all this—and get no decisive answer to the
question. Picture books for children are regarded as proper library purchases. Art works,
full of pictures and quite expensive, are also proper acquisitions, for adults. From these
pictures and books and art works, many of which we have cut up, mounted and placed in
our collection, is an easy and quite logical step to an encyclopedia of pictures, covering
pretty much every topic capable of being depicted, and adapted to both old and young. A book
containing 350,000 illustrations, arranged by subjects under headings which serve as
descriptive legends, can not be found in the market. As it can not be bought, is it not proper
for a library to construct it?

15. Indexing Public Affairs

We have gathered, arranged and indexed the names and some of the publications of
about 1,500 of what may be called public-welfare organizations, non-profit-seeking societies
but by no means all charitable, chiefly American. We found this material often furnished
our readers with later information on many topics than we could gather for them from any
other sources. It is included in the vertical file group already alluded to. Much of it is
received as gifts, but the cost of securing it through correspondence is quite considerable,
and to index it and arrange it properly demands a good deal of time of skilled persons. We
have had no reason to question its value or the propriety of permitting it to absorb a small
per cent, of our annual outlay. Much of this material is ephemeral, being extremely useful
to-day and becoming quite useless lumber in six months or a year. Our vertical file plan

provides for a semi-automatic weeding out and casting aside of such of its contents as have
passed their usefulness.
Mr. John E. Lapp, librarian of the State Library of Indiana, has recently been
maintaining a bureau for the collection and distribution of information on public affairs.
He covers particularly the field of legislation, state and municipal. A few public and other
libraries paid $25.00 per year for the service his bureau has rendered, which consisted of a
weekly series of typed statements on the more important matters in the field he covered. He
did not furnish books or pamphlets, or indexes to either; but chiefly notes guiding us to the
printed story of notable happenings in the very complex and rapidly changing world of state
and city management.
This service is soon to be enlarged, and will cost four times the present price. To
accept it is to co-operate with other libraries in an endeavor to secure, at moderate cost, so
much of a view of public affairs in our country as will enable us to select from the whole
field so much again, as promises to be of value to our own community. We believe, that
although this work is quite remote from book-buying and book-lending, it is in fact a long
step toward that kind of library management which new conditions are forcing upon us. All
the world's activities are now put down in print; this gives us more print than we can gather
and more than we could use even if we could gather it. We must now select and, of that
which we select we must soon discard as useless the larger part. Co-operation in selection in
one important field—this is what Mr. Lapp's work gives us.

16. Conclusion
Were this not in print I would not venture to send it, for it is far too long to be read to
any audience. I have chosen a few things out of a vast field, hoping some of the things
chosen may arouse an interesting discussion.
I regret that I was led to speak so fully of our own Newark activities. But, after all,
they probably illustrate fairly well what is going on over here, and I can describe them
more accurately than I can those of other libraries.
To refer to Cleveland once more, let me suggest that any who are interested in the
wider field of the municipal library's activities would do well to get the last Cleveland
report, and therein read of what American librarians consider legitimate activities wisely

Interior of the Business Branch, Newark Public Library, opened in 1904. Reprinted from
Library Journal 42 (Apr. 1917), facing p. 257.

The special library, in that meaning of the phrase which we have had in mind in
organizing this Association of special libraries, is an institution of very recent
development. We may venture to define it as "the library of the modern man of affairs."
This definition is not sufficiently inclusive, however; as is shown by my own experience in
the matter. I have had the wish, for nearly all of the twenty years that I have been engaged
in library work, to establish in the business center of the city in which the library I was
managing was situated, a business men's branch; located on the ground floor, opening on
the busiest office street of the city, not the busiest shopping street, large, well lighted and
fully equipped with all the books which experience should prove to be of interest to men
engaged in commerce, manufacture, finance and kindred matters. In Newark I have had
at last the opportunity to carry out in a small way this idea, and to see a modest business
men's branch in the center of the town. This branch is fairly successful along the business
line, and its success in this direction has something to do with the existence of this
But you will say at once that while a business branch of a public library may prove to
be of great value, first, to the main library as a bond between men of affairs in the city and
the main library's great storehouse of books; next, as a useful tool for business firms of all
kinds in the city; it still is very far from being a typical special library of men of affairs,
such as this Association has been formed to aid and promote. For, as the brief investigation
already made into the development of the special library in this country shows that these
special collections of books, reports and other printed material are so varied in their
character and in the use made of them, that no definition will any longer satisfactorily
include them all.
A glance at our Program including libraries of a public service commission, of a
financial firm, and of an engineering firm, shows how wide is the range of thought and
action in which the small special collection of books and other printed material has already
found a place. . . .
The rapid development of this institution for bringing to the aid of modern industry
whatever the student or the practitioner may have thought fit to put into type is very
significant. It means that here in the opening years of the Twentieth Century, [450] years
after the invention of printing, men of affairs are for the first time beginning to see clearly
that collections of books and printed materials are not, as they were long held to be by most,
for the use simply of the scholar, the student, the reader, and the devotee of belles-lettres, but
are useful tools, needing only the care and skill of a curator, of a kind of living index
thereto, as it were, to be of the greatest possible help in promoting business efficiency.
To say this again in a little different way:
The man of affairs has just begun to realize how important and helpful to him may be
the material found in books, proceedings and periodicals and how readily it may be brought
to his hand.
The library idea has always been more or less academic, monastic, classic. The
impression has prevailed that the library appeals first of all to the reader of polite literature,
to the student, the philosopher, the man of letters. This modern rapid development of special

Reprinted from Special Libraries 1 (1910): 4-5.

libraries managed by experts who endeavor from day to day to gather together the latest
things on the topic to which his library is devoted, to present to the firm and employees, is
simply an outward manifestation of the fact that the man of affairs has come to realize that
printed things form the most useful and important tools of his business, no matter what that
business may be.
We may look to see very wide and rapid development of libraries of all kinds in the
next few years.


The character of libraries, their scope and the methods of managing them depend
ultimately on the character and quality of things intended to be read. When things to be
read were written upon stone, whether in hieroglyphics or in sculptures or in ornaments of
buildings, libraries were unknown. When things to be read were impressed upon bits of
clay which were dried and baked, and preserved as records, collections of those records
were made and kept, and libraries began. When things to be read were written upon paper
or any of the many kinds of material which were used before paper was invented, it was
clearly wise to collect them, store them safely and arrange them conveniently for use.
Things to be read thus gathered and housed formed the first libraries properly so called.

The Ancient, and Surviving, Reverence for Books

After the invention of printing, things intended to be read became more common; but,
as they were still quite rare and expensive, the old methods of collecting and preserving
them were kept up and the habit of giving them a certain reverence was continued.
The reverence was due in part to the fact that few could either write or read, in part to
the rarity of books, in part to the mystery attached by the ignorant to the art of reading; but
chiefly to the fact that writing and reading and the practice of preserving books were
largely confined to exponents of accepted religious cults.
As time went on and books increased in number and reading became more common,
this reverence for the book decreased, but it decreased very slowly.
Books were for the promotion of culture. Culture was something which the upper
classes only had a right to set. Science was pursued by the few, and those few were scarcely
admitted to the aristocracy of book-users. It is only within very recent years that in
England, for example, the study of medicine and its allied subjects, even if carried on to
most helpful results, gave him who followed it a good position in the social hierarchy.

What Our Fathers Called "Real Books"

The real books in the opinion of the educated among the upper classes, and, indeed,
among all of the members of the upper classes who were competent to form opinions, were
held to be, first, the literary masterpieces, the books which time had spared because they
were thought to tell things so skillfully as to make them of interest and value to all men for
all time. Among these were included all the older Greek and Latin writings, which were
looked upon in a certain awe, largely because they were in Greek and Latin. Second, books
on these classic books, studies, expositions, criticisms. Third, books on rehgious subjects
and especially on theology in all its phases, and including philosophy. These books
continued to form the greater part of libraries until within a few years.

Library Proprieties in 1876

When the public library movement took form and celerity in our country, about forty
years ago, the accepted field of library book collection had widened to cover all kinds of

Reprinted from Special Libraries 5 (1914): 70-76.

incline to infidelity; and discussions of sex and society and government were feared as
tending to promote immorality and insurrection. On the whole, however, almost anything
that had the form of a book could find a place in the public library of forty years ago, even
though it might not be thought proper to admit it to the presence of a mere reader.
As a collection of all printed books the library had arrived; as a something established
to gather all knowledge and all thought that the same might be freely used by all classes of
the community, it had not.
The failure of the public library of forty years ago to address itself to all the
community without distinction of wealth, social standing or education, and its failure, so
far as it did address itself, to find its advances welcomed and its advantages made use of,
were due to two factors chiefly: The tendency of the librarian to think of his collections as
rather for the learned than for the learner, and the tendency of the community at large to
think of a collection of books as rather exclusively designed for those who had been reared
to use them.

How the Library Idea Was Broadened

This long-continued, self-imposed opinion as to the proper limitations of the library-
using group was broadened in due course for several reasons.
The output of print increased with great rapidity; and the newspapers, to speak of one
form only of printed things, caused a rapid growth in the reading habit and led millions to
gain a superficial knowledge of many aspects of life and thought.
Public and private schools and colleges taught more subjects and taught them better,
until finally the sciences were, a few years ago, admitted as proper fields of knowledge and
tools of discipline even to the most conservative of English universities. From acquaintance
with a wide range of required school reading it was but a step to demand that a still wider
range be furnished by the public library.
The habit of reading increased very rapidly among women. More of them became
teachers, more of them entered industrial life, more of them joined study clubs, and these
changes in their forms of activity all led to an increase of reading, to a wider range of
reading and to a notable and insistent demand upon libraries that they furnish the books
and journals on whatsoever subjects woman's broadening interests included.
Indeed, a certain almost apostolic devotion to the reading done by children and an
enthusiastic welcoming of women as readers and students have been two of the most
marked features in the development of the library work in the last twenty years.

The Radical Change in Library Work Now Under Way

Another change in library activities is now taking place, and is being mainly brought
about by the increase in things printed, already alluded to. And here it may be well to refer
to the opening statement, that the character of library management is dependent on the
character and quantity of things to be read; and to call attention to the fact that the
immediate causes of changes in the contents and administration of libraries—newspapers,
children's wider reading, women's greater interest in world-knowledge—are themselves
largely the results of the growth of print and the resulting increase in things to be read.

The Amazing Growth of Print

Modern invention, making printing much cheaper than formerly, has led inevitably
to a tremendous growth in output. And by way of explanation of, though not as an excuse for,

the failure of librarians as a class to realize the great changes in scope and method of
library management which the growth of printing and the use of things printed soon will
bring, it may be said that printing and print-using gained their present astounding rate of
increase only within the past ten or fifteen years. Few yet realize that printing is only now,
after 450 years of practice of the art, at the very earliest stages of its development and is but
beginning to work on mankind its tremendous and incalculable effects.
The increase of print is marked in new book production; is far more marked in
periodical literature; perhaps still more in the publications of public institutions and private
associations; still more again in the field of advertising by poster, circular, picture and
pamphlet; and perhaps most of all in the mere commercial wrapper.

Print Grows By Being Consumed!

Every added piece of print helps to add new or more facile and more eager readers to
the grand total of print consumers. As commerce and industry have grown, print has
increased also, and naturally and inevitably more rapidly than either.
Considered merely as an industry and measured by money invested and value of
output, print seems to be growing now faster than any other of the great industries, among
which it is one of the first; and in view of the fact that a like expenditure each year produces,
thanks to invention and discovery, a greater output of things to be read, it must be admitted
that in its products, properly measured, print today stands in the front rank of all our

The Need of Mastering Mere Knowledge and the Difficulty Thereof

As modern production, commerce, transportation and finance have grown and become
more complicated, they have found in print a tool which can be well used in the effort to
master the mass of facts which daily threatens to overwhelm even the most skillful in their
efforts at safe and profitable industrial management. In spite of all that is reported in print
of things done, projects planned, tests made, results reached, in the ten thousand wide-
ranging lines of the world's work—from a new gold reef of unexampled richness in the
vastness of New Guinea's mountains, to the new use of a by-product of a city's garbage,
much escapes, or being printed, is unknown to him who can use it to his advantage. And so
our wordly information goes on piling up; not all of it in print, but so much of it in print as
to make that which is printed almost impossible to control.

Other-Worldly Literature
The problem of efficient handling of worldly information is difficult enough in itself,
but to this is added what we may call in contrast other-worldly information. Social
questions which were seemingly quite few in number only a generation ago, have
multiplied marvelously as modern industrialism and universal education have produced
their inevitable result of complicating our social structure.
These social questions demand solution; societies to resolve them straightway arise,
and proceed to inquire, to study, to investigate, to experiment, and to publish the results.
These published results inevitably throw light on the daily routine of the industrialist, a
routine already complex enough; also, they tend to modify public opinion or even almost to
create a new and hitherto unheard of public opinion, and this new-born opinion again
affects, and often most seriously, the industrialist's routine.

Meanwhile this new social service spirit takes hold upon questions of government,
complicates them, gives unexpected answers to them, reverses the old ones, and, so doing,
affects in a startling way the attempts of the industrialist to establish and maintain his
Of all this social-service and government activity the printed output is amazingly
In any city of moderate size the social service institutions, including departments of
the city, county, state and national government, and the private and quasi-public
organizations which are attempting to modify opinions, customs, ordinances and laws
directly or indirectly, through study, experiment, investigation, exhortation and demand,
are so numerous, so active, so persistent and in the main so effective, and publish annually
so many thousand pieces of things to be read, as to make it almost impossible for any
organization to have in hand full knowledge of them all. Yet upon every enterprise in that
city many of these countless institutions have already produced an effect, or will tomorrow,
next week or next year. The wise industrialist, would take them into account in planning
his campaigns, and finds it extremely difficult to do so.

The Literature of Science and the Arts

Add to this other-worldly literature the tremendous stream of worldly literature
already alluded to, and include in the latter the vast flood of trade, technical and scientific
journals, proceedings of societies and books and brochures from individuals; and then
consider the difficulties which confront, on the one hand, the industrialist who would know
of the social, economic, industrial, technical and scientific changes, advances and
movements which may affect his enterprise; and confront, on the other hand, the
organization, be it public or private, which is trying to keep him duly informed! Moreover,
beyond all this is the vast field of research within which countless widely scattered workers,
who for lack of swift interchange of knowledge of their respective successes and failures
are wasting their time on misdirected and needless effort.

The Changes Demanded in Library Method

The change which this swift growth of things-intended-to-be read is today imposing on
libraries can now be roughly outlined.
They may properly continue to serve the student, in the old sense of that word, the child
and the inquiring woman; they must also serve the industrialist, the investigator or
scientist and the social service worker.
It is too soon to say in just what manner this new form of service will be rendered.
The difference in the amount of material to be mastered makes a wise method of
administration most difficult of discovery; and added to this great difference in amount is
a difference in what one may call the proper length of life.
The technique of the management of printed material gathered by libraries has, in its
development in the past forty years, been devoted almost solely to the accurate description,
complete indexing and careful preservation of the material. So elaborate was the ritual in
this field which was established and quite generally adopted some twenty years ago that
today it costs a library of moderate size from twenty to fifty cents merely to prepare and put
on the shelf each one of its collected items, be the same a pamphlet of four pages costing
nothing or a scientific treatise of a thousand pages costing ten dollars. And this takes no
account of binding.

It would be useless to attempt here to describe or enumerate the countless sources from
which comes this mass of material which confronts us, and demands of the librarian a
reasonable control. It comes from governmental bodies, public and quasi-public institutions
and businesses; from private bodies, scientific, artistic, philosophic, educational,
philanthropic, social; and from private individuals. It even includes print which is
designed to advertise but informs as well; and in this line thousands of makers of things
are putting out printed notes on optics, chemistry, travel, food, machines, machine products
and a thousand other subjects, which often contain later and fuller and more accurate
information than can be gained elsewhere.

The Problem of the Print Which Is Useful and Yet Ephemeral

Nearly all this vast flood of print, to the control of which libraries must now in some
degree address themselves, is in pamphlet form, and, what seems to be of the utmost
importance in considering the problem of how to handle it, nearly all of it is, as already
noted, ephemeral. Herein, also, as already said, is a characteristic which distinguishes it
from nearly all the printed material with which librarians have heretofore busied
Everything intended to be read which comes into a library's possession must be
preserved—such is the doctrine based on the old feeling of the sanctity of print which once
was almost universally accepted. Even to this day those are to be found who urge the library
of a small town to gather and preserve all they can lay hands on of all that is printed in or
about that town. When President [Charles W.] Eliot of Harvard a few years ago, seeing
clearly, as can any whose eyes are open to the progress of printing, that print may
overwhelm us if we do not master it, urged that the great libraries be purged of dead things,
the voice of the spirit of print worship of a hundred years ago was heard proclaiming that
nothing that is printed, once gathered and indexed, can be spared. Whereas, did any large
library attempt to gather, and set in order for use under the technique now followed, as large
a proportion of all that is now printed, as did of what was printed in 1800, it would bankrupt
the community.
The amazing growth of the printing industry is overturning the old standards of value
of things printed and the old methods of use, has indeed already done it, though few as yet
realize that this is so.
To establish this fact is one of the primary purposes of the whole argument. To
emphasize its truth, two more things may be mentioned, the moving picture film and the
phonographic record. Historically these are as important as are any printed records of our
time. Yet what library dare take upon itself the task of gathering and preserving and
indexing them?
Here we have two kinds of records of contemporary life, both closely allied in
character to printed things, which the all-inclusive library does not even attempt to gather,
list and index. Difficult as it would be for any one library, or even any group of large
libraries, to collect and preserve all these records of the human voice and of the visible
activities of men, still more difficult would it be to gather and save all that is printed today.

The Proper View of What to Do with Print

The proper view of printed things is, that the stream thereof need not be anywhere
completely stored behind the dykes and dams formed by the shelves of any library or of any
group of libraries: but that from that stream as it rushes by expert observers should select what
is pertinent each to his own constituency, to his own organization, to his own community, hold

group of libraries: but that from that stream as it rushes by expert observers should select what
is pertinent each to his own constituency, to his own organization, to his own community, hold
it as long as it continues to have value to those from whom he selects it, make it easily
accessible by some simple process, and then let it go.
Both the expert and the student may rest assured that the cheapness of the printing
process of our day and the natural zeal and self-interest of inquirers, students, compilers,
indexers and publishers, will see to it that nothing that is of permanent value, once put in
print, is ever lost. Not only are there made in these days compilations and abstracts
innumerable by private individuals for their own pleasure and profit; but also a very large
and rapidly increasing number of societies are devoting large sums of money, high skill
and tireless industry to gathering, abstracting and indexing records of human thought,
research and industry in all their forms.

The New Library Creed

Select the best books, list them elaborately, save them forever—was the sum of the
librarians' creed of yesterday. Tomorrow it must be, select a few of the best books and keep
them, as before, but also, select from the vast flood of print the things your constituency will
find helpful, make them available with a minimum of expense, and discard them as soon as
their usefulness is past.
This latter creed has been as yet adopted by very few practicing librarians. It is
gaining followers, however, in the fields of research and industry whose leaders are
rapidly and inevitably learning that only by having accessible all the records of
experiment, exploration and discovery pertaining to their own enterprise, wherever made,
can they hope to avoid mistakes, escape needless expenditures and make profitable
advances in any department of science or in any kind of industrial social work.

Special Libraries and Their Association

In recent years has arisen an organization called the Special Libraries Association. It
came into being in this way:
A few large enterprises, private, public and quasi-public, discovered that it paid to
employ a skilled person and ask him to devote all his time to gathering and arranging
printed material out of which he could supply the leaders of the enterprise, on demand or at
stated intervals, with the latest information on their work.
This librarian purchased periodicals, journals, proceedings of societies, leaflets,
pamphlets, and books on the special field in which his employers were interested, studied
them, indexed them, or tore up or clipped from them pertinent material and filed it under
proper headings, and then either held himself in readiness to guide managers, foremen
and others, directly to the latest information on any topics they might present, or compiled
each week or each month a list of pertinent, classified references to the last words from all
parts of the world on the fields covered by his organization's activities, and laid a copy of
this list on the desk of every employe who could make good use of it.
Roughly described, this is the method of controlling the special information the world
was offering them which perhaps not more than a score of progressive institutions had
found it wise to adopt up to five or six years ago.

who were engaged in manufacturing, commerce, transportation, finance, insurance, and
allied activities could profitably make greater use than they had heretofore of information to
be found in print. They were sure that this useful industrial information existed, for they
knew that the most progressive among men of affairs in this country, and still more in
Germany, found and made good use of it. Indeed, they knew that they already had in the
main library's collections much material which almost any industrial organization and
almost any industrial worker could consult with profit. Such material was already used to a
slight extent in the central building; but they believed that if what might be called "the
printed material fundamental to a great manufacturing and commercial city" were so
placed and so arranged that it could be easily consulted by men of business, the habit of
using it would spread very rapidly.

An Uncharted Sea of Print

From the first it was evident that the library was entering a field not yet greatly
cultivated. There were no guides to selection of material; there were no precedents to serve
as rules for handling it when found. Professional library literature did not help, because
this particular form of library work had never been undertaken. It was not difficult to learn
that the old rule, gather everything possible, index and save forever, must be here in the
main, discarded, and the new rule, select, examine, use and discard, be adopted.
But to put the new rule into practice was very difficult.

An Association of Inquirers
This question naturally arose, are others attempting work at all similar to this of
ours? Inquiry soon brought to light a few librarians of private corporations, public service
institutions and city and state governments which, as already noted, were also working on
the new line. Correspondence and conference followed; an organization for m u t u a l aid
promised to be helpful and the Special Libraries Association was formed.
Merely as a matter of history, and chiefly because the active and skillful workers who
now have the movement in hand, promise to make of this association an institution of very
great importance, it may be well to state here that the suggestion of an organization of those
engaged in what may be called the sheer utilitarian management of print, was made by the
Newark library, and that from that library and from the library of the Merchants'
Association of New York, were sent out invitations to a preliminary conference at Bretton
Woods, in July, 1909.
Representatives of about a dozen special libraries were present, and the librarians of
several public and university libraries as well.

When Is a Library Special?

The name Special Libraries was chosen with some hesitation, and rather in
default of a better; but it has seemed to fit the movement admirably. It may be said, of
course, that every library is in a measure special, in its own field, and that state libraries,
libraries of colleges and universities, of medicine, law, history, art and other subjects may
be called special. But a special library, and the special departments of more general
libraries—like the business branch at Newark—are the first and as yet almost the only
print-administering institutions which professedly recognize the change in library method
that the vast and swiftly mounting bulk of print is demanding; realize how ephemeral, and
at the same time how exceedingly useful for the day and hour is much of the present output

of things-intended-to-be-read, and frankly adopt the new library creed as to print
management, of careful selection, immediate use and ready rejection when usefulness is

The Growth of the New Idea

The story of the growth and work of this association of special libraries not only
demonstrates the truth of the statement that the modern printing press is giving us a new
view of its own importance and helpfulness, it also shows how rapidly the new view is being
taken by the world of affairs; and, furthermore, it suggests some of the methods to which
adoption of the new library creed is giving rise.
The association began with about 30 members, of whom more than half represented
special libraries that could be properly so called. In one year the number of special library
representatives increased to more than 70, and in the next two years to 125. In January, 1910,
the association began the publication of a monthly journal. The distribution of this journal,
which has been very wisely and economically edited and published by Mr. John A. Lapp,
legislative reference librarian of Indianapolis; the distribution of circular letters, reports
and articles in the public press; the meetings of the association itself and of sub-divisions of
it and outgrowths from it, all have served as an excellent and effective propaganda of the
idea of the systematic use of print in the world of affairs.
A list of special libraries in this country, published in Special Libraries for April,
1910, not including libraries of law, medicine, history and theology and including very few
public, scientific and reference libraries, gave 118 names.
Most of the libraries that have joined the association since its first year, 1909-10, have
come into existence since that year. They now increase in number so rapidly that it is
impossible to keep the record of them complete. One can only say that managers of
scientific, engineering, manufacturing, managerial, commercial, financial, insurance,
advertising, social and other organizations, including states, cities, government
commissions and the like, are, as the records of the Special Libraries Association show,
coming every day in increasing numbers to the obvious conclusion, that it pays to employ
an expert who shall be able, when equipped with proper apparatus, to give them from day to
day news of the latest movements in their respective fields.

The Journal, "Special Libraries"

The Journal, "Special Libraries," has published a total of 35 numbers, over 400 pages,
and has printed scores of helpful articles on such subjects as "The earning power of special
libraries," "The value of the special library for the business man, the salesman or the shop
expert," "Industrial libraries," "A reference library in a manufacturing plant," and many
carefully prepared lists of books, magazine articles, new legislative enactments and the
like, with titles like the following: Accounting, Motion pictures. Open shop. Short ballot,
Efficiency, PubHc Utility rates.
This association and this journal are described here thus fully because they seem to
point so clearly to the coming change in general library method with which this whole
argument concerns itself. In this journal we find recorded, as maintaining libraries for the
special purpose of gathering by world-wide search all that can throw light on their work,
their processes of manufacture, their methods of sale and distribution, such establishments
as these:

The Amer. Banker's Assn., N. Y.; the Amer. Brass Co., Waterbury, Conn.; The Amer.
Tel. & Tel. Co., N. Y.; The Boston Consol. Gas Co.; The National Carbon Co., Cleveland;
Stone and Webster, Boston; United Gas Improvement Co., Philadelphia.
By no means all the industrial organizations which have what one may call
proprietary bureaus of research have become members of the Association, directly or through
their librarians. In fact, as already stated, there must be many of these special bureaus of
which the Association has as yet no knowledge. It is worth noting, however, that
representatives of many firms, so far as they have expressed themselves, are enthusiastic
over the success of their new department.

The Limitation of the Older Type of Libraries

The fact that we now have an active movement for the establishment within large
industrial enterprises of special departments for the proper control of all pertinent printed
information, is of itself good evidence that the needs that these departments supply are needs
which public and college libraries of the conventional type are not supplying. Other
evidence could be set forth from State libraries, municipal libraries and libraries of
legislative research.
It is not suggested that libraries of the tjT)e of ten or even five years ago, public,
proprietary. State, historical, could ever do the work which the enlightened industrialist of
today asks of the special print-handling department he sets up in and for his own
organization. But this seems evident enough from all that has been said, that the old tj^je of
library must modify itself in accordance with the new needs which the evolution of
knowledge and the growth of print have created. Speaking of the free public library only—
tho' what is true of this is true in a measure also of the college, university or historical
library—^it should try to master so much of the flood of print as is of importance to its
community as a whole, and to those aspects of industrial life which are common to all men
and women of affairs in its community.
This paper has failed of its main purpose if it has not shown that the public library
should equip itself to handle a vast amount of ephemerally useful material, and should, by
its methods in this work, suggest to the large business institutions how helpful they would
find the adoption of similar work within their respective fields.

Definite Suggestions: Co-operation

One may ask here if any definite suggestions can be made as to the selection of useful
print from the useless, the making it temporarily accessible, and discarding it with ease
when its usefulness has past. As already stated, these are questions now confronting
As to solution, one plan already under way may be mentioned. Mr. John A. Lapp,
director of the Bureau of Legislative Information, Indianapolis, has established a co-
operative enterprise for the collection and distribution of certain social and law-making
information. From 25 to 100 libraries and individuals each contribute $25 per year for
The bureau, called "Public Affairs Information Service," collects announcements
regarding information in the field of public affeurs, digests the same and distributes the
copies of the digests to subscribers. The information concerns such subjects as these:

Agricultural Credit
Civil Service Commissions

Convict Labor
Dance Hall Legislation
Drinking Cup Question
Elimination of Party Politics
Occupational Welfare
Markets, Reorganization in New York City
Noise Prevention
Municipal Lodging Houses
Rural Life, Bibliography
Prison Laws, Digest of

Under heads like these a few lines give information sufficient to guide one to the
source of printed material alluded to, with a note outlining its scope.
These notes, manifolded on sheets convenient for clipping and filing, are sent out to
all the libraries, firms and individuals co-operating, at the rate, at present, of about two each
week, each containing an average of 20 notes. The notes vary greatly in length. A recent
one gave the results of inquiries into the progress, in every state in the Union, of drinking
cup legislation.
It is impossible to set any limit to the growth of bureaus of information of this kind.
Every one must make for economy of time and labor in the never-ending search, going on
in every library, in every law-office, in every large industrial and commercial enterprise,
for the latest news on thousands of subjects of the day.
In Boston a bureau of information has been organized by several libraries, which has
a central office in the public library of the city, and tries to discover for any inquirer, on
any topic whatsoever, the person, book, library, document, report, or what-not that can give
the precise information he needs in the shortest possible time.
The League of American Municipalities has long had in view a plan for establishing
a central municipal bureau which should gather notes on the countless activities of all our
large cities and hold them in readiness for any demand. Such a bureau would not only save
to every city department in every city the cost of making its own inquiries as to new
legislation, administration, experiments, tests of paving, lighting, etc., it would also save to
the country at large much of the present vast expenditure on new legislation and new
methods of many kinds which have somewhere already proven failures.


The Reconstructed Business Man

If I were a business man and were to ask myself, "How will the relation of business
enterprise to books—and by books I mean the information, advice, suggestion and stimulus
to feeling that print can give—differ in these after-war days from what it was before the
Then I would make this guess as an answer:
"Most of my fellows will be changed by the war not at all, as far as the management of
their business is concerned. From them I shall get nothing new in the way of help and
nothing new in competition. But a few men will have had their eyes opened, their habits
changed, their views broadened, and they will conduct their business in a new way. I shall
come into relations with these men, and from them I must get ideas and with them I must
compete. Also, we shall surely come into closer trading relations with other countries than
ever before. My home market will not be protected in the way in which it has been. And I
shall need to gather from the men of these other countries suggestions for my business, and
to meet their skill."
"Obviously, then, I must be alert, informed, imaginative. Can I hire a man, or a dozen
men, who will come into my office and work with me and make it their care to keep me
awake, fill me with knowledge, and furnish me with an ample stream of new ideas? And,
if I could find and engage such a man or such men, how would they have equipped
themselves thus to aid me? Possibly in part by travel, I may say; but chiefly by study and
thought, I am sure. And what did they study? And are the things they studied accessible to
me? I will go and ask."
Therefore, our reconstructed business man—one out of the many unreconstructed—
hies him to a library, and says, "Hey, Mr. Librarian, are there good books about England,
France and Germany in industry? About my industry? Books for a man who sees his
business world taking on changes and wants to be ready for the changes?"
"Truly," says the librarian, "there are many such books. But, if you wish to know the
whole truth of the matter, books is not the word you should use; but "Print." Ask me about
"print" on these things you desire to know, and I can show you so much, in journal,
pamphlet, and report, circular and whatnot, that you will be overcome, not at your own
ignorance, but at the thought of attempting to enlighten your ignorance with the aid of so
vast a pile of print. Let me advise you. Find a man, or woman, who has studied and
practiced the art of using print and getting specific things out of it. Give him quarters in
your office, put money to his credit, and tell him to buy and use all the print he needs to the
end that he keep you informed, aroused and prodded with ideas concerning your business. It
will pay you."
And our reconstructed business man, in a world in process of reconstruction, does as
he is told. And it pays!

The Reconstructed Special Library

It contains all the things we have heard about in recent years as essential to the
complete special library. It has also a reconstructed librarian. This librarian has seen the

Reprinted from Special Libraries 10 (1919), pp. 1-2.

writing on the wall, and read it. He knows that the relations between owners and managers
and "workingmen"—meaning all who work for a living and draw no profits with their
wages—is changing fast. He has marked a new note of concession and friendship in that
relation in the country and the amazing program of the labor party in England, and has
even had an ear for the unexpected echoes in Europe of the idealistic suggestions of
President Wilson. Therefore, he brings the new day into the Special Library in his charge.
It contains all the useful things in all aspects of the organizations which maintains it, and
can obviously contribute to that organization's success; and, it contains much, very much,
that can help the men behind the organization—the "workingmen" as above defined. And he
is permitted—by the reconstructed management of the organization—to put these aids and
hints for workers' welfare and advancement, into the workers' hands. His library does not
only tell the owners of the enterprise, for which it exists, how to prosper, it tells the same to
those who labor for the owners. It is a recreational library, in due degree, of course; but it is
also and in far greater degree, an informative, thought-provoking, habit-disturbing,
ambition-arousing library, which the librarian so cleverly administers in his reconstructed
spirit as to make it eagerly sought and used by all the men and women on the
organization's job.


Newark, New Jersey, is an industrial city with a population of about 500,000. When I
became librarian of the Newark Free Public Library twenty-five years ago, the population
was much smaller than that—about half of the present number, in fact. But the interests and
activities of Newarkers were then, as now, chiefly mercantile and industrial. It was my
belief that a library, supported by citizens with these interests, should be not only a cultural
institution, but also a useful bureau of information for merchants and manufacturers. The
conventional city library, as it was organized and functioning at that time in the great
business centres of the United States, seemed to me to be defaulting in service to the largest
contributor to its support—the business man.
My problem was to interest the Newark business man in books. Any books would do as
a beginning. I saw at once that if I was to accomplish my object I would have to do it through
something in which he was already interested. We began by gathering material of a sort
that had never found its way, on any large scale, into any public library. Trade directories,
city and telephone directories, books about various businesses, maps and pamphlets,
newspaper and magazine clippings, financial reports, information on stocks and bonds—
these and many more we collected from every part of the world and installed as part of a
branch library in rented quarters near the city's centre.
It was not long before the local business men found out about our small business
library. They came in, a little skeptically at first, as if they did not have much faith in the
innovation. Later, as they foiind more and more in this library of what they wanted, their
confidence increased. We knew, of course, that they wanted facts; and soon we began to
know quite definitely the kinds of facts they wanted. Who are the officers of a certain motor
Corporation in Hammond, Indiana? Who msmufactures pressed steel drills? Who are the
wholesale dealers in such and such commodity in America and Europe? What London firm
has the cable address, "Salvatowa?" What was the value of French porcelain imported into
the United States in 1927? Who manufactures "Corporal" roofing? What dividends did
Calument and Hecla pay in 1926? These were the kinds of inquiries we received, and
In this modest way we founded, nearly twenty-three years ago, what was to become a
few years later perhaps the first exclusively business library in the United States. We added
from time to time to our original small collection such books as we could get: more maps,
more directories, code books, manufacturers' encyclopedias, atlases and statistical records.
Twenty-five years ago there were very few books on business. For years libraries had
been preparing lists of books on countless subjects in the field of general culture and
science. But scarcely one had been prepared on the literature of business. Our source of
supply, therefore, was extremely limited, and small as it was, had not been made available
by library workers.
The branch soon outgrew its first narrow quarters and moved into a larger and better
place. This growth and this change to better and larger rented rooms continued for twenty-
thre^ years. In the last fourteen years of this growing and moving process the branch, now
well known as the Business Library of Newark, occupied a two-storey fire proof building
rented to us under very favorable conditions by the Newark Evening News, Newark's most

Reprinted from Library Review 2 (1929): 128-134.

important paper. In May, 1927, it moved into its present home of three stories and basement,
built by the city according to our own plans as one of the branch libraries of the Public
Nearly a quarter of a century had passed since the idea of a library devoted primarily
to the interests of business men had taken definite form. Great changes had taken place in
the material available for such work. Prior to 1910, business literature with a few brilliant
exceptions, was limited and poor in quality. The business man wishing to form a library of
sound books on business as a whole might have bought with profit 3% of his collection before
1910,18% between 1910 and 1920, and the remaining 79% since the latter date.
Because he wishes material bearing on a specific subject, certain g^uides to business
literature have been developed to meet a distinct need. A closer indexing was necessary to
discover the most useful detail in books, magazines and directories. As a result, the staff of
the Business Branch has, since 1916, produced such aids in this field as the series of
catalogues to business books beginning with "1600 Business Books," compiled by Sarah B.
Ball at that date, and ending with "Business Books: 1920-1926," a supplement to "2400
Business Books," compiled by Linda H. Morley and Adelaide C. Knight in 1927. An index to
trade directories was prepared and published under the name of "Mailing List Directory
and Classified Index to Trade Directories in 1924" and a subject index to 400 business
periodicals was brought out in 1927.
As business literature had improved in quality, so had interest in the field quickened
among librarians. In 1909, a Special Libraries Association had been formed, at my
suggestion, and proved so vigorous in growth since 1910 it has published a monthly
magazine devoted to the work. Over a thousand special libraries now exist in the United
States. The British "Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux" is a
welcomed associate in the field.
Even more pronounced than the improvement in business literature and the increased
interest in the professional development of workers in the field has been the growth in use of
our own Business Branch. During 1927 the attendance at the Branch was over 72,000, while
telephone calls for information were almost 14,000. Through one channel and another, word
of this service had spread, and 607 letters asking for information on various business
subjects and for publications relating to the work, came from this country and abroad. Need
for adequate housing had become so evident that the city commission authorized the
expenditure of $230,000 for land and a building. Personnel had been increased from a
branch librarian and a junior assistant to a staff which to-day includes a branch librarian,
five reference assistants, a cataloguer, a stenographer and three junior assistants. The
estimated budget for 1928 totals $35,000.
With the growth in the field of business literature the need for a selective, rather than
inclusive, policy was apparent. Notwithstanding this, the collections had grown to such an
extent that in the new building the entire first floor was devoted to foreign trade and city
directories and investment manuals, while to the second floor were assigned business
books, magazines and pamphlets together with space for the lending routine of a library.
Modem conditions of production and of international competition are, I believe, going
to make business libraries like our Newark Business Branch necessary public institutions
in all large industrial centres. We hear of the notable work that is being done in England
by the general libraries of Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Glasgow, Dundee and
other great manufacturing cities. In the United States, since we inaugurated our business
library in Newark, metropolitan libraries in some instances have begun to maintain
business branches in the business sections of their cities. Minneapolis, Indianapolis,

Providence, Pittsburgh, Savannah, Cleveland and others have discovered the value of this
kind of bureau of information for business men.
I would not be surprised if the need for a centralized fact-finding and information
service should be felt so strongly in the course of a few years that business men in the
United States will underwrite a bureau of information for the nation and for those outside it
who would find it useful to them.
Men of affairs need a centre of information with so full an index of societies,
institutes, government bureaus, university, private and commercial laboratories and
individual students devoted to researches and explorations that, by using the mail,
telegraph, wireless and special messengers, they can learn the latest discovered facts in the
fields of pure and applied science, technology, invention, geography and commerce.
They need this active fact-finding centre to check waste of time, energy and money in
needless repetitions of expensive experiments, of prolonged studies and observations, of
erroneous conclusions and constructions in thousands of laboratories, factories and shops,
and of expensive errors due to insufficient knowledge of what has been learned by
inquirers the world over in chemistry and physics in all their applications.
The kind of centre of factual information suggested could be set up and made to
function helpfully to-day—though it could not have been so successful a few decades ago—
chiefly because of the present control of methods of communication and transportation. If
Auguste Forel could have foreseen the arts of communication and transportation as the
world now has them he would not have written, as he did nearly thirty years ago, of a
possible submergence of wisdom by an uncontrolled flood of mere knowledge!
The wealth of this country, the established habit of directing much of that wealth to the
promotion of general welfare; rapidity of development of production and advances in
chemistry, physics and invention which are part of that development—these and many other
facts make it plain that the factual centre I have outlined could readily be established here.
It may be said that I am suggesting an institution like many present centres of
research, bureaus of inquiry, libraries, and firms and societies devoted to compiling
indexes, catalogues and directories. On the contrary, what I suggest is an organization of a
new type—so far as my study shows—and formed for a novel purpose. It is not a library; the
largest of all possible libraries could not do the work or produce the results of the centre or
bureau which I am trying briefly to describe. It is not a bureau of research; no conceivable
research organization could produce facts as needed as could this factual centre. It is not an
international organization of manufacturers, transporters, merchants, chemists, physicists,
inventors and promoters. Such a society could not function in the discovery and
transmission of facts as could the proposed centre for fact finding and fact placing.
What I am proposing is an organization of a new type, with a special equipment
unlike any now in existence and having such relations with and access to the possessors of
facts and to aggregations of print and manuscript as no previous organization has
First there would be a group of persons skilled in the art of controlling print and
manuscript. The development of this art has tried to keep pace with the progress of the craft
of printing, with its accompanying increase in product—the increase which Forel long ago
looked upon as an avalanche able to submerge the human mind. The organization I am
suggesting could give this art of print mastery a long step forward. Those members of the
centre's staff who would know the technique of printing control would perhaps come in part
from the library field of the present day, a field in which the flood of print of the last few
decades has called forth skill, invention and method and tools far beyond popular

appreciation. To this group would be added a group of persons of proved ability in
management, promotion, diplomacy and advertising.
The centre or bureau which I am outlining is an "office" so staffed, so financed, so
equipped with proper tools that it could, on demand, discover where needed facts may be
found, could secure them at once and pass them on to an inquirer. In case the cost of
acquiring the facts asked for promised to be large, the office would so inform the inquirer
and request assurance of payment of costs.
The books, journals, pamphlets, files and indexes that would be needed by the office
would be selected or developed for suggesting or definitely telling where could be found the
kinds of facts that the office would profess an ability to discover. They would include, for
example, the names of scientific and technical societies and the names of the members
thereof; like information about laboratories of research of all kinds, about governmental
departments of all countries devoted to the discovery and dissemination of facts and about
individual students, travellers and explorers.
The saving in time and labour to research of every kind all over the world would be so
great, as soon as the suggested bureau began to function properly, as to make its cost of
slight importance; moreover, the profit that would come to thousands of producing,
transporting and exploiting corporations through saving the costs of the countless long and
expensive inquiries, researches and experiments which though they have already been
carried through, are known only to a few, would make those corporations ready and wilhng
to contribute largely to the maintenance of the centre or to pay well for information which
they might need and acquire through it.
Is it too vast and complex an organism that is suggested?
To this an answer is that the world is already carrying a tremendous burden of
ignorance, labour at cross purposes, research duplications, and gropings in the dark for
facts already discovered; that world-wide inquiry is going on stumbUngly, at hazard, with
meagre results; and that the organization suggested is so obviously needed, so universally
desired, that the task of putting it into proper functioning form is one that will be cheerfully
aided by the best brains among managers, promoters, scientists, technicians and inquirers
Among its first steps would be a large and carefully directed correspondence with
individuals, societies, corporations and governments all over the world; which leads me to
call attention sharply to the fact that the enterprise must be able to say from its very
beginning that it has behind it a group of the able, wealthy and influential men and that
they endorse its work and propose to stand behind it.
Some of the most successful and most accomplished experts in the field of print,
librarians, have already approved the project whole-heartedly. The plan has been presented
briefly and quite informally to a few men of affairs in New York and has been approved.
My interest in the affair is a natural outcome of nearly forty years of study and
experience in the library field, first as librarian of the conventional pubhc library and in
recent years as promoter of libraries for business and information bureaus for
corporations—of which there are now several thousand in active operation.


We read more today than ever before. But in relation to the burden that life now puts
upon us, we read less than ever, while we need to read far more. The burden which we must
each carry if we are to keep the social organism going has been increased beyond our power
to endure, unless we use, to a far greater degree than we now do, the experience, the
knowledge, the imagination of the world's best minds. Briefly, the people are about to try to
rule themselves, and are not learning how.
This failure to learn from print is shown in one of its most depressing phases in the
attitude of our professional teachers towards printed things. By professional teachers I mean
all who engage in definite educational work with groups or classes of students; and I am
concerned here almost solely with those who are thus engaged in colleges and universities.
Of the secondary schools, I merely remark that books to be used to broaden the curriculum
by way of collateral reading and reference, began to come into use hardly more than a
generation ago; and it is scarcely a decade since public high schools began to adopt the
custom of having good Hbraries and skilled librarians for their pupils and instructors.
Before citing facts which seem to show that college libraries are neglected, it is well to
note the tendency of all formal education to turn aside from the use of print-in-general as
an aid to thinking and wisdom. I refer to the recent nation-wide movement for making
formal education as much as possible of the type that enthusiasts are pleased to call
vocational. Specifically, it means the use of a large part of a city's school-appropriation for
the erection, equipment and maintenance of buildings which are far more expensive to set
up and maintain than are schools wherein education is purveyed with the aid only of brains
and print; and it means, in colleges and universities, the setting up of like plants, these
plants being, in both cases, designed to lead students at the earliest possible moment towards
the doing of those things that promise skill in some narrow and special technique. This
movement in both school and college gets its strength largely from the reasonable claim
made for it that this method will more quickly lift students to money-making positions than
will the method of using print-at-large. All educational work of this vocational nature tends
inevitably to the neglect of books and libraries.
Our country is industrial in every fibre of its being. The art of making things or
moving things and thereby making money, is seen continually, in ten thousand forms, by
well-nigh every child from his earliest infancy. The vast majority of boys not only see but
take part in this industriaHsm. Now, in order that they may, when they come of age and
have some influence in the management of the social organism, be equipped to bear a
citizen's burdens, we put them in school in the hope that they may there get, through a study
of print, such a view of their world and of its problems in small part at least, as has been
granted to the best minds the world has produced.
The influence of our passion for industrialism as it manifests itself in our daily life,
narrowing as it inevitably does the outlook on social problems, is being constantly exerted
on all normal persons from the age of six. From six to fourteen, particularly, children are
in it and of it and live it. They are getting the most deadly practical, the most non-bookish,
the most vocational of all possible vocational-industrial trainings, in that they are every
moment living in, and partaking of, the industrial life that surrounds them. With

Reprinted from Freeman 6 (1923): 561-563.

difficulty and at some expense we prepare for them a formal educational apparatus to be
used, over and above the technique of reading, in giving them contact with the wisdom that
man has gathered in the last few thousand years, and such practice in thinking as may
make them a little better equipped to help, as they mature, in keeping society in a healthful
That statement, brief as it is, seems to suggest the fundamental purpose of formal
education. Consider, now, the relative power of the two influences—life, and the education of
the schools. The former is at work every waking day of fifteen hours, from the first to the
fourteenth year of a child's life, a total of about 75,000 hours. Between the ages of six and
fourteen, American children have 45,000 hours of practical, vocational, industrial training
simply through living in an industrial environment; an environment of prodigious power
to mould and fashion the spirit to the current ideal of material success. Not quite 45,000
hours, to be sure; for we must subtract the hours during which they are subjected to the
formal education-for-wisdom which our schools administer. These hours of other-worldly
training are few indeed; they number for the average child less than 7000 in eight years of
school. Of these few hours it is the aim of the vocational enthusiasts to take away as many
as possible and use them in strengthening the occupational and business and money-
making training which everyday life in America seems to supply, out of school, in
overflowing abundance.
The children who go on through the high school and the college give to school life about
the same percentage of their waking hours as does the child who leaves school at fourteen.
Each year now the pressure on the student increases, by reason of the tendency to make high
school and college courses more practical and nearer to our industrial life, to surrender the
few hours set apart for acquiring good sense and power of thought to that practical business-
training which in any event inevitably fills more than seven-eighths of his waking life.
So much for an indictment of present-day practical education on what some may call a
priori grounds. Consider now certain facts which give a basis for that indictment. Few will
deny that what men have learned by experience and observation, have pondered carefully
and have then set down in writing, is the one possession above all others which we should
study and use. The printed page is man's most precious treasure and his most useful aid.
This heritage of mankind includes the visions of poets as well as the formulae of the
chemists, the record of civilization's decay as well as the record of men of genius, and the
record of the quality of languages of the past as well as that of the languages of to-day.
The supreme importance of the collection and preservation of the records of man's
deeds and thoughts, and of so arranging them that they may be conveniently used, does not
need proof, for it is universally admitted. It is universally admitted, also, that they should
be read and studied. That this latter admission is in large degree only a theory with the
institutions of higher learning, is shown by the persistence with which their libraries are
It is true that many costly buildings have been erected to house college libraries; that
collections of books of great size and value are housed in these buildings; that ample and
comfortable rooms are supplied in many of them, in which scores of students may consult
and read books and other printed things; that in them are set apart hundreds of volumes to
the reading of which students are directed, and even compelled, by their instructors; that
students and professors alike may take to their rooms and their homes such books as they
wish to use; and that the total annual cost of thus providing easy and comfortable access to
the written words of the world's best minds is so great as to prove conclusively that college
libraries are not neglected.

To all this it may be said that the current tendency in college buildings is to the
grandiose. On the accepted theory that a collection of books is the most important part of the
equipment of the college, the building in which the collection is housed is put up, if possible,
in the grandiose manner and usually looks as if it cost a great deal of money. Having the
grand and expensive-looking library-building, trustees, faculty and alumni easily
persuade themselves that they have done enough for their college's most important
laboratory, and pay little heed to the extent and quality of the use made of its contents. A few
years ago, although libraries were generally admitted to be the most important instruments
of education that colleges can possess, the persons who presided over and directed those
instruments were, save in rare instances, not members of faculties, and were quite
commonly looked upon as a slightly superior order of clerks. That fact alone shows how, in
the mechanics of college education, the collections which were, in theory, looked on with so
much reverence and were so impressively and expensively housed, were really regarded. It
inevitably followed that the laboratories of books, presided over by inferiors, took an
inferior place.
To this, many learned professors will say at once that, as they know the literature of
their own subjects they need only a messenger at their book-warehouse who can buy what
they tell him to buy, and can find in the warehouse the books they ask for—a clerk's job,
surely! But the whole development of the economy of libraries in the past fifty years, of
which the professors know little or nothing, gives ample proof that they are quite in the
College libraries are not only often richly housed; they are, as stated, often rich in
books; and often too rich. The worth of a library lies in the use made of it. Its building and
the size of its collections may easily so obfuscate its possessors as to make them believe that,
if a place so grand and a collection so great is at hand, they must of course be using it in a
grand manner and to the great advantage of education; while in fact they scarcely touch its
riches and scarcely feel its power.
Students can, it is true, go to college libraries, and can there read in some degree of
comfort the books they choose and the books that are chosen for them by their several
instructors—and that is well. They may also take to their rooms a few books, and in some
cases may take, even for several days, the special books to which they are directed—and that
is also well. But here is a preamble, followed by a few questions, the answers to which
amply demonstrate the truth of my thesis that college libraries are neglected.
The size, grandeur and cost of college library-buildings has helped to strengthen the
doctrine, inherited from the days when books were few and rare, and every library
naturally acquired all it could and kept religiously all it acquired, that the collection within
so large a building should be of the largest possible size and of the widest possible range.
This theory that the college library should be large and wide-ranging, and should never
discard anything it may acquire, is not only strengthened by the size and cost of its home,
but has, in turn, helped to strengthen the theory that its home should be large in order that it
might hold all possible acquisitions, and should be ornate in order that it might honor the
rare and precious things it contains. There has also prevailed the theory that a magnificent
marble building is an outward symbol of the inward reverence which trustees, faculty and
alumni have for the wisdom lying in the books within; while the honor, in fact, goes to
architects, donors, and college presidents and trustees. The wisdom of books can be honored
truly only by using them skilfully and lavishly to foster wisdom.
The desire for quantity of print and for rarity of print, can be satisfied only by the
acquisition of print. College libraries have quite generally spent freely on acquisition.

wishing to push their collections on towards completeness. They have felt obliged also to
give space and care to gifts of books. They have done all this, each with no regard to like
activity of acquisition by other libraries, until now we discover that, while many college
libraries are large and wide ranging, and being so, are inevitably expensive to maintain;
nevertheless in all of them combined the resources in printed records of man's achievement
are lamentably small.
These libraries have failed to consider the value to scholars of such fullness of book-
riches as could have been attained by joint and selective effort in the acquisition of books;
they have thought it of far more importance than it really is, to have close at hand in each
college library an attempt, no matter how feeble, at a collection for all possible scholars. In
doing this they have largely failed to carry on that type of work for their instructors and
students which alone would have relieved them of the charge of neglecting their libraries. I
refer to that type of service which is furnished by our best public libraries.
I recently sent to seventy-one college libraries six short questions, and received
answers from forty-six of them. The questions asked, in effect, if easy access (for use at
home or in the class-room) to the best of recent books, including of course much-discussed
works in all fields, and the more important journals of all types save the most popular
story-papers, was granted to professors and students by college libraries.
Nearly every one said, "No." Several made mention of groups of special books bought
at a professor's request, that his students might have access to them. Some referred to the fact
that the public libraries of their respective cities gave this service I spoke of. The actual state
of affairs, the failure of the college library to do its obvious and helpful work in keeping the
richest and most thought-provoking literature easily available for home reading to all
students and faculty—this was best shown by the answers to question number one which
was: "Does your library subscribe to extra copies of periodicals of any kind, and lend these
copies to professors and students?" Of the forty-six answers, thirty-eight were flat negatives.
Of the affirmatives, one was from a departmental library; one from a library just opened
and perhaps vmfamiliar with the bad habit in question; and six qualified their statements by
such phrases as "a few" and "to a limited extent." From other sources I learn that it is most
unusual for college libraries to subscribe to more than one copy of any periodical. This
means that in, say, fifty of our larger colleges and universities having a total of about
130,000 students and 10,000 professors and instructors, the libraries furnish a total of fifty
copies of such journals as the Yale Review, the Nineteenth Century, Science, Progress, Revue
des deux Mondes, Nature and Science—to name only a few at random.
The answers to question number three confirm the conclusions to which the answers to
number one inevitably lead. This question was, "How many extra copies of books of any
kind does your library buy and lend to professors and students?" The answers, when read
in the light of other answers, show plainly that in not over four of the forty-six colleges do
the libraries make it possible—not to say easy and inviting—for professors and students to
borrow and take to their homes the world's best new books, which are subjects of discussion
the country over. For example, in a college or university of two or three thousand students,
with a hundred or more professors, a single copy of each of such books as Bertrand Russell's
The Problem of China, Lippman's Public Opinion, Reinsch's Secret Diplomacy, Kendrew's
Climates of the Continents, and Caullery's Universities and Scientific Life in the United
States, must fill all demands. Nearly every librarian who answered my questions says he
would gladly have the library in his charge render the services I have indicated, but that
lack of funds forbids. The blame, then, falls back upon trustees and in good measure on

There is the gist of the reasons for saying that college libraries are neglected! No
answer is needed to the suggestions that professors and students can buy books for
themselves, and that students in college ought not to be encouraged to read outside the closed
boundaries of their studies. To him who makes seriously such suggestions, any argument
would be useless.
A revision of the theory on which college libraries are managed to-day would lead to
certain modifications in practice, such as cutting down the storage-cost of many books, and
the buying and preparing for the shelves of many expensive books for research, books which
to-day are not as important as they were even yesterday, and can any day be seen, copied, or
handled at less cost than the day before.
Consider the laboratories of other kinds which are being erected for the promotion of
the more practical and business-like education! Surely, if college authorities and college
teachers really believed what they say about the supreme importance of books, they would see
to it that book-laboratories came before laboratories for chemistry, physics and biology.
Many of the best of our young men and women go to college. There if anywhere and then if
ever, they should be urged towards the use and enjoyment of print, and warmly invited to
take to their own quarters, as time and taste permit, the best that is being written on any
subject, in book, journal or pamphlet—as well as all that older literature which the
experienced and discerning have pronounced good. College libraries are established,
surely, to give to all students and professors this guidance, this inspiration, this hearty
invitation—and this is precisely what they do not do.

Nine former presidents of the American Library Association on the 1905 Alaskan Cruise.
Left to right: (seated) Melvil Dewey, Frederick IVl. Crunden, and Samuel S. Green; (stand-
ing) John Cotton Dana, Earnest C. Richardson, Frank P. Hill, Henry J. Carr, Henry M.
Utley, and C.W. Andrews. Reprinted from Dee Garrison, AposiZes of Culture (New York,
The Free Press, 1979), plate between pp. 144-145. Original in Columbia University Library.

The American Library Association cannot purchase, for any money, such service as
has always been rendered it gratuitously by its own members. The minute the association
goes into the field as an employer, that minute it will lose from its administration much of
that spirit of self-sacrificing zeal which has made possible its great growth and general
progress. This consideration alone would seem almost sufficient to cause the rejection of
any suggestion looking toward the employment of any paid official. The idea, however, of
engaging some one at a fixed salary per year, who should devote his or her time entirely to
the interests of the association, has been advanced more than once, and may, and that very
properly, be advanced again. It has some reason on its side. It is an imposition, even though
the person most concerned may not think it such, to ask of any active member of the library
profession that he put much of his time and energy into the management of the affairs of the
association. It is also somewhat of an imposition on the trustees of the library of which that
member may have charge. They may feel that the experience gained by contact with
members of the A. L. A , and with its affairs, comes back in the way of a broader outlook
and improved management for their library. This argument, however, looks a long way.
Moreover, the details of the A. L. A. management are each year more and more difficult of
grasp by one person. Each year they demand more and more of the time and thought and
energy of the person who undertakes to manage them.
The association can probably find, from year to year, those among its members
willing and able to administer its affairs. People wise enough to do the work well—and
wise enough to refuse to do it!
It is a fair question, however, if an association such as the A. L. A. strives to be, and
in fact already is, should put itself from year to year under peculiar obligations to certain of
its members. Should not the administration of an institution which is eminently a business
one, be run more in the business fashion?
So highly desirable is it, however—to turn again a moment to the other side—that the
association keep in all its administration that genuine A. L. A. spirit, which, as I have
already said, has made possible that progress of which we are all so proud, that it is scarcely
probable that any immediate change will be made from voluntary to paid service in its
I am saying these things simply to lead up to the suggestion, which has been made to
me by more than one member of the A. L. A , that the present method of payment in goodwill
be retained; but that the mass of detail which now falls in the main upon one of the
association's servants, be divided up among several. The plan proposed is so to adjust the
officers and their duties—this, of course, involving changes in the constitution—that there
shall be, as now, a secretary who shall have general oversight and control over all the
affairs which pertain to that office under present arrangement; but that, in addition to this
official, there be elected, or appointed, other officers who may be committees of one, or
"assistant secretaries," who shall have immediate charge—one, for instance, of all matters
of program, being in effect the executive officer of whatever program committee the
executive board may appoint; one, of all matters of transportation and entertainment,
railroads and hotels; one, of all matters of advertising, circularizing, and, in general.

Reprinted from Public Libraries 1 (1896): 78-79.

pubHcity and promotion. Each of these three assistant secretaries or committees would report
to, and, within proper limits, take orders from the secretary proper; he, as now acting under
the advice and by the authority of the executive board. This arrangement would not interfere
at all with the manner of administration which has proved so happy and successful in
actual practice, in which one person has his hand on the entire machinery of the association
for a given year. We should still have our central authority. It would, however, if property
managed, greatly lighten the burden on that central authority, and make possible, one may
beheve, much work which at present cannot well be done.
Another thing to be considered in favor of this plan is that it would in a measure,
bring into public service more of the A. L. A's administrative talent than is now made use
of. There are many members who, absorbed in the management of their own libraries, are
perhaps somewhat neglectful of the general interests of the association; who give it not much
thought save as the time for its conference approaches, but who would give of their time and
their ability, and that freely were they but called upon for certain specific duties. The
general appeal to "help on the good work" is by no means so effective in producing active,
individual effort, as is a specific request that a given person do a certain specific thing.
It must be understood, of course, that these remarks are intended, not as an argument,
but simply as notes which may call the subject to the minds of the members, that may be
ready for its discussion at Cleveland if any one chooses to bring it up.


The A. L. A. has, even after pajang for the report of the Cleveland meeting, about
$1,000 in its treasury. The suggestion was made that at least $500 of this be spent, at the
hands of the president and secretary, in the work of publicity and promotion; not
necessarily simply in getting new members, but in establishing state and city library
associations, in forwarding the interests of those already established, in carrying on a
propaganda throughout the South, in securing the publication in appropriate journals of
appropriate papers on librarianship and library methods, etc.
The circular, which was sent with the signatures of a good number of librarians and
library associations to the members of the A. L. A. gathered in special meeting at New York
on the 6th of February, urged "such members of the association as may be gathered in
special session on February 6th to adopt a resolution expressing their desire that the proper
officials notify the secretary of the association, Mr Rutherford P. Hayes, that he may spend
$500 from available funds of the association in the next few months in such propaganda
work of the association as may to him and the president seem advisable."
The wish expressed in this circular could have been carried out without violation of the
association's constitution. It asked, not the association itself, but members of the association,
to express a desire. It would have been entirely proper for the members there gathered to
have passed an informal vote expressing such desire. It would not have been at all a vote of
the association, and it was not expected, in sending out this circular, that the special
meeting could or would, as the association itself, pass such a resolution. As nothing was
done in regard to the matter, the only conclusion one can draw is that the members of the
association there gathered did not approve of the plan. I am rather sorry they did not simply
say so.
The year has gone by now. The work that might have been done through the country,
and especially in the South, in the way of increasing the interest among librarians in the A.
L. A. and in the ideas the A. L. A. advocates, cannot now be even begun until another
winter. There are many reasons why this is to be regretted, only one of which is here
mentioned. If, as now seems quite possible, the association decides to meet in Atlanta in
1898, there will be a scant twelve months between the vote of decision and the time of the
meeting, in which to arouse library interest in the South. No one can pretend that that twelve
months will be sufficient to stir up our educational and library friends in the South to such
an interest in the association's work as we wish them to have before we go there.
At a moderate estimate, 10,000 people are engaged in library work in this country or
are interested in it as directors or trustees. Of these 10,000 the American Library
Association had on its rolls a year ago less than five per cent. It is, of course, entirely proper
to question, as Mr [C. C ] Soule does in the last number of PUBLIC LIBRARIES, the
advisability of greatly enlarging the membership of the A. L. A. and to ask if it could do
more effective work were it a representative body. But it seems plain, on giving the subject a
little consideration, that Mr Soule forgets, for one thing, the value, to the librarian and the
assistant and the trustee, of the companionship, enthusiasm, and broadening which come
from membership in the association. Then, too, for a large number of those who attend the
annual meetings of the association, that meeting is the one great outing for the year. It is an

Reprinted from Public Libraries 2 (1897): 143-144.

excuse and a sufficient excuse for traveling and visiting new scenes and seeing distant
libraries. The disadvantages which Mr Soule suggests as coming from size—unwieldiness,
with perhaps an accompanying indifference on the part of nearly the whole mass—are offset
by the suggestion just made, to the effect that the value of the association is to the individual
librarian, very largely, and not to the association itself. That is, we belong to the A. L. A
for our own sakes, and not for the sake of the A. L. A That the A L. A. becomes unwieldy
with size is, if it be true, a comparatively small matter if it continues to furnish its
members the inspiration which it has furnished thus far.
Moreover, it is very easy for the association, as it gets to be too large to be easily
handled in its general meetings, to divide up into sections, to a greater extent than it has
yet. A department of librarians and another department of assistants; a department of
catalogers; a department of counter attendants; a department of village librarians and of
librarians' assistants from village libraries; a department of city librarians—all these are
very possible, and it needs only to name them to show how exceedingly valuable they would
be to those who could participate in their discussions. The association, being broken up into
these departments for most of its meetings, could, until it gets very much larger than it is
now, still hold one joint business session, and perhaps one other session for the
consideration of questions common to the whole library field.
When we come to the effect the American Library Association may produce on the
public at large, the question of the advisability of increasing its size seems even more
readily to answer itself. If, as stated, there are 10,000 people actively engaged in library
work or greatly interested in it through business and other connections, in this country, and
if of this a paltry five per cent only are sufficiently interested to become members, at a cost
of $2.00 per year, of the A. L. A , then may the general public well say that librarianship as a
profession is apathetic, moss-grown, exclusive, dry as dust, slow. The increase of our
dignity, the increase of our influence, the exaltation of the standing of the profession in the
eyes of the community—these, it is true, are affected very greatly by the character and the
work of the individual librarian, no matter where he may be situated. But the individual
librarian can do little to blow his own horn to promote his own reputation in the community
or in the country at large. He must be, in the main, reserved, quiet, unostentatious, and
produce his effect on the community by work that is largely out of sight, and so largely out
of mind; whereas, as members of the A. L. A., they can push the whole body and so
themselves to the front. They can insist on recognition; they can express themselves in
public freely on questions pertinent to their calling; they can advertise themselves, as a
body, as men of consequence; they can bring influence to bear upon methods of publication
and education and public library management, etc., etc. To me, then, it is almost self-
evident that one of the things that would most promote the welfare of the library profession
in this country is the making the American Library Association large, always supposing
that its membership includes the best people in the calling.


In one of the great books of the world, written about fifty years ago, the author has a
chapter or two on man's mental and moral faculties. In them he tells how, as he modestly
ventures to imagine it, men learned to be moral, to have a feeling for conduct, to think of
other men as possessed of rights, to be at peace with others, to understand others, to get help
from others, to work with others for a common end, to cooperate, to organize. This process,
all compact with thought and feeling, this growth of the animal into man, has been long
continued; it still goes on, it may never end.
Now, it is far in thought from the snarling of the white and yellow dogs of war
[fighting the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05] in eastern Asia to our gathering of peaceful
bookmen for mutual aid and consolation. Yet the two events illustrate at once the conditions
from which we have come and the progress we have made. It pays, we now say, for some to
work together; and it pays, we still say, for some to fight one another. That is our
conclusion; thus far, and thus far only, the race has gone in that slow march toward
humanity which Darwin so simply outlined fifty years ago.
This is a large text for a humble theme. But why not begin with the obvious? If ever
they seem of doubtful value—these organizers of ours—let us remind ourselves that by such
in good part has man learned to be his neighbor's neighbor and that neighbor's fellow-
citizen. To work with your fellows to a common end—this is to be civilized, to be moral, to be
efficient. This makes nations possible and promises the parliament of the world.
And so, in speaking of associations of librarians the first thing to be said is, that they
effect so much by the mere fact that they are. They do so much of which we are but vaguely
conscious, they so often give to so many without outward sign that subtle feeling of
comradeship which becomes before one knows it a stimulus to further effort and a guide to
that effort's profitable expense. One may well say, then, that the best work of an association
is the association itself.
To put it more definitely, and to point to some of the secondary gains, we can say that
to organize an association, no matter how poorly attended its meetings may be, teaches
much to those who organize it, if to no others. You need not fear over-organization. Take
your lesson from modern industrialism. Be sure that the laws of nature hold here as
elsewhere and that the useless disappears. Seize the opportunity to get lessons in
management and the art of working together. Moreover, the meeting which you carefully
plan, provide speakers for, advertise among your colleagues, announce in the papers and
duly hold, though attended by but the proverbial two or three, has served well; it has
stimulated those who prepared for it, has made your calling more favorably known, and so
has had its use. One may even say that, after all, it were often almost as well did the well-
planned meeting never take place, so effective in education is its making, so meagre often
are the tangible results of the appointed day.
My theme is mutual aid as a mark of progress, as an aid to progress, as civilization
itself. The moral is, establish library associations. The special application is to the Pacific

Address delivered before the American Library Association conference, Portland, Oregon,
1905. Reprinted from Libraries: Addresses and Essays (New York: H.W. Wilson, 1916),
pp. 123-133.

coast; and the illustrative examples are in the list which I offer you in printed form of the
library associations and clubs of the world, 77 in number, 57 of them in the United States
with a total of over 8,000 memberships. How inspiring is the story they tell of the growth of
the library idea among us in the last fifty years.
In the West particularly you will find many intelligent readers, not at all connected
with libraries, who are interested in library associations. Do not be discouraged by the
small number in your own vicinity of those who are of your own calling. The tools of all the
professional classes are books. Discussions on books, their making, their indexing in
library catalogs, their selection, and their care, will always attract book-users. You have
teachers' associations, and they are always ready to give up a part of their meetings to the
discussion of library questions. A library department in a teachers' association can often do
much to bring the library question into view.
And the vast distances which separate the western libraries must not discourage them.
Their large meetings must be few, and even small ones may be difficult. Therefore more
must be done at each possible library center. Let a few come together, organize in a simple
way, call on all interested to support them, exploit their aims and methods freely in the
newspapers, prepare a program of as general interest as possible, rather literary than
technical, hold meetings, no matter how light the attendance, and publish through papers a
full report of the proceedings.
I have said enough about the value of such work to those who carry it through; but too
much cannot be said about the value to your calling of discreet and dignified publicity. We
have not enough libraries yet, so we assume; and those we have, we frankly admit, fail by
much of reaching their highest efficiency. We wish to impress our fellows with a sense of
the value of libraries to their communities. Then, we wish to show how easy it is for any
community to establish and support it. Then, we wish to learn from one another and to call
forth from the public criticisms and suggestions. The newspapers like to help us do these
things. They can be done, with their help, by one person. They can be better done, usually, by
three or four. They can be done better still, usually, by an organization with a name, an
object, officers, meetings, and reports. This is sound psychological theory. It has worked
well many times in practice.
Let me be still more specific, for I am warned that my talk must be practical.
You are, we will suppose, the one person in your community who is interested in public
libraries; you may be a librarian and wish to join with the two or three other library
workers in your part of the state in learning more of your calling and in increasing
library interest; or you may have no library in your place and wish to see one established.
You send to your library commission or to the A. L. A. headquarters, or to any librarian of
experience and ask for suggestions. These being considered you look at your own problem,
select the people likely to help you, two or three, and talk the subject over with each of them.
Then you lay plans and form a rather definite scheme. You ask your friends to come
together and you put your ideas before them; and, as you know your ground and what you
want, you push them through. The meeting votes for an organization; appoints one or two to
bring in a constitution and a list of officers; and, if it seem wise, you complete the
organization at one sitting. You need not have money to print constitutions and by-laws and
officers, for the newspapers will do it for you.
Next comes a meeting. You study first the audience you may get—the minister, the
teacher, the reading women, and other possibles—and decide what topics will most interest
them. Perhaps such as these: "Our present library laws and how they apply in our town."
"How they started the library in Blankville"—another small town in your state. "How

libraries are helping the school teachers"; and, for the general reader, "The three best
novels of the year." The meeting place is a private house, or the school-house, or a church.
See to it yourself that the newspaper tells about all these things.
The smaller the town the larger the audience, relatively, that you will get. You have
prepared for absences of speakers, you have arranged for some to speak on call on the
subject that you select, you leave nothing to spontaneous, unconsidered utterance; for though
you hope there may be free discussion you do not depend on it for any points you wish to
make. You prepare the report for the paper yourself If the nearest available one is small
and can only print a brief report, you abstract the speeches, enlarge on the purpose of your
movement, and name the names of those most interested.
I dwell on the obvious; but with good reason. My list shows that there are many library
associations, yet observation has taught us that few of them are ever properly effective. The
one moving, pushing persistent person is lacking; too much dependence is put on the
meeting itself; not enough is won from preparation for it or from the proper publicity it can
induce. And so I think it no fault that I urge again that you yourself be the one efficient
person, and that you remember always that it is the organization's daily life throughout the
year and the story thereof which chiefly help your calhng. The meetings may be much, the
constant strivings between them may be much more. It is not simply for these A. L. A
gatherings we have so much enjoyed that some have crossed a continent. You of the West
and we of the East—and the you and we include those at home as well as those here—have
for these ten months been looking forward to this gathering, have had our thoughts turned
often to our great northwest and to the nourishing of libraries therein, and have gained
thereby a broader view. I am sure I speak for my eastern colleagues as well as for myself
when I say that to contemplate our western empire and to consider the task awaiting our
Pacific friends and the brave beginnings they have made induce a most excellent state of
sanctified humility. Praise be to the A. L. A. which brings us here, and to our western
friends who persuaded us to come!
I have touched on the details of the smallest library association. Let me say something
also of the larger ones, usually easy to form, often given to sounding brass and tinkling
cymbals, sometimes dying and quite unmindful of the fact, and never as effective as
opportunity permits.
They are often too conservative. They think it is their wisdom which restrains them,
while in fact it is simply their mediocrity. They rise no higher than their average. They
repress the aggressive and the original. They fear they may do something improper, and,
clothed in perfect propriety, they reach long before they are aware of it a Nirvana of noble
For special sins, common, but of course not universal, they make their meetings too
long. In their zeal to make many good points they fail of one. They crowd their programs
until they are dizzily and tediously encyclopedic. They fail in hospitality, and the members
gather solemnly and glare at one another across a crowded room and pass out again with
never a gain in fellowship. They harp too much on one string; they talk unconsidered
prattle about details which only carefully chosen words can set duly forth. They parade their
fluent speakers until their meetings become little more than one voice crying in a
wilderness of inattentive ears. They do not give the timid a chance, rather they don't compel
the shy to take up their burdens and talk. They bring the heads, the chiefs, forever into
gatherings with the assistants and check that outpouring of the spirit which the latter would
delight in. They do not cultivate the art of provoking and guiding discussion. They look for
a crop of spontaneous ideas in a soil which does not grow them. They do not make sure that

from the floor, at the call of the chairman, shall come, in seeming impromptu, the best
things of the day. They do not work together as they should. Every club and association in
the country, more than fifty of them, should be in touch with the A. L. A , and so with each
other. Every member of each and every association should be made to feel that by joining
her own association she becomes united with the national organization and will get
something from it. They do not—the larger and stronger clubs are the more able in this
direction and thereby the greater sinners—make themselves of direct use to the community
of readers at large by producing work of practical value to readers and students. The
hundreds of libraries and library workers, gathered within some of the great eastern cities,
have, in the ecstasy of self-contemplation, quite forgotten to gather the golden fruit of
opportunity—and I speak as one of the sinners.
Further, these larger organizations, and the smaller, too, are not sufficiently careful
about the place of meeting, that it be dignified, homelike, and quiet. For any save very large
meetings, they forget that a platform and footlights or anything approaching them are fatal.
Once more, associations large and small and especially the larger ones, usually fail
not only to carry through each year some work of permanent value to the profession and to
general and special students—work like annotated book Hsts, study courses, brief manuals
on the use of books, general or special—they fail also sufficiently to acquaint the public
through the press with the possible utilities of a public library. By nature the bookman is a
gentle and retiring creature. He likes his library and takes proper pride in it. He helps to
organize a club, by joining it at least, and then contents himself with the glow of
comradeship which comes therefrom. The possible public influence of the instrument he has
helped to fashion is not well discerned. Every club should provide for the publication, from
week to week or from month to month, of notes on the elements of hbrariology. Librariology
is the knowledge of libraries and the art of using them. No important journal in the country
is more ready to aid the library movement or more able to do it intelligently than the New
York Independent. A recent editorial in its columns on "Libraries for men" shows how far
we have come from making clear to editors what a library is, to say nothing of what it hopes
and tries to be. If the Independent is still thus untaught, how unskilled in librariology must
be the average of men. You in the West will repair this lack, I am sure, sooner than we of
the East. Precedents and conventions rule you less. You will individually when you can,
and through your clubs always, keep up a stream of expository contributions on librariology
in your daily and weekly press. The East is coming to realize the need for these forms of
activity. The A. L. A. has now both the disposition and the means, not only to do good things
for readers, but also to inform the public of the existence, the character and the possibiUties
for usefulness of collections of books. Shall I be more specific? Need I refer again to the
committee on publicity long ago advocated and never yet realized? Can I say, without being
misunderstood, that to pubHsh an "A. L. A. catalog" and an A L. A Booklist is not enough?
That if a health food is worth wide advertising, surely these library products also are? That
160 library people should spend nearly $40,000 to cross the continent and meet with you, was
not this such an indication of library progress as the public generally would like to hear of?
After I have had my first say I am ready always to give ear to But and If and
Remember and Perhaps. You may attach them to these suggestions as you will. I will
myself add but one. It is this: Remember, that after all if you wish a certain specific thing
done, you must do it yourself The crowd has the passing emotion, the one man brings
tireless zeal. Don't think an organization is an end. If a good club is the work of your
hands, do not think it useful unless it does something. We can't conquer the public with our
clubs. Moreover, never let your association hamper its strongest members. Democracy is the

apotheosis of mediocrity. If the many would advance they must look to the leader to guide
them. In union is strength; but the worth of strength is in its use. An association tends to the
academic and to hold its members to a standard, often a narrow one.
I return once more to my text, mutual aid, as at once progress itself and the measure of
civilization, and to one of its general applications, an appeal for practice in the art of
organizing. If we join with our fellows for an end of value to us all, we learn thus far to
love our neighbor in the best possible and the only universally acceptable way—through
finding him useful and ourselves inspired.
In Newark we have made a rough check-list of all the voluntary organizations of the
city, rehgious, educational, industrial, philanthropic, beneficiary. In a population of 270,000,
largely foreign, we find 2,700 of these with about 25,000 officials, and with a total estimated
membership of 190,000. We hope to make use of more of these organizations than we have
heretofore by appealing to more of them through the books which touch on the subjects for
which, directly or indirectly, they are organized. I mention them here only to emphasize my
statement that we have learned that it pays sometimes to work with our neighbors and not
always to fight them; and to illustrate the old doctrine, now sometimes forgotten, that those
who work together of their own free will thereby build a better civilization, on the firm basis
of profitable fellowship, than was ever built on laws, whether enforced by emperors or
The conclusion is, encourage your colleagues, confer with them, work with them, and
as opportunity permits join with them in organized effort to attain certain definite results.
So doing you get wisdom for yourself and growth and esteem and efficiency for your


I seem to be almost alone in my view of the purposes the librarians of this country
should have in view in pubhshing a monthly annotated list of books. My colleagues seem
quite unable to think of any beneficiaries save themselves: They ask only for a list that will
help them in their special work. My thought from the very first has been that it was long
since high time for the people of this country who make claims by virtue of the positions they
accept and hold, that they are able to select books for the constituencies in which they
severally are, to offer out of their collective wisdom to the general public a select and
annotated list of the best books for the use of that general public. I have been saying this a
good many times for now a good many years, and only once in a long while do I get any
librarian to listen long enough even to understand what I mean!
Let me say it over once more! If we are the literary people we profess to be then we
should be able to offer expert advice to the general public. The booklist ought to be the vehicle
of the advice; therefore, the booklist ought to be a thing that the general book-buyer and
reader will be glad to see.
To call it the A L. A. booklist is to hide it under a bushel—worse, it is to conceal it in
the alphabet. Who is this A L. A.? To give one bit of evidence to show that none save a few
librarians know what A L. A means: We have classes of Normal school pupils to whom we
are giving instruction in the Use of the library. They have been coming here for three
months. Lately they were asked, "What is the best bookbuying guide?" First, silence; then
one smiled and said, "Oh, yes! the Alia catalog!" And that's what A. L. A meant to her!
It is time, I claim, for librarians to prove their value to the reading public at large by
offering a monthly hterary guide to that general reading public. If it is time, and if the
booklist is the proper vehicle (and why is it not?), then I contend that it should be changed,
certainly in name and quite surely in form. If changed in form and style, it would still
serve as a buying guide to librarians in 90 per cent of the cases of its present actual use just
as well as it does now. The more nearly it meets the needs of the librarian of the small
library as a guide in buying, the more nearly would it serve the needs of the average
American reader and book-buyer, and vice versa. If that is not true, then libraries are not
wishing to learn how best to buy for their communities, but how best to buy for their own
several ejects—their conceptions of their communities.
For ease in reading as well as for economy in printing the list should be printed in
two columns, each page holding about three times as much as one of the present form.
If it is not for public use, as the Publishing board has insisted, but only for libraries,
all the more reason for not spending our money on an expensive and unhandy form.
For a name, "Recent books" would be good—"Recent books—a selected and annotated
hst." [Newark, Feb. 9, 1909.]

Reprinted from Public Libraries 14 (1909): 91.


The following is a letter sent by Mr. Dana to Mrs. Sophy Powell, of the Bureau of
Classification of PubHc Library Personnel Administration, in reply to a letter requesting
his criticism of the questionnaire to be sent out by the A L. A. Committee on Classification
of Library Personnel.

Dear Mrs. Powell:

I do not see how the mass of facts which the "personnel" questionnaire may call forth
can help "to secure proper recognition for the library profession." So far as workers in
libraries deserve it by their conduct they receive proper recognition now.
That the Committee of the A. L. A. may make use of the facts that this questionnaire
may bring them—such use for example as the reaching of averages in hours, wages, duties,
work accomplished, etc.,—they must have far more facts than this document will bring
them—such facts for example, as size of town in which each answering library is located,
its age, its literacy, its percentage of foreign born, its locus as related to other towns, its
transport facilities, its schools, its churches, its theatres, its occupations, its recreations, the
size of the library and its library age, income since founded, growth in number of books,
etc., etc. My contention here being that the answer received will submit to no interpretation
of value; the factors affecting those answers being so many and so varied as to make the
answers themselves incapable of being tabulated to any dependable end.
Again, the standards reached by a study of a group of mediocrities will be themselves
mediocrities. The details of libraryism which these answers will disclose are details
established by persons of moderate average ability. The product drawn from a mere
statistical study of American libraries will be of the same general mean of moderate
intelligence as are the mass from which the product is drawn.
To find for us librarians new and helpful ideas as to library management, recourse
must be had to the answers from libraries now practicing new and helpful ideas; and no
provision seems to have been made for disclosing these new and helpful ideas when they
are met with in the survey; and we seem to have no guarantee that new and helpful ideas
when met with will be recognized.
Statistics have a lamentable fascination for most of us. Neatly tabulated they look to us
like the very demonstration itself of the statements which their columns set forth. It is quite
unnecessary here to repeat any of the commonplaces on the fallibility of statistics. I mention
the charm they have for the inquiring mind (which does not include here the fiercely
questioning mind) because it is clear that a few of the more active at the present moment,
and so more prominent, of library workers have succumbed to the endearing charm of
statistics. The passion for the survey, which has toured our country like a plague for a
number of years has at last laid hands on this group of my fellow library workers.
To the passion for statistics and the passing love of the survey, one may add, as added
causes of this outbreak of the questionnaire epidemic, the recent rapid growth of libraries,
the popular approval which is at once a cause and a product of that growth, the stirrings of
the great war, and the vague feeling that an institution which has grown so rapidly in the

Reprinted from Library Journal 49 (1924): 827-829.

past half century must be much in the public eye and ought to be felt by all as a powerful
social factor and the childish delusion that a group of workers can climb into an accepted
professional atmosphere by other paths than that of sound workmanship, originality and
accomplishments which are obviously important.
The Newark library does not wish to check the progress of any who seek information,
even when the information promises to lead to obfuscation nor does it wish to seem to hinder
in any way such of its employees as are so inclined, from taking part in a survey of which
they are to furnish much of what some would call the survey's proper food; therefore I ask if
you would kindly tell our personnel committee that if they so desire this library will send to
them a list of names of its employes, and will say to its employes that if the committee sends
to them questionnaires they can fill them out, using therefor not to exceed one hour each of
library time.
Also kindly tell the committee that the librarian does not find it wise to take the time
needed to aid the staff in filling out this questionnaire and to vis6 any part of the answers
made to the same.
A rough calculation shows that three hundred and thirty-eight answers or items are
asked for in the blank in its present form; that each item will need to be scanned, for
effective work, by at least one other person than the one answering each, and that
consequently a staff of say one hundred persons (the Newark Library has one hundred and
forty) must, to fill the blanks even fairly well, make a total of not less than sixty-seven
thousand answers or checks. Even this appalling array of details would not seem too much
if the end of the whole thing promised results of unquestionable value to library work.
But, verily, is not this whole thing the product of statistical madness?
For a specific query or two let us ask:—
Has the compiler worked out a clear statement of the end sought? Certainly no clear
end is set forth and no reasons for believing such end will be reached are set forth in the
committee's publication.
Why may not the library office answer 6-17?
Why not get from a few librarians adequate replies to 18 and 27? Such replies have
already been set forth in print ad nauseam already.
Will answers to 28 and 31 give a record of what the immediate superior of each and
every worker thinks of that worker? And what if it does?
How can answers 33 to 47, even if obtained and tabulated, furnish guidance to
librarians or others?
The committee should be specific in its promise of results and give good reasons why
those results promise to be useful.
Here follow a few sentences from a recent note of mine on the Study of Adult
"The money spent on an elaborate survey of the work of libraries would be, in my
opinion, worse than wasted. Libraries are in the experimental stage of development. The
vast increase of print and its use in recent years has necessarily deposed libraries from the
rather influential position they occupied fifty or seventy-five years ago. To hold even the
minor position they now occupy they must modify themselves fundamentally, searching out
lines of activity which changing conditions may here and there disclose.
"A survey will appeal to libraries not as indicative of probable failure to hold and to
expand their influence of former days, but as indicative of growing importance. Libraries
are prone to look upon themselves as missionaries of the only veritable culture; and I see no

indications whatever, in their movements toward a survey, of any tendency in the survey to
impart a feeling among library people of inadequacy and of the importance of change. The
survey promises to discover the average of library management of today and to pronounce it
best; whereas the average method of today will surely prove in the near future to be the
method least desirable for a group of institutions of which conditions are demanding
constant change."

John Cotton Dana


To the Editor of the Library Journal:

The greater the success of the Survey, the greater will be its failure. This forecast is
based on such facts as are open to those who are not on the inside of the enterprise. Those
who projected the scheme and are putting it thru may show that magnificent results are
already assured.
The Committee sent out three thousand questionnaires. They wished, of course, that all
be filled out and returned. "Replies from everybody," they say, "are needed to make the
work fully successful."
A brief study of the situation shows that simply to tabulate our committee's desired and
hoped for returns will take the time of one person for forty-two (42) years. We may, by
putting forty persons at the task, get our tabulation done in about twelve months.
"But we shall not get three thousand answers," says the committee. "And," I reply,
"how did you know that when you started? And if you did not know it, how did you venture
to engage the Association in an enterprise which now promises to end as a white elephant?
And if you don't want two thousand answers to each of three thousand questionnaires why
are you begging for them?"
Assume they receive only one thousand returns and that each contains, on the
average, two thousand items. The tabulation only of these will take at least two million
minutes or fourteen years of the time of one person. Suppose the tabulation to be done, then at
about this date, November 1, the committee has two thousand columns of figures and
statements, each column containing at a fair estimate, at least six hundred items, the items
ranging from "yes" and "no" to such long statements of method as the questionnaire asks
for in many cases, with averages, abstracts and guesses at the foot of each column.
How long will it take our best Solons to get from all this welter of figures and
statements the plain story of the mere facts of present day American library economy?
Also, will the Carnegie people extend their charity to cover all the expense to date, and
that of the committee's time in digesting the two thousand column footings with their
averages, and their yeses and noes and their many long statements of the invention of this
practice and that; and that of the preparation and publication of the several small volumes
or pamphlets which are half-promised as the rich and full product of the Survey? Perhaps the
committee already has the money in hand for all this, and will kindly say so?
The Survey Committee will turn out results of some kind, of course. But what reason
have we to suppose that the results will point the way to new and better methods in the field of
library management? Over and over again the survey has been urged on us because it will
tell us, for the first time, what we are doing now. It will do nothing of the kind. For fifty
years librarians have been telling one another, thru library journals, annual reports,
papers read and speeches made in national, state and local conferences, in conversations
and in countless letters, what they are doing, and why, and how; the plans they are forming,
the hopes they are cherishing; all to the end that each may learn a better method, a new
device, a different outlook, and in the wish to be helpful to others. Look back for a moment
on this flood of print and letters and talks on library work and see how absurd is this claim

Reprinted from Library Journal 50 (1925): 962-963.

that thru six million answers to two thousand questions, questions of the greatest
unimportance if only because they have been already answered scores of times, we are to
learn for the first time what we are doing.
I have said that the questionnaire is a product of mediocrity; and I say it again. Only
minds powerless to look ahead, unable to conceive the certainty of changes in library
method in all its fields, from planning a building to buying, cataloging and binding books
and on to ink, pencils and dust removers, of changes in the most changeable period in the
world's history, could entertain seriously such faith in the efficiency of a gigantic
questionnaire as soberly to prepare this one that confronts us, and only minds quite barren
of humor, and exquisitely Gradgrind in their sublime faith in the value of the tabulation of
routines—only such minds could be capable of putting into cold type the subhme flapdoodle
which has been given to us on what the survey will do to advance our work.

J. C. Dana, Librarian,
Newark Free Public Library,
October 24,1925.

The picture collection at the Newark Free Public Library. Held in wooden cases, the collec-
tion contained 400,000 classified and mounted items. The woman in the foreground appears
to be pasting a print to a board. Reprinted from The Newarker 2 (Dec. 1912): 233.

The [Denver Public Library] is now in a position to give to three or four young women
opportunity to learn the details of library work. In several libraries in the country a
"library school" has been estabhshed, the pupils of which, after a certain term of work and
study, are given salaried places in the library as fast as opportunity offers. The public
library proposes to do something of this kind. The librarian's calhng is now looked upon as
a profession. The pay is rarely high, and as yet openings are not many, especially in this
part of the west. But if any decide to follow seriously for a time the subject of library work,
and the studies that are appropriate for it, they will find that it supplements very well the
high school course. In a library one may learn, not simply hterature and bookishness in the
narrow sense, but business and the business view of books. The library combines in a
measure the work of an office, a store and a school. It is particularly worthy of note that one
may get from library service—what is coming to be a most valuable equipment for any
kind of active life—the ability to use what is printed, to lay one's hand on all the best that
has been said on any conceivable subject, from the pyramids to electric lamps. In the way of
general education, it is believed that a year in an active library would prove to many, more
valuable than a year in the best of colleges for women.
If you are interested in this matter they can get further particulars at the library.

Reprinted from Books [Denver] 3 (January 1893): 95.


Of all the occupations now open to women, work in a public library is perhaps the most
attractive. This is not because the money return is large, for in this respect both teaching
and clerical work have the advantage. Library work is attractive because it gives one
pleasant surroundings, brings one into contact with intelligent people, helps one to keep
abreast of the times, is not often unduly severe or trying to the nerves, and offers openings
for many kinds of native talent to show themselves at their best.
A public library is the property of the people who use it. The librarian recognizes this
fact and tries to make this school of the people as attractive and as pleasing as possible. If a
public institution is to be inviting and helpful, those who work in it and for it must be
interested in it, must wish it to gain in popularity and must be proud of its good repute. Now,
a library's staff cannot have for it the feelings just mentioned unless they themselves find
in it and in their work for it a certain pleasure, and enjoy in it a certain good fellowship
with one another. As they are to one another, so, in large measure, will they appear to those
who call at the hbrary for books or for opportunities for reading and study. Within a
library, therefore, must be found the free cooperative spirit of the home. The presence in a
library of this feeling of good will and helpfulness is alone almost enough to explain its
popularity as a place in which to earn one's living; and when we add to this element of
attractiveness the other factors already mentioned and especially the one I shall try
especially to describe, it is easy to understand why library work appeals so strongly to so
many women. This special point of advantage which library work offers lies in the many
kinds of employment it includes and the many kinds of talent and skill to which it appeals.
Let me make my meaning plain. Do you have some skill with the pen, can you write
clearly, are you painstaking and accurate and can you follow exactly rules set for your
guidance? Then, even though you are not distinctly bookish, you may find a place as a
subordinate in a library's catalog department. If you add, to the modest talents mentioned,
skill as typewriter, then you may still more easily find here a place. You would write cards
like those shown above. From two to twenty of these cards are written for every book which a
library adds to its shelves. In writing or copying these cards you can learn, if you will, and
almost without effort, something about the best books of to-day and of all time.
Have you a good knowledge of books and skill in discovering quickly what are the
main points in any volume you may pick up? To a good general education do you add a
logical or at least an orderly mind? You may, then, after proper study and discipline, find a
place in a library as a classifier. To classify books for the library is so to mark them that
when they are arranged on the shelves in the numerical or alphabetical order of the marks
and symbols you put on them, they will fall into groups: books of the same subject standing
together, and groups on the same subject standing near to other groups on alhed subjects.
Properly to add books to a library already classified, a library of let us say 50,000 volumes,
so that one who wishes to consult them may readily find the one he seeks, is a task calling
for skill and common sense. It is work many women have learned to do well.
In preparing the originals of the records of books added to the library, making of the
records an index called the card catalog, other special qualities are called for. Especially

Reprinted from Libraries: Addresses and Essays (New York: H.W. Wilson, 1916), pp. 171-

does the worker in this hne need a large fund of sympathy with other minds, quick
appreciation of how the average person of intelhgence will approach a subject. A library's
catalog is a dictionary of world knowledge; it is, rather, an index to such a dictionary, the
dictionary being found in the thousands of books on the library shelves. Skill in making
such an index seems almost native to some of the women in our libraries.
The kinds of work thus far mentioned call for some general education, for long
special practice or for peculiar aptness or for all three. But, in the same department in which
the things last mentioned are carried out much other work of clerical nature is also done. If
you are without much book knowledge but are patient, careful, accurate and skilful with
your hands, you may find work in a library in this subordinate department of the library's
index making. For example, in almost every hbrary a book must be looked over before it is
put on the shelf to see that it is complete, and, if its leaves are unopened, they must be
carefully cut. This latter task alone is no light one. An active young woman can do little
more than cut the pages of six or seven hundred volumes in a week's time of forty to fifty
In every book there must be pasted, inside the front cover, a book plate; if it is a
lending book, there must be pasted in the back a pocket; on this pocket, usually a blank piece
of paper, certain symbols or words must be written; a book card must be prepared, to be kept
in the book when it is on the shelf and to be retained in the library when the book is lent to
show to whom it was lent; on the back of the book must be put a label.
If you have always been a reader, and by a reader I mean one who has seized the spare
moments to devour books, papers and journals from the time she was six until she was, let
us say, twenty-two; and if you remember what you read; if you have an agreeable presence
and know how to say "no" as pleasantly as "yes," yet tend to be obliging rather than the
opposite, then you might find a place as an assistant at the lending desk of a library. Here
the pubhc calls for books and here an attendant, getting them from the shelves delivers
them. The routine is not simple. Modern libraries believe so strongly that the fewest possible
difficulties should be put in the way of borrowers and the fewest possible duties laid on them,
that they tend naturally to throw upon the attendant at the lending desk a large amount of
The chief of the lending department of a large library must be a person of very
decided genius. You cannot aspire to such a position unless you have either a college
education or its equivalent, a wide knowledge of books, no small experience of life,
agreeable manners, and ability to meet people of all ranks on their own level. The routine
is done by people who are not thus well equipped.
Have you read much in many lines? Is your memory retentive? Do books seem to you
to have individualities and to be distinct from one another like so many human beings?
Does a moment's glance at a book fix its general features in your memory? Do you feel
almost instinctively what a book, and especially an encyclopedia or any other work of
reference, can tell you? Then you may hope to do good work, though perhaps only after some
years of practice, in a reference department. To the person who dehghts in knowledge, and
instinctively takes in and retains information of all kinds, and never forgets in which
book a fact was found, to such a person general, reference work especially appeals. Not a few
women have some special talent along this line and may hope to find interesting occupation
Book surgery, book hygiene and book rebinding form a department of library work
which was long neglected, but is now seen to be of great importance. Any woman who is
clever with her hands and does not scorn manual labor could make herself useful in this

department. In large libraries the head of the binding and repair department must be a
person who knows and can answer questions like these, about any of the thousands of
wounded books which come to her for attention: "Is it still popular, and should it therefore be
rebound?" "Is it so trivial that it is not worth even an hour's work of mending?" "Tho old
and worn, is it a book the library should always have on the shelves?" "Is it a book-rarity,
which should be carefully mended and then as carefully rebound?" "Is its paper so poor that
to rebind it is a waste of money?"
A knowledge of book-making and literature such as these queries suggest is not all the
head of this department must have. She must know about leather, cloth, paper, string, tape,
thread, glue, paste and many other things which go to the making, repairing and rebinding
of books; and she must also know enough about the binder's craft to be able to tell whether a
book is skillfully and honestly rebound or not.
In many public libraries a third of all the books taken to homes are lent to children.
The children have rooms of their own in most libraries; and here, if you are fond of
children and have some tact in their management, you may hope to find a place. The work
is not easy, but is not as trying as teaching. If you hope to make progress in it you must be a
reader, as I have already defined the word, and especially you must know the books which
children read and the books about children. Moreover, this children's work brings one in
contact with schools, and to be effective here one must know something about the teacher's
work, her difficulties, her classroom conditions, her textbooks and her courses of study.
The kinds of work I have mentioned are done in separate and semi-independent
departments in larger libraries. In some of them it is the custom to test the capacity, taste
and skill of each new member of the staff, particularly of those not trained in any other
library, by placing them in several departments in succession until the work they are best
fitted for is found.
In the smallest library all the kinds of work I have mentioned and many other kinds
also, as well as many minor details, are done by one or two persons and it is in the small
library that a young woman can find the best opportunity to show her capacity for work
helpful to the community which supports her library; and an opportunity also to gain a broad
general education and admirable training in the special field of library economy.
There is no public institution quite as broad in its possibilities of public service as the
free public library in America, and especially the free library of the small town.
The library worker in such a library, if she has the wisdom and temperament proper
for her position, does not need a great store of book knowledge when she begins, nor does she
need great skill in the technique of her calling; for she will necessarily acquire these
things if she performs her duties well and tries to take advantage of all opportunities. She
must be a friend of her trustees, their adviser and their business manager; she must watch
the funds and practice economy yet not permit her community to think about the library in
terms of parsimony; she must select and buy books best suited to her town and she is the
person who, if she is fit for her position, can do this to the best advantage, better than any
book committee can do it. She must meet with and make friends of all patrons, old and
young, and be their adviser in matters both serious and recreational concerning reading;
she must attract the teachers that through them she may reach the children; she must lead
the children themselves from nickel libraries or, what is more difficult, from no reading
whatever, to the good things in print for them, and the children must not know they are
being led; she must know about women's clubs, and help form their programs and buy books
that will be useful to their members; and she must not forget boys' debating societies, and
lyceum lectures, and special duties in churches and in Sunday schools, and questions of

village improvement, like sewers and sidewalks and trees and water supply; and she must
be interested in all other things that concern her town, and ready to supply the book or
journal that gives the latest and best information about them. The history of the town, the
soil, the products, the climate, the geography, the industries, the fairs, the games, the
festivals—all these she must keep in her mind as matters which may any day prove of
special interest and may demand special information. A historical society, or a science
museum, or a nature club, or a farmer's club may any day spring into life, and it will then
be her pleasure to furnish some encouragement and much information to those interested.
I have set down thus briefly the wide variety of work which may fall to the lot of the
librarian of the small library, because all of these kinds of work are found also in the
larger libraries, are there much specialized and may there attract, as this paper tries to
show, women of very varied gifts and accomplishments.
To go a little further with the librarian of the modest town and thus, though indirectly,
with the humblest or the highest assistant in the large library. The outside world must not
absorb her; for she must know her books. To know them she must read unceasingly; not
much in a few books but a little in all the books, all the journals, all the book catalogs, all
the many pamphlets and all the newspapers which come to her hbrary. With her there can
be no question of what to read; she must read it all; not all of all she sees, but a Httle of
everything she sees. Any worker in any library who does not read, read, read, and forever
read, can not hope for and ought not to expect any notable success.
What this friend of books who has books in her charge and learns to know them and
learns to know her town—what this modest librarian does for her community by the agency
of her library and its books is another story. My purpose in this paper is simply to show that
to work among a library's books for the people who own the books is a many-sided
occupation, attractive through its general character to all right-minded young women, and
appealing specially to women of varied tastes and talents through its many-sidedness.


To the Editor of the Library Journal:

The foHowing "Findings" on training for librarianship are the result of thirty-five
years' study of the subject, and are offered in the belief that their acceptance by librarians
would help to improve library methods.

1. The production and use of print has increased far more in recent years than has that
part of print use which comes thru libraries.

2. Libraries are each year less important factors in print using and consequently less
important factors in life in general.

3. The money wages and the wages-of-esteem of library workers are not sufficient to
attract men and women of high abiHty and of strong urge to accomplishment.

4. For the same and kindred reasons relatively few of each new generation are drawn into
library work.

5. Consequently competent library workers are not easily found and

6. Consequently few persons of outstanding general ability go to library schools;

7. And, consequently, as educational institutions can not rise above the abiHties of their
students, library school courses are meagre, thin and deal with conventional details.

8. Degrees, titles, labels, and veritable professionaHsm are the products of high
accomplishment and not its causes.

9. Consequently, to proceed now to label libraries as of certain grades of excellence and to

give library workers the right to endue themselves with titles, labels, honors and
degrees of any kind would be to put a mark of "well-done" on unfinished jobs.

10. When libraries and library-workers have gained general high esteem for important
service, the world will insist on entitling them well.

11. For libraries and librarians to proceed themselves to examine themselves and, as is the
evident thought behind the proposal for such an examination, thereupon proceed to give
themselves titles of excellence is to boast of deeds not done.

12. "Standards of education" cannot be established for a cahing which is yet in its infancy.

Reprinted from Library Journal 49 (1924): 492.

13. If they could be established they would be infinitely harmful, for they would greatly
strengthen the tendency already much too strong, to cast all libraries in the same mold,
to check variation and experiment in an institution which has not yet found its place in
society, is losing rather than gaining in its influence, and needs even more than do
most institutions (from the very nature of its content and from the slight esteem in
which it is held), the stimulant of new ideas and of a pious consciousness of importance.

14. If any kind of a "Survey" is called for by the present library situation it is a survey of
print production; to be followed at once by a survey of print-use pursued with a calculated
coolness until it discloses, to library workers particularly, the relative importance in
human economy of the total use of print to that part of the total use which is the result of
and is guided by public libraries.
John Cotton Dana, Librarian,
Newark (N.J.) Public Library.


To the Editor of the Library Journal:

The whole of the forty-four large pages of "The Report of the Board of Education for
Librarianship" of the A. L. A. is contained in part of one sentence on page 8:
"To make librarianship more attractive to men and women of the highest type, it is
true that better salaries must be offered, a matter over which the Board has no control."
The rest of that sentence is a sufficient reason why the money should not have been
asked for and spent on that report:—"a matter (better salaries) over which the Board has no
However excellent may be the opportunities for education in Hbrarianship, competent
men and women in good numbers will not take them so long as salaries are of the present
low grade. The attention of the A. L. A. should have been turned, not to opportunities for
library education, but to salaries. Why was not this problem of salaries made, not the
subject of an expensive study, but sufficient reason for a study of how—by changes in subject
matter, in direction of effort and in technique—libraries can be made so useful to all
progress in culture that leaders of public opinion would continually repeat the statement that
"We must pay more for libraries that we may have better librarians."
What changes in the direction and manner of library activities would make them
obviously more useful, more used, and more essential?
It is to get answers to precisely that inquiry that the A. L. A. could well set at work a
committee of its longest heads. At present the association seems saturated with contents. Its
surveys, questionnaires, and studies and its resultant secretions of reports all indicate that
it is dancing about in a print pot. It is growing, of course, and so are grass, lambs, calves,
our national income and our schools and colleges. It would be difficult, human nature being
with us, to stop the growth of the A. L. A. But it would be more difficult-to show that the call
that libraries today send out for workers is any more financially alluring—where price
changes are considered—or any more socially attractive than they were, say, twenty-five
years ago.
Is it in the very nature of things that library work be poorly paid? Or is it possible to
devise methods by which libraries may be so placed in the public mind as to make good pay
in them seem the obvious and essential thing?
Certainly issuing a prolonged report on the poor quality of education for library work
does not strike one as a very direct step toward better library salaries.

J. C. Dana, Librarian,
Newark Free Public Library.

Reprinted from Library Journal 50 (1925): 742.

The City Library, Springfield, Massachusetts, circa 1898. Reprinted from Henry Nourse,
comp., The Free Public Libraries of Massachusetts (Boston, 1899), facing p. 342.

President's Address to the American Library Association, Cleveland Conference,

September, 1896
"Failures confessed are guide-posts to success:
weaknesses discovered are no longer weaknesses."

I sometimes fear my enthusiasm for the free public library is born more of contagion
than of conviction. Consider the thing in some of its more evident aspects.
Here is a building, perhaps erected to perpetuate a good man's memory, a monument
and of use only as a monument; or constructed in accordance with the views of an architect
whose ideas of beauty are crude and whose thought of utility is naught; ill-adapted to the
purpose for which it is intended; poorly lighted, badly ventilated. In it are stored a few
thousand volumes, including, of course, the best books of all times—which no one reads—
and a generous percentage of fiction of the cheaper sort. To this place come in good
proportion the idle and the lazy; also the people who cannot endure the burden of a thought,
and who fancy they are improving their minds, while in fact they are simply letting cool
waters from fountains of knowledge trickle through the sieves of an idle curiosity. The
more persistent visitors are often men who either have failed in a career, or never had a
career, or do not wish a career. Libraries all have their indolents, idlers and "boarders."
There is little that is inspiring, per se, in the sight of men who gather in the newspaper
reading room of any free public library. There is not much that is encouraging in a careful
look at many of those who are the more constant visitors to the shelves of the reference
department. Who wear out our dictionaries, the students of language or the competitors in a
word building contest? Of those who come to the delivery desk 60 to 80 per cent rarely
concern themselves, as far as the library knows them, with anything but fiction, and in that
field concern themselves generally only with the latest novel, which they wish because it is
the latest. And of this 60 to 80 per cent, a large proportion—probably at least half—prefer to
get, and generally do get, a novel of the poorer kind.
I am stating the case plainly. I share the librarian's enthusiasm; but that enthusiasm
is sometimes to me, and I believe to many others, a cause for surprise. Has it not often come
sharply home to every librarian—the hopelessness of the task we assume to set ourselves?
The triviality of the great mass of the free public library's educational work? The
discouraging nature of the field? The pettiness, the awful pettiness, of results?
Nor is this all. That we strive for great things and accomplish little; that our output
seems not commensurate with the size of the plant and the cost of its maintenance, this is by
no means the only fact which may rightly sober our enthusiasms.
Fathers and mothers love their children and look after their happiness. The more they
do this, the more they concern themselves that the human beings they have brought into the
world be self-reliant, self-supporting people, knowing how to live in harmony with their
fellows, and wishing so to live, the more civilized they are. Parental responsibility is
something the sense of which has never been too acute. That I may rightly scorn and despise
my neighbor if his children be not decent, attractive, civilized; that my neighbor may
rightly consider himself disgraced if his offspring grow not up in the fear and admonition

Reprinted from Libraries: Addresses and Essays (New York: H.W. Wilson, 1916), pp. 8-14.

of the good citizen; these things are not yet commonly received. The native manners and the
education of the American child are looked upon, not so much as the result of parentage and
home training, as the good gift of God and the public school.
A strong sense of parental responsibility, this is a prime essential to the growth of
knowledge and to the increase of social efficiency. And this feeling of obligation to train
properly the souls of one's own creation; this sense that the parent can win public approval
as a parent only when the result is an additional factor in the public's happiness and
comfort; this rule of living would surely result, if rightly applied, in careful consideration
of the child's education. But what have we done? We have turned the whole subject of
education over to the community. We have made it depend very largely on the result of an
annual election. We have let it slip gradually into the hands of those veritable and
inevitable children of government—the politicians. The American parent is indifferent to
the character of the education of his children. The interposition of the community in what
should be his affairs has not only made him indifferent to those affairs, it has made others
indifferent that he is so. He pays his taxes. If the schools are poor the fault is at the school-
board's door, not his.
The free public library not only relieves the idle and incompetent and indifferent
from the necessity—would he have books—of going to work to earn them; it not only checks
the growth of the tendency of the private individual to collect a library of his own, adapted to
his own needs, and suiting his own tastes and those of his children; it also tends to lead
parents to become indifferent to the general reading of their children, just as the free public
school may lead them to be indifferent to their formal education. Certainly, fathers and
mothers whose children use public libraries seem to care very little what and how much
their children read. They conceal their solicitude from librarian and assistants, if it exists.
Yet, if a collection of books in a community is a good thing for the community—and we
seem to think it is; and if it is a good thing particularly for the children of the community—
and we seem to think it is, then it is a good thing, not in itself simply, not as an object of
worship, not as an adequate excuse for the erection of a pleasing monument on the public
street, but for its effect on young folks' manners and young folks' brains. But to produce a
maximum effect herein, to produce even a modest effect, the right books must be put into the
right hand at the right time. Can public servants do this rightly unless the parents cooperate
with them? But the public library is not an institution which the mother helps to support
because she has come to believe in it; because it is her pleasure; because she can and does
keep a watchful eye on its growth and its methods. It is part of the machinery of the state.
She confides her children to its tender mercies in the same spirit with which her forbears
confided in their king!
Furthermore, the essence of government is force. This essence remains whether the
visible form be king or majority. It is open to question—I put it mildly—whether it is
expedient to touch with the strong hand the impulse of a people to train with earnest thought
their young, or the impulse of a people to give light to their fellows. People wish, in the main,
that their children be well taught. Without this wish a school system, public or private, would
be impossible. This wish is the fundamental fact; that the system is public and tax-supported
is the secondary fact; the result, not the cause. People wish also, in the main, to give their
fellows and themselves the opportunity for self improvement. This wish is the fundamental
fact at the bottom of the free, compulsorily supported public library. It is on these
fundamental facts we should keep our eyes and our thoughts, not on the feature of

We should work, then, such is my conclusion, for the extension of the public library
from the starting point of human sympathy; from the universal desire for an increase of
human happiness by an increase of the knowledge of the conditions of human happiness;
not from the starting-point of law, of compulsion, of enforcing on others our Anews of their
I have said enough in this line. To the observant eye our libraries are not altogether
halls of learning; they are also the haunts of the lazy. They do not always interest parents
in their children; perhaps they lead parents to be indifferent to their children.
But really, librarians will say, all this is not our concern. We find ourselves here,
they say, loving the companionship of books; desirous of extending the joys they can give to
our fellows; embarked in public service, and active—none are more so; zealous—^none are
more so; honest—none are more so, in our work of making good use of books. Your modern
librarian in his daily life is no disputatious economist, idly wavering, like the fabled
donkey, between the loose hay of a crass individualism and the chopped feed of a
perfectionist socialism. He is a worker. If there are things to be saiid which may add to the
efficiency of his attempts to help his fellows to grow happier and wiser, let us hear them; and
for this we have come together.
I have said these things, not with the wish to lessen the zeal of one of us in our chosen
work. A moment's look at the case against us cannot anger us—that were childish; cannot
discourage us—that were cowardly. It may lead us to look to the joints in our armor; it
should lead us to renew our efforts. If the free public library movement be not absolutely and
altogether a good thing, and he is a bold economist who vows that it is, how urgent is the call
to us to make each our own library the corrective, as far as may be, of the possible harm of
its existence. A collection of books gathered at public expense does not justify itself by the
simple fact that it is. If a library be not a live educational institution it were better never
established. It is ours to justify to the world the literary warehouse. A library is good only as
the librarian makes it so.
Can we do more than we have done to justify our calling? Can we make ourselves of
more importance in the world, of more positive value to the world? Our calling is dignified
in our own eyes, it is true; but we are not greatly dignified in the eyes of our fellows. The
public does not ask our opinions. We are, like the teachers, students; and we strive, like
them, to keep abreast of the times, and to have opinions on vital topics formed after much
reading and some thought. But save on more trivial questions, on questions touching
usually only the recreative side of life, like those of literature commonly so called, our
opinions are not asked for. We are, to put it bluntly, of very little weight in the community.
We are teachers; and who cares much for what the teacher says?
I am not pausing now to note exceptions. We all know our masters and our exemplars;
and I shall not pause to praise the men and women who have brought us where we are; who
have lifted librarianship, in the estimation of the wise and the good, to a profession, and
have made it comparatively an easy thing for you and me to develop our libraries, if we can
and will, into all that they should be, and to become ourselves, as librarians, men and
women of weight and value in the community.
I have said that your library is perhaps injuring your community; that you are not of
any importance among your own people. And these, you tell me are hard sayings. In truth
they are. I am not here to pass you any compliments. If for five minutes we can divest
ourselves of every last shred of our trappings of self-satisfaction, and arouse in ourselves
for a moment a keen sense of our sins of omission, of things left undone or not well done, I
shall be content, and shall consider that we have wisely opened these Cleveland sessions. I

would wish to leave you, here at the very beginning of our discussions, not, indeed in the
Slough of Despond, but climbing sturdily, and well aware that you are climbing, the Hill of
Difficulty. Others, I can assure you, will, long before our conference ends, lead us again,
and that joyfully, to our Delectable Mountains.
Pardon me, then, while I say over again a few of the things that cannot be too often
Look first to your own personal growth. Get into touch with the world. Let no one point
to you as an instance of the narrowing effects of too much of books.
Be social. Impress yourself on your community; in a small way if not in a large. Be
not superior and reserved. Remember that he who to the popular eye wears much the air of
wisdom is never wise.
Speak out freely on matters of library management; and especially, in these days, on
matters of library construction. In recent years millions of dollars have been spent on
library buildings in this country, and we have not yet a half dozen in the land that do not
disgrace us. If we have stood idly by and not made our opinions, our knowledge, our
experience, felt by trustees and architects, then is ours the blame, and we are chief among
the sufferers. Persuade architects and their associations, local and national, who ignore us
because in our inconsequence they know they can, that they may wisely and without loss of
dignity consult the professional librarian about the building he is to occupy. I say persuade
them; I might better say compel them. To compel them will be easy when you have become of
importance in the world. Even now it is not too soon to attempt to confer with them. You can
at once make the beginning of friendly and helpful relations with the American Institute of
Architects. But you must ask, not demand.
Advertise the A. L. A. and what it stands for. Help to broaden its field. Support heartily
measures which look to a greater degree of publicity for it. Interest your trustees in it.
Interest your friends, and your patrons and constituents in it. Be ready and willing to do
your share of the work, and there is no end of work that each year must be done to keep it
properly alive and well in the public eye. Call the attention of your trustees to the difference
between the efficient library, such as the A. L. A. advocates, and the dead-and-alive
collection of books, still altogether too common. Consider the contrast between the possible
public library and the public library that is. If the causes for that contrast lie at your door,
face them frankly and bravely and strive to remove them.
Do not forget the Library Department of the National Educational Association,
recently established. It gives you excuse, and its gives you cause to take an interest, more
active even than heretofore, in the introduction of books and library methods into school
work, and to concern yourselves more than ever before with the general reading of teachers
and their pupils. Impress upon teachers the value to them of your library. Persuade them, if
you can, that to do their best work they must know well and use freely the good books.
See that your local book and news men are heartily with you in the work of spreading
knowledge of the right use of books and in encouraging ownership of books in your
community. If you come in contact with the bookseller and the publisher of the great cities,
do what you can to persuade them that to join in the work of this association of librarians is
not only to benefit the community at large, but to help their own particular business as well.
Be not slow in giving hearty recognition to those who have, in the beginnings of
library science, taken the first place and borne the burdens and made an easy way for us
who follow. If, perhaps against some odds, a librarian, man or woman, is making an
eminent success of some great city library, may you not properly send him, once and again,
a word which shaH signify that you, at least, are alive to the fact of his good work and are

yourself encouraged and inspired thereby? Like words of approval you may well extend to
the good men, outside the profession proper, who have given their time and energy, a labor
of love, to improve certain features of library work.
Interest in your work in your own community your local book-lovers and book-
collectors and book-worms and private students and plodders and burners of the midnight
oil. Get in touch with the teachers of literature in the colleges and schools of your
neighborhood. Expound to such, and to the general reader as well, whenever you properly
can, the difficulties and possibilities of your calling, your conquests in classification and
cataloging, and your advances in bibliography and indexing, and the progress in recent
years of general library economy. Remember that all these things can be even better done
in a small community, in the village library of a few hundred volumes, than in the large
library of the great city.
Note the women's clubs, art associations, historical societies, scientific societies. Do
not forget the private schools. In the small town you can gain without difficulty the good-will
of the local newspaper. You can often assist the editor in his work, and lead him to help you
in return. The clergymen in your town certainly care somewhat for the reading of their
young people, and will cooperate with you in any intelligent effort to increase it and
improve it. The Sunday-school libraries of your neighborhood are open to your suggestions,
if you approach them properly. And the Y. M. C. and Y. W. C. associations will gladly take
from you advice and assistance in the management of their reading-rooms and their
None are so poor that they cannot give to others; and few libraries are so small that
they cannot spare books and magazines enough to make a little library which may be sent
out into a still smaller community and there do good service.
Do the business men and the business women, the active people, those who feed us and
clothe us and transport us, those who have brought about in the last few decades the great
increase in creature comforts for every one, do these business people take an active interest
in your library? Do they care for you or for your opinion? If not, is it their fault? Is it that
they are gross and dull and material and worldly; or is it that you, the wise librarian, know
not yet how to bring your educational forces to bear on the life that now is? Our work is but
begun so long as we are not in close touch with the man of affairs.
Remember that as you in your town, or in your city, widen the sphere of your
influence, grow to be a person of worth and dignity in the community, you thereby add so
much to the dignity and to the effectiveness of the whole profession. If in a city or town near
you there is a library which, in its general arrangement is not what it should be, which is
but a dusty pile of printed pages or but a roosting-place for a flock of cheap novels, yours is
in part the fault, and you are largely the loser. When a dweller in that town, one
unacquainted with library affairs—and most are such—hears you alluded to as a
"librarian," he thinks of you as a person akin to the bibliothecal pagan who fails to manage
the library of his own town, the only library he knows by which he can measure your work.
He is a "librarian"; you are a "librarian." We wear the livery of our co-workers as well as
our own.
Keep these thoughts in mind and you will see how essential it is, would our profession
reach the standing we wish it to reach, would we make it everywhere an honor to wear our
name, that every smallest library be an effective educational machine, and that every
humblest librarian be an active, enthusiastic, intelligent worker.
See that your library is interesting to the people of the community, the people who own
it, the people who maintain it. Deny your people nothing which the book-shop grants them.

Make your library at least as attractive as the most attractive retail store in the community.
Open your eyes to the cheapness of books at the present day, and to the imimportance, even to
the small library, of the loss of an occasional volume; and open them also to the necessity of
getting your constituency in actual contact with the books themselves.
Remember always that taxation is compulsion, that taxation is government; that
government, among present-day human creatures, is politics; that the end of an institution
may not justify its means; that a free public library may be other than a helpful thing. See to
it, therefore, the more carefully that your own public library at least is rationally
administered, and promotes public helpfulness.


The library in which one works is the thing above all others about which one should
have full knowledge. A swift, quiet, steady worker can hold his place and can advance, and
usually does both; but if he does not add to the satisfactory accomplishment of every day's
duties a constantly growing knowledge of the whole institution in which his work is done,
he fails to gain that advantage which would almost surely give him high precedence in the
long run.
One must know the books of a library, meaning all the things it has in print and
many of the things pictured; one must have health, strength, good manners and a love of
work; and one must also, to win over others in the excellent race for precedence, have a full
and daily expanding knowledge of the library itself and all its aspects.
As in reading library literature, so in learning the library itself, the better method to
follow is usually not the historical, but what we may call the immediate. By this I mean that
one can wisely begin by learning how things actually are, what they are and how they are
done, and then can learn how they came so to be. This method is usually more interesting,
and more rapid in securing results, than is the strictly historical.
Begin, then, with the library's last two or three annual reports. Study them with
greatest care. Compare statements of work being done with the work itself as you see it
going on from day to day. Note the things in which the library prides itself and, to yourself,
question the fitness of the pride. Examine carefully the regrets of the librarian over lack of
room, of assistants, of books, of conveniences and of income and see if you can discover
whether regrets are well founded or not. Make these annual reports act for you as guides to
the whole plant, checking their accuracy by your own careful observation. Find all the good
you can in both reports and plant—this for your own comfort and consolation and as a
matter of common loyalty; but find also in both, for your own private enlightenment, all the
shortcomings you can. Keep these in mind; let time and experience drive them out if they
can, use them with propriety if opportunities ever come therefor.
The study of these recent reports and of the library itself go hand in hand. Add to this
a study of all technique. Get permission, if possible, and this is easy in all well-conducted
libraries, to spend a few minutes before or after regular hours of service in one department
after another, and learn in each the main outline of the work there done.
The building, you find, is heated, lighted, kept clean and in repair, always opened on
time and the heavy work calling for the hand of a strong man is done when needed. This
does not come about of its own volition. It is managed, supervised, directed and paid for.
Nothing in the whole institution is more important than this fundamental housekeeping.
Find out how it is done. Ask to see the rules, if any; talk if possible with the maker of them,
and become familiar with the routine and note the manner of handling the exceptions.
The housekeeping headquarters, the place where brushes, brooms and mops are kept
and to which all refuse daily comes should be the cleanest spot in the building. Note if it is
so and how it is kept so.
In looking up these housekeeping matters you will learn to know the building itself,
from cellar to attic; the heating and lighting arrangements; the story of the building's

Reprinted from Public Libraries 23 (1918): 461-462.

construction, the cost of upkeep and repairs, and you will also try to form a clear opinion of
the advantages and disadvantages of changes suggested.
At any moment the knowledge you have thus acquired may prove of service, and every
day it will help you to adjust yourself and your work more readily to actual conditions.
Many an assistant has chafed daily for many years over petty, and great, annoyances and
obstacles to good service when, thorough knowledge of the whole building and its
management would have either helped her to accept them philosophically, or enabled her to
lead to their removal.
That the assistant who would grow in efficiency must learn to know her library's book
resources as thoroughly as her strength and ability permit is perfectly obvious. The rule for
doing it is just as obvious: Look and see, handle and read. One of the librarian's
continually recurring disappointments is the failure of one new assistant after another to be
forever at the task of learning what her library possesses in the field of print and
illustration. Indeed this whole paper is born of observation of the manner in which new
comers do not take advantage of the opportunity, almost always given them, to study the
library a few days before they begin their specified tasks. They seem either unable to find
the new institution they are entering, or unable to see that it differs from all others.
Binding and repairing of books form a very difficult part of library management.
The routine of this work may well be one of the first to be studied. By this study one can
most easily gain full knowledge of the library's policy as to repairing, binding and
discarding books, and such knowledge will thereafter prove helpful in a thousand ways.
Moreover, the wise assistant can do with her own hands, and gladly will whenever occasion
arises, every one of the many kinds of manual labor or handicraft that the management of
books calls for, from placing on the shelves and dusting to replacing a rare plate in an
expensive volume. And moreover, again, it is only when she knows how to do these things
well herself that she can direct others well in doing them.
Every good library is a complete laboratory of the whole art of library management, a
series of the best possible lessons in a full course in library economy; and this is true in
large measure of even the smallest. Were this fact fully appreciated and acted upon by
library workers generally, the need of library schools would at once be almost eliminated.
No teacher, no course of lectures, no volume of inspirational palaver, however admirable
each may be, can give to the zealous and observant student as thorough a knowledge of how
to run a library or any part thereof as can a living moving Hbrary itself. In that belief this
note is written. It is written also in the hope that at least a few may be led by it to study
without ceasing and to learn, to the limit of their capacity, that object lesson—the library in
which they spend their days—which is to their career above all other things the most


You ask me to write about the public library as a censor of the public's reading. Your
readers will look at the title of this response to your request and will say at once that here is
talk of the folly and stupidity of all censorship, and will hope that here that folly and
stupidity are roundly condemned. They will be disappointed; for I have here tried to tell
those same readers that when they hasten to gird at censorship in libraries they are misled
by a phrase. To a very simple, obvious, blameless, and quite needful function of the public
library, they give a bad name. They call it "censoring"; and then they unthinkingly
proceed to give to the librarian's endless efforts to make a wise choice of books for his
library, all the bad qualities that the ancient and long-befouled word "censoring" carries in
its train.
So here you have, not exactly an apologia for the librarian's choice of books, but an
attempt to explain why he chooses at all. Perhaps, however, my paper will give some comfort
to those who, being hypnotized by a word, spontaneously damn library book selection when it
runs counter to their own notions; for I have put into it, with some hesitation but with no
modesty, a few words on the stupidity of bigotry in a librarian, and on the sinfulness, in a
librarian, of permitting his own pet fancies, creeds, doctrines, and certainties to affect his
book selection, and to make of him a missionary to his community instead of a hospitable
Keeper of the Inn of All Comers and a tactful purveyor of all the ideas of mankind.
The librarian of a public library is a censor of books and reading. Of the millions of
books already in the world, and of the thousands of new ones published each year, he can
buy only a few. Those he buys he approves of as the better ones for his community to own
and read. All the others he disapproves of, for the time being; that is, he exercises his power
of censorship against them.
This censorship is the outcome of the limited character of every library's book-fund,
and underlies all of a librarian's book-buying. Of the books he does not buy he rejects some
because he thinks it is not wise to place them on the shelves of the library which the
community has established. This is censorship of exclusion. Certain other books he buys, but
thinks it not proper to place them on open shelves. These he withholds from the general
reader and brings out only on special request. This is censorship of seclusion.
It is not necessary to give much space to a demonstration of the truth of the statements
thus far made; but as they are the bottom facts of library censorship, which is a very delicate
and rather difficult process, it will be profitable to consider them further.
The majority in a given community vote to have a public library and to take by tax a
little money for its maintenance from the pockets of each and all of its members. The
avowed purpose of the community in thus doing is to help itself to become happier, wiser,
and better. As a library is a dead thing unless it has a person of skill, learning, and
imagination to manage it, the community engages for its library a librarian. This
librarian is entrusted with the task of buying for the library books, pamphlets, journals, and
magazines; though sometimes unfortunately this work is taken over by trustees. The
librarian tries to select for purchase—and note, again, that selection, or choice, is imposed
on him continually, his purchasing power relative to the supply of books being very, very
small—the books that in his opinion will do more to add to the pleasure, the sum of

Reprinted from Bookman 49 (1919): 147-152.

knowledge, and the encouragement of good habits of the owners of the library than will
those that he does not select, but rejects. This is what I have already called the censorship of
exclusion. Its practice, I repeat, is an essential part of every librarian's work. Skill in the
art of exclusion, is tacitly demanded of him by his community, and that he has that skill is
a fact which his community for the most part quite as tacitly assumes.
Pardon me if I am wrong in thinking that to say four times over, as I have, rather
obvious things is not vain repetition. That book selection is not bad censorship but mere book
selection, is a fact not readily accepted by most of us.
Obviously the line between the books included and the books excluded by librarians in
the practice of this form of censorship is laid down tentatively only, and is constantly being
shifted. It takes and leaves out books in accordance with decisions based on varying
incomes, varying sizes, and varying qualities of library-supporting communities, and
varying numbers and characters of books already in stock. The line does not, in any two
communities, pursue the same course through the vast horde of the world's books. It shifts
obedience to the characteristics of each community, as the librarian interprets those
characteristics, and in obedience to the conditions precedent in which each library is placed
as to stock on hand, funds, and use. It shifts also in obedience to the librarian's own
personal views and tastes; though the intrusion of himself in the work of selection and
rejection is in most cases quite as involuntary as it is undesirable.
The gist of this whole affair of censorship lies in this: a community decides to own in
common a few of the world's millions of books; it engages an expert to select them; this
expert, in accepting the position of community librarian, sells his services as such expert to
the community; having thus sold his expert services he is in honor bound to use them in
gathering (by inclusion or choice, and therefore and at the same moment by exclusion and
rejection) the books his expertness designates as best fitted to form the library of the
community that has hired him. Obviously his first duty is to make his selection such as will
be grateful to the community; and quite obviously he will, in preparation for this difficult
task of fitting his book selection to the community, study that community's tastes, needs,
educational status, and its bias in religion, politics, and personal behavior; and, finally,
and quite obviously, he will so censor his own purchasing as to keep from the shelves books
which he thinks the community does not need; books which he thinks will not add to the
community's pleasure or help it to be wiser and better, and books which will, by their
presence, arouse such antagonisms and discussions as will curtail the use made of the
library and so reduce its influence for happiness, wisdom, and good conduct.
Please note that I do not say that the librarian rejects books of which he does not
personally approve, or selects books which uphold his personal doctrines. So to do would be
frankly to put his own peculiar opinions at the fore and to seek to forward them at public
expense. And so to do would be to assume a power of censorship which his position as a paid
expert library-builder does not give him in the slightest degree. The censorship which is the
outcome of this usurped power to use a community's money to promote his own personal
views is entirely reprehensible, no matter how "moral," "loyal," "religious,"
"constitutionally sound," "patriotic," or "acceptable to the majority" may be the opinions or
theories the librarian may hold and try, by skilful selection of books, to promote. This form
of library censorship, though exceedingly rare in fact, is in the opinion of a few always
threatening to manifest itself.
Is the librarian, then, a mere mush of compromise? Must he have his ear forever to the
ground and hear only the roar of mediocrity and conventions? Can he never make his
library rise above the level of the community?

Briefly set down, the answer to these questions is, no. A full answer would be a story of
"The Complete Librarian and How He Conducts Himself," too long to be given here in full.
One of the obstacles to the spread of knowledge in a democracy is, that a democracy
can have no censor—meaning here by "censor" one whose powers are not limited by popular
clamor and whose tenure of office cannot be terminated by recall. I do not need to add that
in so far as this country has suffered autocratic censorship in recent months, so far it has
not been a democracy.
One of the aids to the growth in a democracy of wisdom and of the habit of self-control
and of the feeling of individual responsibility, each and all far more important than
knowledge, is the lack of autocratic censorship. The librarian, in his very modest field of
work, is not a censor with unlimited power. He is merely a censor with unlimited
opportunities. He has agreed, in the act of accepting his position to devote his brains and
energies to making the institution in his charge as helpful as possible to the increase of
happiness, knowledge, wisdom, and social behavior in those who maintain his institution.
He knows that if he does not exercise at all his power in the choice of books—^his
censorship—there will come to his shelves volumes which will arouse such antagonisms,
such criticisms, such misapprehensions, and such fears of hurtful consequences as will
make his library a mere center of controversy, shunned by most and quietly and helpfully
enjoyed by none.
On the other hand, he knows that his community is ready to a man to applaud the
doctrine that its public library must contain, so far as the limits set by income permit and so
far as the needs of its special community require—sources of knowledge on all subjects,
arguments for and against all doctrines, and the best products of the imagination and fancy
of all men of all time. He must make his library a complete encyclopaedia of human
thought and action. This he is bidden to do by his common sense and by the unspoken
command of those who have engaged him to construct it.
Let me call attention more definitely to the fallacy which is used to bolster nearly all
criticism of the librarian's decisions in his task as censor. The fallacy lies in the word
itself, and is of the kind known as "giving a dog a bad name." To most, the sight of the
word "censor" brings up the thought of autocratic and arbitrary authority over what a free
man may and may not have to read. To the librarian who has merely made, as to a certain
book, one of the decisions he must make about every book he considers for purchase, an
indignant citizen who wants to see that particular book or, in an opposite case, wants no one
else to see it, hastens to apply the term "censor." He thereby, at once and most unjustly,
implies, to all who hear the word, that the librarian has assumed and exercised arbitrary
power, is narrow-minded and bigoted, and wishes to promote his own evil doctrines or to
suppress the good doctrines of others. This form of fallacy has been much used in recent
months by those who have made haste to demonstrate their own excellence by giving their
own characters a good name—say, "patriotic"—and then, with equal haste, damned others
by giving them a bad name—say, "disloyal." Further exposition of its sinfulness is quite
unnecessary. Those who like it and find help in it will continue to use it. The librarian is
peculiarly well situated to suffer from the harm it can do. "Most of us," we say, "know what
is good for others in the way of reading matter." "The judgement of any one of us," we
insist, "is conclusive as to what he wants to read. Yet here," we exclaim in horror, "is a
librarian who dares to say that others may read, if they will, things which we do not think
they ought to read; and even goes so far as to say that I shall not read what I want to?" "Here
is 'censorship' with a vengeance," say we. "Here comes back upon us the autocrat of the
reading-table and the destroyer of the liberty of the press?"

What really happened was simply this: the librarian selected for purchase a book
which he thought to be fit to fill a gap in the encyclopaedia of books which he has been years
in constructing, and did not select another book which he thought his community's library
did not need. He is forcing no doctrine or fact or dream down anyone's throat. We who
dislike a book can let it alone. We who are sure it is harmful can afford to be modest in our
certitude. "And for my own liberty of reading"—thus we ought to speak—^"it seems on second
thought not to have been infringed by the librarian's decision to buy another book and not
the one I especially desired. Possibly he has the community's needs in mind, and not mine
only! Possibly I shaH find the book I want is not worthy after all! He a censor? He is merely
building a special library for a certain special community."
But how does all this work out in practice? In the main it works out very well. My
public library experience extends over thirty years; the censorship storms that I have passed
through number six, and most of the six were very mild. A few bits of experience may help
to show that wise book selection has impediments other than the limitations set by one's own
A self-proclaimed veteran of the Civil War—this was twenty-five years ago—insisted
that I buy an expensive book on that war, because he was a veteran! The book did not fit the
library's purse or its needs, and the veteran went away angry. Probably as a mere man he
was quite worthy; as a veteran and critic of my censorship, he was impossible.
To Denver often came, in the 'nineties, agents for things de luxe from the east. To
them it seemed ample argument for the purpose to show the names of great libraries "in the
east" which had ordered their wares. To me, my censorship being under condemnation by
great libraries, these names were my first steps toward misprizing the management of those
same great libraries! Later I was to learn that about ninety per cent of library malfeasance
and nonfeasance is due to trustees who wish to act as librarians.
The veteran and the book agents were sellers of books, not mere citizen patrons of the
library. But it is useful to mention them because they frankly expressed, for financial
reasons, such criticisms of the librarian's judgement as the more modest citizen reader
often entertains but usually conceals. Contact with these fellows gave me more than a hint
of the thoughts that are often moving in the breasts of the general public. To what I learned
from them I added what I learned from the man, for example, who felt that Madame
Blavatsky would redeem the world if the Hbrary bought her freely; from the free-silver
enthusiast who publicly pilloried me because my library in Denver acquired almost as
much of "sound money" as it did of "free-silver" literature!
These are not censorship cases, you say? Yes, they are; only the censorship was
exercised in a direction which you rather approve of And I note them to lead to a statement
of my general doctrine of compromise in book choosing. It is this: "A librarian should try to
get for his community—subject of course to purse limitations and to the theory that a library
should grow up well-balanced and not one-sided—all the best presentations of all facts and
theories whatsoever, and all fairly accredited imaginative portrayals of life; but should
check his efforts by a skilful anticipation of what his community will quietly accept." This
is merely putting more baldly what I have already said. The community wants a complete,
well-rounded encyclopaedia library. The librarian is in duty bound to try to get it. No
considerations born of his own theories on morals, politics, government, art, or religion
should affect him. His discretion, within the limits I have several times noted, should be
born entirely of his study of his community's needs and of the effectiveness of each book in
its efforts to carry a message.

Special conditions make countless exceptions, of course. A pubHc library is not a law
library and can stop at a good law dictionary and books on lawyers and law history. A
public library is not a medical Hbrary, usually; though my present one is, and practices
seclusion on books for doctors at the doctors' own request.
And the limit of tolerance in his community a librarian cannot always forecast with
accuracy. Three ladies caUed on me in Denver and said they were the Purity in Literature
Committee of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. A friendly conversation
indicated that they had read all they could find on the shelves of a set of Zola on which I had
greatly prided myself; and that the reading had shown them that the books were harmful—to
others. The incident passed pleasantly and the books were moved back to a shady corner.
A lady of avowed patriotic temperament complained to a group whose patriotism was
shouted from the housetops—by the group—and they in turn to a journal whose patriotism
ran to bold head-lines that my library had in it books in which Germans were spoken of in
quiet tones. In this particular incident it was clearly shown that a librarian's censorship,
exercised with discretion, is approved by his community, and his local press.
I hope I have made it clear that library censorship is a benign necessity; that no
librarian can always practise it to perfection; that trustees can easily touch it with its
ancient odium, as did those who once barred Huck Finn; that the librarian's own high
moral sense can make it ridiculous and often has, as when the librarians of Massachusetts
publicly condemned Robert Chambers, and again when the ladies from children's libraries
waged open war on the Katzenjammer Kids; that catholicity is its life-blood and tact its
A paper like this ends quite properly with advice. Remember always that a public
library belongs to its public and not to its Hbrarian. If you are of the public of a library
which seems not to be fulfilling benignly its duties of censorship, go and tell the librarian.
If he is a good librarian he will try to hold to his decision, but will listen to reason. If he is
not a good librarian—I am sorry for your library!


Rules seem to be necessary in a large institution. But it should not be forgotten that
rules are limits to activities. They mean that certain things cannot be done, as well as that
certain things must be done in a certain way. The result of the tendency to have rules—part
of their very nature—is to limit activities; to make people who have many of them for their
guidance feel that they are doing their work well if they keep always within the rules.
No institution that is effective in public service Hves by or for rules. It lives and does
good work because of the good will and kindly spirit of its workers. Given a fair amount of
wisdom or common sense and an abundance of good feeling in its workers and the largest
institution need have very few rules; and those few would be looked upon, as they should be,
by every person in the institution as guides to activities and not as limits to activities; as
helps to people to work together for the good of the whole institution, not as suggestions that
they work in groups for the promotion or exaltation of those groups.
A large institution divides itself into departments for many reasons, chiefly to
promote speciaHzation, that each specific piece of work may be done by a person experienced
and skilled in it. These departments straightway tend to be independent institutions, still
related to one another, but each acting chiefly for itself. It is natural and to a large degree
proper that the person in charge of a certain field of work should take a keen interest in that
particular field and should try to develop, in the persons immediately under his or her
control, a keen interest in and a spirit of rivalry with those in other departments.
But with this development of special interest in a special part of a large institution
there grows up, also, as I have noted, a spirit of independence; and at times, even a feehng
of jealousy and a half-conscious antagonism to other departments. Now, efficient
cooperation between the departments in which a spirit of this kind prevails is quite
impossible. Not infrequently, indeed, this feeHng of loyalty to one's own department goes so
far as to make those who have it more loyal to their department than to the whole institution
for which they suppose themselves to be working. They lose sight of the fact that all are
working to produce a certain definite result which can be produced only by the united efforts
of every one in the institution.
This sad state of things in an institution like a library is sometimes prevented, or
cured if it has already appeared, by the appointment of "thru and thru" supervisors, who
have authority to visit, to inspect, and to give orders, along certain lines of work, to every
employee; and especially to call the attention of employees, and particularly heads of
departments, to the prime necessity of skilled, careful, kindly and generous co-operation
between all departments. By the use of such supervision many an institution, which had
been failing to produce the results proper to the time, labor and money spent, has been turned
from a group of small, would-be independent, jealous and non-co-operating departments into
one great, unified and harmonious body, all the parts of which work together happily and
effectively; whereupon trumped-up grievances, seeming hurts, injured feelings and the
tendency to think more of one's own field of labor than of the whole body of work to be done,
all disappear.

4t ife 3fe H«

Reprinted from Public Libraries 25 (1920): 4-6.

An interesting accompaniment to this failure to co-operate in a large institution, with
its division of workers into departments, is the tendency to ask for definite laws or rules.
The moment a department is established its head and its assistant workers, if they are
active and zealous, become eager to work for the progress and welfare and good repute of
that department as a department. Then they straightway wish to know precisely what their
department is, just what it ought to do, and to have its activities very clearly defined. This is
perfectly natural. The workers wish to make sure that they do not interfere with or take
upon themselves some of the work of other departments; and they wish to be equally sure that
workers in other departments do not carry on any of the duties of their department or
intrude upon it in any way whatever. And so, to make sure that they are always doing the
right thing—and often, more's the pity, to make sure that others are never doing the wrong
thing—they ask for rules, limiting and defining rules, rules that shall make others let
them alone, and not disturb their own special work.
This habit of having rules and regulations written down, once started continues to
grow. As the work expands new rules are added. Some are soon out of date and new ones are
made to take their places. Soon, rules must be made to explain those already made; and so
each new rule begets a dozen more. And, moreover, each group wants to make its own!
The result is that the several departments as they become more closely defined, become
also more confined by their many rules, and the workers begin to become narrow, not to say
hidebound; they begin to work for themselves, or for that limited field in which the very
rules they have asked for confine them. They find in the questioning of one of their sacred,
restrictive, rules, cause for grievance, complaint and hard feelings.
Now, a public library is, after all, one institution, with the definite general purpose of
serving the public with pleasure to that public. Whereas, a department in a library exists,
not for itself and for its own work; but to add to the efficiency of the whole institution; and
no department can think first of itself, and not first of how it can help all other departments,
without doing harm to the whole institution.
In many institutions as the years have gone by, departments have been established
and rules made defining them and their work and the limitations of each in relation to the
work of the other. These rules have been by many construed, quite naturally and almost
inevitably, as making of the several departments independent institutions. The fact is, as
already stated, that the rules were made to help each department to work readily with all
others, to promote cooperation, and not to check it. Their purpose is to make each department
better equipped, not to exalt itself, but to help others in making the whole institution more
It is obvious from all this that the cure for ills which arise from too much department
feeling—the grievances, the jealousies, the frictions—is not more departments bound by
rules; but a wiser and more kindly interpretation of the rules that exist, and a more
generous feeling between departments.


Several states have "Commissions" which examine, standardize and certify persons
who wish to enter library work. These commissions have not given to libraries satisfactory
service; indeed, librarians who have had direct experience with them seem to be almost
unanimous in the opinion that they interfere with the wise and proper selection and
employment of assistants, slow up library work and lower the quality of library staffs.
On first thought it is surprising to find librarians, individually and at their
conferences, crying out for more of this very thing toward which they have long been
hostile. They cry out now for another "Commission of Interference" which shall examine
not only those persons who seek library employment, but also most of those already
employed; which shall "standardize" all who are "examined," and shall "certificate" such
as in their wisdom they find worthy to work in libraries. This is "Civil Service," is it not?
If civil service is not approved of in its present form, why do we ask for the same thing in a
new form?
The obvious and brief answer is too impolite for statement here. The involved and
courteous answer is two-fold: 1, Librarians are of an ovilious habit; and 2, Librarians have
that ancient affection, govemmentitis.
I am sure it is quite an idle task, and especially for one who has, with a few others,
been frankly rejected by librarians at a national conference, to try to turn the stream of
library appeal away from a call for more government supervision, away from a call for
more management of libraries by State and federal authorities, and toward more of
management by those who care most that their libraries be managed effectively and know
they can be so managed—that is, by librarians, trustees and the communities they serve. But
it can do no harm to register the protest of at least one librarian against the inroads of the
itch for supervision by uninformed outsiders which has attacked my colleagues, and there
is a remote possibility that a few others may wish to join in my protest.
Here are a few of the facts that give body to the charge that govemmentitis now
possesses librarians:
The law of a certain western State says that smaller public libraries shall buy, or
make accessible to the public, only books recommended in booklists issued by the American
Library Association.
The county library laws of nine States make a feature of "certification," this obviously
meaning that in all these States workers in county libraries are to be selected, not by those
for whom and under whom they are to work, but by a State commission with full civil
service powers.
In one State the libraries which do not comply fully with the laws for "certifying," by
and thru outside agencies, all who work in them, are penalized for their display of
independence by being refused both State aid and the power to accept aid from local taxes.
For more than three years librarians have voted at meetings of their State and
national associations, and almost unanimously, and on almost every occasion offered
therefor, in favor of the extension of civil service interference in their work. They seem
keen to establish a national labor union of library workers, whose members shall be chosen
by State commissions; and to make all libraries "closed shops" to all save members whose

Reprinted from Library Journal 46 (1921): 881-883.

tickets bear the approval of a remote board of examiners. It seems not to disturb them to
learn that the examining boards, who are to pass upon the qualifications of those who may
wish to work in their libraries, will be in most cases quite ignorant of the special qualities
that make good workers in libraries, and of local conditions; and will be keen to exalt their
duties; and will in many cases be appointed not because of fitness for their tasks but for
purely "political" reasons.
We now have, as these few facts show, the stream of State civil service interference
with library management in full spate, and the great body of librarians are rejoicing in its
flow and in its steady rise.
New York State, long famous for the character of its governmental machinery, gives
us a note which should be added to the facts which have been briefly stated. In the 34th
annual report of its library school, published this year, are the following paragraphs, under
the heading "Librarianship and State Certification." To the quotations I have added certain
comments printed in italics.
"Library work is easy to get into." So are open shops; therefore, form Unions and issue
cards to members.
"This entire absence of standards or requirements for practising librarianship (save
such as a few libraries have voluntarily fixed for themselves) not only keeps at a hopelessly
low level the educational and personal qualifications of librarians, but (as a logical result)
keeps salaries small." It is not easy to get funds to pay for workers now; by what magic will
funds appear to pay higher wages?
"And this condition operates in another way. It makes professional training seem
unnecessary and thus reduces the number of those who are disposed to attend the few library
schools." Who will prove these statements? So the new laws will at least fill our library
schools! And are the schools therefore the eager advocates of those laws?
"Why spend time for library training when without it there is immediate employment
on every hand?" Consider the advantages of owning a union card, and, thru it compelling
librarians to have you whether they like you or not!
"Looking to the closely allied teaching profession for a convincing analogy, the point
in library development would seem to be reached, perhaps passed, when a system of state
certification shall give a wholesome stimulus to library personnel and thru it of course to
all library development and usefulness." State certification gives jobs to many; but that it has
given a wholesome stimulus to the personnel of any calling has yet to be shown.
"To the certification plan proposed the committee has coupled the proposal for a small
state appropriation to be paid to libraries which employ certified librarians." It appears that
the excellencies of state certification are not seen by all; therefore, those who are so blind as
not to see them are to be penalized for their myopia!
Arguments against the general theory on which is based the demand my associates
make for more governmentalism, are easily found; but would not be heeded if here
presented. The trend of public sentiment is toward a more and more penetrating and a
wider and wider socialism. Thru it Germany rose to its high estate, under Prussian
guidance. "Verboten" was its magic word, and in this country we accept each year more
readily the command "Obey," "Obey," "Obey"; and honestly expect to find, in the power that
gives us a command and in our ready and eager submission to it, the key that will open the
door to that greater social effectiveness that, for a few short generations, we of this new land
believed could be found only in individual responsibility coupled with individual reward
for responsibility well borne.

As I have already said, protests are useless, as such. But let me add a few quotations
which at least hint at the reasons for the faith that is in me.
J. A. Hobson, an English writer of good standing, in a review of a recent book by
Graham Wallas says that Wallas discusses fully the claims of guild socialists,
syndicaHsts, and others to fasten the supremacy of professionalism or vocational
organization upon society and to endow it with much, if not most, of the constitutional power
vested in territorial democracy. Wallas combats this tendency by means of a searching
inquiry into the dangers and defects of professionalism as illustrated in law, medicine and
teaching. The professions tend to mechanical routine, excessive conservatism, and a
tyrannous attitude toward the public. Especially in teaching (and I venture to add, in
libraries, J. C. D.), it is essential that parents and representatives of the general public
schools retain a real voice in choice of teachers, subjects to be taught, the allocation of public
funds to various grades of education, and general administrative arrangements.
Mr. Wallas' appeal is made this very day. A like appeal was made nearly half a
century ago by one [Henry George?] who seems now to have had quite the prophet's vision.
He wrote somewhat as follows:
Just as the system of voluntary co-operation by companies, associations, unions, to
achieve business ends, and other ends, spreads thruout a community; so does the
antagonistic system of compulsory co-operation under State-agencies spread; and the larger
becomes its extension the more power of spreading it gets. For example: Laws to check
intemperance, not having done what was expected, there come demands for more thoro-
going laws, locally preventing the sale altogether; and in America these will doubtless be
followed by demands that prevention shall be made universal! (Written 40 years ago, and
time has proved it true! J. C. D.)
Every extension of the regulative policy involves an addition to the regulative
agents—a further growth of officialism and an increasing power of the organization formed
of officials (and it is now claimed that the organized body of Civil Service appointees of
New Jersey is the most powerful political body in the State! J. C. D.) having common
An organization of officials, once passing a certain stage of growth, becomes less and
less resistable....The more numerous public instrumentalities become, the more is there
generated in citizens the notion that everything is to be done for them, and nothing by
them....The socialist speculation is vitiated by an assumption like that which vitiates the
speculations of the "practical" politician. It is assumed that officialism will work as it is
intended to work, which it never does!
The belief of the socialists is that by due skill an ill-working humanity may be
framed into well-working institutions. It is a delusion. The defective natures of citizens
will show themselves in the bad acting of whatever social structure they are arranged into.
There is no political alchemy by which you can get golden conduct out of leaden instincts.
And do we library people really believe that we, not having ourselves made, by our
own zeal and ability, the calling of librarianship of the high standing we desire, can cause
it to be made of the desired high standing by and thru the machinery of an unskilled civil
service commission, which new laws will set up?


Those who are advocating standardization in libraries seem to wish to cause such
laws to be passed as will attempt to make the work done in any given department of any
library or in any given subdivision of such department, identical in kind and scope and
conditions with the work of the same departments in all libraries; and such laws also as
will attempt to make those who do the work in these departments and sub-departments
precisely alike in their equipment for that work.
In so far as those who advocate this standardization are successful, by so much will
they make each library like all others.
In the whole field of science a certain definiteness of meaning must be attached to all
words, terms, signs and symbols used, for without this standardization of meanings,
intercommunication of facts and theories between students and practitioners would be quite
So in mechanics and physics, great economies have been secured by agreements
between producers of tools and machines to make certain minor parts thereof always
conform to certain dimensions that have been agreed upon. It is, for example, now possible
to purchase many of the bolts, nuts, screws, etc., used in any make of motor car of any
dealer in motor accessories.
In law, medicine, dentistry, pubhc school teaching, and some other callings, laws
have long existed which compel those who practice these callings to convince certain
authorized persons that they have acquired certain definite knowledge and skill in the
calling they wish to pursue before they are granted a license to pursue the same.
Probably a large part of the present zeal for library standardization is due to facts like
This average library worker notes that "professor" is quite commonly a term of
exaltation. She concludes that her calling would be exalted also did those in its forefront
carry, with due license therefor, the title professor. And she concludes, further, that if her
field of work be commonly called a "profession," there will descend upon it a certain halo of
public appreciation and that she will be thought to be of a higher caste in the hierarchy of the
world's workers because she is in a "profession" and has professors for her chiefs and
This average library worker notes also that certain callings, as law, medicine,
dentistry, architecture, have grown in importance in recent decades, and that during these
same decades the same conditions imposed by the state for the securing of a license to
practice in them, have become more exacting; and she straightway, for it is common under
such circumstances to take an effect for a cause, concludes that state laws, commissions,
examining boards, licenses, titles, doorplates and like things are the causes of, or are at
least quite essential conditions precedent to the development and even of the very existence
of competence in the several callings alluded to.
If my diagnosis of the causes of the present yearnings for standards on the part of my
colleagues is correct, then it seems imperative to conclude that they are due to recent
unusually hearty development of two things: the first a highly praiseworthy desire to raise
the quality of library work, and to secure for it a greater general esteem; and the second, a

Reprinted from Wilson Bulletin 2 (1925): 452-453.

sublime faith that if there be introduced into library work a certain factor, in the form of a
state or national government commission, which shall inspect and survey libraries,
examine all appHcants for work in them and all workers in them who may apply for
advancement, and, after due questioning, shall pronounce each Hbrary as of a certain
grade of excellence, and shall grant licenses, certificates, diplomas, degrees, titles, etc., to
applicants according to the results of these questionings, then the library calling will
become at once of the same grade as are those activities and professions which are already
thoroughly saturated with governmental licenses.

It seems not worth-while to say more, and I leave my observation to be brought to

conclusions by the reader.
It is clear, I hope, that I have no faith in the theory that government interference, state
or national, of the type now so eagerly asked for by my colleagues, will help library
workers to become more learned, more original, wiser, or better managers; or will make
libraries more highly esteemed or librarianship more like a profession. The lone boss of a
steam engine now has a "Hcense," a "chiropractor" has one also; but the former is not
therefore a man of brains and able to build a marine Diesel engine, and the latter is not
therefore a student of science or a practitioner of high repute among those who know. Of
course, the boiler tender may go on to achievements, and so may the chiropractor. But if
either does, it will be because he wishes to do so, and has the brains so to do; not because a
Hcense has opened the door, or shown him the way, or given him the urge.

In these days any calling that has to do, as does ours, with the dissemination of
information and the promotion of learning, must change with changing conditions; must be
calling on the best of its available breuns for suggestions on these changes. We already
know well enough that we are a feeble folk, and the fact that we have our houses among the
books is not held to our credit. We need ideas, suggestions, criticism, and aids of any kind
to new lines of work, and to more useful activities. These new things can perhaps be found;
but not readily unless we look for them. Instead of looking for them, and, when found,
eagerly testing them, we are spending time, energy and money in examining with
astonishing and wearying particularity, the things we are doing now, counting our steps,
doddering over the simple mechanics of our fine spun systems, and never saying to
ourselves: "Let us do more and better things, though we smash, in so doing, all the petty
rules we have established for ourselves in the past fifty years."
And certainly we make no progress toward production and more estimable activities
by either a protracted and minute examination of ourselves or by urging that we be
examined, noted, Hcensed, and put in our places by groups of poHtical appointees in
national and state capitals.

Library booth at the Newark Industrial Exposition. Reprinted from The Newarker 1 (June
1912): 125.

Suppose the beginning of a library is made; keep it before the public. The newspaper
will almost invariably aid an enterprise of this kind, gratuitously and with good-will. The
local clergy are almost always ready to help. The school teachers can generally be counted
on; indeed it often happens that the teacher is the prime mover in laying the foundation of
the village or district library. The book-dealer, if at all farsighted, will see that the general
increase in reading which a growing public library will bring about wiH indirectly
increase his sales.
Ask for contributions, first of money—and that is hard to get—then of books, new and
old, useful or useless, magazines, be it an odd number of an odd volume or a wagon-load.
Ask for these things. Let the fact of the humblest gift be generally known through the local
paper or otherwise and thank the giver in some formal way if possible. The things received
may be of little value; but those who give will be almost invariably the library's friends and
cordial supporters forever after. They will aid in cultivating in the community that spirit of
helpfulness which strengthens a library exceedingly. As soon as a few good books are got
together let the fact be known. Print a list occasionally in the local paper. Publish the
additions as they come in, on a bulletin-board, in manuscript or typewriting; or in lists by
some duplicating process; or by reprints from the columns of the paper; or by lists specially
printed for the purpose. As soon as the library is large enough, lists may be got out, and
posted and printed, covering references to articles or books in the library on some important
current event, or some interesting book, or some topic of present local interest.
In a small community, and sometimes in a large one, the librarian knows the special
tastes or hobbies of many of the users of the library, and perhaps of some who do not use it.
Notices that books have been received which are likely to please this, that, and the other
person, can be sent out on occasion and will help make the library friends. Local artists in
their respective lines can often be interested to give entertainments for the library's benefit,
especially if the proceeds be given to the purchase of books in their own lines. Local
societies—literary, scientific, or historical—may very properly make the library the central
point for all their work, and may sometimes be led to begin a special collection, first for
their own benefit, afterwards for the public.
The children should not be forgotten. If care be taken to provide books for them,
entertaining first, afterwards useful, they wiH come, and come often, and will soon bring
the library into favor with the elders.
In the library itself it seems generally admitted that red tape, signs, rules, and
restrictions must be kept out of sight as far as possible, if it is wished to get friends and keep
them. The librarian, as such, should feel that he has no rights which the public is bound to
respect. His rules, as far as the public is concerned, should be of the fewest, and rarely
alluded to.
The books of the library ought all to be accessible to the public. No one thing can add to
the attractiveness and value of a library so much as to permit the public to go to the shelves.
Of course there may be special or local reasons why this cannot be done, or why it can be
done only in part. But it would pay to sacrifice many of the commonly accepted essentials to
gain this one point.

Reprinted from Library Journal 20 (1895): 88.

Of all possible advertising, the best, perhaps, is a cheerful and accommodating
atmosphere in the library itself. Librarian and assistants are always prone to affect the
official air the moment they become guardians of public property and fountains of
information. They condescend, they patronize, they correct, and they shake rules and by-
laws and red tape in the timid inquirer's face. This top-lofty bureaucratic spirit should be
avoided by all means. Treat boy and girl, man and woman, ignorant and learned,
gracious and rude, with uniform good temper, without condescension, never pertly.
Anticipate all inquiries when possible, and especially put the shrinking and embarrassed
visitor at once at ease. The library is not a business office; it's a centre of public happiness
first, of public education next.


In making a library known the first and best of all its own agencies is, of course, the
delivery desk. At this place more people learn what the library is, how it conducts itself,
what it wishes to do and what it is doing in the community, than anywhere else. At this
place, also, visitors to the library get their impression of the administration of the
institution. Here they learn to like or dislike it, to approve or disapprove of it, to wish it well
or to criticize it, to give it sympathy and aid, or neglect and discouragement.
It is a commonplace that the most efficient people in a library, those best able both to
attract and to help others, should be detailed to meet the public at the delivery desk.
Unfortunately, owing to the way in which libraries are now organized, it is difficult to place
many of the best of the staff at this point. I grow each year stronger in the opinion that the
purchase, reception, indexing and general preparation for the shelves of books have
withdrawn from the work of getting in touch with the public too much of the library's
originality and skill. The catalogue has become, in a measure, to libraries an old man of
the sea. Let us treat books more simply and our readers more skilfully. After all, an index
is but a tool.
It is the newspapers, of course, which of aU outside agencies chiefly help to make the
library known. I do not need to enlarge on their almost universal sympathy with the work
of the library, their unfailing courtesy toward it, their readiness to print material in regard
to it, even although it must often seem to the editors not to have a very strong newsy flavor.
A librarian must, of course, bring the material he wishes printed to the attention of the
newspapers in the right way. His library must in the first place have that attitude toward the
public which the newspaper may readily expect the public to approve of. He makes it
manifest, if he can, that he wishes to have the library's door siH worn down as fast as
possible by the coming and going of the feet of those who built and maintain it.
Having made it plain that this is the general attitude of the library, he then presents
the specific material he wishes to have printed in as attractive form as possible. The notes
he sends, usually typewritten, are items of news, brief and plain, rather than demands or
complaints. Most particularly he tries to keep the newspapers in touch with all changes and
modifications of system. Nothing is better for a public institution than publicity. The people
who pay for its support are entitled to know—it is part of their education to know—all its ins
and outs, its receipts, its expenditures, its methods, its plans and ambitions. Newspapers are
almost invariably willing to insert these brief notes. They feel that about the management
of a public library there should not be, toward the public, the slightest intimation of a desire
for secrecy. I learned this lesson well from that best of American newspapers, the
Springfield Republican. Of course there are matters of petty and personal detail and subjects
under consideration to publish which would show poor judgement or poor taste. The
newspapers understand this.
To illustrate what I have been saying about the courtesy of the newspapers toward
libraries and their evident belief that libraries are engaged in educational work, and proper
to be noted frequently in their columns, I have caused to be clipped from the newspapers in
Newark all the things that have appeared about the library during thirty days. These items I

Address deHvered before the Long Island Literary Club, 1905. Reprinted from Libraries:
Addresses and Essays (New York: H.W. Wilson, 1916), pp. 115-126.

have mounted on cardboard with notes to show when and where they appeared. They were
pubHshed in three newspapers of Newark, two daily and one Sunday paper. They are thirty-
one in number.
The longer articles, as you will see, are reports of, or papers read at, the meeting of the
New Jersey Library Association at Asbury Park on October 18. I include with them the
others because they went to the papers from the Newark Library, and were prepared at the
library for the press. And furthermore, the Newark librarian was the president of the
association at that meeting and thought it his duty to secure as far as possible the publication
of its proceedings.
This showing of what the newspapers of a town have done for their public library in
thirty days is more significant of the journals' good will toward the library than anything I
can say.
The next order is perhaps the catalogue, meaning by this printed book lists and
bulletins, or whatever form it may take. The question of advisability of having a complete
catalogue of a library in one volume I cannot now go into. In a large town, where many
cannot go to the library, a brief author list of all of the most important books in it seems to be
quite an essential thing, though few libraries can now afford it. As to bulletins and lists in
general, I am sure they should usually be made many, smaH and simple, instead of few,
large and all-inclusive. The eight-page bulletin, for example, containing a list of all books
added to the library in a month, is almost as expensive as the same list printed on eight
separate sheets. In the latter form it can be given entire to any borrower who wishes the
whole list. One of the sheets meets the wishes of nearly all the persons who care to take a Hst
away. Lists thus pubHshed give eight times as many Hsts for the same money.
These lists should be simple in their entries, without change in style and size of type,
and without undue prominence given to the numbers. The more like ordinary reading
matter the entry for the book is made, the more likely the ordinary reader is to understand
it. These lists, especially if brief and devoted to some one topic, can be to good advantage
mailed to persons in the town who are known to be interested in special subjects.
Work done for and through the schools comes next in order. Every teacher is a
possible promoter of the library's work. She can win to it every year, if she will, forty or
fifty friends in her pupils, and through them can win to its advocacy, and in a measure to
its use, almost as many famiHes. SmaH wonder that we ask the schools to help us! It is the
library's place to be of use to them; it is the library's good fortune if it have the skill to win
their good will and active aid.
If a library has a room in which meetings—educational, charitable and civic—can be
held, these meetings may almost be placed next in order among the library's agencies for
making itself known. Most Hbraries are far too conservative in this matter. Few will
remain so long. The schools are beginning to show us the way. We are to have Sunday
lectures in the Newark Library, the school authorities having led the way by granting for
that purpose buildings which a short time ago were thought sacred to the children's weekday
The work which the library does for and with the study clubs and volunteer
organizations of all kinds in its town is, of course, one of the good ways of making itself
known, felt and appreciated. If the clubs meet in the library building the work for them is by
so much the easier and more effective as a means of pubHcity. Many organizations have
received much assistance from libraries in the way of suggestions, books and pictures. I
believe the time is coming when they will go a step further and ask the libraries to provide

them with courses of study. This is more likely to happen if libraries can secure the
cooperation of experts in colleges and other places in the compilation of such courses.
Circulars of all kinds and personal notes are helpful in bringing the library to the
attention of individuals. Sometimes a weekly or monthly buHetin is sent to a group of people
like the teachers or the members of some organization.
It is desirable to bring the library to the attention of busy professional men and
students, even those who have collections of their own and rarely use the library. These can
sometimes be reached by sending to them a few times in each winter a postal card telling
them that a certain book has just been received at the library, and will be held for a time, in
case they care to see it.
Posters and bulletins hung in conspicuous places throughout the city are useful
methods of gaining the attention of many. Posters, like book lists and circulars, should be
as brief as possible. They should be well printed, and in case they are hung in hotel
corridors, barber shops and other public places, they should be neatly and simply framed.
Exhibitions in the library, either of material belonging to the library itself or of
paintings or other things lent for the purpose, in many cases draw many to the institution.
These exhibitions, like some of the other things I have mentioned, are oftentimes more
helpful in making the library known through the opportunity they give for newspaper note
and comment, than through the actual visits paid to them by people interested. Whether or no
much time should be spent in making a display or exhibition would seem to depend entirely
on local conditions—the character of the library and of its community. The exact benefits
that may be derived from this as from most other forms of advertising, it is impossible to
Delivery and deposit stations bring the library to the very doors of many people in the
city who never can visit the main building itself. Delivery stations seem a particularly
unsympathetic way of getting books into people's hands. The arm's length method of
selecting through a catalogue, the many disappointments because of the constant demand for
the new books, of which the supply is always inadequate, these alone discourage many from
the constant use of the delivery station. The deposit station, a small collection of books
placed in a store on open shelves and cared for by the storekeeper—this seems more
successful. It is a representative of the library itself instead of the mere shadow thereof in
the way of a book list.
Home libraries have been very useful where carefully and skillfully administered
and have resulted in putting the library on a good footing with some of the people most
difficult to reach. An objection to them is that if they are to be successful they must be
carried on by skilled workers, workers who have been trained in the best methods of what is
called settlement work, and such people are not often found on the staff of a public library.
Into the librarian's own personal work in a community it is, of course, impossible to
go in detail. He or she belongs to certain clubs and organizations. He, perhaps, makes
many helpful acquaintances through a church, perhaps, through organizations like social
clubs, perhaps, through business associations like a board of trade. All of these forms of
personal work wiH be found to draw attention in the right way to the library itself. The
librarian must be well known if his library is, for he cannot, being a public servant,
divorce himself in the public mind from the institution he administers.
Professional organizations like the national and state and local library associations
give the librarian an opportunity—as you give me to-day—to present the work of his library
to his constituents in a way which attracts their attention and informs them. Few citizens
are slow to see that it is to their advantage to have their public servant, the librarian.

interest himself in library meetings, make himself known as one proud of their library,
interested in their industries and progress, glad of an opportunity to represent their city and
wishing always to learn of his colleagues their latest and best ideas for adoption in his own
community. I think it quite proper that I take advantage of the invitation you have kindly
given me to speak to you to show you by indirection how proud Newark is of her beautiful
library building and how generous she is in her wish that the institution which lives in it be
active, helpful, and well advertised.


Libraries must have larger incomes, that they may go on with the work they have been
The standard of living has steadily risen for many years. The luxuries of a
generation ago are now necessities. Individuals have fallen into the new habits of the
higher scale of living. For example, motor cars, used almost solely for recreation, have
added an outlay of hundreds of milHons of doHars to the home-making budget within the
past decade. But the growth of private incomes, with the accompanying growth of outlay to
keep up with the new standards of comfort and pleasure, has not been accompanied by a like
growth of village, town and city incomes. The latter are acquired through taxation. A
natural conservatism has tended to keep down the rate of taxation. When this rate remains
fixed at a low point an increase of income is secured only by an increase in the valuation of
property as assessed for tax purposes. This valuation has not increased as rapidly as have
personal incomes and accompanying rise in living standards. The result is that villages,
towns and cities have not yet raised their own scale of living as greatly as have
individuals. To secure even a modest part of community-supported comforts and luxuries,
which now go almost inevitably with improvements in the individual manner of life, tax-
rates have to be raised beyond all previous experience, often against the protests of the very
citizens who are demanding that their community's officials keep their community affairs,
their civic-house-keeping, up to the highest standard.
In view of conditions which I have thus very roughly outlined, conditions, which,
briefly stated, are that the average citizen willingly puts much of his own growing income
into comforts and luxuries for his own family, but protests against the transfer, by tax, to
public comforts and luxuries, of more of that same growing income than an ancient and
outgrown custom approves—in view of these conditions it is not strange that tax-supported
libraries find it difficult to obtain such additions to their income as they need to buy books
and journals in adequate numbers and to pay such salaries as will call and hold in service
properly equipped and trained employes.
Libraries find it impossible to get the added money they need even in those towns and
cities in which the annual budgets for schools, police, fire and health departments enjoy a
reasonable increase. The reason for this discrimination is probably found in the feeling of
the people at large that the library is relatively unimportant. If there is a better and stronger
reason for this discrimination it has not come to my notice.
If, now, the library's failure to get adequate support lies primarily in its failure to
have made itself an essential part of its city's house-keeping equipment, then the proper
procedure is obvious. It must in the near future so conduct itself as to make itself an
acknowledged essential. This is not an easy task.
I began by saying that libraries must have larger incomes to continue their present
work. It now appears that to get that larger income they must not only carry on their present
work on their present incomes, but must also, on those same incomes, do such other work as
will make them seem to the general public far more important institutions than they are
now. That is, they must earn their added incomes before they can get them! The task before
libraries seems more difficult the more it is considered.

Reprinted from Wilson Bulletin 1 (1919): 379-381.

importance, and that the task that awaits them is not so much to make themselves more
important as it is to make their present importance more generally known and more fully
appreciated through proper publicity. I doubt if salvation lies in that direction alone, and I
even doubt if full and generous publicity of the library as it is would produce the result
desired; this result being the general admission that the Hbrary is an essential. It is an old
and good advertising rule, that behind the advertising must be the thing advertised. Behind
library publicity is the library as it is, and we must frankly admit that it is not clear, even
to enthusiastic librarians, that it is quite the good thing that we speak of as needing a large
publicity. Indeed we must admit that if our libraries had been the genuine essential we like
to think they are, admission of that fact, without publicity, would have been inevitable, and
the needed increase in incomes would have naturally come forth.
The other comment on my statement is that the incomes of libraries depend for their
increase on trustees of libraries, and that if we but persuade trustees that the institutions in
their charge are definitely essential, they will proceed to get from their city governments the
larger incomes that are needed. To this it must be said that for many years endless efforts
have been made by librarians to interest trustees in library work and, so doing, to convince
them that Hbraries are very important parts of modern city equipment, and that they, the
trustees, should be so energetic and insistent in their demands for larger incomes for the
libraries in their charge they will ultimately secure them. I need not add that the efforts thus
to interest trustees have been unsuccessful save in a very few cases. And concerning this
general argument, that library incomes depend on trustees, it should be said, once more that
after all the general voting pubHc holds the purse strings; and not until that public is
convinced that libraries are of great importance will they insist that to libraries be given
better incomes.
The library, then, is in a bad way? Yes, but, after all, its plight is not quite so serious
as the facts I have noted—if true—and the deductions I have drawn—if correct—would lead
one to suppose.
On the other side two facts only are all that space permits me here to mention.
One is that libraries are beginning to broaden their fields and improve their methods.
We are recovering from the severe attack of complacency and self-satisfaction which the
Carnegie-bom prosperity brought upon us. We talk a little less of our mission and a little
more of our job. We begin to see that the conditions under which we work have greatly
changed in recent years and are changing still. In spite of changed conditions it remains
important that there be libraries in which shall be kept conveniently for use the world's
great books; in which students may find resources and guidance thereto; in which a few
children may go further into print than the schools conduct them; in which novel readers
may find that which will ease their yearnings, and in which all of the few who are by books
pleased, entertained, instructed and enheartened may find books proper to their respective
We see the importance of all these things; but we begin to see them in their actual
relation to other things. We note that the world now consumes so vast a quantity of print—
many more times more than it did even a few years ago,—that the part consumed through
the library's ministration and under its guidance is a very minor portion of the whole.
From this fact comes, in part, the relative disesteem in which the library is held. And
the library begins to see also the need which the prodigious output of print calls forth. This
need is for guidance through that output. That guidance means a broadening of the library's
work on the side of the abstract, the digest, the list and the index. The library, as it has been
developed in our hands in the past forty years is well equipped in both knowledge and

work on the side of the abstract, the digest, the Hst and the index. The library, as it has been
developed in our hands in the past forty years is well equipped in both knowledge and
technique to make, to promote, to purchase, and to render available for all inquiries these
keys to the maze of modern print,—the abstract and the index.
Libraries are beginning to make these keys available. They are widening the field
they cover by the construction and purchase of abstracts and indexes of subjects whose
literature they do not have on their shelves; for they are learning that it is more important
that they be able to direct many inquiries to the sources they need, than it is that they be able
to supply a few inquirers with the sources themselves.
This change in the librarian's view of the function of his library, a change which Hes
more in expansion than in modification, can not be here described with any fullness. It
means a widening of library work, an appeal by the wider work to a much larger part of the
whole print-using community, and an appeal which has its basis in service rendered,—real,
every day, helpful service—through indexes, abstracts, guides, directories, and lists of all
At the risk of being misunderstood I will venture this comment, that when Mr. [Halsey
W.] Wilson began his book-and-essay listing years ago he did not realize that he was
laying the foundation for some of the most important of the work that the new library must
have at hand as it develops its new powers of usefulness. And still less did he realize that by
his method of publication he was developing a power and habit of cooperation in the
production of abstract and index which is to prove,—in its further extension in countless
ways and fields—of the very greatest help in the struggle libraries are now entering to
make their very minor part in guiding print-using; a very major part, that is, in helping
the world of research and industry to master the product of its most remarkable and most
terrifying creation,—the printing press.
As I have already said, there is no space here to mention other library activities which
tend to ameliorate the status of ineffectiveness, and an attendant shortness of funds, in
which it finds itself
The second fact that I will mention, among those that tend to lighten our rather
lugubrious picture, is one that comes to us out of the war. It is the enlarged program of the
work of American libraries as offered to us—thus far tentatively and in part only—^by the
[A.L.A.] committee of which I have the honor to be a member. If this program be
energetically carried out, with such modifications and expansions as circumstances
suggest, the libraries of America will through it come into a position of importance such as
they have never occupied before, and will gain therefrom the general esteem they need, to
make it easy to obtain the increased incomes which are so essential. The new constitution
will give a needed concentration of authority and responsibility. Our work with and for the
army, the navy, the hospitals, the sailors on merchant ships and other large bodies of
workers will give us credit in endless ways.
Our survey of the place of the library in the fields of print production and print
consumption will put us, on the one hand, in a humble mood, and on the other will show us
how, while still humble, we can make our activities preeminently worth while.
I need not go on, save to say that this enlarged program will, as we carry it out, make
libraries important factors in our national life. Add to this the influence of the new views of
our opportunities we are taking on, of which I outlined one only, now leading inevitably to a
widening and strengthening of our activities; and the rather depressing picture I drew at the
beginning of this paper begins to take on a quite cheerful aspect.

nn^rsi?aEsCHL^l/e RRCHTS

An engraving depicting Denver High School circa 1882. The entrance to the Denver Public
Library was on the right side of the building. Courtesy of the Denver Public Library, West-
ern History Department.

Denver may almost be called a city of schools. In its public school system it is scarcely
excelled in this country. It is with a good deal of timidity, then, that one ventures, in
Denver, to express the opinion that public schools do not educate, and that the public school
system is an injury to the course of true education. It may be well, however, to call the public
attention to the low estimate of the present system and present methods held by many of
those competent to speak on the subject.
Dr. Geo. M. Beard, who had one of the most original and scientific minds which this
country has produced, says that "the systems of education in colleges and universities are,
in almost all respects, adapted to exhaust the nervous system. From their very cradle our
children are trained to nervousness; our schools are too often on the road to the asylum." He
says, too, that schools and colleges are the sanctuaries of medievalism. He declares that the
art of thinking is what the schools have never thought of teaching, save through the century-
old formula of logic, that leads more to logic than to ideas.
Sanctuaries of mediaevalism our schools must be, in great measure. In them only the
conservative cares to teach or can teach. The man of ideas, of thought, of individuality, feels
that he must hold his mental armament subject to change; that he must modify it often, if he
would keep abreast of the times. He would not be consistent if he could. In these days, if one
be not consistent and conservative, in what public school can he hold a place?
Mr. Oscar Browning, in the Encyclopedia Brittanica, and his remarks apply as well
to America a s to England, says t h a t it follows from the sketch of education he gives t h a t in
spite of the great advances which have been made of late, the science of education is still far
in advance of the art. Schoolmasters are still spending their best energies in teaching
subjects which have been universally condemned by educational reformers for the past two
hundred years. The education of every public school is a farrago of rules, principles and
customs derived from every age of teaching, from the most modern to the most remote.
Professor Johonnat says that the instruction prevalent in our schools usually falls far
below educational demands. Elsewhere the same writer says that, notwithstanding the fact
that the philosophy of the mind is the basis of all other sciences which involve human
action, the common fault of teachers is an almost entire ignorance of the application of
mental facts to the work of teaching.
Professor J. G. Fitch says that the teacher's art is yet in its infancy, and that the best
results we are yet able to attain are only provisionally serviceable.
Mr. Samuel Royce, who criticises prevalent educational ideas more severely than
almost any other writer, and who gives us also some of the loftiest ideas for the education of
the future, says that education among the ancients was the business of slaves; in the middle
ages it was left to the church; in our day it is a trade; but the education of the race must
become a religion.
Goethe has told us that what is commonly called education makes us bags filled with
words, figures and facts.
Dr. Henry Mandsley, one of the first of English students of psychology, on its
pathological side, says that our present education must be revolutionized; for to-day riches,
position, power and the applause of men are the chief aims, and not culture, development

Reprinted from Denver Arbitrator, February 16, 1889, pagination unavailable.

and character; and hence anxieties, disappointments and jealousies break down the soul in
madness, which nothing can cure more radically than a sound education.
John Morley, the eminent English writer and statesman, says that belief in the
efficiency of preaching is the bane of educational systems.
Professor Felix Adler says that an improved (not present) educational system is the
most efficacious means to the relief of the masses, and indeed is the only measure that
promises to pluck the poisonous weed of pauperism at the root.
Herbert Spencer declared that faith in lesson-books and readings is one of the
superstitions of the age. Even as appliances of intellectual culture, books are greatly
overestimated. Instead of second-hand knowledge being regarded as of less value than first-
hand knowledge, and as a knowledge to be sought only where first-hand knowledge cannot
be had, it is actually regarded as of greater value. Something gathered from printed pages is
supposed to enter into a course of education; but if gathered from observation of life and
nature is supposed not thus to enter.
Prof. G. Stanley Hall says that when we reflect on the sad fatality by which everything
in education always tends to gravitate towards the worst, without great and unremitting
effort and enthusiasm—a worst that involves national decay and even calamity—it may be
well to ask ourselves whether such a system (as the present) is not, on the whole, better
adapted to educate henchmen of political and other bosses, civil and religious, than
freemen, and to enfeeble moral and muscular fibre, and breed actual distrust for books and
mental culture by cram.
George Sand says that the very thought of class drill on instructions, which is wholly
incorrect, is in itself abominable and abhorrent to any thinking youth. The forcing of
common studies, after a general fashion, upon all children, is the blackest crime of the
inteUectual world. The hardest, bitterest and most degenerating task that is the lot of every
man and woman is the unlearning, in maturer years, of the bulk of that which is taught
them as children, and the shaking off, too, of the hindering and obstructing manacles of
system, fashion and method.
Froude, the English historian, says that to the American the boast and glory of his
school system is that every citizen born has a fair and equal start in life. Every one of them
knows that he has a chance of becoming President of the Republic, and is spurred to energy
by the hope. The aim put before young Americans is to get on. They are like runners in a
race, set to push and shoulder for the best place; never to rest contented, but to struggle
forward in never-ending competition. It has answered its purpose, says Froude, in a new
and unsettled country; but he cannot think that such a system as this can be permanent, or
that human society, constituted on such a principle, will ultimately be found tolerable.
These criticisms are directed against modem methods in general, not specifically
against the public school. But surely, if they may be applied to any system in these times,
they may be applied to the politics-poisoned, method-ridden system of our public schools in
our United States.
It may be said, in answer, that it is not the office of public school education, limited as
it is to so narrow a field, and established as it is merely for the general instruction in
fundamentals of the average mind, to attempt to accomplish either the results dreamed of by
theorists or those laid down as proper by psychologists. To this it may be repHed that, as the
advocates of state education, of the public maintenance of schools, have in the main gained
that which they have sought, and occupy the field of education to the practical exclusion of
the advocates of other methods, it is emphatically their office to furnish the best education
possible; to be in advance of all that the best thought demands; at least to show an ever

present readiness to consider carefully those demands; or else to open wide the field to
others. Nor is it to the credit of the present system that its advocates take refuge from
criticisms of it in the assertion that its purpose is a limited one. A system which confines
itself within certain limits, not from choice, but from the very conditions of its existence, is
in so far deficient, and open to the severest criticism.
Further, does the present system give such knowledge and training as its advocates
think it should alone attempt to give? Is the average child trained for the average life in our
present schools? The average boy has hands; can he use them? And eyes; can he see with
them? Nine out of ten of the average boys must make their living with their hands and eyes.
Our children know of Lake Titicaca and Timbuctoo; but have they heard, for instance, of
the water question which awaits Colorado's solution? They have news of Chaucer, Jupiter,
the mountains of the moon and the Three Graces; but do they know a decent from an
indecent newspaper, or fresh air from foul? Is it not a fact, too notorious, that the boy
discharged from our schools, though he sets up for himself naught but the low aims of a
comfortable living, or a fortune at forty, finds himself burdened with information which he
does not need, needing the knowledge which he has not, ignorant of the sentiments which
rule the world and weak in his power of observing, of thinking and doing?
In these days of religious liberty and equality, religion cannot be brought into that
public school to whose support every sect contributes. Morals are inseparably connected with
religion and the religious feelings. A system of education which is compelled, by the very
conditions of its existence, to confine itself to the teaching of morals, so far as it can teach
them at all, by the method of preaching, by giving ethical principles as arbitrary truths, and
which cannot bring to the inculcating of moral precepts all the aid which the religious and
allied emotions can give, is found mentally defective.
The proper training of the child's emotional nature, its emotions, its feelings, is of the
first in importance, is it not? A proper training of the emotional side, without the aid of the
feelings grouped under the name religious, is impossible.
Again, if public school education be compulsory, or if the taxation which supports it be
compulsory, and it be administered by government, by the state, the state will give no
higher, no better, no more complete education than it can itself see the utility of. Education,
then, will always be, not the product of the best thought of the best minds, but the product of
the average thought of the average minds. Pride ourselves as we may on our progress and
civilization, true it is that what the masses demand in the way of education can be neither
intellectually lofty nor morally high. Worse still, the masses are too ready to shake off the
burden of thinking about education at all. They leave the matter in the hands of men whom
they look down upon as impractical, whose opinions count with them as nothing. The
education of the many is thus made of no moment, by that dry rot of "institutions,"
indifferentism. Advance in public schools is made slow and almost impossible, and the
field is occupied. Nearly all the money an indifferent public is willing to give is
appropriated, rather seized, by the state. There is small opportunity for the work of those of
wider vision, who, in free competition, by every analogy, would test all schemes and
methods, willingly try the new, and gladly cast aside subjects and methods "which have
been universally condemned by educational reformers for the past two hundred years."
The public school must be mechanical. That it may "work" it must drive its pupils,
each and all, around the same little circle of its stated curriculum, and it must strive to cast
them all in the same mold. But, "the essence of barbarism is equality." The shadow of death
upon a nation is a growing likeness of its units. However elaborate, then, be the furnishing

of the public school, in so far as it works toward making our children of one mind, it works
against civilization.
Where shall we turn for relief in this matter? In what direction may we look for help
in getting from under the burden we have unconsciously put upon ourselves in the public
school system? Who can tell? To abolish the system, is past hope. In time, we may believe, it
will fall by its own weight. In the schools sustained by private means there is, perhaps, a
promise and a desire, in religious or sectarian schools a very dim, prophecy of the
education of the future. But long before any tme education shall be the common birthright of
our children, it must cease to be said of us that "we pay best: 1st. Those who destroy us—
generals. 2nd. Those who cheat us—politicians and quacks. 3rd. Those who amuse us—
actors and singers. And last of all, those who instruct us."


Why not corn? or wheat? or breadstuffs? Why not make the study of these the chief
feature of some of the liberal education the schools are giving us? Begin with a child of
three, let us say. He watches the germination and growth of plants. Under proper guidance
his powers of observation are strengthened. He learns of life, of botany, and at a very early
stage a little stress is put on wheat to the end that he may be impressed with its mighty
importance to himself and all his fellows. If wheat seems to be a study that in moderate
measure strikes his fancy, or at least is not distasteful to him, let it be the central theme
about which centers all his other work in gathering facts, and in mental training under
masters. In following it he wiH learn, through the plant itself, its forerunners and
associates, botany, both descriptive and physiological. From the insects which injure it,
from the birds and animals which use it for food, or by their burrowings and nestings do it
harm, he will learn biology and zoology. Studying the climates which are favorable or
unfavorable to its growth he will learn of rainfall, dew, storms and all the details of
meteorology. When he examines into the people who raise it, where they live, how they live,
how they cultivate it, what factors enter into its cost, how it is transported, what amounts of it
are consumed in the several countries of the world, what a short or a full crop means to this,
that and the other nation, what effects changes in its market price may have on business
and social life and politics—when he looks into these and allied things he will of necessity
learn, as far as time and the ability and opportunity permit, his arithmetic, his reading, his
history—enough of it—^his geography, his anthropology, his commerce, his government—in
a word all common branches of knowledge and all bound together by the thread of social
science through wheat.
Will he then be cultured? If not, then so much the worse for culture.
He has tasted poetry by the way, we may suppose, and has learned by tasting and by
the best available advice, to distinguish good rhymes from doggerel, just as he learned to
tell good meat from tainted. By the same method he has, let us hope, learned to tell a fair
picture from a daub. He knows, in art, what he likes, which is the last resort in all
criticism, and in moderate measure he knows why he likes. His study of many men has
made him to a moderate extent, familiar with man, and the psychology he draws from this
is substantial and practical, not metaphysical. His philosophy, from the nature of his chief
studies, is deeply concerned with the how of life, with the methods of nature, with usable
hypotheses as to the way in which things happen on this planet. With the why of it all, with
assumptions as to the end and aim of things he little concerns himself.
Is he liberally educated? He has no A B., or M. A., or LL. D.; but perhaps those titles
would better their standing in wise men's minds if they were attached to his name.

Reprinted from Books [Denver] 3 (July 1893): 117.


Introductory Note
In recent years a good many elaborate investigations have been made, by teachers,
psychologists, and others, of the reading of children; what books and papers they read; what
kind they most enjoy; what books furnish them with good ideals; what ones seem most to
influence their lives.
The replies to these questions have led to little in the way of definite conclusions. Few
people can so frame a set of inquiries as to make the answers to them of value, even if those
answers are clear and honest. Few teachers—and most of the inquiries have been made by
teachers—can put a set of questions to their pupils in such a way as to get from them
straightforward, unprejudiced replies.
Furthermore, the atmosphere of school, the wishes of principal and teachers, as
expressed, for example, in courses of study and in books for reading placed in the pupils'
hands, or within their reach, all tend to influence the children in making their replies
much more than one would at first suppose. If, for example, a large number of answers
received from a number of different towns in any given State show that Black Beauty has
been much read and greatly enjoyed by children in grades 4 to 7, one may at first conclude
that Black Beauty is a book which appeals to the youthful mind through its own unaided
attractiveness, and that, if it stood on the shelves of any open library with many other good
books for children, it would be one of the first books to be selected and read by a very large
majority of those who used that library. Further consideration, however, probably calls
attention to the fact that Black Beauty has, for certain definite reasons, been introduced into
the schools of that State and vigorously pressed upon the attention of the children by school
boards, superintendents, principals, and teachers, and that the children have by no means
chosen it spontaneously. And so a careful examination of the influences surrounding the
young people who have made answer to these many inquiries into children's reading shows
that in every case little reliance can be placed on most of the conclusions drawn from them.
As in other departments of child study, we have here as yet done little but illuminate our
ignorance. This is helpful, of course; very helpful, indeed, if we recognize the light for what
it is, and do not take it for something else.
From these inquiries into children's reading, however, and from kindred
investigations made by those interested in child study in general, in experimental
psychology, and the like, we seem to be able to draw a few very general conclusions, such as
That the time when the habit of reading is most likely to be formed is in the years
from 11 to 16. That in the years from 6 to 16, and especially during the first part of the
period, the influence of the teacher in determining the choice of books read may be very
great. The teacher of average ability, it would seem, can, if she will, guide the choice and
interest of most of her pupils.

Reprinted from United States Bureau of Education, Report of the Commissioner of

Education, 1899-1900, v. 1, pp. 710-717.

From these facts, and from the like generally admitted fact that this period from 6 to
16 is one in which tastes and habits in general are most easily and most commonly formed
and the general trend of life most seriously affected, we can conclude further that books can
have and do have a greater influence for good or ill, on the lives of most people, by affecting
them when they are young, than we had supposed, and this influence, through the teacher's
guidance, can be made to work for good even more strongly than we have dared to hope.
This conclusion, vague and general as it seems at first to be, is of the greatest moment
to the librarian. She commonly has on her shelves hundreds and thousands of volumes—
rather hastily selected, not carefully examined—which she is handing out almost at
random on every day to scores of young people who have little powers of selection, and will
take, one must fear, the book that is full of the evil communications which corrupt good
manners as eagerly as the one which is wholesome in all its influences. She is busy. She
has little time to put the right book into the right hands. She likes her library to be popular.
She, perhaps, is impressed more by the quantity of books read than by their quality. If she is
wise she sees that for the educational work her library is trying to do, especially with young
people, she needs the help of those who can give care and thought to the individual. She sees
that the free public library should hasten, after equipping itself with the best obtainable
material for children's reading, to interest parents in that material, and persuade them to
assist in guiding the reading of the children who borrow books. This means, in the present
state of society, when parents take a very moderate degree of interest in the books their
children read, that as far as its work with yoimg people is concerned the public library
must, if it would do good and not harm with its books, rely to a very great extent on the
assistance of the schools.
The library can, no doubt, be of great help to the teachers; and much space in other
parts of this report is taken up with suggestions to teachers of how they can get much of value
out of the public library. But our report will fail in one of its most important missions if it
does not bring home to many librarians, very strongly, the fact that, as far as its work with
young people is concerned, it can do little without the sympathetic cooperation of teachers.
How, then, shall the librarian conduct herself, and how shall she manage her library
in order to get from the teachers of her community the maximum of sympathetic
cooperation, and be of the greatest possible assistance in the education of the young? These
questions I have tried to answer, not fully, but in a suggestive way, by giving a brief
statement of the equipment the librarian of an ideal library must have for this work and of
the things that an ideal library may do in its cooperation with the schools.

The Librarian and Her Equipment

In establishing helpful relations between libraries and schools in any given
community the things that are most necessary on the librarian's part are sympathy with the
end in view and a broad appreciation of the particular situation. This sympathy and
appreciation will lead to good work, whatever the conditions. The special knowledge and
skill needed can be acquired by the doing.
Another very important qualification of the librarian, and perhaps the most rare, is a
wide and sympathetic knowledge of books of all kinds, especially books for young people.
This wide knowledge of books is not the product of a night, or of a week, or of a month, or
even of a year of toil and study. It is a knowledge which is in large part not knowledge, but
native talent; and the knowledge which goes with this native talent is acquired only by
reading scores and hundreds of books with care and interest.

The librarian, then, is and has been an enthusiastic reader. During the early years of
her life, and especially from 10 to 14, she familiarized herself, not as a duty, but as a
pleasure, with the best of children's books; with the children's books we call classics. We
call them such, not because they are necessarily the very best books that can be written or
have been written for children, but because they contain expressions, characters, incidents
that are constantly reappearing in literature, and are interwoven with the life of the race.
They are books that have become a part of the birthright of every American child. They are
alluded to and they are listed in large part in Mr. McMurry's section of this report. The
librarian who did not know and enjoy these when young is poorly furnished for work with
The librarian understands library management. If she has had no technical training
in a library school, or has not had experience in a well-managed library, she gets some of
the books and periodicals mentioned elsewhere in this report and reads and studies the
subject, and learns by doing.
She realizes that books are tools, are not sacred things, and find their best end in
being worn out by reasonable service.
She is fond of children, is patient with them, and understands them. Experience in
teaching for a few years would be of the greatest assistance to librarians who are trying to
work with schools.
There are now in print, and a number of them are noted elsewhere in this report,
many lists of books for children and teachers, several of them well annotated. Copies of
these lists our librarian has at hand, and is ready to lend, and makes use of them
constantly in adding to her collection.
In the last twenty years a great many articles on the reading of children, literature for
the young; and kindred subjects have appeared in leading periodicals of this country, and a
number of books, some of which are mentioned elsewhere in this report, have appeared on
the same subject. These books, or as many of them as possible, the librarian studies herself
and places with the teachers' books in the teachers' corner.
As the librarian's field of work widens she discovers first of all, if she is honest with
herself, her own limitations in respect to the wide and intimate book knowledge already
mentioned, and then she discovers it also in her associates, the teachers. It is inevitable, in
view of the character of the preparatory training the average teacher gets, that in wide
knowledge and keen appreciation of literature, and especially of literature for children, she
should often be lacking. We have decided that books proper for children to read are
excellent things, and should be easily accessible to them. We have asked for them, and
authors and publishers have supplied them. We attempt now to do with them the things we
see should be done, if we are to get out of them that which we wish to get, and we discover
that those to whom we must appeal to make proper use of them are themselves very lacking
in knowledge of them. We are improving in this respect, but little has yet been done toward
making the average teacher thoroughly conversant with children's books, with making her
such a reader of books as she must be before she can do with children the things we wish to
have done. But the fact of the presence of the books themselves in libraries and schools, and
the daily use of them, and the general realization of the possibilities in them, will bring
about in a few years a vastly better equipment in this direction, in the teaching force as well
as in the library force, than we have as yet had.
The librarian realizes that, after all, a collection of books, however good, however well
housed, however attractively arranged, is of little value, has little vital force, and does not
count for much in the community unless there is added to it the right kind of librarian. A

good librarian is more than half of a good library. Realizing this fact, she tries to live up to
her opportunity.
While she feels that the most efficient ahies in her work are the teachers, and while
she feels that unaided by them she can do little for the vast majority of her young students
and readers, still she does not at all relax her own vigilance. She keeps a watchful eye on
as many of the children as possible; she lends only what she thinks to be the best of books;
she is unceasing in her efforts to learn which are the best; she notes the character of the
readers who ask for what she fears are books of doubtful value; she checks the story mania
where she can; she looks for opportunities to turn attention from better books to the best
books; she does not think any habit is good so it be a reading habit; she keeps it in mind that
books are for pleasure, but for the pleasure of a lifetime, and not of the day only; are for
profit, but not profit in money only; are for knowledge, perhaps not for knowledge she can
ever care for, yet good and useful still; are for wisdom, but possibly not for wisdom as she
sees it. She is always mindful that she is a public servant, not a ruler; that she is a
counselor, not a faultless guide; that she is a student of books with the children as fellow-
students, not a teacher who has already learned all that books can teach.

The Librarian and the Teachers

The librarian has no special card for teachers, for she finds that by adopting a modern
charging system she does not need to make distinctions between her borrowers. She can
lend to any person six or sixty books as easily as one, and a special card makes a
distinction which by those other than teachers may be thought invidious.
She has a teachers' comer in the library, and keeps there, with special books for
teachers, copies of the best and latest pedagogical books and journals and lends them.
She prints occasionally and distributes through the schools brief statements in the
form of circulars of what the library does with children, what it would like to do, how it
helps teachers, and how it would like to help teachers.
She prints also from time to time brief selected lists of books, magazine articles,
poems, speeches, etc., on special topics, like geography, American history, flowers, birds,
Longfellow, Lincoln, Arbor Day. If possible, she prints these lists all in the same form on
sheets of the same size, so that the teacher preserving them may keep and handle them with
ease. These are posted on the bulletin board and freely distributed.
She forms a reading committee of teachers to help in selecting from the new and old
publications the best books for young people and in deciding what books it is best to supply in
large quantities and to urge the children to read.
She takes note of teachers' institutes and the topics up for discussion in them, and she
keeps watch of educational journals to see what problems are being discussed, and makes
up lists and buys books accordingly.
She does what she can to induce teachers to add library departments to their county,
district, or State associations, or at least to give up a portion of the time at the meetings of
such associations to the consideration of problems which touch her work.
She endeavors to have teachers, principals, and superintendents on the committees of
her library, especially on those having to do with its general economy, arrangement, and
selection of books. She makes the fact felt that her institution is a part of the educational
system of the community, is not something to separate from the schools, but a part of them.
She visits the superintendent of schools, £ind the principals, and teachers. She does not
make of her work the opportunity to impress them with the fact that she has a "mission," and
that she proposes to elevate the community by her books; and she does not insist that teachers

generally are dull if they do not at once make use of her Hbrary, but she tactfully makes it
plain that her library is there to be used.
She meets with the teachers whenever occasion offers, and is ready to talk with them
about matters in her field at all times.
She visits schoolrooms, where she can do it without seeming to intrude, and makes
herself familiar with the teacher's work, its opportunities, its needs, and its limitations. She
gets the course of study used in the school. She learns what books are already in the
schoolrooms; what ones are used as supplementary reading; what, and how many, have
been bought in sets, and in every way makes herself thoroughly familiar with the present
resources of teachers and children in the way of books.
She always works in sympathy with, and with the full knowledge of, the
superintendent and in accordance with his suggestions and wishes.
She ventures, if teachers do not borrow voluntarily, to suggest to them that they can
take books to their schoolrooms and see if they can make use of them there. This is not an
easy thing to do, for unless the teacher is in sympathy with this work, to put books in her
hands may be to waste good material. For the teacher who is beginning to use books in her
daily work the simpler they are the better. Picture and story books, such as she can lend to
restless pupils, either for use in the schoolroom or to take home, are the best.
She looks up such a subject as geography, and by examination of the text-books used
and by talks with teachers discovers what she can do to assist in making the subject more
interesting. She finds, perhaps, that pupils call at the library for certain specific books, or
for books on some special topic which the library lacks, and she equips the library well for
such a call next time. She encourages teachers to borrow from the library, for a few weeks or
a term, books on the topics of geography, or history, or science, which may be uppermost for
the time.
She asks teachers and principals to give her in advance names of topics and subjects
of study on which the children may ask for books later. She announces on her bulletin board
that books on such and such a topic will be found in such a place, or are such and such
If one or two teachers begin to take an interest in the library and borrow books from it
for schoolroom use, and their experiments are successful, the librarian lets this fact be
widely known.
She does not forget that the teacher's occupation is very wearing; that the best teachers
are often the busiest; and that it is the best teachers whom she most wishes to interest. The
teacher must keep her children to the course of study as it is laid out; and no matter how
flexible that course may be, still it is true that to do the things that must be done each day
takes nearly every moment of her time. Opportunity to do the work with children suggested
in this report is not easy to find. The wise librarian is not discouraged, therefore, even
though most of the teachers she attempts to interest are slow to take up with her suggestions.
As soon as the time is ripe and her supply of books permits, she lends them to
interested teachers, in groups of ten to fifty, to put into their rooms as schoolroom libraries.
The school authorities may, of course, supply these schoolroom libraries themselves. It is,
perhaps, better, however, that they be supplied by the library. In the library will usually be
found the best collection of books to draw from, and the most skill in their handhng. The
schoolroom library is to be used just as are the books the teacher may have of her own or
may have secured from the library for her desk. She uses them either for reference work, or
lends them to pupils to take home. If she does the latter, then the schoolroom library is in
effect a branch library; and the schoolroom library, under the supervision of the teacher, is

the ideal branch library for lending books to young people. The teacher with forty pupils and
fifty books, the latter changed from month to month as she may choose, and as the wishes of
her pupils may indicate, can with little difficulty put the right book into the right hands time
and again, when the librarian, with the best intentions in the world, finds it impossible to
do more than supply each child's request, without regard to the fitness of the request.
The librarian hears it said not infrequently, by librarians, that teachers ask more
and are more exacting in their requests generally than any other class of library patrons;
but she says that it seems proper that this should be so. She is glad that they make use of her
library. She is glad that they make complaints, and is not disturbed by them. She discovers
that their demands are generally not so much in the spirit of fault-finding as in the desire
to get out of the library all that can possibly be got. And she encourages, rather than
discourages, the asking spirit in all the teachers with whom she comes in contact.

The Library Building, or Room, And the Children's Department

The building for an ideal library, or the room in which it is placed, is simple in the
extreme. The best arrangement for a small library is one large, well-Hghted room without
partitions. The cases are low, and are set sufficiently far apart to allow several people to
pass between them at once without crowding. The tables and chairs are near the books. If a
corner for work is needed, it is separated from the rest of the room, not by a partition, but by
a light rail. The desk is near the entrance, and the visitor having passed this desk is
literally "in" the library and among its books.
A corner in the library is given up to children. The children's books are here
arranged in classes, just as are other books in the library and with the same marks. Stories
and books on other subjects are not ordinarily shelved together in one series, though for
some special purposes or occasions they may be so arranged.
The cases for children's books are low, not over five feet high, and lower still would be
better, and the books are not put lower than two feet from the floor. This gives two or three
rows of books one above the other, at the utmost, and prevents crowding among those who are
looking them over. The lower the cases are the easier it is to keep watch of the unruly and
noisy. Furthermore, if the cases are low, the tops of them serve excellently for globes and
vases, and any articles of interest one may wish to put there.
There is a globe in the children's corner, and a place to hang up a large wall map,
which is changed from time to time.
On the walls are pictures attractive to young people, preferably in colors. These
pictures are such as one would wish to have in the schoolroom. They are large and broad in
A bulletin board in or near the children's corner has on it lists of entertaining books—
general lists, lists on special topics; pictures, sometimes of a general nature, sometimes
having to do with one subject; a set of pictures of animals, or birds, or great buildings, or
eminent men. The same bulletin board holds, in large type, an occasional sentence or verse
of poetry, such as experience shows children are attracted by and are fond of learning.

The Librarian and the Children, and the Children's Department

The librarian makes the process of getting a borrower's card at her library very
simple for the young people. She, perhaps, thinks it wise to insist that the card be signed by a
parent, not so much to protect the library as to engage the interest of the parents in what the
young people read. She does not feel, however, that this is essential. She surrounds the
process of the signing of the name, the giving of the card, and the presentation of a slip

containing library rules and information with sufficient dignity to make it seem of
importance to the children.
She keeps her library immaculately neat and clean and trains the children to help her
in this work, estabhshing a library league for this purpose, if possible. It takes time and
patience to lead children to keep in order the books they themselves use, but it is not
impossible and is worth the doing.
She notes that the weak points of American children are not timidity and nervousness.
Still, she realizes that many of the children, perhaps those whom it would be best worth her
while to assist, are shy about visiting a new place and are slow to ask questions. She meets
such individuals more than half way.
The children's department is made especiaHy strong in entertaining stories, the
children's classics already alluded to being first chosen. It is far better to purchase a large
number of duplicates of each of 15 or 20 standard books that children read than it is to
scatter the money they would cost over the whole field of children's literature and buy a
large amount of inferior stuff.
The librarian has investigated the subject of children's reading for herself and has
come to the conclusion, as have all others who have given the matter serious attention, that
in the children's corner in the public library, or in the schoolroom library, or in the library
in the school building, or in any collection of books anywhere to which children are to have
access, low-grade books, no matter how popular they may have proved themselves to be, are
not needed in order to attract children, smd that poorly written, unreal, fourth-class, silly
stuff is not needed as sweetmeats and temptations to draw children to a collection of good
books in em attractive library.
She learns from talks with teachers whom she has interested in the subject that the
reading of wholesome children's books does not, save in very unusual cases, distract the
minds of the children from their studies. She learns, on the contrary, that the bright
children, the well-informed children in the schoolroom, are the ones who are likely to be
eager and wide readers at the library.
With the children's books she puts the books suitable for reading aloud to children by
parents and teachers. It is difficult to draw the line definitely between these two classes. In
selecting the books suitable for young people it should be borne in mind that there is much
good literature which children themselves will not read, but like to have read to them. Some
of this literature can very well be put with the books the children like to read themselves.
The reference books for children in their own department are not many in number
and are simple. One or two encyclopedias, an atlas, a dictionary, and a few sets of
periodicals, like Harper's Monthly, with its index, and St. Nicholas, serve better than more
elaborate books.
The librarian, while supplying a special corner for children and giving them there
easy access to the books adapted to their wants, does not forget that an important thing in
education is ability to use a large library to advantage. She encourages, so far as the
arrangement of her room permits, the use of the main library by yoimg people. She tries so
to train them, or help them to train themselves, that they are not lost or dazed in a large
coHection. She helps the very young people to make use of the laboratory method in the
library, as science teachers lead them to use it in physics and chemistry. She finds that
children quite quickly catch the spirit of investigation, the spirit of the seeker after truth,
and thus become students in the best sense of the word.
To help the children to make use of reference books she calls attention to such helps as
tables of contents, page headings, indexes, and bibliographies. She gives them an

opportunity to consult encyclopedias and dictionaries of varying character. She encourages
them to study by topics.
So far we have spoken of books on their artistic, literary, general-culture side, the side
which, for the younger children at least, must always remain the most important. But there
is another side, distinct still from both the "culture" side and from the scientific side, with
which the zealous librarian must acquaint herself, would she do her best work, especially
with children who have reached the ages of 16 to 18. This is the purely utility side. There is
no calling in life, from bricklaying to architecture, from shoemaking to railroad building,
that does not have the results of latest experience and observation in regard to it set forth in
periodicals and books. These periodicals and books are more or less accessible in every
public library. The majority of boys, about 95 out of 100 who attend our schools, are on their
way to some manual, semimanual, or clerical calling. They will be able to equip
themselves better for their calling, whatever it may be, if they make themselves familiar
with its literature. The humblest workman in the humblest occupation can adapt himself
better to his work, and will have a better chance of advancing in it, if he reads up to it. This
is an aspect of printed things which is rarely touched upon in the schools. The sympathetic
librarian, as she sees boys grow to young manhood under her eyes, will watch their tastes
and inclinations where she can; will note the occupations they are likely to enter, and direct
them to the utility literature of those occupations.
The librarian makes a collection of pictures, saving therefor old periodicals that are
well illustrated, and making requests for old numbers and back volumes that are past other
usefulness, to be used for their illustrations. She gets together and mounts on cardboard
collections of designs, of pictures illustrating the work of different artists, of pictures to be
used in geography and history and science study. These she arranges in groups, hangs on
her bulletin board, and lends to teachers, one at a time or many at a time.


To the Editor of the Library Journal:

In common with many others we librarians have been much concerned over a new
phrase, "Adult Education." I regret to say that we have been moved to worship the phrase,
and to speak of it almost with bated breath. In our quasi-religious frenzy we imagine that in
the world with us is now a vast multitude of young men and women, limited in formal
education of the schools; but, awakened now to the verities of life, yearning to become
"educated," and not knowing how to go about it.
Meanwhile the facts are plain before us—those who have gained in school the elements
of the technique of reading, and do not read, are simply non-readers. Advice, guidance,
lists and exhortations rarely make a reader of a non-reader. We cannot make a learner of
one who does not wish for learning. Those who, knowing the technique of reading, have
reached high adolescence in this print-pervaded land and still do not see that "education" is
not merely of the schools, but of the very daily round of life itself; and still fail to realize
that they have been "educated" for a thousand hours by their life of doing, reading and
thinking against one hour of being taught by a teacher in a class in school—those grown-ups
who have not seen yet these facts, never will.
And, again, if the impact of life, and the impact of the daily newspapers which now
fall by thousands into every one's hands, have not shown to every adolescent that there are
things worth knowing which he does not know; that there are ideas worth pondering if he
will but ponder; that he can learn by reading if he wiH but read and think, and that
education awaits his taking if he will but use his mind to take it—if an adolescent has not
got those ideas into his head by the time he is twenty-two, the chance is slight that he ever
No, our newspapers alone—even tho they are but the inevitably frail products of a frail
humanity—are daily pouring adult education into the heads of every alert and seeking and
receptive soul in the land. And my criticism of the whole adult education fad is to this effect:
that it neglected to look at the facts before it began its work; that it failed to note that
education is where the seeker finds it and is not solely found in classes in schools and
We librarians have been moved by a phrase to think of education as a process which
can go on only with the aid of teachers and courses of study; and that, consequently, we can
help adults to become educated only by personal contact with them. No library has a staff
large enough to spare more than a few minutes each day to the special demands of each of a
few inquirers. To do what the shibboleth "Adult Education," as we are now interpreting it,
asks us to do, that is, to act as guides and teachers to all the adults we can persuade to come
and ask us what they should read, and how, and to quiz them on their progress and advise
them from day to day—all that is quite impossible. Libraries have not now and never will
have an income which will suffice to do it. Meanwhile, alas! we scorn to work with
correspondence schools, whose chiefs are soiling their hands by making money out of their

Reprinted from Library Journal 53 (1928): 945.

jobs—tho those schools have more students, who are paying their hard-won earnings for
books and advice, than are entered in all the colleges and universities of the land.
And meanwhile, again, newspapers and journals are daily putting the raw material
of all the education that print can give into the hands of millions; indeed, even into the
hands of those young men and women who have been led by these same newspapers to see
that they left school too soon! And upon not a few of these newspaper pupils comes at last the
obvious thought, that education is primarily a subjective process, and that no teachers are so
competent to teach them as they are to teach themselves!

J. C. Dana, Librarian,
Newark Free Public Library.


Ask that question and always the answer will be: "It is what one gets from school"; or,
expanding that statement, "It is that which a person gains in schools, colleges, universities,
lectures and the like, through reading, studying, listening, taking notes and being
examined, all in close submission to teachers and textbooks." That is to say, the word
education is almost universally limited in its meaning to the effect of a "course," a teacher,
a test-book, and an examination. We are so fixed in the habit of thinking of education in the
style above suggested that, even when we say a man is "self-educated," we have in mind the
thought that he has pursued a "course" of reading and study laid down by sm expert.
The fact is that a very small part of the whole mass of knowledge, experience, skill
and wisdom that an adult possesses has come to him through "education," as it is almost
universally defined.
A grown man's knowledge, skill and wisdom depend more upon the gifts that were his
at the moment of his birth than upon any influences that affected him thereafter. "As a man
is born, so is he," is still tme, in spite of the strange dreams of behaviorists to the contrary.
And, after the influence of one's own inborn qualities, next in importance comes, not
the influence of "education," as defined above, but the influence of environment. By
environment is here meant, of course, all that affects a person from the moment of birth.
"Education" is part of this environment, but a small part only. The inbred and now most
persistent habit of thinking that formal education, by school, teacher, course of study and
text-book, is all of the education training that the average individual enjoys in his earlier
years, has turned the discussion of "Adult Education," which is now so fashionable and
persistent, away from all rational studies that might lead to conclusions of value. Nearly
all of that discussion is concerned with ways and means for supplying to young people a
little addendum to that special, occasional and usually distasteful training, driving,
boosting and guiding which formed the education of the school.
So strong is the hold on us of the commonly accepted theory that "education," as above
defined, can be and should be the most potent influence in making men intelligent,
thoughtful, interested and wise, that we are continually charging our schools and colleges
with gross stupidity of management because so few "educated" persons display any
evidences of having received the wisdom and other good qualities which the current
superstition says they should have acquired in school.
For example: a writer in a recent Atlantic Monthly says, "the intellectual mediocrity
of our people today, mostly due to this defective system of higher education....]
It is more than probable that not one person in a hundred of those who may read those
words would think for a moment of objecting to them. If an occasional reader does object it
will be because he thinks our system is not quite as defective as the writer assumes, and
does not leave its students in a state of inteHectual mediocrity, and not because he sees that
to lay the mental inferiority of most of us to defects in our higher education, is to assume
that birth, and all environmental doings outside of "higher education" are of no importance
as factors in creating wise men! Yet what could be more stupid than to ascribe the
mediocrity of the people of this country to a defective system of higher education. No

Reprinted from School and Society 28 (1928): 238-240.

mediocre people ever lifted themselves out of mediocrity by setting up good schools. Good
schools are fundamental results and not causes!
Few will deny that parentage, home surroundings, play, companions, influence of
adults and a thousand other items that go into the life of any boy or girl in the first 18 years,
are of tremendous influence in fashioning the creature who, at 18, enters a "system of
higher education." Few in fact wiH deny that the 18-year old was largely fashioned at the
moment of birth. Most of us will, after a moment's thought, come to the opinion that we are,
in these days, a little education-mad; are intoxicated with the notion that a few hours in
school are making the next generation just precisely what the schools intend them to be.
Even those who are education-mad, or pedagogically intoxicated, should look for a moment
at certain facts of life.
In the time between the moment of birth and his eighteenth year, a boy of average
health has had, at the rate of 16 per day, over 105,000 waking hours. During those hours he
has had countless thousands experiences, has made countless thousands of observations, has
asked thousands of questions and been answered, and has obeyed and disobeyed, has
touched life in endless ways and has learned, learned, learned. He has had endless lessons
in manual training, in games and plays. He has been subject to that instruction in
manners and morals which goes perforce with companionship.
But it is idle to try even to suggest the items of learning that have been driven into him
in his thousands of waking hours.
Of all this leaming, a little has come by way of that "education" which we now so
venerate. For consider, the average child is subject to the educational machine, during all
these 105,000 hours of waking-life, for a scant 8,000 hours only—one hour in thirteen. And,
for many reasons, the training and the discipline of those hours have been far less effective
than they are generally assumed to be. The boy often finds school distasteful. He learns his
lesson because he must, whereas he meets with great zest and pleasure much of the training
of his environment, from the time he explores his own periphery in the cradle, until he
develops the use of hand and eye on the ball field. During many school hours he is subject to
the will of a teacher who is by nature, study and experience poorly equipped for her work.
This discipline of life, out of school, goes steadily on for twelve times as many hours as
does that of school. The school hours are not in one continuous series. They are interrupted
by every Saturday and Sunday, by many holidays and by prolonged vacations. The due
progress of training and of the acquisition of helpful habits by school is broken on every
Friday, to be resumed with difficulty on every Monday; and is still more broken at every
term's end and laboriously patched up again at the opening of each term.
While this is not a plea for a more rational time arrangement of our schools and
colleges, it may be proper here to note that the Saturday holiday and the long and frequent
vacations, which were adopted by our schools several generations ago largely for economic
reasons that had nothing to do with education, are needless and absurd obstacles to the
effective working of our schools. But that is in parenthesis.
The delusion that education is a rather remote and esoteric yet most desirable thing, to
be gained only through the ministrations of teacher or lecturer and "course" and book, is in
no part of the skill-and-wisdom-gaining field more harmful than it has proved to be in the
department of adult education. Nearly every discussion of this movement, and well-nigh
every organized effort to promote it, begins with the assumption that adults who wish to
learn must be taught; must form classes; must adopt courses; must acquire text-books, and
must be examined and must aim for degrees, diplomas or certificates. And, unfortunately,
this obsession that learning-something must always mean being-taught-something, has so

possessed us all, that the adult-who-wants-to-leara almost instinctively feels that, to fulfil
his desire, he must begin by becoming one who wishes-to-be-taught.
As long as this notion persists—and of course all formal-education people wiH help it
to persist and to grow stronger—adults wishing to learn will look about for some approved
method of being educated! But, thanks to Mr. Gutenberg and others, our new world is
crowded with print, in words, pictures, diagrams and charts; this print lies ready to hand of
all inquiring minds; inquiring minds increase in number as modern industry each day
more fully and plainly declares that better wages await the better-informed; and every day
we see grow larger a vast army of students who—masterless, classless, without study-
courses and not asking for diplomas—^begin with the daily paper, graduate to the trade
organ, promote themselves to the technical journal, then advance to the standard treatise,
and in due course become educated adults.
But if, one may ask, in spite of a wide-spread delusion as to the part that formal
education plays in the process of learning, countless thousands are learning without the
pale of formal education, why complain?
WeU, perhaps I am moved in good part to give forth this protest by the effort my library
colleagues are making to take the teacher's part in "education." In effect, we are urged to set
up in our libraries Departments of Adult Education! I am convinced this effort is unwise
because of the teaching form of education the country already has a fair sufficiency and a
sure continuous growth; institutions whose business it is to gather print and make it ready
for use have already in hand all the work they can do, and do well; and to enter the field of
the school and the teacher as other than a handmaid thereto is a needless and unwise
diversion of energy.

The Springfield Avenue branch of the Newark Free Public Library. Books in a variety of
languages were available for use by immigrants and their children. Reprinted from The
Newarker 3 (Dec. 1913): 426.

Library patrons may be roughly divided into classes, thus: First—The adult student
who, on rare occasions, calls to supplement the resources of his own collection of books with
the resources of the pubHc institution. This class is very smaH. Second—The dilletante, or
amateur, who is getting up an essay or a criticism for some club or society, wishes to verify
his impression as to the color of James RusseH Lowell's hair or the exact words Dickens
once used to James T. Fields, in speaking of a certain ought-to-be-forgotten poem of
Browning's. This class is large and its annual growth in this country is probably an
encouraging sign of the times. It indicates interest. Third—The serious-minded reader who
alternately tackles Macaulay, Darwin and Tom Jones with frequent and prolonged
relapses—simply to rest his mind—into Mrs. Wistan and Captain King. This class is quite
large, and though in too large a measure the victims of misplaced confidence in Sir John
Lubbock and Frederick Harrison, they make excellent progress and do much to keep up the
reading habit. Fourth—The "O, just-any-thing-good-you-know" reader. Her name is legion.
She never knows what she has read. Yet the social student who failed to take into account the
desultory, pastime reader, would miss a great factor in the spread of ideas. Fifth—^The
person who does not read. He is commoner than most suppose. He is often young—more
often boy than girl, oftener young man than young woman. He commits eternally what Mr.
[Herbert] Putnam aptly calls the great crime against the library of staying away from it. He
is classed among the patrons of the library somewhat as the western school ma'm brought in
knowledge of the capital of Massachusetts as part of her mental baggage—^"Well, I know I
ought to know it." He ought to be a library patron. How make him one? There are many
methods and all should be tried. The Pear's soap plan of printer's ink is one of the finest
and best.
If a library has or is a good thing for the community, let it so be said, early, late and
often, in large, plain type. So doing shall the library's books enter—before too old to be of
service—into that state of utter worn-out-ness which is the only known book-heaven. Another
way, and by some found good, is to work the sinfuHy indifferent first up into a library
missionary and then transform him into a patron. A library is something to which he can
give an old book, an old paper, an old magazine, with no loss to himself. Having given, the
library is at once his field, his Timbuctoo, in part his creation. Ever after he is its interested
friend. He wants to know about it. He goes to see it. He uses it.

Reprinted from Books [Denver] 2 (May 1892): 67.


Reading for young people is a subject which has much concerned librarians in recent
years. The modem flood of children's books; the recent rapid growth of public libraries, both
in number and in size; the very common removal or lowering of age-limit restrictions on
book-borrowing at these libraries; the opening in many of them of children's departments;
the production of lists of books for children by publishers, librarians, and teachers; the
increased attention which the educational world has given in recent years to the study of
English and American literature; the attempt of teachers to introduce even the very young to
the works of standard writers; all these things, and others not here noted, have helped on the
good work of placing approved books in young people's hands. In many cases, without doubt,
these many influences, working singly or together, have done more than this. They have
put good books for children into the hands of children to whom they are especially adapted;
and, we may well believe, they have often awakened in children a taste for reading helpful
things, things that taught them how to be happy and to wish to add to the happiness of their
But the work is only just begun. As yet we do not even know what children like to
read; much less do we know what is good for them to read. The layman hears echoes of the
war going on—and may it never end—in the educational world over the question of which
should form the subject-matter of the child's early education—history and literature, or
nature and the science thereof. The quarrel is a pleasant one to see; it is a helpful one both
as it goes on and as it draws to some conclusion. Also it illustrates my point, that as yet we
know not what is good reading for the child. We are helped a little by the annotated lists; but
not much, as yet. For when we have leamed from them that a book is of such and such a
kind, that this and the other qualified judge says it is bright and wise and wholesome, we
are still in the dark as to whether, first, the natural child will, without compulsion, read it;
second, whether, reading it, he will enjoy it; third, whether, enjoying it, he will be benefited
thereby. Moreover, the children for whom primarily so many good lists are made will not
use them. If they are denied access in a library to the books they will perforce use the lists
put before them. But even then they select their books, do they not? more often by what their
playmates say, than by what the annotations of the Hsts proclaim.
What is needed is a large body of experience, the outcome of many careful
observations, the compilation of returns from carefully controlled experiments. In getting
these the librarian needs assistance. The proper source to which to look for help is, of course,
the parents. But parents pay very little attention to the reading of their children; and even if
they could be persuaded to join librarians in the work of observing the little folks, and
noting the pleasure and benefit the latter get from their books, the task of collecting and
compiling the returns would be an impossible one. We must turn, then, to the teacher. The
teacher can give more heed than she heretofore has to the reading of her pupils. The
movement to make this work a part of her daily duty, and to give her time for it, is already
here, and is making good headway. Her attention once called to the importance of such
work, to its never ending variety, and to the many things of interest therein involved, it
will not be difficult to make of her an enthusiastic co-worker with the library and the
librarian. She can note results, keep records, mark likes and dislikes, and at length reach

Reprinted from Library Journal 21 (1896): 133-134.

an occasional dogma. For a long time to come the dogmas will, of course, be general, not
special; like this, for example:

"'The story of a bad boy' is a good book for most of the boys, of 10 to 14 years of age,
who live east of the Alleghenies and north of Sandy Hook; and such boys will have fun in
reading it"; or this: "Keep the 'Elsie books' away from all goody little girls; they will make of
such little girls insufferable prigs."

It is dicta somewhat after this sort that we need, and teachers, and teachers only, can
at present supply them. A bit of actual experience may make my point clearer still: Richard
Harding Davis's "Stories for boys" was purchased in certain Colorado schools for
supplementary reading. A quick-witted, zealous, and by no means narrow-minded teacher
used the book in her class. Before long she came to the conclusion that the stories therein set
forth were having an injurious effect on her pupils. They grew a trifle more lawless; they
wanted to be tough; they envied the water-rats; and they organized "gangs." She was not
dogmatic in the opinion that she observed these things; but that she did see them was her
deliberate judgement. This is the kind of experiment and observation we must have much of
before we can take any sure steps toward the sound management of children's reading.
It is with a view to pushing forward more rapidly the work—and many other good
works besides^-of securing the efficient co-operation of teachers in the evaluation of
children's books that steps are being taken to form a School Library Section of the National
Educational Association. Petitions to the board of directors of the N. E. A. to establish such a
section are now in circulation. The attempt will be made to hold a round-table meeting of
such a section at the N. E. A. meeting at Buffalo next July. Mr. [Josephus N.] Lamed and
Mr. [Melvil] Dewey and others have promised to push the matter. Any Hbrarian who
approves of the project can aid it by calling the attention of his teacher friends to it.
I have enlarged upon one phase only of school and library work. There are many
other phases, with msmy of which we are all familiar. Most of them involve unanswered
questions which librarians alone are not rightly equipped or not rightly situated to answer.
It is hoped that a school library section, if established, will do some of these things—it will
discuss the advisability of placing small circulating libraries in school-rooms, there to be
under the teacher's entire control; it will urge the increase of the number of books placed in
every schoolroom to aid the teacher in her work; it will urge the increase, in number and in
size, of schoolroom reference libraries for the use of pupils; it will advocate the giving to
every pupil, by means of such libraries, a working knowledge of books, a beginning of
experience in the laboratory method of apprehension of the fact that out of books he can
always correct his own and others' passing ignorance, and can sometimes get out of them a
glimpse of wisdom; it will look, with a critical eye, into the size of the average high-school
reference library and the lamentably small and ill-directed or undirected use made of the
same; it will take hold of the subject of outside reading in the high-school grades, and wiH
attempt to settle the questions of what and how much; and it will, we may trust, help to unite
and strengthen the good work of placing the right books in the right hands, along all the
many lines of that work which are common to associations of librarians and associations
of teachers.


The technique of reading is taught in the schools. It is better taught than it was 40
years ago, and in spite of our foreign-speaking immigrants and of the pressure on children
to begin wage-eaming work at 14 or earlier, our population gains a Httle in reading skill
every year. To cite figures to uphold these facts is very difficult; but we may safely assume
that the facts are as stated.
The average school year of 150 days does not permit of much practice in reading. The
53 per cent of children who leave school at 14 acquire only the merest elements of the
reading art. For high skill in reading comes to most only through much practice and few
children have this necessary practice. Those who leave at 18—and scarcely five per cent
continue their schooling beyond that age—have only a modest reading ability. The result is
that only a small part of our population learns to read weH. A few thousand read books of
wisdom; a few hundred thousand read books and journals of learning; a few miHions out of
our eighty-five millions read books and joumals of minor information and of meagre
imagination; and of the remaining many millions only a few read even the headHnes of
the most trifling journals.
Now, in this encyclopedic age, reading is a most important art, the most important,
indeed, of all arts. Our conquest of the art of organization—an art which is becoming each
year more difficult as races are brought nearer together by overcoming obstacles to world-
wide relationship, time, space and language—this conquest of the art of organization, this
development of social efficiency, is greatly dependent on the acquisition of skill in the art
of reading. The process of evolution seems no longer to improve human bodies or to add
more cells to human brains. We can no longer grow—save in learning. We can learn but
little by listening. The few observant, imaginative, acquisitive, generalizing individuals
can, it is true, learn enough of the modern encyclopedic world, if they will, almost through
the ear alone. But of such we find only a handful in a million. The rest, if they are to
understand their world and learn how to conduct themselves wisely in it, must read; and
they must read not only the headHnes in the journals, and the books of information and of
learning; but also the books of wisdom. And not only must they read; also they must know
where to find in print the wisdom of the wise and the conclusions of the experts.
The conclusion is this: that our educational system does not secure the most important
of ah educational results—high reading skiH and wide knowledge of print in its pupils.
In recent years much has been made of the quality of reading in the schools. Scrappy
readers have been laid aside and complete specimens of literature have taken their place.
This change has been rapid and has produced good results. But we are still content with too
little. Formerly almost anything in print was good enough on which to practice technique;
latterly we have been inclined to think the technique unimportant so long as the words
practiced upon were part of our classic literature. In both cases we have not fronted with
sufficient frankness the fact that the acquisition of a full English vocabulary—a complete
knowledge of all EngHsh words—is impossible to anyone and that the acquisition of a
vocabulary rich enough to unlock the meaning of even the simpler and more elementary of
the books of wisdom is possible only through long years of practice on books and journals of
much good information, some sound learning and a little modest wisdom.

Reprinted from Bulletin of the American Library Association (1909): 191-195.

Upon this important part of public school work librarians are trying to bring, through
their libraries, a helpful influence. On exploring the field this is what they seem to find:
The school year is very short, and during this short year teachers find that they are
compelled to devote every moment to pushing their pupils through the several stages of the
prescribed course of study. It may be justly said that if the school year were not reduced to
less than 150 days by Saturdays, holidays and vacations, pupils could cover the present
curriculum more easily and much more efficiently than now, and still have room for such
excursions into the field of literature and reading as librarians suggest.
But we must take the situation as we find it. As we find it, only those teachers who
have a natural fondness for books; an acquaintance with literature for children; a desire to
introduce their children to that literature and to encourage the reading habit; and such skill
in teaching as enable them to make use of other books than text books in their daily work,
are willing to attempt to use the books which a public library may furnish as tools in their
daily work. The result of this condition of things is that books which libraries lend to
teachers for use in their class-rooms are efficiently used by only a part of the few teachers
who ask for them. Concerning this fact two things may be said: first, that teachers ought to
know the literature suited to children and how to use it; and, second, that even if they have
not this knowledge and skill, they should be compelled to accept and use a collection of
general books in their class-room work.
To the first of these suggestions this answer must be made—anticipating somewhat the
conclusion of my argument—that teachers can not acquire knowledge of books and skill in
their use until they are taught it in their own preparation for teaching; and they can not be
taught it until normal and high school teachers and college professors themselves know
about these things, care about them and insist on putting instruction in them into courses of
study for teachers-to-be.
To the second suggestion this answer must be made, that to attempt to compel teachers
to make use of libraries in their class-rooms, without first giving them knowledge of books
and skill in their use, is an evident waste of energy, even if proper use of these small
libraries is made a part of the teacher's duty and she receives points of merit and demerit
for her work with them; and finally, that at present school managers do not know or care
enough about outside reading and skill in book-using to make instruction in these things a
part of their teachers' obligatory work.
In exploring the field of work with schools we find that those libraries seem to have
produced the best results in the long run which have held to the attitude of invitation and
readiness to help; have offered books to teachers; have suggested ways of using them, have
refrained from securing from boards of education, superintendents and principals any
authority to impose books on unwilling or even on unprepared teachers. Libraries which
thus manage school work find that a teacher who has a moderate knowledge of books and
some native tact can easily both increase and guide the reading of her pupils. This fact
makes aH the more keen the librarian's disappointment at finding that few teachers have
the knowledge, interest and skill necessary for promoting the reading of their pupils.
To sum up the matter thus far: librarians think skill in reading most important; to
acquire skill calls for the reading habit; librarians have the books by means of which many
may acquire the reading habit with ease and pleasure; librarians offer these books to
teachers and find that they lack time to use them or the desire to use them, or skill to use
them, or all three. Looking further we find that principals and superintendents, and
professors, who, in normal and high schools, have trained the teachers, either do not know
books, or are indifferent to their value in the acquisition of skill in reading.

We are confined, consequently, so far as our survey thus far shows, to the work of
putting books in the rooms of such teachers as will accept them and to the work of
persuading the public school world, by slow degrees, that there is more in books and
Hbraries than it has yet been able to see.
Pushing our inquiry a little further back we find that in high schools slight attention
is paid to reading, to books and to skiU in the use of the book. The text books are meager; too
much is made of a few classics; the prodigious difficulty of acquiring a large English
vocabulary is not recognized; the impossibility of acquiring a good vocabulary save by
much and varied reading is not realized; the school Hbrary is used but languidly, and such
teachers-to-be as may be found among the pupils are not made to read many books, to know
about still more books, and to learn how to use all books.
In a good many high schools teachers of Hterature and English, with the cooperation of
principals, encourage outside reading; offer Hsts of books; and, in some cases, insist on the
reading of a certain number of books each year and ask for reports on them. The results of
this work are unsatisfactory to the teachers themselves. Much of it is very perfunctory; it
helps few to make any notable progress in reading skiH; and has almost no bearing
whatever on the art of using books and a library. If we seek reason for this state of affairs
we find it lies in the indifference on the part of high school teachers to the things we think
we rightly emphasize—knowledge of books, skill in their use, much reading and a rich
English vocabulary.
In this country today there are nearly 16,000 schools of high school grade. City school
reports give no intimation that in more than a dozen of all these is there any definite,
systematic instruction in the use of books and libraries. In very few of them is any serious
and continued effort made to persuade or compel pupils to do that large amount of general
reading through which alone the average pupil can acquire a large vocabulary. In many
there are libraries of 1,000 volumes and over; but we do not find that more than 20 of these
have skilled and active librarians. A moderate use of a few histories, dictionaries and
books of general reference, is the most that is looked for by most principals; and few
teachers seem to have either book skill themselves or to think its acquisition or use of
importance to their pupils.
In New York state only three high schools give courses in book and library use which
are worthy of mention. A few others which are doing good work can be found here and there
in the country, nearly all basing their courses—if what they do can be dignified by the word
course—on the admirable pioneer work done in Detroit.
Interrupting my argument for a moment, let me call attention to the fact that now, as
for all the 80 years of our public school development, the chief tool of education has been the
book, or, to put it more broadly—print. Long after books became cheap and easily obtainable
the school men failed to supply teachers with an adequate supply of these essential tools. In
thousands of schoolhouses in this country today the authorities have spent thousands of
doHars on needless frills and refused to spend a few hundred on needed books. To one who
knows public education this painful and depressing fact is forever present. Having finally
doled out a few hundred doHars worth of books to a high school, for example—and the
elementary schools rarely get even the few hundred—the authorities are content. As
evidence that they are up to the times the school men point to these few books, and let them
lie. That they are essential in education, that mastery of them is, after all, and in spite of
all we can say for industrial training, manual work, vocations, practical Hfe, trade and
pig-iron, the most valuable asset a man can have, and that he must today get this mastery in
school if at all, this seems never to have been realized by the men of the schools. The book is

the great tool of their craft of teaching, yet they have never been eager to have it, and having
it they neglect to use it.
Normal schools perhaps make a little better showing than high schools in this matter.
Out of 32 typical ones with a total of 20,000 students, 22 give instmction in the use of the
library. This statement, however, is misleading. In very few of the 22 is the instruction
systematic, or thorough, or wisely planned. Up to three months ago no text book, not even
any course of study on books, applicable to normal schools, had ever been published. Advice
we had, in plenty; and there were books from which a skiHed person could extract a suitable
course, and a few schools had made their own brief outlines. But no simple, definite course
on books had ever been published, for the good reason that there had never been any caH for
The results of these conditions I have already noted. Pupils come to high schools poor
readers and ignorant of books. In high schools they read little and are pressed into no
strenuous exercise in book-using. Those who are to become teachers go on into normal
schools and there get little reading practice, gain slight acquaintance with literature for
children, and acquire very slight, if any, skill in the general or professional use of books
and libraries. They go into school rooms as teachers and there, oppressed by the curriculum,
absorbed in method, having poor vocabularies, being slow readers, knowing little of the art
of mastering books, they do not care for other book tools than their text and desk books, are
embarrassed by the presence of class-room libraries rather than helped by them; and can not
readily and do not, generally, help their pupils to form the reading habit or to acquire skill
in book-use.
My topic is "Book-using skill in higher education." I have said little about it because
there is little to be said about it, save by way of appeal and prophecy. The mastery of books is
not a subject of study in higher education, save in a few cases. The special student uses the
books of his specialty, and is tempted thereby to limit his vocabulary, and to exalt the bald
fact above the supreme art of expression.
What is true of the managers of our public schools is true also of the managers of our
colleges. The laboratory, the dormitory and the athletic field thrive and bloom with
apparatus, exposed plumbing and a stadium. The library building is neglected or is
inadequate or depressingly monumental. A friend who has recently visited the libraries of
14 of our most important colleges and universities reports them all inadequate. At Harvard
it is by some thought that the failure to recognize the importance of the library as the center
of the University's activities and to provide needed facilities for it is one of the greatest
deficiencies in the College's development in recent years. If the library had had a suitable
building during the past 20 years the whole work of the College would have been advanced.
At Yale the library has been little used until quite recently; and even now the
accommodations are absurdly inadequate, if it is expected that the students shall use the
reading rooms. When California completes the building now under way, it will probably
have the first college library with full possibilities of effectiveness that this country has
seen. This in spite of the building at Wisconsin university, which is already outgrown.
I do not need to continue down the list, nor do I wish to convey the impression that I
think nothing has been done in the direction of library buildings for colleges. I wish to
draw attention to the fact that, although books are the chief tools of education, reading its
most important method, a full vocabulary its most important product and book-using skill
the most important of all the arts in which it trains the student, all these things have been
thus far, as evidenced by the inadequacy of their library buildings, pushed aside as of
minor consequence by college and university authorities.

That the authorities consider these matters of minor importance is shown again by the
figures I give herewith, compiled from answers sent to my inquiries by 30 of the more
important colleges. I have answers from 44 institutions. I give here only 30. Of these 44 only
13 say that they give general instruction in the use of books and a library to all students. Of
these 13 only 6 give more than one hour in four years, 2 give two hours, and 3 give three
hours. Several say they are going to do it. Of the librarians themselves it should be said that
the failure of all our colleges to give any instruction that can properly be called such in the
proper use of the chief tools of education is not due to their incapacity or indifference. Their
replies show that they are all of one opinion as to the importance of this work. Some colleges,
Oberlin is a notable example, do more than a bald statement of the facts would indicate.
"More is to be done next year." "Our quarters are inadequate and make such work at
present impossible." "Much is done in this direction for individual students." "In several
courses the mastery of books is learned in the course of the required work." Such is the trend
of many replies, where the direct questions as to definite regular instruction in book-using
must be answered in the negative. All this is encouraging; but when it is all said, the fact
remains that the center of all higher education, the chiefest of all possible laboratories, the
storehouse of the world's knowledge and wisdom, is not made, in any college in this
country, that instrument for the broadening of one's outlook and the deepening of one's
culture which we believe it can be made at the hands of competent instructors. The
professorship of books, after our 33 years of rapid library development, is not yet here. This
seems all the more strange when we find that in 30 of the 44 institutions the librarian has
the rank of a full professor. The old-fashioned librarian has almost disappeared from our
colleges. We may justly hope that the present librarian will become before long a full
professor of the art of books.
I assume that librarians as a class think that mastery of books is an accompHshment
second in importance to none in the college field, and I believe the assumption is correct.
We have not, however, been always trae to this belief In the development of our business we
were led to lay stress on the technique of book storage and book-control; and in attempting to
extend our work into normal schools, high schools and colleges we made too much of this
technique. Then library building in town and college has often given opportunity for
monumentalism to express itself, and we suffer now from an architecture bred of the
egotism of trustees and the perverted imagination of architects, and fostered by the
assumption that if the building which housed them were sufficiently imposing the books
would work their will on commimity and college without further aid.
Furthermore, we have suffered the children too much. Our altruism here found
plentiful opportunities for agreeable exercise, and with picture books, buHetins, story telHng
and general genuflexion we have often lost sight of the fact that the library can supply books
and encourage their use, but can not take the place of either parent or teacher.
In the public schools, we can invite often, exhort a Httle, and teach a Httle less; and
these things it is plain we should do even if we neglect our bed-time stories and our picture
bulletins. In high schools we can do little more than promote the appointment of competent
librarians and the acquirement of ample Hbraries. In normal schools our task is the same.
For both we can point the way and little more. In the colleges we are almost reduced to
exhortation alone. The individual college librarian seems as yet to have little influence in
his own college. Together the college librarians, with such support as they may care to accept
from the rest of us, can surely bring information, suggestion and argument to bear upon the
authorities for the proper recognition of the college library.


Men's brains have probably not improved in size and quality in the past 5,000 years.
The social, economic, political, scientific and artistic life of the civilizations of Egypt,
Assyria, Greece, and Rome, seem to have been as complex, broad, and full, in all essential
matters, as our own. Individual men played their parts in those civilizations as readily, as
easily and as completely as they do in ours to-day.
Before history disclosed this fact, the study of the method of human development had
indicated that history must in due course bring it to light. It has shown that improvement of
the brain, the physical basis of mind, has always been dependent on the continuance of
physical and intellectual conflict, between man and man; and that when that conflict
ceased to be continuous, tense and to the bitter end, then the stronger brains, housed in the
stronger bodies, were no longer the brains which survived, and improvement ceased.
The average man, then, has been of the same mental capacity since before the days of
the pyramids. Exceptional conditions, as in the palmy days of Athens, have bred a few
exceptional men. But always nature has soon again established the ancient average, her
golden mean of mediocrity.
The men of Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome, each group with the same intellectual
powers, each, that is, with mechanical and chemical instruments of thought of almost
identical efficiency, faced in due course their respective periods of national dominance and
prosperity, and, also in due course, showed themselves to be all alike incapable of acquiring
sufficient social efficiency to carry them successfully through the complex life which their
brief day of dominion and wealth thrust upon them.
Shall we fail in the same way and for the same reason? or is there, in this our
civilization, any factor not found in its predecessors, which may enable us to meet
successfully the tremendous problems and temptations which dominance and
accompanying wealth always bring to a people? And, if there is such a factor, is it the
printing press?
When I name the printing press as a factor in civilization I mean, of course, the habit
of reading; and when I say habit of reading, I mean the habit which is quite steadily
growing in all civilized countries of using print to gain acquaintance with the great mass
of human thought, experience, study and imagination.
This mass of what for the sake of brevity we group under the one word knowledge, has
become very great and mounts up with marvelous rapidity. That it has become thus large
and accumulates thus rapidly is chiefly due to the existence of the printing press.
Under oral tradition, when things were handed down by memory and speech only, the
sum of knowledge was small. The invention of writing increased this sum very
considerably. The invention of printing, however, increased it so greatly and so greatly
accelerated its rate of increase that both the mass already on hand and the yearly, even
hourly, additions to it can hardly be placed in the same class with the knowledge and the
growth of knowledge before Gutenberg's day.
Out of this fact, out of the presence in this our own civilization of what has been aptly
called an encyclopaedic revolution, arises another question.

Reprinted from Pedagogical Seminary 20 (1913): 17-22.

Evolution, with its survival of the more fit and the resulting improvement of the
species, seems to have ceased to operate on the human race, so far at least as increase of
inteUectual power is concerned, before history began. We have been at our best for full 200
generations. During this long period we have failed again and again to cope successfully
with the evils national success has brought in its train. We have never had to aid us in one
of these crises the habit of reading; and here, perhaps, lies our salvation in the next struggle
of civilization for permanence.
But we now discover that the same invention which brought us to the habit of reading
has aroused to more active operation and encyclopaedic evolution, an accumulation of
knowledge, vast beyond all the conceptions of our predecessors. Will it, with its marvelous
rapidity of growth, soon be so vast that the race which created it will be submerged by it? Is
the printing press, with the monstrous body of knowledge it has permitted us to gather and
now compels us daily enormously to enlarge, is this to be our Frankenstein?
It is perhaps not absurd to say, in reply, that print will overwhelm us—unless we learn
to master it. That is, our civilization faces a possible shipwreck on the sea of learning. The
suggestion is not without some foundation. Whatever basis of fact it may possess
supplements and augments the force of a truth too familiar to need more than merest
mention—the increasing value to men in every walk in life of the ability to take from the
printed page those facts, arguments, theories and imaginings that can help him in his
calling. The farmer, the bricklayer, the student of the remotest specialty in medicine and
the merchant of coals or of fresh figs, all can gather from print that which will help them to
find, to be and to do.
Now, it is of the essence of society's progress that its units become more efficient each
in its way. No one thing can to-day contribute so much to the efficiency of each unit as can
the habit of using print to learn what others have learned. Other things may contribute
somewhat to this efficiency; reading can contribute most. All advocates of education have
made that statement the very foundation of their faith. It means that books are the prime
tools of learning; that a library is the most important of all laboratories, and that high
reading power in our native tongue is the most valuable of all the acquisitions that the
schools can give.
Do we need the sciences? Yes, but the mother tongue and power to read it first, for it is
our language that makes us human, and to increase our skill in this is to broaden us first
into citizens of our country and finally into citizens of the world.
Do we need manual, industrial, technical, vocational training? Yes; but reading first,
for reading opens windows through which we can see life and learn good and evil and
become fitted for social needs.
Do we need other languages? Yes; but first our own; and the others chiefly that they
may strengthen our grasp of our own. Opponents of the classics are continually forgetting
that, while the arts and the sciences they advocate as the tools of training have to do with
what they caH tangible, practical things, the classics, rightly taught, strengthen our hold on
that fundamental thing, language, by which alone thought, reason, generalization, and
perhaps even consciousness itself, are made possible.
Returning to our argument. Another famihar fact that helps to make the habit of
reading of supreme importance should be noted. Two things seem to be essential to the
continuance of what, for lack of better words we call civilization or progress—plasticity and
peace. Of all the factors that make for plasticity with us none is as potent as the printed page.
He who reads knows—and he who knows neither fears nor hates the new in manners,
morals or invention; and neither hates nor fears the stranger however wonderful his

features or however barbarous his customs. And communion with the printed page gives us
more than anything else can give of those knowledges which bring other peoples to our very
doors, teaches us to know them and then to sympathize with them, and so makes it
impossible for us to hate them or fight them. Print has done many harmful things; but when
we condemn the weak novel, the nickel library and the yellow journal, we may well
remember that they are continually bringing letters to Caliban; that in the long run print is
forever promoting that learning which is the foster-mother of peace.
We probably read more than any other nation; but we read very little. By reading is
here meant not simply reading with understanding things which call for some thought; but
just reading of words, however simple, and about things however trivial. The casual
skimming of our latest dailies, even this is done by a much smaller proportion of our
population than is commonly supposed. The most popular of our weeklies and monthlies
have each a circulation of less than a million and a half. A few thousand read books of
wisdom; a few hundred thousand read books and journals of learning; a few millions out of
our ninety millions read books and journals of minor information and of meager
imagination; and of the remaining many millions only a few read even the headlines of
the most trifling journals.
Scarcely one in fifty of all the 50,000,000 possible readers of the country ever bought a
copy of the most popular novel; not more than three or four in fifty ever looked at a copy of
the most widely read of recent novels. Proceed to books of some importance, such as Eliot's
More Money for the Public Schools, and James's "Pragmatism," and you find that only a
few thousand out of the fifty million ever read them and scarcely a hundred thousand ever
looked a:t them. Yet these are books of the kind which, in the conceit of our universal culture,
we suppose every person of intelligence to be familiar with. All the readers of the very few
first rate literary journals we support probably number less than 100,000.
A consideration of the history of reading and of the character of the human brain
shows us why the art is acquired so slowly, and in practice is so laborious that most people,
even a majority of school-taught people, try to avoid it.
Reading is a new art. It was acquired by very few up to the invention of printing. A
hundred years ago it was practiced by a very small proportion of civilized men. Speech, on
the other hand, is a very ancient art, going back to the days when daily conflict to the death
was selecting for survival the physical and mental superiors and permitting them only to
propagate. Speech, not silence, was then golden. It was a weapon by which success was won.
The inevitable happened. As ages went by those in whose brains speech centers were best
developed lived to hand on to offspring that peculiar excellence. Skill in hearing and
interpreting speech went with skill in speaking. As a result we find that to-day every
normal human being is born with well-defined and cunningly related centers for speech
and hearing in his brain. These centers are native to us; they are part of our humanity.
And now, after countless centuries of practice in the use of these centers and of the
organs to which they relate, we invent the art of printing, and ask our brains to take in
through the eye the symbols and sounds. The sounds themselves our mental machinery,
after ages of practice, can handle readily with an apparatus which inheritance gives us.
The visual symbols of sounds, these nature has never provided us with cerebral tools to
The result is that when we read, our eyes transmit the printed words to a visual center
in the brain; thence they pass to the hearing center; there they are transmuted into the
sounds they stand for, and at last are understood. The word-seeing tract is not native to us
as is the word-hearing tract; we must, each new generation of us, develop it anew by long

practice. The path from the word-seeing to the word-hearing center is not given us by nature,
and we must compel the visual symbols of sound to travel it countless times before they
travel it with ease! A few, we find, have a divine gift for reading; a few others, without the
gift, have the wish and the will to persist in practice until they read with ease and pleasure.
The rest of mankind never acquire the art save in a crude and halting way; and of them all
only a few ever have power and patience to learn to read other than simple and trivial
things. This line of argument is familiar enough and is cited only to justify the conclusion
that we are not a nation of readers!
Several interesting phenomena strengthen the line of reasoning just given. Children,
when leaming to read, pronounce the words they see that the sounds of them may reach the
word-hearing center directly, through the ear, instead of by the new and difficult route in the
brain, from the word-seeing center to the word-hearing center. Poor readers mumble the
words they are reading, that the speaking center may help its ancient ally the hearing
center to transmute the visual symbols of words into sounds of words. All readers, perhaps
without exception, find if they observe themselves closely that as they read silently they
pronounce in their minds the words they see. This silent pronunciation takes time,
demands a certain effort, and only after long practice ceases to be a burden. The long
practice is what the schools should induce and lamentably fail to induce.
One or two other familiar facts are worth citing. The political spell-binder finds to his
delight that the people who read with difficulty can listen with ease and pleasure. They take
in without trouble, smd without permitting thought to disturb the pleasure of absorption, the
flapdoodle of his oratory; they read with effort and reluctantly, if at all, the careful
arguments of the student and the philosopher. Hence the royal oratorical progress across our
country of our highest public servants.
Even the more intelligent often prefer the spoken to the written word. Among all the
methods of acquiring knowledge of things worthwhile, listening to the formal lecture is
probably the poorest. If one takes note of those among whom this method of learning is most
popular one finds they are almost invariably non-readers.
The advocates of story-telling and instruction by lecture cite the facts just mentioned to
prove the admitted fact that the ear is the natural gateway to the mind and especially to the
seat of reason; and then conclude that much instruction should be given through the ears.
This conclusion is confuted by the very facts they cite, for if nature developed in us a good
word-hearing mechanism thousands of years ago, why waste time now in giving it needless
practice? Moreover, if skill in reading daily increases in importance through the swift
growth of our overwhelming mass of knowledge, and if that knowledge can be mastered a
hundred fold more rapidly by reading than hearing, it is far more imperative that the art of
silent reading be taught than the art of listening.
To sum up: we have no more mental power than our predecessors had who built
civilizations and then let them fall into ruins. Print may be the new factor which will save
our civilization. Print is so rapidly promoting encyclopaedic evolution that our learning
may overpass our powers of generalization and application. To prevent this we must become
a race of skillful print-users. It is of supreme importance, therefore, that we learn to read. At
present we read little because the art is one for which our brains do not inherit the apparatus.


The effect of recent social and economic changes upon reading, and, conversely, the
effect of reading upon those changes, will be a profitable theme for consideration by both
those interested in literature and those interested in sociology and the progress of the world.
Of these changes the growth of newspaper reading is perhaps the most important.
Before printing with movable type was invented, about 1457, few could read. Printing
multiplied books. Readers thereupon increased in number; knowledge came to thousands
where before it was the property of hundreds; knowledge promoted observation; observation
led to thinking; ideas concerning oppression, serfdom and submission and concerning
privilege and dominance of either birth or wealth swept through the European world;
governments were modified and society was recast. It is now being recast more rapidly
than ever before, and the process was in large degree born of printing and is today
accelerated by printing.
The rapid development in recent times of all the sciences, with accompanying
inventions, whereby is gained a mastery of the forces of nature and a utilization of its
resources, all followed the wide diffusion of printed words. And the growth of the use of print
is not an economic change which ceased its work after it had, in a few years, modified
relations between man and man, between race and race, between nation and nation and
between man and nature. It is a change which broadens and deepens its influence every
day, every year, every decade and every century. Print and the growth thereof are now more
potent in their influence on society than they ever were before, and that influence increases
The power press, with revolving cylinders of type faces stereotyped in machines, was
not in active use until after 1900. Paper suitable for printing newspapers was not used in
great quantity in rolls, ready to be fed automatically into a press, until 1880. Effective
automatic type-casting and type-setting machines were not in general use until 1890. Cheap
and good methods of producing pictures on rapid presses were not widely adopted until after
1890. Offset printing and the rotogravures of the Sunday supplement pictures are products of
the last decade. Briefly put, one may say that the newspaper as we know it today is scarcely
a generation old; and one need only turn the pages of a few journals on printing to learn
that invention creates almost daily new devices and methods for making print cheaper,
more legible, and with better pictorial accompaniments.
That all adults should be able to read is with us a conviction, having the quality of
religious dogma. The wise man knows that the universal acquisition of ability to read is
not a factor which can save a civilization from the destruction which other factors may
prepare for it. But one need not be wise to know that whatever may be the destiny of the
present civilization of Europe and America, it will soon be a reading civilization. If it goes
to destruction, it will go with print in its hand!
The kind of print which comes next to the newspaper in importance, is perhaps the
"casual." It includes, to mention a few only, the label on the omnipresent food container,
roadside posters, car cards, and telephone directories. A few years ago food stuffs were
bought in bulk by retail merchants, and weighed out and wrapped or bagged as called for.
Today well nigh all the things the grocer of 1870 sold in the meaningless wrapper of the

Reprinted from North American Review 216 (1922): 823-832.

time, and many other things not then thought of as daily food for miHions, come to the
grocer in packages ready for delivery. On these packages is much reading matter, such as
names, descriptions, directions, recipes, and suggestions on cleanHness, health and
hygiene. From the grocer these printed messages go into milHons of homes, and form the
most homely and elementary reading, and are read daily by millions. Of the other groups
of casual print just mentioned, it is enough to say that they do not simply compel us to
become better readers; they make us each day better informed.
It may here be suggested that all this print merely makes us superficially informed,
breeds no manner of thinking, tends to make us all alike and all equally indifferent to
new ideas, and helps us to become more intolerant of change and more hostile to the new
than we as a race have ever been. Perhaps that is true; but if it be tme then in that growing
indifference and intolerance lies one of the very changes which the printing press is
working in us; making us idly recipient to impressions, like a bed of plaster which is not
hardened by time and remains a sodden bed of plaster, no matter how many are the
impresses that impinging bits of information make upon it.
But that increasing knowledge tends to dull the brain and to impede thought and to
make for hostility to the new, is not what common sense teHs us. The empty mind is not
inclined to work, if only because it has nothing to work upon. The active, inventive,
forecasting brain never suffers from a surfeit of knowledge and does not find knowledge a
burden or a hindrance to cerebration. Its joy is in thinking; and as it goes on along the open
roads of thought, it casually absorbs whatsoever facts may give it aid or pleasure or both,
and rejects what it does not care for. It seems to be part of the method of human progress that
it goes on with knowledge; not necessarily because of knowledge, but inevitably, with
knowledge. And here, in a time of knowledge-gaining, knowledge-saving and knowledge-
absorbing—all through and by the printed word—such as could not have been
conceived of a few centuries ago, and did not lie in the realms of the wisest prophecy even a
hundred years ago, it is astonishing to note that the peculiar character of this reading period
in human history, and of the effects of it upon society, seem not to be thought worth
discussion by students of society.
Returning to the growth of print using: The increase of control over the powers of
nature gained by man in recent years, and the development of machines which has
accompanied that growth, have so increased our capacity for production that many more
persons than ever before find themselves with time for other work than that of gaining a
livelihood, and with a surplus of energy which makes that non-working time seem
irksome. Out of aU this came recently a humanitarian outburst, a fever of altruistic
The explanation here suggested of the outburst of uplift enthusiasm may not be correct.
But it serves to introduce that promotion of the reading habit which has become one of the
more important products of that outburst.
Here and there and everywhere have been organized for social betterment groups of
persons, altruistically possessed and seeing visions of a world made better by the changes
that a crusade along some narrow line can produce. All these voluntarily organized groups,
some of them chartered corporations, some supported by "foundation," and some supported by
annual contributions of sympathizers, issue publications. These range from a modest
occasional leaflet to pamphlets and books, and appear in editions, some of scores and some
of millions. The organizations themselves number several thousand, and their ranks are
added to constantly. Their printed output is spread broadcast. Much of it is of high value;
much of it has to do with topics important to every household; much of it reaches the humblest

homes; and from it comes no small influence toward reading, acquisition of knowledge
and thinking.
The Federal Government, State governments, city and town and county governments,
colleges, universities, school boards, banks, insurance companies, manufacturing
corporations, railroads, steamship companies and institutions and organizations of many
other kinds have discovered in recent years that the world reads; that leaflets and
pamphlets, even though tossed aside by the majority, are read by the minority, and that the
name of that minority is millions. In many cases the last impetus toward publication by
these organizations has come from the same altruistic movement that has'brought upon us
the flood of uplift societies. Perhaps it is in part this altruistic touch which has led to the
effort to make many of these publications beautiful, attractive, scientifically based and
helpful in countless ways.
Trade, technical, class and professional journals now number about five thousand.
Fifty years ago there were less than one hundred of them. Of these joumals, the "house
organ" has been in existence only a few years, is not enumerated in any national directory
of periodicals, and has to excess the habit of being born and dying. The very fact that is it
new and still unknown to many, added to the fact that it is widely read and interests
intensely many thousands of men of affairs, makes it peculiarly worthy of mention. House
organs are usually published by corporations to promote production or sales, and are
addressed solely to employees or customers. Quite often they are of such quality as to make
them appeal to all persons of intelligence into whose hands they fall. The part these journals
play in increasing the sum of total information is illustrated by this bit of history: A
western firm made and sold many different kinds of oil. These oils were so varied in
character and adapted to so many special and well defined uses, that salesmen found it
difficult so to acquaint themselves with them all as to sell them intelligently. Thereupon the
general manager issued monthly a small journal, pocket size, devoted chiefly to telling
salesmen what it was they were trying to sell. It was so cleverly written that it attracted the
attention of buyers and users of oils; and then, because its remarks were largely of wide
application in the business field, of business men in all lines. Its circulation soon ran up
into the thousands, and quite directly it increased, beyond all precedent and almost beyond
belief, the sales of the products of the corporation which published it.
This story of a modest house organ illustrates the thesis that the products of the
printing press are producing effects in the field of general intelligence much greater than
is commonly supposed. The trade, technical, professional and class journals, of which
house organs form one of the less important groups, cover well-nigh every phase of human
endeavor. In Ayer's Newspaper Annual they are classified into two hundred and fifty
groups. Among them are publications for doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, chemists,
builders, janitors, barbers, bakers, broommakers and scores of other kinds of workers.
Some are issued for manufacturers and some for workers. The automobile industry alone
has a hundred and fourteen journals.
Another people's primer is the mail order catalogue. One of the larger mail order
houses issues twice each year seven million copies of books of about a thousand pages each,
listing and describing thousands of objects, and illustrated with ten thousand pictures.
These books are read and studied everywhere. Their influence as promoters of the habit of
reading and of the acquisition of knowledge, must be prodigious. That influence is
supplemented by catalogues issued and widely distributed by stores which do a direct-by-
mail business; and is supplemented again by descriptive circulars sent broadcast by
distributors of special appliances and by publishers of books and joumals.

Consider the typewriter. A few years ago all correspondence was hand written. The
typewriter did not come into use until about 1880. The number of typewriters produced each
year in this country alone is now nearly a million. Add to this, mimeographs, cyclostyles,
multigraphs and other duplicating machines, some capable of reproducing typed letters at
the rate of thousands per hour, and it is not surprising that letter mail, first class, grew
from about one billion pieces yearly in 1880, when typewriters began to be widely used, to
about eleven billions in 1920. All the machines just mentioned produce print and not script;
the print they produce is far greater in quantity than was ever the script which they made
well nigh obsolete. They now compel every business man and the countless staffs of modern
business to acquire the print reading habit and high skill in its practice.
The typewriter not only compels adults to acquire greater skill in reading and to take
on the reading habit; it is also a teacher of reading for the young. Typewriting is taught in
thousands of schools, is learned as an aid in school work even when it is not given as a
school study, and is each year learned by more young people in their homes. The normal
child takes naturally to the art of printing, with a typewriter for type, ink and press. Soon it
will not be necessary for children to learn to write well by hand. They will all use
typewriters, and will use typed symbols of speech and thought instead of written ones, and
will inevitably become ready readers of print.
It may seem a long way from typing letters to the easy reading of a novel, a history or
a volume on psychology. But the distance between the two is in fact short. To show that it is
so, one need only refer to a few well-known facts. The normal child is born with the
complete apparatus for seeing, hearing and talking. He can and does learn quite easily to
understand the moving show of the world, and to understand what he hears of spoken words,
and to talk intelligently. But the normal child is not born with apparatus which can readily
be adapted to reading. For reading he must use his native powers in a manner to which time
and a selective survival have not adapted them. The typewriter increases enormously our
daily practices in that use.
The schools form one of the prime factors for increasing the consumption of print. I do
not put the schools, as makers of readers, before the printing press, the newspaper, the
periodical, and the pamphlet, because, after all, the industrial mechanism from which
comes our present flood of print is the first cause of increase in reading. It is print that has
made our schools possible. They give to most children a modest skill in reading; but it is the
never ceasing and ever growing impulse of the printed page that is compelling us to think
of reading as an essential part of living.
I mention electric lighting as a factor in the growth of reading, merely to call
attention to the existence of many factors which space is lacking to consider here. The
movie gives to millions daily pleasure of absorbing romances through the eyes without the
interposition of print. No one knows whether it will strengthen the reading habit or no. On
first view is seems to promote aimless seeing and idle talking, and to make commonplace
life a little more attractive, while leaving it essentially commonplace still. Perhaps it
increases novel reading; but that is doubtful. Still more doubtful is it if it increases the
reading of thought provoking books. Students of mind assure us that only those whose brains
are equipped at birth with apparatus which is capable of functioning in thought can do any
thinking. There remains, none the less, the possibility that a brain which has not yet gone
in for thinking may have the apparatus for that performance and that the apparatus has not
received from the outer world such stimulation, in words, pictures, incidents or experiences,
as would set it in operation. It is possible also that the brains of some, and perhaps many, do
not go about the task of thinking unless and until a certain specific kind of brain content

has been acquired. Perhaps some of us are led to think, and inevitably to read, by the
As the movie became popular the number of books lent by public libraries decreased.
This decrease was accompanied by a slightly increased demand for those novels, chiefly of
the baser sort, which were pictured in local movie theaters. Evidence is entirely lacking that
what are called "educational films" aroused any demand whatever for books on the
countries, cities, processes or histories depicted by them. The "speaking film," meaning a
moving picture accompanied by a phonographic reproduction of the words spoken by the
actors, will undoubtedly soon be perfected. Will it be an even more effective discourager of
reading than is the present silent movie? It may be assumed that it will. It can bring to the
remotest hamlet, as to the great cities, not only the present type of condensed story; but also
the spoken drama and the opera in proper setting, with the very words and intonation of the
singers and musicians and actors.
The radio now brings news, oratory and music to the ears of millions and promises
soon to do the same for well-nigh our whole population. Of its influence on reading and
thinking one can say little more than has just been said concerning the movie. Both, it
should be noted, are the outcome of the wide dissemination of print and increase of the habit
of using it.
While new and more attractive methods of locomotion increase travel and decrease
the use of print; and while more all pervading methods of projecting sound, including
speech and music, increase the use of the auditory centers in gaining pleasure and
information; and while better and cheaper methods of reproducing still pictures and
photographs of the world in motion, all help to furnish information without reading, they
lead us at the same time to somewhat of reading. Indeed, all factors that increase human
intercourse and add to the total of general information, help to diffuse print more widely,
and tend to make it more accurate and in some degree more insistent on being read.
Furthermore, though countless hours are now devoted to listening to sounds and to absorbing
pictured stories, there is scant evidence that these hours were devoted, before the coming of
these days of talk and pictures, to reading of any kind.
And, again, the inquiring mind is now brought readily into touch with answers to its
inquiries. Every day it is more and more difficult for facts to remain in seclusion and
unimparted. The same apparatus which quickly transports men, transports with equal
quickness the printed word. And the devices which carry speech across a continent to a
listening ear, make it easy to put into print in thousands of towns and cities the message
which the voice conveys.
The changes I have noted clearly demand changes in library methods. I have space to
mention only one. When Naude gathered a library for Cardinal Mazarin he aimed at
completeness. His example is followed still by many libraries, in spite of these facts: that
the growth of print has made futile the attempt to gather it all; that indexes and abstracts
enable a student to name quite definitely, without examination, what he needs to see; and
that methods of transport, communication and reproduction make it easy to put specific print
needed into the hands of those who need it, wherever it may be found. A few libraries may,
with some propriety, continue to acquire all they can and keep all they acquire. But even
among these few there should be set up a division of all knowledge and a cooperation which
shall enable each to concentrate on a certain small part of the whole field. This cooperation
in acquisition is already practiced by a few libraries, and, fortunately, some of these few
are among the most important. But the tendency to gather and retain still prevails, and

large libraries duplicate one another in many things, yet, lacking cooperation, allow many
works of first importance to escape them aH.
The growth of print and its use, which has been briefly sketched, suggests a possible
salvaging of our threatened civilization, and in this suggestion lies good reason for the
existence of this paper. Civilization is a rare plant, brought to flower only at long intervals
and only through happy combinations of climate, soil and peoples. The present civilization
in Europe and America shows a decreasing birth rate of the more intelHgent. Professor
Conklin in a recent article says that the possibilities of continued progress rest on
education, eugenics, and enlightened effort. In that growth of print and the habit of using it
which is roughly outlined in this paper lies a hint of the possibility of such extension of
education as will lead to the checking of our civilization's movement toward decay.
Although the probability that advantage will be taken of that possibility is very slight, I
venture to outline roughly a method of doing it.
Print is used more than ever, and we are forming the habit of depending upon it for a
certain type of facts. Take, for a simple example, the boy who hears of radio apparatus. He
straightway wishes to make one. He reads directions in books, newspapers and journals.
He foHows them, and gets the results he wishes. He now realizes the value of print as he
never did before, and—note this particularly—he has subjected himself, with happy results,
to the authority of experts. Are his mental abilities and habits such as to make it impossible
for him to be led to read, and to trust in the words of experts in other lines—in the lines, for
example, of eugenics, education and enhghtened effort? The question lacks an answer; but
the wide-spreading, the superficially effective and the penetrating extension of the printed
page and its use, open to us the possibility of an affirmative answer. We can take advantage
of the possibility and make a serious attempt, through a skiHfully directed distribution of
carefully chosen print, supplementing it with movies, phonographs and radios, to give to all
men that knowledge of our civilization's perilous state and that conviction of the importance
of enlightened effort which will lead them to more reading, clearer thinking and wiser
habits. The experiment would cost, let us say, a couple of billion dollars; a sum which the
war's experience showed we can easily spare.
It is quite possible that my library experience leads me to overestimate the power of
print. But students of society, and especially of the causes which lead to the decay of our
civilization, seem, by their failure to discover factors which make for the permanence of
that civilization, to be ready to accept the conclusion which I reached long ago—that the one
element lacking in all other civilizations and present in ours is print and its use; and that
if our civilization survives it will be because of the presence of that factor. I have tried to
show that it grows in strength daily, and grows more rapidly every year. It would be wise to
study it with care, and, by conscious effort, attempt to use its power as a savior of that
civility which is now in flower.


The Women's Reading Room, Denver Public Library, circa 1895. Courtesy of the Denver
Public Library, Western History Department.

To-day it's "Janice Meridith"; yesterday it was "Richard Carvel"; the day before,
"David H a r u m " ; last week, "The choir invisible"; last month, "When knighthood was in
flower"—and before t h a t is ancient history, and stands untouched a n d dusty on the shelf
To-morrow it's "Via crucis" and "The ship of stars," and another "Great American novel"
and several "Most important books of the year," and 10 score of novels t h a t "every one is
reading." And in the swarm with these literary comets of surpassing brilliancy are a few
t h o u s a n d more or less of "most admirable," "excellent," "charming," "entertaining,"
"cheering," falling stars of stories for old and young. The librarian sees t h e m come. No
one, unless it be the clerk at the notion and book counter of the department store, h a s a better
view of t h e m t h a n he. And, alas! he sees them go. They are not even comets of a season.
And, alas! again they go; b u t they fail to vanish utterly with a flash and a bit of dust. They
are eclipsed, b u t not destroyed; they pass, yet to stay. They line up on his shelves; they gather
dust; their titles fill his catalogs; they reproach him by their very presence for h i s folly in
letting t h e m in a n d his multiple folly in admitting them in pairs, in triplets, and in gangs.
Tens of thousands of copies of t h a t peerless, deathless, priceless old classic, "Beside the
bonnie brier bush," are on t h e shelves of public libraries in this country to-day, r e t u r n i n g no
interest and speaking loudly of the unstability of the public taste, of the fallibility of
reviews, of the fugacity of fame, and of the advertising cleverness of the modern publisher.
And what, then, should the librarian do? He looks a t his dead stock, 25 to 30 per cent, of
his books in novels—mostly poor, and no longer grabbed for even if good; a t the 80 per cent,
fiction in his a n n u a l report of circulation; a t the announcements of books of more
p e r m a n e n t value he knows h i s library should have and can't afford; a t the thinness and
vapidity of most of the best of the fiction output; at the lack of results from most novel-
reading; a t his obligations as custodian of public morals—for he is expected to be censorious
of wickedness, even though often entreated to be tolerant of weakness; and he says to
himself, "I will be stern and firm and critical, and, putting my book funds into other
things, will buy for this library only the best novels, and few of them." Then he considers
further, and finds it said t h a t the library is the public's, and who, then, is the librarian t h a t
h e should do other than the things the "constant reader," who is p a r t of the public, and most
of the vox populi may approve? And "constant reader" is more constant in her demand for
novels t h a n a score of students. She (and also he) asks for the latest novels; should she not
have them?
He finds t h a t it is also said t h a t the library should entertain as well as elevate and
interest; t h a t the people, the average people, the industrious people of modest income—girls,
women, men, a n d boys—can and do get recreation, pleasure, a n d p e r h a p s some inspiration
from the stories t h e critic with his wider view calls cheap and thin and silly. And should
not the library, the people's library, supply the books the great mass of its borrowers—the
people—desire for their harmless pleasure, as well as those asked for by the cultivated few
for their enlightenment? And he further finds it said t h a t the public library is established
and maintained to help the ignorant to become wise as well as to give the wise opportunity to
add to their wisdom; and t h a t the ignorant, the non-literary, will not come to the library and
use it, and become attached to it, and get into the habit of appealing to it for guidance and

Reprinted from Library Journal 24 (1899): 667-671.

enrichment of life as well as pleasure, unless they find in it the books suited to their taste;
that third-rate novels are the proper side-shows, barkers and lemonade-and-peanuts of the
great circus of literature proper; that without the attraction of much of the latest fiction—poor
and poorest alike—the library will not get within the radius of its influence the people it is
perhaps chiefly designed to affect; that a student's library is a proper thing; but a people's
free, public Hbrary is another and—in part, at least—a very different thing, and also has its
place. And, furthermore, the librarian finds that his colleagues are convinced by these
sayings that it is their duty to supply the second- and third-rate story-book, and supply them
they do—^generally without protest, often with zeal. Precept and example, then, lead to much
poor fiction in free public libraries.
And yet the story is not all told. The librarian recalls his first stern resolve, and
examines the customs and sayings of his fellows. First, the argument from precedent. A
well-established custom may have no merit save age, and age in educational matters—and
a library is chiefly and educational institution—always implies opportunity for
Then there is the argument from the unattractiveness of good literature. What wise
and experienced men call good in letters, they say, is not within the people's grasp. The
people must be fetched with the cheap and silly. And the librarian replies, that for the
poorest, dullest, and narrowest mind, the best in literature is none too good; that from the
vast storehouse of printed things that can make up our literary heritage can be brought forth
writings, good, high, true—true in the artistic sense—and welcome to the unlearned. If that
is not so, then much of our boasting of our literary possessions is in vain. And, he asks, do
the librarians wish to disclose to their clients that they are buying poor books in order to
bring the library down to their level?
As to the argument from entertainment, it finds its answer also in the wealth of our
literature, an answer complete and conclusive. Lightness, brilliancy, humor, wit, fun,
incident, adventure—does any one venture to assert that the veriest beginner in reading, old
or young, must go out of the realm of good Hterature, into the domain of the weak and silly,
to find these things? Surely not. And again our librarian asks if the common people care to
have their libraries wittingly made purveyors of silly stuff on the plea that only by so doing
can the taste of the common people be met? The museum of science is attractive to a part of
the common people—of course, not to all, for not all care for science—without admitting fat
ladies or living skeletons to its collections. The picture gallery does not need a special show
of lurid daubs near its entrance to entice the common people to visit the Le Rolle upstairs.
But the public library is the public's library, and the librarian is the public's servant,
and he must buy what they ask him to buy. This is the chief weapon in the hands of the
third-rate fiction advocates. But its edge is turned at once when one considers that the
library does not buy the things the public ask for. Some want the New York Weekly, but there
the most complaisant of librarians has courage and audacity to draw the line. And the
weapon vanishes entirely when one considers that the librarian does in fact buy what many
of the people ask for when he buys only the best of fiction, and that in no event does he buy
all that all the public asks for.
The librarian has, standing by his first sternly critical mood, faced opposing
arguments. He considers the many libraries in this country, of moderate size, which offer
their readers a selection of 5000, 6000, or even 9000 different titles in novels, and stiH he
remains firm in his conviction that of such a wide selection two-thirds or more must be
weak, silly, and third-rate, for there are not 2000 good novels for old and young yet put into

print. He beHeves that the claims of literature, of education, and of sound economy are all
on the side of the conservative course in novel buying.


Cities and towns in this country establish and maintain free public libraries to help
make their citizens wiser and better and happier. These libraries lend books to these
citizens for use at home. Of the books they thus lend about 70 per cent are novels and story
books. It is the purpose of this paper to caH attention to some of the facts about the work of free
public libraries in providing free novels for the public.

1. It discriminates in favor of a certain class. The sales from stores and newspaper stands
of many millions of copies each year of novels by authors never mentioned in literary
journals, and never appearing in library lists, show that a large part of our people wish
for books the libraries do not furnish. The absence of these same people from public
libraries shows that they do not care to read the books the libraries buy. Libraries
generally select for purchase novels talked of and read by a very small portion of their
several communities. They do not buy for the submerged 90 per cent. Libraries are
committed to a policy of selection and discrimination. They can pursue that policy
further without violating tradition or precedent.

2. Of the total annual expenditure for salaries in the average public library from 25 to 40
per cent is spent in caring for and lending novels. The money thus spent, largely for
work of a purely clerical character, like handing out the books asked for and putting
them up again when returned, cannot be spent on such work as giving expert advice to
inquirers for information in regard to other things than novels.

3. The average library spends about 25 per cent of its book fund each year for fiction. That
is, it buys a third less books of other kinds than it would did it buy no fiction.

4. The novels which librarians lend are largely by authors who have acquired no standing
in the literary world. Standard writers on English and American literature find
scarcely 100 writers of fiction who are worthy of their consideration, while public
libraries of 70,000 to 100,000 v. find from 1200 to 2500 authors who have written books
worthy of a place on their book orders and their shelves.

5. An examination of the fiction shelves of any public library shows that in general the
authors most often lent are those who have not been proved by time and shown to have
permanent value. Were books of a stiH sHghter literary reputation freely furnished they
would, it seems, get the maximum of use.

6. The grade of the authors most often lent from public library shelves is shown also, and
more definitely, by the answers to an inquiry sent to 34 typical libraries. These answers
gave the names of all the writers of fiction whose books had been lent by each library on
three days, with the total number of books by each writer. A full report on these answers
is to appear in the Outlook [See Dana, Libraries, pp. 97-105]. They include the names of

Reprinted from Public Libraries 8 (1903): 352-354.

about 800 different authors, about five times as many as good books on Hterature find it
worth while to discuss.

The 10 most read novelists in the libraries of this country, as shown by these repHes,
are, in the order of their popularity: F. Marion Crawford, Rosa Nouchette Carey,
Alexander Dumas, Amanda Douglas, Ameha Barr, Clara Louise Burnham, Conan
Doyle, Charles King, Anthony Hope, Gilbert Parker. The promotion of Crawford takes
more of the time and money of public libraries than does the promotion of Scott, Eliot,
Thackeray, Hawthorne, and Balzac combined.

The second 10 include: Frank Stockton, E. P. Roe, Mary Johnston, Winston ChurchiU,
Mary Jane Holmes, Mrs. Burnett, S. R. Crockett, Mrs. Alexander, Paul Leicester Ford,
Hall Caine.

In this 20 there is only one author [Dumas] who has a claim to a place in the Pantheon of
letters; only one whose creations are a part of the legitimate birthright of everyone. The
twenty-first in order is Dickens. Hawthorne is fifty-ninth. Librarians spend on Rosa
Carey five times as much money for both books and distribution as on Hawthorne.

7. Libraries not only spend full 24 per cent of their book funds on novels, many of which
are poor, and 25 to 40 per cent of their maintenance fund on distributing those novels;
they also fail to keep on hand a good supply in attractive condition of the novels which
time has tried and pronounced good. Eighteen libraries searched their shelves and noted
the number of copies on hand of each book in a list of 100 of the best novels. On the
average, each of these libraries found only half [of] these books in. It is probably safe [to]
say that out of 1000 inquiries for any first-class novel at any library in the country 500
would be answered with a "not in."

8. Libraries wish their books to be used. It has not been demonstrated that the use of their
books would be less did they lessen the variety of their fiction stock by dropping the
poorer kinds and increasing the quantity of the better; in fact, certain experiments
indicate that it would be less.

9. In view of these facts a few suggestions have been made, as follows:

a) Buy of recent novels only a few.

b) Buy no novel until it has been out a year or more.
c) Put all recent novels on the list tentatively only, and drop them if time does not prove
them good.
d) Spend less money on fiction.
e) Spend the money thus saved on duplicates of other good books.
f) If a reduction in the list of novels reduces the cost of maintenance, spend the money
thus saved in attracting readers to other books.
g) Reduce the formality of book borrowing still further, following recent commercial
methods, and secure a larger number of borrowers.

These suggestions seem reasonable. All of them are being tried and all apparently
with success.

The facts given can probably be paralleled in juvenile departments and the
suggestions apply to those departments with even more force than to the adult.
I know I have sorely tried the patience of my colleagues with my comments on this
subject. But it is important. That is my excuse. That the topic is wearing threadbare is my
excuse for summing it up in this brief and barren fashion.
Let me say again that I am no enemy of fiction. A good story has created many an
oasis in many an otherwise arid Hfe. Manysidedness of interest makes for good morals,
and millions of our fellows step through the pages of a story book into a broader world than
their nature and their circumstances ever permit them to visit. If anything is to stay the
narrowing and hardening process which specialization of learning, specialization of
inquiry and of industry and swift accumulation of wealth are setting up among us, it is a
return to romance, poetry, imagination, fancy, and the general culture we are now taught to
despise. Of all these the novel is a part; rather, in the novel are all of these. At the bottom of
the Renaissance lay not so much new knowledge as a new attitude of mind. The troubadour
had his share in breaking up the tradition of obedience, the servility to established things.
We may doubt if the individual has the will to beHeve, and so to shake himself free from the
bonds of fact and logic. But a race may surely find springing up in itself a fresh love of
romance, in the high sense of that word, which can keep it active, hopeful, ardent,
progressive. Perhaps the novel is to be, in the next few decades, part of the outward
manifestation of a new birth of this love of breadth and happiness.


A definition is needed, and this appeals to me: "Modern fiction is the kind I do not
care to read." I was reared, of course, on Scott and Thackeray, with a still earlier contact
with Captain Mayne Reid and Cooper and Ballantine. For many years after this period of
novel apprenticeship I read all kinds, from translations from the Russian to gentle tales of
the Cranford type, and in latter days have fairly waHowed in the books of adventure which
have poured out of the press and which are evidently read by thousands—though no longer
praised by our reviewers!
I have been selecting books for public libraries for several decades. More than twenty
years ago an examination of many lists of best novels made by many persons, and of many
lists of the novels found in our larger libraries, and of novels mentioned in books on
literature, led me to conclude that of all fiction written in the English language there then
were about six hundred volumes of the first rank. (Perhaps forty or fifty translations should
be added to these.) To put it another way, I believed then, and still do, that if a hundred of the
best obtainable judges of fiction were each asked to compile a list of a thousand of the best
novels, about six hundred titles would be found to be common to more than half the hundred
English-speaking peoples have been writing novels for more than two centuries, and
during nearly seventy-five years they have produced thousands each year. If the conclusion
reached by the study just mentioned is fairly accurate, then of novels of the first rank we
now have to our credit, adding a hundred for the last twenty years, about seven hundred. But
if the critics of any given period of, say, the last fifty years spoke honestly and with full
knowledge of values when they described the novels that moved them to praise, we must
have produced more than six hundred novels of first rank in the last half century alone. I
am convinced that our novelists have not done that.
I have not read all of the six or seven hundred best novels of all time. My reading for
nearly forty years has been largely for book selection and not for book reading. The notes
on books, descriptive and critical, that have come under my eye in these book-buying years
probably numbered tens of thousands. As I read these, year after year, I found I was
acquiring a deep distrust of criticisms—of novels especially. At first I was inclined to join
the critics in hailing as masterpieces a goodly portion of each year's output. I read novels
freely and, as I enjoyed them myself, it is probable that, like the critics, I thought them far
better than they truly were. But years and decades went by, and masterpieces fell into
neglect and often under condemnation. This want of harmony between the laudations of the
critic and the decisions of Father Time became more and more obvious; until finally I
acquired the deplorable habit of looking with suspicion and often with downright
disapproval on novels that the critics—and usually an obedient public also—most highly
Such was my general state of mind about decorated and medaled fiction when the
modern American novels came on the scene a few years ago. I tasted them, and, perhaps in
part, as I have hinted, because of the high laudations they received, I found they gave me no
pleasure. In particular I found them not at all in harmony with what I had seen of life. They

Reprinted by permission from The Nation magazine/The Nation Company from The
Nation 136 (1928): 447-448.

grovel to attract attention. The skilful beggar hangs on his chest the legend "I am blind,"
though his eyes are stiH good. Our modernist hangs on the portal of his stories of American
life the legend "Warranted to be slimy and scummy," and brings his audience to a tale
which is merely banal and boring.
Also I have come to be critical of the liking of things and manners that are loudly in
fashion. Of late years, in the art of fiction as in the arts of sculpture and painting, not to
speak of architecture, textiles, jewelry, and other arts and crafts, a change has come over
both technique and topic. I am not at all sure that by this change in fashion we have arrived
at anything which is strictly new, though each slight change in style and subject matter is
hailed as very new indeed and, too often, as a long step forward. If the enthusiastic
supporters of "modern" novels would take a good look at fiction from the days of Homer or
of the Hebrew poets down through the centuries, they might, some of them, discover that style
and subject matter in fiction have, not once but often, gone through the identical gamut of
change that they are going through now—yet have always remained about the same; and
that to admire greatly each phase as it reappears is merely to be in the fashion. They might
find in Petronius anticipation of the modern slumminess. They might find models for
modern form and point of view in such a work as Tristam Shandy. Fielding was a novelty
in his day, and refused to pay much attention to polite reservations about speech. The
Victorians were generally prudish, we sometimes claimed. But even in those days Zola
brought us in both manner and substance a change quite as violent, I would think, as is the
change that has come over novel writing in recent years.
I could further point these remarks on the rule of fashion with observations on ladies'
clothing, or on the awfiil outcome of a certain up-to-dateness in architecture; but I choose, as
not quite so familiar, the present status of engraving on wood. If the recent Studio volume
on "Woodcuts of Today" is even fairiy suggestive of how artists are behaving, then they are
almost as subject to the popular mood of the moment as is the young lady with the vanity box.
Blackness is the word; with due attention to distortion, or at least a touch of the bizarre.
From Russia to our own United States this modernity of the woodcut has been hailed as new
and very good. From which also, as the products of this fashion are surely destined to a
pleasing oblivion, I gain further courage to hold to my faith that the modern American
novel is the outcome of fashion and imitation, and we shall get over it, as we get over other
things, in due season.
These are not very plausible reasons for my unwillingness to read modern
novelists—which is accompanied, I am glad to say, with an abiding pleasure in the tales of
Captain Dingle. I frankly admit that the years have touched my interests, and that novels
which are lovely to the modern youth are to me not infrequently mere crackling of old
thorns. Novels of adventure I still devour by the score. A patient public is rarely told how
many good ones are produced each year, and read by low-brows and ancients like myself.


In recent years novels have become almost as universal as newspapers. They appeal to
every one who reads and the demand for them has created so good a "fiction market" that it
seems impossible for writers and publishers to fill the demand. The readers of novels and
short stories in this country today must number tens of millions. They have attractive and
new fiction spread before them every day, and every day much of this fiction costs
relatively less to purchase.
Clean and wholesome weeklies, each publishing good new fiction, come from the press
by millions of copies. Of a score and more of monthlies the same statements are true.
Reference here is to journals of a general nature, containing interesting articles,
admirably illustrated, on subjects of the day, plus always from one to half a dozen short
stories and one or more long continued novels. Within the last ten or twenty years
periodicals devoted solely to fiction—all of them the natural successors to Beadle's Dime
Novels of blessed memory and to the Seaside Series and Nick Carter and not a few others—
crowd every news stand in the country; they are bought and read by millions. Not a few of
them carry each month at least one story of novel length, and the vast majority of the more
popular and successful give their purchasers lively and wholesome stories, often quite as
worthy of praise as are many of the cloth-bound two and a half dollar books of the more
aristocratic publishers. And even these cloth-bound books—by some considered more
reputable and distinguished reading—can now be borrowed from lending libraries at a
price that makes the reading of them cost only a few cents.
The bearing on the library of these facts about the increase in the story-reading habit,
and the resulting cheapness of new and popular fiction may be stated in this way:
In former days, say twenty-five to forty years ago, nearly all good new novels
appeared in bound form. Their price, though less than it is today, was more, relatively, to
the income of the vast majority of novel-readers. The public library idea was born—a
century ago—at a time when all books were scarce and when it seemed wise and
economical for a community to pool its book expenditure and use it to form a book reserve to
which all citizens could go. And even as recently as twenty-five or forty years ago, this
method of making all members of a community rich in books by having a public library,
carried on naturally the habit of including both current new fiction and the old standards
on its shelves for general lending.
Now, the facts above briefly outlined and their relation to the administration of a
library have been noted, and librarians begin to ask themselves and the general public this
"In view of the ease and small cost with which the average reader can have the
reading of new fiction as it appears, ought not libraries to reduce the quantity of this same
new fiction which they at present supply and use the money thus saved for the purchase and
administration of books in other lines?"
We conclude, then, that the public library is no longer in the position in relation at
least to popular fiction, meaning most of the current fiction, in which it was twenty-five
years ago. Though it may be said to occupy an even more important position in relation to

This essay, Dana's last, was pubHshed after his death on July 21, 1929. Reprinted from
Wilson Bulletin 4 (1929): 61-62.

the promotion—^by free lending—of the great fiction of the world, that which occupies an
important place in general as well as in literary history, in education and in the study of
society since the days of Defoe and Fielding.
Our suggestion, consequently, is that librarians consider the advisability of reducing
the amount spent by libraries each year on the purchase and lending of popular current
fiction and of diverting the reduction to two things:

1. The purchase and promotion of interest in and the lending of

those few hundred novels which are generally accepted as the best;

2. The increase of the purchase of and the promotion of interest in,

the use of in the library and the lending of books and journals
which deal with the questions of science, invention, production
and transport of material things and those which deal with
pressing problems of society, government, morals and religion.

The Newspaper Room, Denver Public Library, circa 1895. Courtesy of the Denver Public
Library, Western History Department.

You have the newspaper habit. This habit is one of the most beneficial and most
entertaining of all the habits you have. Few people read too many newspapers. Most people
do not read enough.
They teH you about your town, how it is governed, how it grows, whether it is cleaner
and more healthful every year or not; how it spends its money, whether it gets its money's
worth in schools, parks, paving, water supply, sewage arrangements, poHce and fire
protection and a score of other things. The newspapers tell you about your business, how
trade is, what the crops are going to be, whether as many people are building as there were a
year ago, whether credit is good or not, and how the enterprises you are interested in are
being managed, whether stocks are increasing or declining in value. You need only to
think of a few of the many things that you get from your daily newspaper to realize that the
habit of reading it is one of the most helpful as weh as one of the most interesting of all the
things you do in a day.
Isn't it curious then, this habit of being ashamed, as many are when approached on the
subject, and this apologizing for reading "nothing but the newspapers?" It is almost
something to be proud of. More newspaper reading stiH would help many and would harm
Print may destroy now and then a weakling. It is excellent food for the normal.
Newspapers can be improved. The surest way to improve them is to have them read by a
larger number of people and read more thoroughly. Readers of newspapers are the best
critics of them. The more they are read the wiser the readers; the wiser the readers the more
criticisms, and the more the newspapers are criticized the better they become.
Do you say this does not apply to the yellow journal? I would reply that it does. The
yellow journal caters all the time to the beginners in reading, who are also the beginners in
newspaper reading. A new crop of these beginners in reading is born every year. This new
crop likes its reading simply printed, in large letters, and with plenty of pictures. The more
of this new crop of readers there are the more the yellow journals flourish; and the more the
yellow journals flourish the sooner this new crop is educated by the yellow journals, by the
mere process of reading them, and the sooner they get into the habit of reading joumals that
are not yellow and contain a larger quantity of more reliable information, until at last the
yellow joumals are over-passed by the readers they have themselves trained.
Where do books come in? For most of us they must come in the second place. This
cannot be helped, and why should we attempt to prevent it? The average man has to work in
the world. The news of the world in which he works comes to him in his daily paper. That,
then, is the first thing for the average man to read.
But that part of the world in which one may work is only a portion of the whole.
Outside one's own field of work, outside of the things the newspapers commonly touch upon
are other interesting things, travel, invention, discovery, philosophy, poetry, the stage,
workings of the human mind, products of the imagination, all of these are best told about in
the best books. Out of these books which tell of these things the average intelligent man, who
usually confines himself to the reading of newspapers, can get other and very entertaining
views of life. Why shouldn't he, and why doesn't he? The answer is plain enough. The

Reprinted from The Newarker 1 (1912): 185-187.

average man is busy, and, when book-reading time comes, weary. To read a book, to follow
along one line of thought, is then somewhat of an effort. After he has read the newspaper,
which he should read, he has little energy left for books. He need make no apology for this
Many men, however, have discovered that if after a day's work and the day's paper
have been finished, they read with recreation, relaxation, entertainment in view, they can
get a tremendous lot of pleasure out of books.
Now, the way to read for entertainment is to taste books here and there until you find
something you like. It may not be one of the great books of the worid. It probably won't. It
may be a good detective story, with interesting plot and very Httle character study. It may be
the latest tale of moving adventure upon the high seas or on the Klondike.
Whatever it is, those who read for entertainment find that novels grip the attention,
whirl the mind far away from the day's work, put one in new surroundings, almost recreate
him and help him to come back into the world and to his day's work quite a new man.
Now, my theory is that many of the men who read newspapers only would find it worth
while to read more outside things in books, and be more often tempted to do that reading, if
they would more often begin with things that are purely entertaining.
For example, here are about a dozen novels, which I have found in the last few years
took my mind away from the day's work, and the heat and the mosquitoes, and other
troubles large and small, and gave me the most intense pleasure.
I recommend them to aH readers of newspapers. The Hst foHows:


"Yellow Men and Gold."
"My Lady's Garter."
"Partners of Providence."
"The Scariet Pimpernel."
"The Blazed Trail."
"The Black Bag."
"Buried Alive."
"Spanish Gold."
"Whispering Smith."
"The Marriage of Capt. Kettle."
"Through the Wall."
"The Intrusion of Jimmy."
"The Prodigal Judge."


May I say a word in explanation and extenuation of something that is almost

universally condemned, the funny pictures in the supplements to the Sunday newspapers?
They are not as bad as they are printed. They are in some way performing a useful service.
In spite of the many harsh things said of them, of which the following are average
examples, one may dare to say a word in their favor, and as some of the most sweeping
objections to them have come from librarians, it is proper that the other side be presented in
a library organ.
Tlie Nation said: "These pictures are more tragic than comic and more barbaric than
Mr. Lindsay Swift said: "They are the unfunniest pictures ever conceived by the mind
of is impossible to describe the vulgarity and insanity of their drawing and
Mr. Percival Chubb said, in an address on the comic supplement, "I found no
diminution of that distressing vulgarity which seems to be growing upon us in our great
cities. Vulgarity—a flaunting commonness of mind—appears to be a product of the great
city. It is quite a different thing from coarseness, a rustic crudeness. This is tolerable,
sometimes picturesque. I attribute the inroads of vulgarity to the decline of reverence, the
lack of any awed converse with great things, an insensitiveness to what is fine,
distinguished, holy. It is what I have to cope with in the young city people, in high school and
college, in attempting to quicken their deeper admiration for real literature; commonness of
mind, a cheap flippancy; a lack of refined humility, of reverence, in short."
A Librarian said of these pictures, "They are a cheap travesty of real fun, their chief
motifs physical pain and deceit. They make fun of old age, of physical infirmities, of other
races and religions and undermine respect for law and authority."
Sweeping condemnations like these do not clarify the subject. Here is a new factor in
life, especially affecting children. For those who are interested in the welfare of children
thus to condemn this new influence wholesale does not lead to an understanding of it or to
any method of lessening the harm it can do, or to any method of turning it to useful ends.
The cheap Sunday paper is a new thing. It is planned to appeal to as many persons as
possible. It naturaHy finds its largest number of purchasers and readers among people who
have had little education, who read with difficulty and who find pictures more easily
understood than print.
Because these people form the vast majority of those who can read at all, the Sunday
supplement abounds in pictures. Many of these pictures are reproductions of photographs,
instructive in themselves and illustrating articles on men, places and events of at least a
passing importance. Many of them are imaginative drawings accompanying stories and
studies of industries, reports of discoveries and inventions, and a score of other topics.
These original drawings are often the work of men of great talent, and not only are
admirable presentations of the scenes of incidents depicted, but also are excellent as
pictures, as drawings, as works of art. To these photographs and drawings color is
sometimes added, often crudely and ineffectively, but not infrequently with admirable taste

Reprinted from The Newarker 1 (1912): 95-98.

and skill in spite of the mechanical difficulties in the way. Many of them are of great
interest as suggesting how rapidly high-speed color printing is approaching the point where
it can offer to the wayfaring man, every Sunday for a nickel, reproductions rivalling in
quality of drawing and refinement of color reproductions which today are sought for at high
To these pictorial features, to most of which only the most unbending puritan can find
serious objections, the newspapers have found it wise to add colored funny pictures for the
children. It is against these that the criticisms quoted above are directed.
These funny pictures are of necessity planned to meet the taste of the children of those
for whom the whole Sunday paper is planned—the relatively uneducated and the relatively
non-reading. As are the parents so are the children. Little reading, many pictures, plenty of
color, and easily understood humor—these are asked for, and the publishers furnish them.
Note, first, that the desire for the kind of comic supplement that is afforded to us was
present before the thing desired appeared. American children were of the kind that likes the
colored comic supplement of to-day before that colored comic supplement came into
existence. The supplement is a product of a certain taste in humor, of a certain taste in
drawing and color, not the product thereof. It is primarily an effect and not a cause.
If the reformer wishes to have the joy of reforming, the pleasure of exploiting his own
superiority and his own unselfishness, let him begin at the beginning. If comic Sunday
supplements are wicked, how much more wicked are those who enjoy them! If they hurt the
good child, think of the tens of thousands of children who are wicked enough to love them on
sight! If the reformers would suppress the comic Sunday supplement they must change the
taste of all the millions of children who have brought it into being; they must advance poor
human nature, which all reformers have found to be very widespread, must recast it anew
after their own models, and aH to get rid of one of its minor products.
Note, next, that the children's taste in humor found expression among themselves
before the colored supplement began to work its will upon them. And note, further, that this
expression of the taste in humor and wit of the children who to-day see the comic supplement
was in large measure cruder, nastier, more vulgar and more cruel than the comic
supplement itself has ever been or would ever dare to be. If any doubt this let them recall
their own childhood, and, unless they consorted never with every-day boys less well bred
than the very best, and were brought up in hourly bondage to apron strings, they will admit
that the humorous orgies of the child mind are things of which, as Stevenson says, one
would gladly write but dares not.
Not only are these pictures, that is, the stories they tell, above the mental, moral and
artistic level of most of the stories and jokes which pass muster among children, they are
also often good in themselves, good measured by any reasonable standard. Many of them
are bright, clever and clean, and many of the pictures which express them are excellent
caricature work, done by craftsmen of talent, training and skill. They are seldom
unspeakably bad, they are rarely nasty, they are not often cruel. It is evident that most
criticisms of them are based on very sHght acquaintance with them and are simply echoes
of a fashion in condemnation.
Another thing must be said. What do the critics of the comic supplements offer the
child in place of them? What are some of these things they think so manifestly purifying
and elevating? Do they give them clean and subtle humor, stories of noble deeds, refined
drawing, exquisite coloring? Perhaps in part, certainly not altogether. They urge the
children to read such mere nonsense as Lear produced, good of its kind, but not at aH
superior to much of the mere nonsense of the comic supplement. They approve always of

Mother Goose, wherein theft, murder and thoughtless cruelty are sufficiently common, all
often pictured by drawings of the crudest. They encourage the reading of fables, fairy tales
and mythology stories, many of which tell of the success of sly, mean tricks; of lying, theft
and murder; recount endless slaughters, portray cowards and cry-babies in heroic guise,
and give the child as many suggestions for wickedness, if the joyful little beggar would
only please the reformers by patterning his conduct on his story books, as do the worst
Sunday supplements.
The fact is, the newspaper for the relatively poorly-educated, non-reading, hard-
working, modest-salaried part of our public is now in the early stages of its development. It
is struggling with problems of paper, type, pictures, color, printing and a score of others. It is
demanded, so it exists. To suppress it you must first destroy the demand, and the only way
to destroy the demand is to educate the average man to a point where the demand for this
kind of newspaper will not arise in him or his children, and the newspaper is itself doing
this very thing faster than any other agency!
Daily and hourly newspaper men are trying to produce a higher grade of journal in
every respect, in both appearance and contents, and daily demand from the average reader
for a better and cleaner and more attractive paper increases and intensifies. Let us look the
newspaper in the face. It is not yet proved an ogre. If it is ruining our civilization by
debauching the manners and morals of our youth, we do not know it, and we need not
believe it because some shout the news from the house-tops.
The newspaper, like all other printed things, is just beginning its career. In a country
where nearly every child is caught early and taught to read and then turned loose to earn a
living and raise a family, you will not find any high degree of art and literary culture
outside a very small part of the population. But though the 99 per cent, do not read the great
books or think the great thoughts, or care for the great art, still they like to read. For a cent a
day they can read a paper. They buy what is offered. It suits them fairly well. From it they
learn things and especially they learn to read better. Soon they want better reading, so I
have faith to believe, and if the first paper they buy does not give it they try another. And all
the time, if there is any virtue in knowledge and if our democratic ideas are not all wrong,
they are all advancing, and on the up grade.
Now, perhaps the newspapers would listen to suggestions from men interested in
education, suggestions looking to making their papers both more attractive and more
helpful, for if they could so improve them they would get more readers still, of course.
The thing for the reformer to do is obvious; he should not damn the comic supplement
and all who enjoy it. He should understand why it exists, examine the conditions which
produce it and then, if he can, lend a hand at improving the conditions and also at
improving the product.
A word may be added concerning one other aspect of these much-maligned pictures.
The humorous and other illustrations, appearing in the newspapers on Sunday and through
the week, are the products of a movement which is most helpful in the growth among us of
interest in art and in the development of draftsmen, designers and colorists. Artists appear
in a community only when that community, by patronizing them and buying their products,
makes it possible for them to appear, to live and to produce.
The established custom in this country is to purchase the work of foreign artists and
artisans, not of American artists and artisans. We import a few artists, but chiefly we buy
what has been produced abroad. It follows, of course, that we are discovering among us very
few artists or artisans. There is no premium on their appearance. Now the publishers of
daily papers, and in far less degree the publishers of magazines and books, are offering a

continuous series of rewards and prizes for the appearance in the field of drawing—and
drawing is the basis of all graphic work—of men with ideas and the ability to expose them
in line and color. I do not know how many men are to-day finding it possible to live in
America on the products of their brush, pencil or pen purchased by the daily papers; but the
number must be very large, and constantly and rapidly increasing. Here is one of the very,
very few lines in which we are patronizing art in America. The immediate results are not
altogether good, naturally. The most academic of old world art-teaching institutions send
forth some students who produce things which do not please. But the stimulus, the open field,
the chance is here, thanks to the daily press; the rewards and prizes increase daily in
number and size. Competitors spring up wherever nature's rare gift of artistic desire may
fall. The call is universal, democratic, with no academic or conventional conditions
whatever; and all who have watched with care the development of newspaper illustrations
for the past ten years will agree that the results, as shown by their improvement in
technique and beauty, indicate that the call is receiving most promising response from
American artists.


The movie appeals to the appetites and fancies of prehistoric man. Indulgence of the
appetites it feeds and of the faculties it particularly engages weakens that very tender plant,
zest for things that ameliorate. Now of all the things that ameliorate, the mastery of
knowledge and its daughter wisdom are of the first importance. The key to knowledge is
mastery of the printed page. The movie turns millions away from efforts to attain this
The tastes and mental powers on which the movie feeds are prehistoric. The movie is
the game of the most ancient eyes and of that brain of minor convolutions which a few
million years ago gave promise of ours, but was by no means ours. Its appeal is universal,
far too universal.
The average movie meets its observers at the most primitive part of their natures and
leaves them there. The movies seeing habit provokes no cerebration.
Producers of films and managers of movies have tapped the prehistoric man, rather
the ultimate primitive and prehistoric in all men. They have found the vein as wide as all
humankind and marvellously rich, and they proceed to work it. No blame attaches here.
Indeed, these filmists will, by the very zeal which rich profits promote, in time discover to
movie lovers their own madness, will curb a base appetite by overfeeding it and will at last
find and cultivate the field in which a moving picture may be used with fine pleasure to
many and with sound profit to some.
My indictment does not lie against the obvious stupidity, dullness, inemity and
frightful banality of the movie play itself, nor against the pardonable though lamentable
activities of the movie promoter. An indictment laid in those quarters would gain slight
support from our fellow citizens. To many the marvelous, wonder working quality of the
moving picture is ample evidence of its supreme excellence. It has made so many very rich,
it gathers so memy dimes and nickels for its promoters in its 20,000 temples with their
20,000,000 daily worshippers, and it has promised, though it has never achieved, such
astounding improvements in the education of old and young that argument against it seems
to most almost irreligious. The movie to-day is touched with a certain divinity.
My argument against it lies elsewhere, to wit, in the constitution of man himself. It is
as follows:
The eye has always been used to arouse in the organism possessing it certain
advantageous reactions. It was thus used when it was still but the embryo of the present
complex organ, several geologic ages ago. It has been so used ever since. As we became less
bestial and more manlike the eye became more efficient itself, and at the same time led to
the growth in size, in complexity and in effectiveness as an interpreter and reaction engine
of a certain special tract in the brain.
As time went on ears and auditory centres, nose and olfactory centres, speech organs
and speech centres also developed; but the eye and its optical centre continued to be of prime
importance in the maintenance of man's general welfare. In the course of the millions of
years during which animals grew to manhood, and of the other thousands or millions
between the first days of man's physiological uprightness and the time when he took on his

Reprinted from New York Sun, February 19,1917, p. 12.

present admirable aspect, countless uses and countless pressing needs for his optical
apparatus were daily present, and skill in the use of that apparatus increased, and growth
in complexity and effectiveness of both eye and optical centre in the brain went on.
We can safely assume that for thousands of years, and probably for millions, it was
easier for man and his predecessors to learn helpful things about the world by vision than
by soimd or smell or touch. When consciousness arrived and man began to acquire what we
now call knowledge, the eye, with its optical centre in the brain, was the tool through which
he most readily acquired that knowledge.
This is not a treatise on the genesis of our intelligence, and none need trouble to
question the details of an argument which here merely tries to suggest that man's world, as
he first began to know it and to be conscious of his knowledge, and to remember what he
knew, and to combine his memories and to use the combinations, was very largely and
probably fundamentally a world of visions rather than a world of smells or of sounds or of
That is to say: the first world that ever presented itself to the humblest of organisms
that possessed an eye was a moving picture; and from the incredibly remote period when
that first moving picture was dimly seen and straightway gropingly used to produce a
helpful reaction in the organism which the seeing eye inspired down to the time of the
coming of the man of such completeness as we now enjoy, the moving picture of the world
was always present and was always useful.
But if all man's non-human predecessors daily used the moving vision of the world
for guidance; if his apelike progenitors did the same; if his early upstanding fathers did the
same, each for a few million more or less of years, it is easy to understand why, when that
same moving picture is condensed and intensified and given a certain significant
sequence—all in the form of a movie drama on a screen—aH mankind is pleased thereby.
By the power of ancient nature he is bound to love to see the world's own universal movie,
the passing show of daily life; and here in the photographic movie he gets what he likes,
intensified and compacted; and, more than that, he is, in watching the screen, exercising a
function—seeing, and understanding what he sees—which of aH that he possesses is almost
the most ancient, the most habitual and the most agreeable to put in action.
Therefore aH love the movies; for all are ripe products of forebears who were in every
waking moment dependent on the right use of movies for their very existence.
When man's inventive skill produced an instrument by which there can be thrown
upon a screen before him a precise replica of the kinds of activities which he and his
predecessors for milHons of years have been in the habit of seeing and apprehending, he
straightway apprehends the same with the minimum of mental, nervous and muscular
fatigue. That is to say, to look upon the moving picture is merely to do that which the human
animal and his predecessors have for millions of years been daily in the habit of doing. To
look upon the moving picture is perhaps the one thing above aH others which, by reason of
the character of optical centre and eye, mankind can most easily do, so far, at least as
concerns the intellectual reactions aroused in him by the presence of an outer world.
We see by nature, we talk by nurture. Every normal man can see and understand the
movies, no matter how uninteHigent he may be. A few chosen spirits learn to talk, and a
few more learn to understand the talkers. Obviously then nearly aH of our feHows prefer the
movie to the spoken word.
Man and his animal forefathers then, back to the first amorphous creature that
possessed an eye, have always seen and comprehended somewhat of life's moving picture,
and in the milHons of years which that word "always" here includes they have made the

comprehending eye—as they did long ages after the infolding thumb and the upright walk—
one of nature's gifts to every child that is born.
In the same way, but in far less measure of fullness, nature has granted to every child
the birthright of a controllable organ of speech and of an ear proper to hear the same. But the
power to speak a language and the power to comprehend that language when spoken, these
powers are still denied as birthrights, and remain the products of laborious learning.
The power to transmute the vision of the printed page into mental symbols of spoken
words must be acquired by each new child by laborious effort. If a child has as nature's gift
a superior seeing eye, and if he has also by nature a superior comprehending ear, and if
again by nature he has a brain fit for the quick transmission of the seen words to the
hearing brain, and if once more his mind is apt for making clear the meaning of the word
when spoken, then he may with diligence become a rapid and easy reader of print. Very
few, lamentably few, are thus by nature armed to become good readers. And of those very
few a small part only have that thirst for learning which seems alone capable of driving
even the easy reader along the laborious path of acquisition through print.
A moment may be spent here to consider the eager listener. The movie eye is
primeval, as we have seen, while the ear of the happy auditor is merely Pliocene. But by so
much as pliocene antedates, the birth a few thousand years ago of the art of writing, by so
much does hearing surpass in ease the practice of the art of reading. The movie was born
almost in the mud of the world's first seas; the orator, the master of the ear, has had his way
with men a million years or two, and long practice has made submission to him easy, but
reading was painfully conquered only yesterday, and must be reconquered by each new
generation. To attend a movie is to be primitive; to attend a lecture is to be a cave man; to
read is civil.
Until the printing press was invented the increase of knowledge among men was of a
slowness that to us to-day seems incredible.
It is the printed page on which we must put our hopes and not the spoken word. Reading
is most difficult, yet it is the one process by which, having mastered it, we can learn to
master ourselves. Hearing is easy, and though it may inspire a few to learn, tends always
to give many the foolish fancy that they have acquired learning when in truth they have
merely been eased of learning's burden.
Seeing is most easy and is a most ancient and useful tool; but it is a tool shared by
nearly all living things, and the world's passing show is no substitute for hearing the
world's wisdom. Yet now comes the movie, and because it demands for its understanding
and enjoyment the use of little more than the most primitive of all man's facilities it wins a
frightful popularity. It grows by the very ignorance and the lack of reading power on which
it feeds. It makes daily more difficult the one supremely important task, that of making all
men readers, and therefore more intelligent and therefore more self-restrained.


The movie may prove to be of definite value in moving young and old to new desires,
new interests, and to thinking more and more freely. But thus far, it seems to have not the
value of the "passing show" of daily life. And, curiously enough, in all that movie
enthusiasts have written on the subject, I do not find that a word has been said in response to
this query (a query which should be asked and answered before due appreciation of the
movie can ever begin): "What effect has the passing show of daily life on the young? And,
this effect plays what part in the process we call 'educational'?"
The "educationalist," as soon as he looks at the movie, thinks of it as a tool or a
method or a process entirely segregated from daily life—and places it, of course, in the field
of "education"—as all his conventions and experiences lead him to do. But, education to him
is a Room, a Course, a Teacher, a Text Book and a Class. To these, if he adds a movie
machine, it is, in his mind, quite within the circle of influence of "education" as he is
habituated to conceive it. It is this fixed habituation that inhibits all who discuss Adult
Education from thinking of it as other than a continuation—with only such modifications
as conditions compel—of the Room, Course, Teacher, Text Book and Class.
A few are by nature made for these responses: Seeing, Having Interest, Learning and
Remembering. They find that the passing show—for example, trolley, motor car, store
window, the Pyramids, a circus athlete or a bird on a tree—does somehow affect them—
inspires, teaches, suggests, moves to action. Why, then, when we organize and concentrate a
bit of the passing show in a movie do we at once cry out, "How Educational?" and assume
that it teaches everybody? Those who are not moved to thought or action by the world they
daily see are not moved by that tiny section of the world which they pay 50c to see in a Movie

Reprinted from Liferary [Newark] 3 (1928): 8-9.

The Free Public Library of Newark, New Jersey, opened IVIarch 14,1901. Dana inaugurated
a printing operation in the library. Reprinted from The Newarker 1 (Mar. 1912): 69.

A little town in southern France is built close about the foot of a huge limestone cliff.
High against the walls of rock rise the ruined towers of a mediaeval castle. About this
castle, five himdred years ago, clustered the huts of peasant slaves, just as the homes of free
and independent farmers gather about its ruins to-day. Beneath the soil are found a few
faint traces of the half-tamed peoples who lived on this same spot long before Caesar's
legions camped near in 56 B. C. Within the cliffs above are caverns, near whose entrances
patient searchers have found in bits of bronze and iron, in shreds of pottery, in faint
scratchings on bone and stone and in the ashes of countless fires the unquestionable
evidences of a human occupancy extending back thousands of years. And now, only
yesterday as it were, on the walls of remote and almost inaccessible recesses of these same
caverns are discovered drawings, crude but of startling fidelity to nature, of animals which
have been extinct for 15,000 years, made by men who lived and fought and slew and fed
upon those animals in the years when this valley knew them. So brief are the chronicles of
the age-long history of mankind!
In the piles of refuse left by our ancestors at the mouths of these caverns are traces of
the tribes which found shelter and safety here while more than a hundred generations came
and went. The crude tools unearthed from a depth of forty feet up to the present surface show
that they who lived here through twenty, forty, fifty centuries, gained in craft and skill in
fishing and the chase; but gained so slowly that only after centuries did they take thought to
add to their pointed arrow a barb, and after still other centuries, a second barb, and after
still other centuries, four or six.
On the walls of the innermost caverns may be read in the changing character of the
drawings, the story of the development, through centuries of a certain artistry, which in
further centuries again declined.
In this spot, then, under the tall cliffs and within its recesses, men after our own
likeness lived and toiled and fought and learned nature's lessons for nearly twenty
thousand years. And these men were no pigmies, dwarfs or close cousins to the ape the
gorilla or the chimpanzee. They stood six feet high; their foreheads were straight and bold
and their brains were almost the weight of ours.
But the brief history of the long centuries of their history bespeaks a conservatism
which even our most hardened foes of revolutions must deplore.
Verily, the process of becoming wise is exceeding slow!
These men of old time had the wit in warfare, it would seem, to drive out the inferior
race which preceded them, traces of whose occupancy of this region are found beneath the
earliest faint markings of their own. They had skill enough to hunt and slay the mammoth,
the wild ox and the wolf of their own day, and to improve on that skill.
But how slowly they learned! Generation after generation, century after century and
millennium after millennium they gathered at the same caves; caves chosen by their
earliest ancestors because they fronted south and were warmed by a grateful sun against the
chill of the glaciers which were then retreating slowly to the summits of the Alps and the
Pyrenees. Here they built their fires, and struck out their crude implements and built up

Reprinted from The Newarker 2 (1912): 234-235.

slowly through the centuries the forty feet of debris in which to-day the scientist reads the
story of their astounding lack of initiative, their superiority to the mere brute, their close
kinship to ourselves, and the appalling slowness of their advance.
After, five, ten, fifteen thousand years, perhaps having more than once constructed
and lost again a social order as stable and as modestly evocative of comfort as that which
Caesar found, they stand forth in Caesar's annals as more than savages, but as far inferior
in social wisdom to the Roman.
And then again, between Caesar's day and Napoleon's after all the ages of stern
schooling which that patient and inerrant master, Time, had given them, they found it easy
to drop back into the servile state from which a great revolution called them little more than
a century ago.
Verily, those early men, the parents of our parents, were slow to learn. And, alas! what
the fathers leamed the children straightway forgot, or remembering, cast aside!
Perhaps we should not be surprised if our own progress seems at times a bit delayed.
This scrap of ancient history suggests that never has man hastened to grasp and hold to the
new and the wise thought. Perhaps it is not strange that the voices of the prophets of progress
are not always heeded, even in our own day. And perhaps none should wonder when those
who listen with credulity to the fair promises of the reformer, are always condemned to meet
once again that same disappointment which has confounded the faithful a thousand-
thousand times before.
The world plays a slow, slow game in the fields of intellect, sympathy and habit. It
learns little, and that with pain and not swiftly, and it forgets with a splendid readiness
what yesterday it knew.
The moral is: The Printing Press and the Library!—of course.
Twenty thousand years is a long, long time to spend in learning the art of mastering
nature, of subduing passions and of fighting mammoths, lightning, earthquakes and the
plagues. But during all those ages our fathers had not books! Now, being masters of the
printing press, when we have learned a new way with the fish-hook, the knife or the needle,
we straightway preserve it with a drop of ink. It can not be forgotten; always there are a few
who wish not to ignore it; and always there are a few who care to spend their days in
making the new way still better.
And as with the tools of the chase and of industry, so with the rules of society. The best
are never found; but the better prove themselves daily, are put safely into print; a few read
them and a few—very few, yet enough to be numbered—both read them and heed them.
In many lands and probably many times in each, our ancestors have learned, as
climate, soil, conquest and an era of national safety permitted, some of the higher arts of
life and have subdued themselves to the foundation rules of social harmony; and soon
thereafter have again and again lost their learning and lapsed into their ancient savagery.
Each social unit as it thus arose to grasp the secret of law, order and control of nature must
have possessed, in their essence at least, all the secrets of power and peaceful living and
progress which we possess today save one alone—the Printing Press. Does it give us our one
way out of the social habit of degeneration? It can not make poor human nature into
something other and purer and finer that it is; but perhaps it is the one tool of man's
devising which will enable us to hold fast to such grateful modicum of sweet reasonableness
and gentle habits as great kindly Time permits us to acquire.


The principal of one of the most important high schools in New York City told his
associates, at a recent meeting of the National Educational Association, that high school
principals £md teachers do not realize the value of knowledge of the use of books and
libraries either to themselves or to their pupils; and that they do not have that knowledge
themselves, and consequently cannot impart it to their pupils, even if they would.
Recent investigations of my own, supplemented by the observations of others, show that
college presidents and college professors do not realize the value of their libraries; do not
maintain or house them properly; do not make adequate use of them; do not impress their
students with the importance of skill in using books and libraries; and do not insist that
that skill be acquired in the four years of the college course.
The second of these two statements, that concerning college presidents and professors,
of course, in large measure explains the first.
Why this state of things exists in academic circles, where one would suppose that the
supreme importance of the printed page over all other educational tools would be fully
realized, I do not attempt to show.
Men of affairs are making use of print to improve their enterprises, broaden their
fields of work and increase their own efficiency to an extent that few of us realize.
I do not burden you with figures showing the wonderful growth in recent years of that
part of the printing business which has to do with manufacture, trade and transportation. It
is enough to say that that growth, especially when compared with the growth of printing in
the field of letters, fine arts and education, is rapid almost beyond belief.
I do not attempt to explain the fact that the academic mind, nourished on books and
absolutely dependent on them for its development, has fallen far short in recent years of the
practical mind, in the application of printed things to further its own development and the
development of the work in which it is engaged.
One may note an interesting illustration of the truth of this statement in the fact that
the whole vast business of education in this country does not produce one journal relating to
its field in general which a layman of average intelligence finds at once interesting and
Grant for purposes of argument the truth of the statement already made and you will
see that it follows naturally that librarians and other education workers, being nourished
largely on academic ideas, follow academic methods and fail fully to realize, to make use
of, and to help to promote the development of that custom of gaining profit from printed
things, which is spreading so rapidly in the world of affairs.
To illustrate briefly this last point, let me say that in not more than six of the
thousands of high schools of this country do we find a library adequate to the school, in
quarters adequate for its proper use, presided over by a librarian adequately equipped for the
task, and adequately used by the teachers in the school.
Again, in not more than three of the colleges and universities of the country do we
find a library which is at once adequately housed, adequately administered, and adequately

Read before the Special Libraries Association, Boston, November 1910. Reprinted from
Library Journal 35 (1910): 535-538.

used by the professors as a tool for training their students in the knowledge of the use of
books and other printed things.
Examples could be cited and facts given. It is enough, perhaps, to ask you to add
together the expenditures of Harvard in the past 20 years for laboratories, museums,
gymnasiums and athletic grounds and set the total beside the sum spent on its library. Or,
you can consider my own college, Dartmouth, its total for museums and athletic grounds,
and its library never yet properly developed and now turned over to a group of professors to
manage as a side issue in their work.
Once again to return to our argument, no public library in the country in any of our
great cities, has, to my knowledge, established in the center of practical affairs in that city,
a branch, adequately housed, adequately supplied with material applicable to business
affairs and adequately administered by a skilled librarian.
I make no exception, in this latter statement, of the very modest and yet very young
and as yet very incomplete branch in Newark about which I am to tell.
I am a great believer, and long have been, in Emerson's saying that the greatest
civilizer after all is selfish, huckstering trade. I have long felt that business runs the world,
and the world gets civilized only as it learns and puts in practice principles tried and
proved successful in business.
Statements like this, are, of course, to be looked at by the wise man in the light of the
lamp of his own learning. He may be trusted not to forget, as he looks at them, the
importance of ideas other than those set up and practiced by men of affairs; the importance
of the products of the minds of men of letters, and of the patient students of the sciences; and,
perhaps above all, the importance of ability to see all things, and especially the world of
affairs itself, as illumined by the light that was never on sea or land.
But, after the wise man has qualified Emerson's statement as in the light of his
modest learning, he will see that selfish, huckstering trade has it own good eminence
among the factors that make for civilization.
I hasten to say that when our business branch was established, we did not have in
mind all of the matters concerning academic constraint, men of affairs and the vast
importance of print which I have briefly presented to you. I had long been of the opinion that
the public library lays too great emphasis on academic things; not absolutely, but relatively.
I had long believed that there is in the field of everyday affairs a vast amount of helpful
material; material which men working in that field would find useful, and would use
freely if it could be gathered, mastered, indexed and placed close to their hands. With
thoughts like these in view, we began in Newark as soon as we had funds for the purpose, in
a room on the ground floor, in a busy street, within a few steps of the business center of the
city, to collect the printed material which we thought would attract men of affairs and would
be used by them. No sooner had we entered upon this work of collecting material of the kind
that may very inadequately be characterized as "business," than we discovered that its
quantity is very much greater than we had supposed, and that to collect it, arrange it, and
make it easily accessible, is work that libraries have taken up to a slight extent only and
that we would find it in consequence extremely difficult. In our endeavor to secure helpful
information along this line we inspected two or three libraries, like that of the Commercial
Museum of Philadelphia, and of the Public Service Commission and the Merchants'
Association of New York City. Visits to these collections led us to ask for information from
other similar libraries of affairs, the names of which we learned of here and there. Out of
these inquiries grew, much more rapidly than those to whom it was first suggested thought
possible, the present Special Libraries Association.

The breadth and importance of the field of business print, of printed things helpful to
men in public and private business, is very much larger than I dreamed of its being. This
association has brought to light an interest in this field, and a skill in cultivating certain
aspects of it, far beyond my own expectations, and I believe, far beyond the expectations of
those first intimately concerned with it. Naturally, I do not look upon myself as in any
sense whatever the discoverer or originator of the Special Libraries Association or of the
field it covers. It will, therefore, not be said that I exalt my own work when I say that no
movement in the library field in recent years compares in importance with that which has
thus far reached the very modest results of a Special Libraries Association, a little monthly
journal, and a few meetings like this here today.
The business branch of the Newark Library is, as I have said, a few steps from the
business and trolley center of the city. It occupies a room on the ground floor on a street not
much used for heavy traffic, but greatly used as a thoroughfare by pedestrians, men and
women from great office buildings in or near it. The floor space of the branch is 3000 sq.
feet. The ceiling is high. The rather inadequate lighting is supplemented when necessary
during the day by an abundance of electric lights. The accommodations for readers and
students in the way of tables and chairs are simple but comfortable. No children are allowed
to enter. A good collection of books in the field of fiction and general literature such as all
conventional branch libraries have, is kept on hand, to meet demand that naturally comes
from persons who are visiting the center of the city and do not care to take a special trip on
the trolley at a cost of 10 cents, to the main building nearly three-quarters of a mile away.
All the books, general and special, are lent on the average more times in a year than those
of any branch in a large city that we have statistics for.
Let me say here that libraries like those of Buffalo, Cleveland and Cincinnati, which
have their main buildings in the very heart of the business center of their respective cities,
may consider themselves particularly fortunate. The use made of books in the libraries thus
centrally situated shows how greatly appreciated by the general public is the presence of its
library in the city's business and trolley center. It also shows how easy it will be for
libraries of these cities to develop, within their main central building, a collection of
business books broader in scope, more complete in details and more generally used than we
ever can hope to have in our modest branch.
And let me add here another word, that one of the greatest misfortunes that has
happened to our profession in the course of its prodigious development in the past thirty
years is the spread of the idea among librarians, trustees, architects and citizens in
general, that a city's collection of books should have for its home a marble palace, located
far from the city's center, and in style and construction suggesting a poverty of invention
among architects that we shall never cease to deplore, representative as to its exterior of
nothing but a religion that is outworn, and adapted within to nothing so well as to the cult of
that same outworn religion.
The proper place for the city's library is in that city's center. In time, when business
rules in library construction, the proper home for a city's library will be found to be a
centrally located building adapted to the storage and use of books and other printed things.
I have already, by implication, told you what we have collected for use in the business
branch, rather what it is that we are trying to collect, for the gathering has only just begun.
We have touched the margin only of a large field of printed things, a field not yet
thoroughly explored by members of our craft.
I will run over very briefly the more important parts of the material we are gathering,
first calling your attention again to the fact that the work of collecting and arranging is in

its early stages and frankly admitting that difficulties we meet in discovering and
collecting and preparing it are quite possibly due chiefly to our ignorance than to the fact
that such work has not somewhere been already done.
Of directories we have nearly 500. These include those of American and foreign cities,
telephone circuits and the trades. They cover the important persons and firms in several
thousand towns and cities. They were used by 300 persons per month three years ago, now by
about 1300.
Of all these, except the telephonic ones, we are making a descriptive list on loose leaf
ledger sheets; a list which will include not only the directories we have, but also such of
those we have not as we think may be the subjects of inquiry.
Our collection of several thousand manufacturers' catalogs, now in the main library,
will soon be placed in the branch. It will here be quite near the city's factory center as well
as its commercial center and will probably receive more use than it now does.
Of U. S. government publications we keep here a selection which we are enlarging
and changing as the demand indicates. I do not need to name the many subjects they cover.
The later publications of our own city, county and state with a selection from those of
neighboring states and cities are, of course, here. We find certain documents, like Common
Council Manuals of important cities and reports of State Bureaus of Labor, are much used.
A large case full of the folders of all important railroads is promised.
Of books relating to business accounting, advertising and the like we have about 500.
The reference books which would be looked for in any library are of course here, about
500 in number.
There are forty periodicals of a general nature and about 20 more relating to trades,
manufacture, labor, chambers of commerce, municipalities, movements for public
betterment and the like.
We have a few of the most used telegraph and cable codes.
The most interesting part of the collection to us just at present is the maps. Of these
forty local and general ones, from three feet to 12 feet square, are mounted on rollers and
hung from an elevated platform. About 60 are maps taken from directories of American and
foreign cities. More than 160 cover our cities, states and territories, and show topography,
geology, agriculture, railroads and trolley lines beside the usual map information. These
came from the U. S. General Land Office, State Railroad Commissions, U. S. Post Office
Department, and State Geological Surveys. They are mounted on large sheets of cardboard
which stand in a box like a card catalog.
In part included in the brief list just given are 30 maps giving information of many
kinds about Newark and its immediate vicinity.
In addition to the books I have mentioned there are several thousand volumes of
fiction and general works, making a total of nearly 9000 volumes. From this branch we are
now lending books for home use at the rate of about 100,000 a year.
There are daily deliveries to and from the main library. The telephone is used by
many in making inquiries and such use is always encouraged and is constantly
Once more let me say that we feel that we are only at the beginning of a work, the size
and importance of which we did not realize at all when we began, and realize very
imperfectly we are sure, after giving considerable time to it for nearly three years. We are
not in a position either to take pride in what is done or to give much help to others. Rather,
we are inquirers. We believe the idea of placing a collection of printed things which men of
affairs will wish to use in the center of our city is a very good one. Our beginning indicates

that our belief is sound. We shall carry the work on as long as the use made of our
collection grows as rapidly as it has thus far.


This brief discussion deals almost entirely with but one side of printing—the making
of cards, notes, announcements and other things spoken of usually as "job work," with some
reference to book lists. But to the librarian these are very important.
In this field, as well as in the field of bookmaking proper, there has been a great
revival of interest in recent years, with an accompanying improvement in results.
Librarians have profited in this, with others, and may well try to share still further in the
attempt to teach more to understand that good printing can come only from those who
understand design and know how to use type, ornament, ink and paper to produce results
which the artist can approve.
The Public library of Boston arranged a series of lectures on printing two years ago.
These had much to do with the formation of the Society of Printers, which followed and
which in turn arranged for exhibitions of printing and a continuation of the series of
lectures in the Boston public library.
It is evident that libraries should do all in their power to help in this work of arousing
an interest in printing and making that interest more intelligent. An exhibition of printing
should be brought together and shown in the leading libraries of the country. It is probable
that such a traveling exhibit can be made out of the very complete one shown in the Boston
library. Such a display could in each city be made the text for public lectures and for articles
in local papers.
Through its printing every library reaches its public in a most intimate way, and by it
can do much to improve the taste of the public in one of the most important of all the
industrial arts. The present awakening of interest in printing is, in fact, but one aspect of
the growing appreciation of the importance of the art of decorative design and of the rising
tide of interest in industrial art in general. More and sounder education in design is one of
the things most needed today in our industrial world. The library, as an ally of the schools,
can do much to make this need more keenly felt, and even in some measure to supply it;
and in printing particularly, the craft by which the library is created and the art by which
its books are adorned, the library should try to exert an influence on the side of thorough
workmanship and good design.
In printing, as in all the other trades, the day of the apprentice is past. We may regret
the fact; we must accept it. For improvement in technique and taste we must look now, it
seems, to the schools. Industrial art education must in them each year find a more and
more important place. This education is still far from satisfactory. To make it better than it
is; to induce a larger number of young men to find pleasure and cause for proper pride in
being skilled craftsmen—this is one of the difficulties our country will have to contend with
in its further industrial development. Most of the highly skilled trades now depend for
recruits on men trained abroad. The demand will increase; the development of industries
in Europe and changed social conditions there will soon reduce the supply from abroad. We
must educate our own artisans in our schools. And we must educate our taxpayers to ask for,
and to be willing to pay for, these schools. Libraries can do much, as I have said, and
especially in this most important craft of printing, to show their public what good
craftsmanship means and how admirable are its results.

Reprinted from Public Libraries 13 (1908): 35-37.

If my introduction seems to overtop my brief notes on library printing, I can only say
that to show how important to librarians is the subject is of more consequence here and now
than to expound on the subject itself. This is the more evident when I admit frankly that I
am not an expert on my topic and have more sense of its importance than knowledge of its
That is well printed which can be easily read, and, if it be other than plain reading
matter, shows at a glance the ideas which the publisher wishes to make most important.
These are obvious points of simple utility. A thing may be well printed and do no more than
fulfill these conditions of maximum legibility and balanced emphasis; good presswork
being, of course, assumed as a condition of legibility. But it may also give pleasure by
reason of the excellence of its arrangement. If it is well arranged, each full page or pair of
pages, or each sheet in the case of job work, is a good design. By this is meant that the print,
the type faces, are of such size and character and are so set upon the page that they are
agreeable to the trained eye no matter how many times they may be viewed. To put the same
statement in very general terms: Good design in black and white is such good design as the
skilled approve of.
Black and white design finds in printing its most common medium. We look upon
print so much that we could get more training in the appreciation and enjoyment of good
design from such of it as is artistic—that is, well designed—than from almost any other
source. We could, that is, if art in printing were often, instead of rarely, found.
Librarians are guardians of books and printing. They should know art in print when
they see it, and should try to have all the print they use, from the simplest blank to the most
elaborate catalog, so excellent of its kind that it will help by example to train all who see it
in the appreciation of good design. Therefore, librarians should study the printing art and
put the results of their study into practice.
And it is not simply as a debtor to his profession that the librarian is called on to add
the element of beauty to the printing his library puts forth. He is also bound to do this as the
guardian of an institution which makes no small part of its appeal to its owners, the public,
in the printed things it issues. Those who support a library are entitled to get from it printed
information, which makes it easier and better worth while to use it, and they may rightly
demand that such printed information be presented with good taste. Furthermore, it is to be
noted, that the library which uses print with art, as well as skill, will get more sympathy
and support from its public than will the one which contents itself with mere legibility.
Of legibility much might be said. Here it can only be noted that the subject has been
studied with care and that the results of that study are accessible.
The book list is a famous sinner in the field of print. It inherited bad traits from
former days, and most librarians, forgetful of the call for legibility and good taste,
reproduce the old bad traits and take pride in their sins. Many catalogs indulge in several
kinds and sizes of type. Each kind means something to the pedantic compiler; but only adds
confusion to the average reader. Book lists are lists of books, even though we call them
bibliographies, and should be set to be read by the man unskilled in the esoterics of
cataloging, which means that they should be set plainly and simply. There is rarely need in
the book list of the black-faced type so commonly used for entry words. In long lists, set in
fine type, with the lines of necessity brought close together, they are of practical use. In the
usual brief list of a library's additions, they take from the attractiveness of the page without
making the print easier to use. Italics for emphasis or to show that a certain word relates to
a certain fact about a book; smaller type for the notes which often are more important to the
reader than anything in the entry save the entry word; hanging indentations, the isolation

of the book number by cutting off lines at the right; and the use of bold face for the numbers,
all these things seem to have grown out of the habit of elaborating details of placing,
spacing, underlining and red-inking on catalog cards. They are almost always needless
for the reader of the list, and frequently simply confuse him. They are certainly expensive
in composition, take up needless space, and make the page streaked, spotted and
Much might be said also about uniformity, among libraries, in the sizes of forms or
blanks, and in the styles and sizes of tsnpe. Mr. Dewey, with others, has wisely insisted on
the desirability of such uniformity, as also on the prime need of legibility.
Types are stubborn things. To set up a given job—be it a page of plain reading or a
complex display card—in accordance with the dictates of good taste is extremely difficult.
Those who have tried it know this well. Those who have not can hardly realize the fact even
after an elaborate explanation of type-faces and sizes. It is enough here to say, first, that the
problem is, to put the needed words on paper of the most appropriate kind in such a way that
they are easily read, properly accentuated, and artistically arranged; and, next, that the
medium used is not a thing submissive to the craftsman's control, like ink from a pen, or
color from a brush, but pieces of unyielding metal, varying in size with every size and style
of type, and bound in steel by the limits of the form in which the particular work in hand
may be set. It is easy to set type, though speed comes only with practice. To select the best type
of all possible ones and to arrange the chosen type in the best of all possible ways, under the
mechanic conditions which type and chase impose, is a most difficult art. It is so difficult,
and the result—fine printing—is so rarely appreciated that few will pay for it.
Consequently, few print shops can afford to pay for the time, skiH and fine taste necessary
to produce it. Consequently, again, if a librarian wishes good printing he must supervise its
composition to its last detail and pay for the extra labor his supervision entails. This means
that he must know something of both the craft and the art.
If the librarian realizes that he is setting examples for art education every time he puts
out a piece of printing; and if he realizes that of all the arts, that of printing is the one which
most immediately concerns him and the one which his position as guardian of print
obligates him chiefly to sustain, then will he study printing, will insist on getting it good,
and will cheerfully pay the high price which it costs.

The Teacher's Room, on the first floor of the Newark Free Public Library. Here teachers
borrowed pictures for display in their classrooms. Reprinted from The Newarker (Aug.
1912): 162.

My work in a library has brought me in contact with the art interests of a great many
people. Most of these people have been of average, well-to-do, clerical, commercial and
professional classes in this country. Representatives of women's clubs and of art classes of
all kinds have been common among them. Many had traveled or were making studies
preparatory to visits to art centers abroad. The modern public library thinks the promotion
of interest in art in its community is a proper part of its work. With this in view it buys
expensive books on art and photographs of paintings, sculpture, architecture and other
things in the field of art. The library's close connection with the schools also makes it easy
for the librarian to keep in touch with their work in drawing, design and general art
instruction. I have had unusually favorable opportunities to learn about the art interests and
the esthetic perceptions of that very interesting class of American women, the public school
teachers. From them and from supervisors of drawing in the schools I have learned
something of the interests of children in pictures and of their capacity for esthetic
cultivation. The libraries I have been connected with have made great use in the schools of
illustrations and decorations found in certain periodicals; not only of pictures from art
joumals, but also of material published, not for its art interest, but for its illustrative
interest. For students of design, collections have been made of head- and tail-pieces and
initials, from many sources. Designs for wood carving, embroidery, iron work and the like
have been gathered and arranged. Illustrations have been collected—sometimes by the
children themselves—and arranged by artists, by subjects, by methods of reproduction and
by media used in the original. Collections have been made for story-telling purposes, and to
illustrate history, geography and nature-study. Reproductions of famous paintings,
sculptures and buildings have been gathered and classified. I speak of this by way of
introduction; to explain my interest in the subject of art; and to give grounds for presuming
to speak upon it. The collecting of these pictures, the purchase of art books and the
encouraging their use have naturally brought me into close touch with the very
representative group of Americans who patronize the free public library. I believe I know
something about their way of looking at the subject of art; and that I know, consequently,
how art is regarded by about 99 per cent of the fairly well-to-do and moderately rich in this
country. My interest in the subject, enhanced by the opportunities I have mentioned, has
naturaHy led me to take note of art in the American home, and of the light it throws on the
art knowledge and sensitiveness of the American people. My observations in this direction
have confirmed me in the conclusions, herein noted, to which my work in the library has
led me.
Most discussions of esthetics ignore certain common, every-day feelings which seem
to be important factors in the appeal which works of art make on our attention. I have here
tried to describe the nature and origin of some of these feelings, and to show that they are
among the most universal and the simplest elements of esthetic emotion. I call them extra-
artistic elements, because by the professional artist they are not considered to lie within the
artistic field.

Reprinted from Popular Science Monthly 58 (1903): 411-417.

The physiological factors in esthetics are, in a certain sense, more fundamental than
the familiar feelings I discuss in this essay. They go to the very bottom of the pleasurable
sensations which the sight of certain objects gives us. But we do not yet understand them. A
spot of color probably gives pleasure—under proper conditions—even to the most
uncultivated observer. Savages and even some of the lower animals have this much of
esthetic feeling. Meaningless arrangements of several colors probably give greater pleasure
to some, even of the entirely untrained, than does the single spot of one color. Flat design in
black and white, quite without suggestion of any kind, arouse agreeable sensations in some,
but probably only in a few of those who have never thought to the subject. That is, pictures,
considered simply as flat, colored designs with no regard whatever to what they portray,
may produce an agreeable physiological effect on some of those who see them. This direct
physiological effect is, as I have said, little understood. It sometimes, perhaps commonly,
forms a part of the group of pleasurable feelings which picture-gazing evokes. It is
fundamental to be sure; but with nearly all observers it is of slight importance in
comparison with the mass of agreeable sensations whose nature and genesis I have outlined
Most of us first note a picture which we know is popularly admitted to be a work of art
with a pleasure which comes of being in the fashion. It is the custom to enjoy it. We like to
know and feel that we are following the custom. We find it easy to say, as all others do, that
it is pretty and attractive; and so saying we get the pleasure of conformity; of being in the
mode. This kind of picture-enjoyment lies upon the surface, is easy to acquire and comes
naturally to all of us; and any picture which has once gained wide repute, thereby gains
popular esteem, gives much pleasure, and seems to serve a proper purpose by virtue simply
of being in the fashion, even though it have little to commend it to the wise critic. The word
fashion carries often an implication of censure. Such censure is not intended in this case.
To wish to see what others have seen is natural and proper. The mistake would lie in
assuming that this kind of pleasure from picture-gazing is not present with all of us, and is
not a proper element in esthetic emotion.
To see old friends again after a time of separation always gives us pleasure. The
emotions which go with the act of recognition are so generally agreeable that we greet with
considerable warmth of feeling even those old acquaintances we have never cared much for
if we meet them after long separation or at a distance from the scenes where we once knew
them. This recognition-element among the factors of pleasurable emotion lies at the bottom
of much of our joy in the familiar quotation, of our admiration for the classic in literature
and the familiar in art. A picture often spoken of, often alluded to in print, seen
occasionally, even in the simplest or crudest reproduction, is at once recognized, and at
once gives us the pleasure of recognition, when seen again. This manner of picture-
appreciation lies, of course, close to the pleasures of memory, to the indulgence of habit, and
to the complacence of conservatism; just as the pleasures aroused by the picture which it is
the fashion to admire lie close to the self-satisfaction born of conformity to the prevailing
moral code. These fashionably-born and habit-bred emotions form a large part, a very large
part, of the delight we find in picture-gazing. Art galleries are full of people who gain little
from their visits there beyond these simple and familiar emotions. Yet in the discussion of
esthetics they are commonly almost ignored. The origins of the feelings which are aroused
by works of art are assumed to be complex, peculiar and quite remote from everyday life;
whereas the most dominant of them lie close at hand, in conformity and habit. In the field
of literature we see this truth very clearly illustrated. The classics of one's native tongue
are chiefly enjoyed because they are familiar. Often, probably commonly, they have a power

to move us which is due to their content, or to our knowledge of the peculiar circumstances
under which they were produced, or to their relation to a widespread creed, or to the
personality of their writers, or to the influence of their promoters or expositors, or to their
particular aptness of phrase, or to the peculiar sensitiveness of a few of their many readers
to the spell wrought by special arrangements of words. But, once having become imbedded
in the popular mind, once having become the accustomed reading of a generation or two,
they hold their power very largely through the fact that they are easily recognized, are
habitual visitors, and arouse often the joy of recognition. The St. James version of the Bible
is perhaps an example of the best possible use of the English of its time. But of this we cannot
be sure. As a book it has long been popular—on other grounds than those of style. Being
popular it molded our forms of expression for generations. All our speech harks back to it.
To read it is to catch in every phrase a pleasing echo of the language of our own time, and
this regardless of the actual familiarity of thought and incident. We recognize it, and
delight in it. If circumstance had cast that version into a different form we should, no doubt,
admire it none the less; and our language would be different from what it now is, perhaps
Allied to both fashion and recognition as an element of esthetics is curiosity; not the
inquiring curiosity of the seeker, but the passing curiosity which we take in uncommon
things. The picture much talked about—this is the one we wish to see. Having seen it the
emotional tension is relaxed, and we have an agreeable sense of satisfaction. Near to this
and perhaps part of it is the pleasure given by the sight of a picture which is rare or ancient
or high in price, or one which was made with much labor or with unusual technical skill.
The patch-work quilt of a thousand pieces made by a woman of seventy-five without the use
of glasses, this gives great pleasure to its observers. It is a curio. To most observers it is
looked at with a pleasure of like origin to that with which they gaze upon a painting by an
old master. I am not condemning this form of emotion. I am simply setting it down where it
belongs as forming a part in many cases of the pleasure of picture-gazing, as a part of the
esthetic emotion. Much of the furnishing of the homes of people of wealth and cultivation—
being rare, costly and representative of great labor and much technical skill—gives to its
owners a pleasure of like origin with that imparted by the crazy quilt.
Kinship in knowledge is a bond of friendship. The beginning of sympathy is like-
mindedness. We cannot care much for those we do not know; we know those who know the
things that are known by us. Meeting in a distant land one alien to us in every way, but
familiar with the same home scenes, a friend of friends of ours, we have for him at once a
touch of sympathy, and find pleasure in our meeting. So, if we look upon a picture in
company with others who are with us in our enjoyment—even when, as is most often the
case, the enjoyment is born of fashion, habit and curiosity—we have a sense of
companionship with them, a pleasurable feeling born of a common interest, which we
ascribe as to its origin to the picture itself. In fact, the picture, as a work of art, is not the
cause of our enjoyment at all. A tight-rope walker or a sacred relic would serve as well;
perhaps better in many cases. We simply have widened and increased our sympathies
through the acquisition of a new point of contact with our fellows.
Almost all pictures tell a story. Those which seem not to do so at first sight are usually
found to be full of meaning on second look; and a very large proportion of all the pictures
most commonly seen; those in the illustrated journals are intended almost solely as aids to
narration. Stories are dear to us all. We are eager to hear them, to read them, and
especially to see them. One that is told by a picture, and so is flashed upon the mind in a
glance of the eye, adds to other possible excellencies those of brevity and surprise. In a

picture we look usually first for what it tells—that it give us, in a flash, a bit of life from a
new point of view, seen in a different light, touched with humor, pathos or other sentiment—
this is commendation enough. A portrait is to most a story picture. It tells more about the
person portrayed than many pages of biography, and interests chiefly by what it tells.
It is usual to decry this story-telling element in pictures. Mr. John C. Van Dyke, for
example, in his book on 'Art for Art's sake' speaks of 'The Angelus' as having a 'literary
interest crowded into it to the detriment of the pictorial effect.' We can not see in the picture,
he says, 'the sound of the bells of the Angelus coming on the evening air, from the distant
church-spire.' 'We must go to the catalogue to find the meaning of those two peasants
standing with bowed heads in a potato field.' And he says, that, 'two thousand years hence,
with the ringing of church-bells abandoned and forgotten fifteen hundred years before, we
would not comprehend and appreciate the picture as we now do a Parthenon marble.' Mr.
Van Dyke forgets that the Parthenon marble itself also tells a story; and that it is because
we know the story well, because Greece and its religion, its social life and its art are
familiar that we comprehend and appreciate at once even a fragment of that country's
creations. The fragment arouses our recognition-pleasure, and most strongly. It appeals to
us also by what it tells of the past; it tells it easily because we are full of a knowledge which
makes us fit to receive it. Suppose Greece and her temples forgotten, a Parthenon marble
would be beautiful still, probably, but it would be no more easily comprehended and
appreciated than would 'the Angelus' if church-bells had passed out of human memory. All
pictures are illustrative; all are story-telling in a measure. It is inevitable that they should
be so. They can not, as Mr. Van Dyke seems to wish to have them do, 'show deep love of
nature per se, independent of human association.' The question of illustrative intent is
entirely one of degree. Nor is there any rule whereby one can say how much of this element
a picture should contain. There it is; there it must be. It is good, and we may rejoice that it
adds its force to that of the other factors in the delights of picture-gazing.
To the story element in pictures as a cause of our enjoyment of them we must add
another element closely allied to it, that of history. The historical picture is always a story
picture; but it usually tells to an observer more than a mere story. If we are ourselves
already familiar with the incident depicted, we gain from looking at the picture the
recognition-pleasure already noted. If we are not familiar with it we take pleasure in
adding to our historical knowledge the particular incident set forth in the picture. That is,
in looking at historical pictures we either pride ourselves on a recognition which assures us
that we are so far well-informed, or we please ourselves by adding to the sum of our
Knowledge of the life of an artist, of his peculiarities, of striking incidents in his
career, of the country and the time in which he lived—this knowledge adds much to the
pleasure gained from pictures. A glance at one, if it is recognized as by an artist of whom
the observer already has some knowledge, gives first the pleasure of identification or
naming—not different from that which one has who can name on sight a distant mountain
peak—and next, through association the pleasure of recalling, even though vaguely, facts in
the artist's life. Much of the pleasure won from pictures lies in this identification-emotion.
The pleasures thus far noted as derived from pictures are not derived from pictures
only. We get the same enjoyment from looking at scenes upon the stage, at photographs of
nature, at nature herself, at incidents in real life about us and from poetry, story and
literature in general. This is equivalent to saying, and the saying is a true one, that most of
the enjoyment of pictures is due to effects not at all associated with or flowing from 'art' as
that word is generally used by artists. The artist himself, however, is by no means free

from the influence of the factors already enumerated. From time to time, in his
development as an artist, he has undoubtedly tried to free himself from what seemed to him
the embarrassing limitations of the habit, formed in youth, of getting from pictures
pleasures born of fashion, curiosity, sympathy and story. He never succeeds in doing this.
He sees all pictures as he does all art—as I have said in discussing the presence of the story
element in all art—through the medium of his own past experience and of his own
character. He sees them first as an animal, as a social being, as a person fashioned by the
age and country in which he lives. As an artist, however, as a person skilled in his calling,
the things that usually most interest him are technique, design, color, light and shade, line,
and manner of laying the paint on the canvas. It has probably always been the fashion for
artists themselves to speak rather scornfully of the interests aroused by and the pleasure
taken in pictures from the point of view of the story or of the other elements already
mentioned, and to think of them as lying outside the field of art proper. But the artists who
are of the broader view readily admit the importance in painting of these extra-artistic
features. From the point of view of craft, of technical skill in painting, these matters of line,
and color, and light and shade, and arrangement, and method of applying paint, all are of
great importance. But only with the craftsman who is unduly interested in the question of
skill do these purely artistic matters seem of greater importance than the factors of
enjoyment already mentioned.
If I have been right in this analysis of the pleasures gained from pictures, we may
describe the picture-gazing of the average person somewhat as follows: He likes the color; he
likes to look because others look; he likes to look because he enjoys seeing an old friend;
because he has the habit of looking; because he enjoys seeing the curious; because he enjoys
the sympathy with his fellows which comes from enjoying the same objects with them;
because he enjoys the story of the picture; because the picture renews for him an incident in
history; because considered simply as a design the picture is to his thinking well made and
he finds agreeable the relation of its lines and its colors and their arrangement, their
harmonies and their contrasts; and because, having skill as a painter, or knowing of that
skill, he is interested in the manner in which the artist in question laid on his paint.
These remarks on some of the simpler elements of esthetic emotion as shown in
picture-gazing may seem commonplace, may seem too obvious to be worth saying. But the
obvious and the commonplace—these very often escape us. They are particularly ready to do
so when we speak of beauty, art and esthetics. In this field words are very often merely
counters, not real coin. All of us have our pleasurable emotions when we look upon beautiful
things, else why do we call them beautiful? And the very words in which we speak of things
of beauty seem themselves to have a power to move us; and we ascribe to them meanings
when in fact they are often only meaningless echoes, faint, but still able to stir our
Beauty as a factor in the pleasures of picture-gazing, this I have not named. Yet the
whole discussion is concerning it. For, if a picture, or any other object gives us the pleasure
described it must possess the subtle quality of beauty. That quality itself cannot be described.
When we see a beautiful thing we know it. What more can be said? If experts, who are
careful observers of the things which people say they find beautiful, if experts in esthetics
say the beauty of a certain object is of the better kind, their statement is worthy of attention.
It is difficult to say of beauty and the critics more than this.


Art is a fine large word. It shares with liberty the task of serving as an excuse for
many crimes. It is used without any meaning; to mean several things at once; to conceal
thought, and to conceal the want of thought. It is one of those words of emotional connotation
which so fills you with feeling that you feel you are full of thought. It is a dangerous word.
Define it, limit it, don't be fooled by it, and don't fool your pupils with it.
You hold that if a boy learns to draw he learns to observe, to use his eyes better; but
only a few can learn to observe in the way you mean, and only a few of these few can learn
to draw what they observe, or ever care to, or ever need to.
Also you say, drawing helps the brain to develop by bringing into close relations the
centers for eye and hand. Probably it does a little. But very little, if keen interest is absent,
and it usually is; and still less if it is for only an hour and a half a week for only three
weeks out of five for a few years. And when you compare the manual training with that of
the base-ball field it becomes in most cases quite negligible. There are proven benefits of
drawing and manual training in special cases, of course. The race has rightly put faith in
the manual arts since the day it learned to flex its thumb. But a little of it formally taught in
the schools affects little.

You may sum up the matter thus:

1. A little drawing is of very little use to most; and we need only a few good draftsmen.

2. What is leamed on the play-ground comes out in classroom; and your pupils may be
growing skilful in spite of you.

3. The boy who has leamed to draw may not have one artistic fibre in him.

Were there time I could, and would, speak of color-work, modeling, paper-folding,
weaving, wood-work, and other activities which come into your field in this same inquiring
way. I think your work, anybody's professional work, is in continual need of catechizing,
and I would help you to a little of it. I'm sure you should ask yourself oftener, "Is public
school education just naturally improving while we stand by, or are we helping it?"
Let me add, that you would do well also to appoint a "Committee on an Index
Expurgatorus," which shall draw up a list of words which may not be used in any paper read
to you for at least two years from date, save under extreme provocation and with precise
definition. The Committee would include, of course, "upHft," "inspirational," "vital," "true,"
"balance," "harmony," "rhythm," and some others.
We return now to your boy who has learned to draw, and yet is not artistic. He is so
common that I need not enlarge on him. The like remark holds true of any other of the
many technical operations involved in the production of beautiful things. In effect, one does

Address before the Eastern Art Teachers Association, Brooklyn, June 1906. Reprinted from
Schools Arts Book 6 (1906): 3-15.

not become artistic by acquiring skill of hand. It is worth while to remind ourselves of this
now and then.
Moreover, one does not become artistic by reading about painters and sculptors and
their works; or by learning to tell Gothic from Grecian architecture, or Moorish from Celtic
ornament; or by doing or learning most of the other things the doing or learning of which is
usually designated as "Art Study."
And here I return to my first warning about this word, art. Because it covers such a
multitude of meanings, many proclaim that they are enrolled beneath its banners and
march in the front ranks who really are just clerks in the commissary department of life.
Moreover, again, these clerks make a great deal of noise, and the outsider's eye and ear are
caught by them, and he says, "If these be Art's soldiers, let us have peace!" Most who think
they are studying art are simply gathering facts. Let us approach a little nearer to our
definition, tho' chiefly by negations: Art is not skill, tho' the artist must have it. Art is not
knowledge, tho' the artist must have it. Art is what the artist gives us in his product which
is, a permanent possibility of an agreeable thrill. And to be artistic is to be easily thrilled by
what the artist gives us. And to study art is to strengthen the habit, by exposure, suggestion
and practice, of being thus thrilled. And here in America this habit is so weak when found
and so rarely found that the subject, the Relation of Art to American Life, may almost be
treated as was the classic topic of Snakes in Ireland.
A nation gets the kind of government it deserves. The same is true of its insurance,
its beef, its cities, and its artists. We are a numerous and active people, possessing a very
rich and fruitful country. Were we far less skillful than we are, wealth would still have
crowned our labors. Being new, mixed, eager, and as greedy as any, we have produced
much and thought little. We are the children of our circumstances, and they have made us,
perforce, a nation of spendthrift mediocrities. In art, in letters, in government, in
invention, in science, in organization we have done few great things and produced few
great men. We adequately support hardly one journal of serious thought of the kind which
England has a score. We are eighty millions and rich as Croesus and still import the
magazine of art we can not produce ourselves. In our greatest and richest city the stigmata
of the leisure class, conspicuous consumption and conspicuous waste are assumed with
frenzied eagerness and quite banish those foster parents of refinement, simplicity and
restraint. Our great museum of art is but a prophecy. Henry James epitomizes its history
and its near future. He is noting his impressions as he looked upon the museum. "There
was money in the air! ever so much money that was, grossly expressed, the sense of the
whole intimation. And the money was to be all for the most exquisite things. The thought of
the acres of canvas and the tons of marble to be turned out into the cold world as the penalty
of old error and the warrant for a clean slate ought to have drawn tears from the eyes. But
these impending incidents affected me, in fact, on the spot, as quite radiant demonstrations.
The Museum, in short, was going to be great, and in the geniality of the life to come such
sacrifices, though resembling those of the funeral-pile of Sardanapalus, dwindled to
nothing." In a word, we had money; convention said we should have objects of art, and we
bought them by the acre and the ton.
If we look to those who have been taught for something to relieve the flamboyancy of
those who have taught and made themselves, we find in our great club-house of the college-
bred the intrusive insignia of the spendthrift rich. It says at once to the visitor, "We men of
books also can indulge in conspicuous waste!"

Pausing for a moment we will reflect that, being librarians and teachers of art and
manual training, fate makes none of us insultingly wealthy and plainly marks us out as
those who will save the rest from the evils wealth breeds.
For my purpose this morning I have said enough on the topic you gave me. I have tried
to intimate that American Life is essentially laborious, productive, money-getting; that the
people consequently think a little, work much and, like all hard workers among crops of
either gold or potatoes, are not quick or nice in their emotions. They wish their colors
strong, their stories crude, and their humor broad. They think the picture good if it cost
much, the statue if it makes much talk. They are keen on esthetics when convention says to
them that they should be; but then only. Why, some of your members trip daily past the
disheveled ash box and the fragrant can of garbage on the sidewalk of their cities and move
swiftly on to school to teach the children how to spot and how to spatter by the laws of
balance, harmony, and rhythm. Like the rest of us they are esthetic only at the appointed
time and place.
We are commonplace. Our people are not artistic. If they were artistic they would have
thrills over our American cities, and not all of them agreeable ones. If they could all draw
and color and model and weave and bend iron to make boxes they might produce no more
art than now. And my conclusion is, that if you wish to hasten the day when there shall be
some Relation between Art and Life in America you must, so far as your own work is
concerned, make sure that it does something other than give a little more skill to those who
are born skillful; that it breed, by exposure, suggestion and practice, the habit of having
feelings about all that they see.

You are not more surprised than I am at my temerity in venturing to criticize your
attitude or methods. And now I accentuate that joint surprise by proceeding to speak of some
of my own efforts at art promotion. I am not an artist, or a teacher of art, or student of art or
a collector of art. My excuse for this venture lies in my interest in your efforts, and in a
measure in the opportunities I have had, rather unusual for a layman, to observe you at your
My interest began in Denver nearly 17 years ago. My duties as a librarian brought me
into close touch then, as it always has since, with the teachers and their pupils in the
schools, and especially, through my own special tastes, with drawing and manual training.
My first colleague was your Mr. Collins, then drawing supervisor in Denver, now here in
the public schools of Brooklyn. He was fresh from art school in Paris and I was fresh from
a ranch in western Colorado. We soon found that what he did not know about art I did!
Being rather detached from the world, out there on the other side of the Great American
Desert, with no distractions to speak of in the way of art in any of its forms, we could, and I
think we did, take a somewhat independent view of things, and found it pleasant to settle out
of hand many of the questions that I see from the reports of your meetings you are still
puzzling over. You may well envy the advantage this early detachment gave us. It would do
many teachers of art much good to withdraw from eastern realms of artistic law and order
and commune with themselves for a time on the farther edge of the desert region of things
unknown in esthetics.
We seem to have had at this time, Collins and I, two things in view as of considerable
importance in the field of which we are speaking:

1. Helping children to discover their peripheries, that is, to use their hands; and, to see
things clearly.

2. Helping adults to see with discrimination, to like or dislike what they see; helping
them, that is, to make life more interesting.

My work was, of course, chiefly with the adults. It must have been then that I
discovered in my efforts to induce them to observe with feeHng, that is to "taste," the
everyday things about them— that people think art is something quite apart from daily life;
that they are, to put it more technically, consciously esthetic only when they look on art that
has been duly certified as such. This, too, in spite of the training in taste almost daily
undergone by most in the processes of planning dresses, trimming hats, decorating rooms,
selecting furniture and choosing pictures. But this daily training in taste does not, for most,
seem to pass over at all into the field of art. This latter is something, as I have said,
consciously connected in their minds only with accredited art works. I concluded that one of
the greatest obstacles to the growth of the esthetic habit I have spoken of, the habit gained, by
exposure, practice and suggestion, of liking and disliking, judging emotionally, what you
see, is the "masterpiece;" I am of the same opinion still. And let me say here, that if I
succeed at all in my talk with you to-day it will be, in my opinion, because I lead you once
again to see the importance of this habit of looking, with interest, with inquiry, with the
question ever in your mind: "Do I like it?" "Has it charm?" "Wherein Hes its charm?" upon
the thousand and one of the handiworks of man that come hourly under our observation.
The house, the common everyday house, the chair, the table, the pitcher, the cup, the door, the
molding by the door, the picture in the Sunday paper, in the magazine, on the bill-boards,
these are the things you daily and hourly see; here is where if anywhere you can try your
skill in tasting; these are the things you should teach the children to see clearly, to have a
feeling for or against. In these everyday objects we can show good taste; and on them
whether good or bad, we can practice ourselves in tasting.
The children should know of the masterpieces, of course. It is in a measure one of
their rights that they be taught something about them, taught to recognize them, to know the
stories of them and the poetry and romance they epitomize. But to acquire this knowledge
about masterpieces in art is hardly nearer to acquiring the esthetic habit, than is the
acquisition of knowledge about the sources of the Mississippi or the length of the Brooklyn
Bridge. Moreover, you can't practice the children's taste on the masterpieces. They are not
here, and those we have of our own make are few and to be seen but seldom and then with
difficulty. We have photographs of them, which are good for imparting knowledge; but not
as good for cultivating taste as are the thousand common objects I have alluded to. The
photographs are mere shadows; and the best of these shadows are rare. Like masterpieces
themselves they are not in our homes, they are not where we can constantly see them and
try our judgement on them.
In this matter my conclusion is—and I have already said it—point out the good and
bad in the everyday things. You make too much of the fine photographs and casts you put in
the schools and not enough of the things that every hour and minute assail the children's
eyes. You lament over the character of the pictures in the Sunday papers, and you seem—I
hate even to hint at such stupidity—^but you seem to hope to counteract their assumed
influence for bad taste by a few photographs on the school room walls and a few twenty
minute lessons in color and design. Why not tie the brief moments of your influence to
things as they are? Give a few lessons on our Sunday cartoons. Don't affect to ignore what

countless thousands of children every day delight in; but preach from them, as texts against
them where you must, with them where you can. The children are living with the houses
and the fumiture and the wall-paper (God help them!) and the Buster Browns and Nervy
Nats of to-day, and the ever present influence of these will not be overcome by ignoring
them and summoning Giotto and Velasquez for ten minutes from the past.
Of aU picture books the one which, in my observation, has the strongest appeal for
children is a bound volume of Puck and Judge. There are reasons why. If you discover those
reasons, and then proceed from the known to the unknown, your influence for good taste
may be more weighty. Surely this is safe to say, that you can point a lesson in drawing, in
vigor, in directness, in color, far better from a cartoon in Puck and Judge than from most of
the shadowy prints of paintings which you ask the children to admire.
To say a word about my own efforts, which have been sufficiently feeble and fruitless
to satisfy any among you who may be inclined to scoff at the suggestions I offer: Collins
began it in Denver with a collection of initials and head and tail pieces from old books and
magazines. I furnished the material from the library's extra supply, also sheets of manila
paper for mounting. Teachers and pupils clipped, sorted and mounted, and the result soon
was a large and useful pile of material, such as money can scarcely buy.
From the magazines and journals, again, by the same process, soon came
iHustrations of many kinds, used for many purposes. In those days I thought chiefly of the
pictorial part of art, which, as I have since come to see, forms only a small and rather
unimportant part of the whole esthetic field. We learned that children of 12 can soon
distinguish illustrators by their respective works and like to do it. They clipped and
mounted and arranged by artists in many school rooms many thousands of illustrations.
This opened their eyes to at least a few of the things worth seeing in illustrations other than
the stories. Similar collections in decoration, furniture, table ware and a score of other
subjects could easily be gathered in the same way, and the habit of judging—of liking and
disliking—cultivated for use in daily life.
Our library collection grew rapidly. We held exhibitions of things cut from current
journals, and admirable they were; and they were enjoyed, too, by many hundreds of young
of old. School-room decoration came our way about this time, and we began to put up in
rooms these inexpensive prints, colored and black and white, cheaply framed and
unframed. We held that it is well to show, in the school room, not only the best obtainable
photographs of paintings, or buildings on which time has set the seal of approval; but also
inexpensive things, things such as almost the poorest child can hope to have in his own
home. In how many homes today hang Hthographic, crayon and steel plated horrors! They
are often gorgeous in color; and thereby hangs a lesson for you, the same lesson you ought to
find in the popularity of the Sunday supplement and Puck and Judge. Begin with a yard of
roses and the unfortunate Washington and his family, not with a Madonna and a Stuart
baby and you wiH find that you are getting right down where the children are at home. High
price and great remoteness are no real virtue in a work of art. We live, day by day, not with
the best things the greatest men have wrought. We live with the common ugly things,
chiefly, but mixed with these and also common and gloriously cheap are many things that
are good. Help the children to pick out these every day good things and enjoy them.
As the years have gone by and I have tried my hand in other cities I have pursued in
some measure this same plan of collecting illustrations of objects of art—of nature and
science also—and have pressed them into use wherever opportunity offered. In Newark we
have over 50,000 pictures, roughly but quite efficiently classified. We can iHustrate every
form of picture-reproducing process. We can show the poor print of the great painting and

beautiful wood engravings by masters in the art. We have bad lithographs and those
wonderful modern ones that fairly shout to you to enjoy them, now made in France and
Germany. We have thousands of portraits, pictures of furniture of every kind, and designs
for everything under the sun. And we hope to have only begun. We believe these things wiH
grow in favor and gain more use, and that they will help many to realize that good is sitting
here in their doorways and calling them from the daily and monthly press, as well as
standing by the Seine and hanging on the walls of the Louvre.
We have exhibits of good things, expensive things, the best things, when we can get
them. But we have the exhibits anyway—and when they are cheap we are sure they are not
all bad. We show the work of the schools, of course, and wish we had more opportunities to
show it.
The details would make another long chapter. Our objects are not all esthetic. We
furnish much illustrative material for geography, history and story-telHng; and our
portraits of course are chiefly for history and biography. But aH the time we have in mind
the exaltation of the obvious and everyday thing, the opening of eyes to it, the practice of
having an opinion on it, of feeHng about it and tasting it, and so of forming the esthetic

You wiH expect me, as a librarian, to say something about books, of course, and I shall
recommend to you two. They have to do chiefly with the manual training side of your work;
an aspect of it which my remarks may seem, on the surface, to have scarcely touched. But if
I have read your papers and proceedings and your journals aright, then you are bringing
into very close relations the two subjects, drawing, design, color, "art," and handwork. This
is as it should be. You are finding strength in union here. And I am sure that most of you
can read into my remarks reference to the handicraftsman which do not appear on the
surface. This is already evident, that the teacher of drawing and art in the schools is going
to get the strongest and best argument for the continuance and the expansion of her work
from the relations it will have with things made with the hands.
The two books, then, tho' both industrial, are not here out of place. They are:

1. Report of the Commission on Industrial and Technical Education, made to the

Massachusetts Legislature this year. This is published by the State of Massachusetts, and
is obtainable, I suppose, free on request. It is a very important document, one sure to
have much influence. It contains a very able and interesting letter by one of your
members, Mr. Warner of the Springfield, Massachusetts, Manual Training High

2. Industrial Efficiency—a comparative study of industrial life in England, Germany and

America. By A. ShadweH, Longmans. '06, 2v. $7.00. The first and the last chapters are
especially worthy of attention. They will be found excellent for tempering one's national

In conclusion, let me ask; if you could control the art teaching in the United States,
and had a moderate amount of money and a few good teachers, what would you do? This is
your question. I think you would look with favor on the suggestion that you begin in the
homes. You would encourage in them restraint, simplicity, strength. You would begin with

those things seen by most people and most dear to them. Does your work reach the home
sufficiently? As much as it can? This step taken, the successive ones are obvious.
But, you will say, you are in the schools and are there held down to certain definite
work. In this work it would seem you should aim to do these things:

1. Teach a few (perhaps one in 40) to draw well.

2. Teach a few to use color well.

3. Teach a few to model well.

4. Teach a few to draw for construction well.

5. Teach a few to design well.

6. Teach a few to use tools well.

The others, the majority, you should test occasionally to see if they have developed
either the taste or skill and then let them alone as far as technique of hand or eye is
concerned. You should also:

7. Give all some skill in reading pictures.

8. Invite all to observe with care.

9. Teach a few to observe well.

10. Urge all to question their likes and dislikes.

11. Teach a few to criticise keenly.

The sum of this is, do not waste time, yours or the students, in training in a special
line those not born to be trained in that line.
As I have said, I have read your proceedings and find nearly aH I have been saying
in them, and many other good things also. You have helped modern education very much. If
you had done nothing but add to it a certain breadth and humanity which before it sadly
lacked you would have earned your meagre stipends many times over.
In view of the Hmitations under which you have worked your progress has been most
gratifying; every unprejudiced observer will say this: I think the European critics of our
institutions frankly admit it.
Just one every day suggestion: You have a special advantage in your propaganda work
in that the results of your efforts are visible. The teacher who helps a class to master
addition cannot hang her pupils' little brains on a burlap screen and point with pride to
their arithmetic lobes! While the teacher who can show rows and garlands of boxes and
flowers and designs and mats is thought to have done wonders with the little dears. You
should make more of this advantage. You need more pubHcity. The people don't know what
you are aiming at. Keep teHing them. Frequent expositions in print and frequent displays of
work will help us to reaHze that you are trying to teach children to see clearly, to

discriminate, to feel; and will help to cultivate in the people themselves that practice of
liking and disliking common things which is, in effect, the habit of being esthetic.

It is difficult to tell what literature is. It is perhaps still more difficult to define poetry,
and of either it seems impossible to tell how to know when it is good, how to learn to love it
and why it is worth while to read it and to become familiar with it.
In the world to-day nearly everything seems on first view to get done without the aid of
fine literature, or of that part of fine literature which we call poetry. But this seeming
absence of what we caU good poetry is a seeming only. We assume that good poetry is so
often lacking because we so commonly deny the title good to all those poetic expressions of
emotion which we have been told, by the books and by our elders, have no place in the
literary field. We name the great poems and the great collections of poems and are apt to
think that outside of these there is no poetry. We note that many men and women of
alertness and intelligence go through their life's routine for months and years without once
coming in contact with what we call poetry and we conclude that in their lives there is no
poetry whatever.
This is a great error, and one which is the cause of many of the failures to interest the
young, and for that matter their elders also, in good Hterature and great poetry.
There are no standards for measuring either poetry or literature. There is no way of
telHng whether or no a certain poem is great. We must always depend for our conclusions
on the experience of one, or many, persons. We have no poetry principles, or poetry rules, or
poetry test tubes or anything of that kind by which to estimate a poem's qualities. All praise
of it amounts in the final analysis to this, that this and that person have enjoyed it and
approved it. They approved it because it gave them, in the reading of it, certain fine and
enjoyable emotions, emotions which they say they gain only from the reading of poetry that
is of the best. Among these persons whose opinion we thus lean on in forming our estimates
of the value of a poem, we should put first our own selves. We should aH test poetry for
ourselves, and so far as possible, by the same method that the accredited critics employ. We
should ask, "Do I like it? Does it stir me? Does it rouse in me enthusiasms?" If it does, it is
good poetry for me. If not, it is not good poetry, for me.
Of course we will, if we are wise, look about a little when we are reading and say,
"Has this poem been praised by many? Were those who have praised it simply echoing what
others have said, or did they form an opinion from their own experience? Were they persons
who have read and thought, and have they shown, by what they have said or written, that
they have good taste, cool judgment, wide knowledge of our mother tongue and ability to tell
when it is wisely and beautifully used?" If the answers to these inquiries are yes, we should
say to ourselves, "We also may hope to find this poem beautiful." If we do not so find it, we
should say, "Perhaps we have not yet the ability, or experience, or skill to appreciate it." But
if we are honest we should also say, "This is not good poetry, for me."
And here is the point of the whole matter; good poetry to be good poetry must be good to
him who reads it. And here is the conclusion; if it is indeed good to its reader then it is
indeed good poetry.
Thus we see how it happens that the lack of poetry, and of fine literature also, in so
much of the daily life of our fellows is a seeming lack only. They find much poetry in life
itself, in homely everyday relations, in passing sentiments; and for them this poetry is put

Reprinted from The Newarker 1 (1912): 150-151.

into poetic form, if put into words at all, by everyday poets whose names the text books
ignore, but whose productions in jingles, hymns, popular songs and rhythmic prose are good
poetry to the thousands who read and love them. Often they find enough of the essence of
poetry, though not expressed in words, in the emotions roused by that life of theirs which to
others seems so dull, so commonplace, so prosaic. To give one iUustration only, it has been
many times remarked that people living lives which those who know them little call dull,
narrow and unromantic are most helpful to one another and are quickest to display in
kindly acts that sympathy whose expression is the foundation of so much of the best poetry.
Life is fuU of unwritten poetry to all persons who have fair intelligence; and to all who
read their native tongue with some ease there is written poetry in abundance, in the daily
press, in the songs they sing, in the jingles they know and repeat and in the rhythmic prose
they are so fond of
Now, all study and teaching of poetry should take the elements of its substance and its
method from this fundamental fact, that poetry is to be judged by the person who reads it,
and is good if he likes it. This study and teaching should not be based at all on the theory
that only that poetry is good and only that poetry is worth knowing and reading which has
found its way into the text books and the approved collections.
Poetry begins at home; the study and enjoyment of it begin of right in the same place.
The wise teacher of poetry, and of all fine literature, takes her pupils where she finds
them; she begins with that which pleases them however simple, banal, crude, sickly and
over-sentimental it may seem to her. As a love of the best in literature seems to be almost
native to some, so that they need only to read it to take a fine delight in it; the teacher
should, of course, test all her pupils with good verse at the very beginning of their study,
reading it to them, letting them read it to one another and persuading them to read it to
themselves. Thus she will discover those who early develop a taste for what we caH the best.
And as taste for good poetry is almost as varied in its charm as poetry itself is in its kinds,
she should test her pupils with the ballad, the lyric, the epic, the narrative and aH the other
forms, helping thus to discover all the tastes, native or developed by home training, which
they may possess. But having done this and having found, as she must, that the majority do
not, if their opinions be honestly expressed and not slavishly assumed, find pleasure in any
verse save that of the most popular and least literary kind, she will not allow them to think
that they have not in them poetic taste or feeling for poetry. Rather, she wiH do her best to
make them see the best in that which they enjoy; she will proclaim the fact that if it seems
good to them it is good for them, and will urge them to take in it, so far as they can, the
same pleasure others find in the products of the highest genius. In this way she will nourish
so much poetic fire as is in them, and will best prepare them to find pleasure also, as time
goes on and they change and grow in knowledge and experience, in the works on which the
world has set its seal of approval.
Whereas, if she pursues the usual method and adopts the text book air, and implies or
flatly says to her pupils that they never knew or heard or felt or loved any real poetry until
they opened the works of those the text books and the critics caH the great masters, she will
make poetry seem to them forever after a something apart from daily life, a subject for
study, a topic for cultured conversation, and she will make the reading of it, in school and
long thereafter, a sad and tedious task.


The Chicago Dial, the best purely literary journal in the United States, says in the
course of a three-column criticism of a brief note of mine in the Newarker for September on
"Literary Superstitions," that the "sort of counsel therein given is a most damnable
perversion of the function of a public library."
It is difficult to explain a tmism; but it seems that I must, for damnation from the Dial
is damnation indeed.
What I said was that "much literary talk is mere pretense"; that we learn in school
about the "great" books; that when we get out of school we do not read them; that we then have
a little feeling of guilt because we think we ought to read them; but that we are wrong in
having this feeling of guilt, for we ought not to read them if we do not really like them.
Hypocrisy brings its own punishment, especially in Hterature. If one pretends to
admire and enjoy books which his nature, education, environment, intellectual and
emotional character and absorption in life make it impossible for him to admire and enjoy,
then he loses aH hope of acquiring the capacity to appreciate them and enjoy them. To
pretend to a virtue is never to acquire it.
Of greatness in literature there is no absolute standard. Out of the whole range of
printed things each must choose that which fits his own needs. For some the best is a new
cook book, for others a treatise on city government, for others the New York Joumal, for
others a novel by L. J. Vance and for others a new translation of Homer.
Each man in each of these groups should be encouraged to get from what he reads all
that he can find in it of pleasure and help for himself, and to read with such careful
questioning and comparison as he has power to exercise. If he is wise, he will consult in his
reading of cookery, city government, newspapers, novels or translations from the Greek,
men who are generally thought to have skill in such matters; but if he feels guilty because,
loving cook books, he does not read a treatise on cities, or because, enjoying Vance, he does
not care for Aeschylus, that is to take the first step toward literary hypocrisy.
The most hopeless of readers is not he who frankly cares for nothing save the daily
paper, his trade joumal and the last novel, or he who finds now and then a laugh in Mutt
and Jeff and flaunts boldly the Saturday Evening Hearthstone. The hopeless ones are those
who, when they meet a known reader of the classics, make haste to drop literary allusions,
to drag in by the heels their delight in Charles Lamb and eagerly to summon Macaulay or
even poor Milton from the dim recesses of their school days memories. Who can tolerate
this strong odor of belles lettres which accompanies him who pretends to be "literary?"
The frank reader of mere print, the reader of the print that suits his intellect and his
taste, he may, being honest, try his mind on what he reads; may look at it squarely; may
test it by such standards as his brain and experience furnish; and so doing he may, to-
morrow, take a wider range, may try new fields, and may find things in print that give
him deeper and more lasting dehght and more directly serve his intellect. If he does, he
may grow and delight in his growth. He wiH get what he has earned, and it will be his; and
in the process of earning he wiH have become critical in his degree, and equipped to be of
help to the cause of truth and good English.

Reprinted from The Newarker 1 (1912): 195-196.

But the pretender—out with him! He is past hope. He mumbles of the paradise of books,
but never gets even a glimpse of its gates.
But the Dial says that if we do not like the great books, still we ought none-the-less to
read them that we may learn to like them, and that in saying the opposite to this I am giving
counsel that is damnably harmful. But I spoke of adults. I did not say that it is unwise to put
before the young the world's best books in the hope that some may have the ability and the
taste to appreciate them and the wish to read them. I said that adults should not feel guilty
because their brains and their temperaments and their training and the affairs of life
forbid their finding pleasure in what are called the classics.
As to these classics;—they are nearly all works of art; they depend chiefly for their
pre-eminence not on their content but on their form. They have added much to the world; but
they are not the only records of human thought and action that are of supreme value. Other
things in print are of first importance as well as the productions of men of letters.
Some one called these classics the "literature of power," and damned all other books
merely by classing them as "literature of knowledge." The phrase has done much harm. It
has helped to set many a young man to wasting his nights over Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe
and others named in the text books, when he might better have been studying the literature
of his calling. The former he could not appreciate, while the latter might easily have proved
to him "literature of power."
The same phrase has encouraged countless timid souls, awed by professors of
literature, to hold endless dreary meetings for the study of writers whom they could not read
with delight did they read them daily for a decade.
The same phrase, again, has helped hundreds of women's clubs to neglect all joyful
consideration of life that is lived and to listen in weary complacence to literary platitudes
from mediocre essayists.
The truth is, as I tried very briefly—and hence perhaps, very bluntly—to suggest, that
for every man the book of power is the book that, first, gives him pleasure; next, informs
him; next, sets him to thinking; and next, sets him to doing.
The book he reads must please him; it must not merely satisfy his hypocritical desire
to be pleased with that particular book. Books are well read by those who like to read them,
not by those who feel they ought to read them; just as good deeds are well done by those who
like to do them, not by those who fear not to do them or by those who hope by doing them to
acquire merit.


To the Editor of the Library Journal:

Mr. [Asa Don] Dickinson is in error when he says in the LIBRARY JOURNAL for
January 1, under the heading of "A Librarian in the 18th Century," that the address on The
Librarian made by Des Houssayes in 1780 had not been translated into English before its
translation by him for the LIBRARY JOURNAL.
The whole story of that address will be found in the volume which reprints it in the
series "Literature of Libraries in the 17th and 18th Centuries," edited by Henry W. Kent and
myself and published in 1906. The note which precedes the English translation of this
address, "On the Duties of a Librarian," says it was translated into French in 1839 and
published; this translation was re-issued in 1857. It appeared in English in the Philobiblion
of New York in 1863. This English rendering was printed again in the Bibliographer in
1882 and again printed in Book Lore in 1885.
It would be to me quite amusing, if it were not a little humiliating, to learn that a
librarian as active and as much of a student as is Mr. Dickinson (and one, moreover, who
is librarian of a university library), has lived to a ripe maturity without ever having heard
of the "Literature of Libraries" series! It appeared in six volumes in 1906. It was printed at
the Merrymount Press, D. B. Updike, Boston, then almost if not quite the best printer in the
world, and now even more definitely to be thus described.
It was marketed by A. C. McClurg & Company. The price was $12 for the six volumes
in three pockets. The number of copies printed was 250, with twenty-five additional copies on
large paper. McClurg reported that they had no small difficulty in disposing of a sufficient
number of copies of this set of books to pay for the printing thereof. They also reported that
very few of them were purchased by libraries.
This was the first time, tho not the last, that it was brought home to me that, altho
librarians are nominally readers, claim to live to promote the art of reading, and are
devoted to their profession, their interest in the literature of that profession is on the whole
very slight.
The six books contain the address of Des Houssayes; Dury's The Reformed Librarie-
Keeper; Kirkwood's Parochial Libraries in Scotland, Bodley's Life by himself, with the First
Draft of the Statutes of the Public Library of Oxford; Lipsius's Short History of Libraries,
which was translated especially for this series; and Naude's News from France with his
Surrender of the Mazarin Library.
It may interest some of our more modem librarians, who have not searched even the
recent literature of libraries, to know that Mr. Kent and I were not discouraged by the
failure of the "Literature of Libraries" series to catch the attention of librarians. We
proceeded to publish what we called "The Librarian's Series." Number 1 of this was The Old
Librarian's Almanack, which is easily the best piece of library literature produced up to date
by any writer in this country.[!] The author of it was Mr. Edmund Lester Pearson, now
editor of publications of the New York Public Library.
We were so optimistic about the thirst for information concerning libraries, and
especially their past history, that of the several volumes in this series that we persisted in

Reprinted from Library Journal 51 (1926): 149.

publishing, we issued one thousand copies. Altho not a few copies of The Old Librarian's
Almanack have been given away in the course of the seventeen years since they were
published, the edition of one thousand copies has not yet, I believe, been quite exhausted.
The books in this series were nearly all serious re-presentations of works that are
more or less landmarks in the progress of libraries in the English speaking world, and
especially in this country. The list of them is as follows: The Old Librarian's Almanack, The
Intellectual Torch, The Attainments of a Librarian, The Training of the Librarian, Library and
the Librarian.
Beginning about 1908 we spent no little time and no small amount of money on a
digest of all the books that we could discover concerning the management of libraries that
had been published prior to about 1800. After several years of study and investigation we
thought this project was so nearly ready for publication that we should discover if it would be
hailed with delight by our literary friends in the library business; so we sent out to libraries
a very handsome circular, several hundred copies, asking for subscriptions to this book.
The total number of subscriptions received was less than a dozen!
Naturally we paused in our mad career and decided that librarians are after all not
readers in the proper sense of the word, and were certainly not interested in the history of
their calling!

John Cotton Dana

TS— <^^- :j;-3;

' — s .^C-I-Z.::^-'<—-

'^ftf Urn

View of Newark IVIuseum, on the fourth floor of the Newark Public Library. Reprinted from
the The Newarker 1 (Apr. 1912): 85.

1. How Museums Came to Be So Deadly Dull

Museums of art are not made to fill a present need. They are made in obedience to an
ancient fashion. The fashion grew up several centuries ago among kings, princes and other
masters of men and wealth. Early museums were not made by the common people to supply
a want which they felt; and when these common people found that they had, thru taxes,
money held in common and at their own disposal thru their elected servants, they decided to
use some of it to buy museums for themselves. Unfortunately, no one was at hand to tell
them that they would get not pleasure or profit out of the kinds of museums which kings,
princes and other masters of people and wealth had constructed; Euid so, being ruled by
precedent of fashion, as were also their rich donors, their important citizen-trustees and
their architects, they voted for, or silently approved, spending public money for the old kinds
of museums. They cared more to be in the fashion than they did to get something useful and
That is only part of the story. The mastery of people and wealth by a few came on down
to modem days. Most of us prefer mastery by another to the irksome task of mastering, and
being responsible for, ourselves. The supermen who held and still hold the mastery of men
and things inherited the fashion of their predecessors—^kings, princes and others; therefore,
they copied the old style of museum even when it was their purpose to make it for the people
and not for themselves alone.
Museums of science were made of a stupefying dullness to the common man, because
those who inspired and directed their construction and management were natural-history
enthusiasts and scientists, who loved to observe, collect, name, label and arrange, for
themselves; but never gave time, study and thought to the problem of making the objects
which interested them inviting and profitable to the average intelligent person. Also, they
gave no heed to children, being satisfied with the conventional thought that as the children
have schools they need nothing more.
That story of the way deadly dull museums have come to be part of our accepted social
equipment is in broad outline only.
One important factor in the process of making them deadly dull has been already
hinted at—the stupidity of the rich who knew one type of museums only—the remote,
unvisited and melancholy temple to the dead gods of art and science. This stupidity was the
basis of much insistence by givers, and by complaisant trustees of their gifts and, alas! by
architects, that the buildings given should be patterned after ancient, dark and uninviting
temples to gods, or fortified palaces of princes, also dark.
Another factor that helps make museums of art body-wearying and soul stupefying is
the exaltation of the oil painting. To tell whence and how came this exaltation would be too
long a story here. It is enough to say that during all our museum-of-art development those at
the forefront in that development, rich donors, well-to-do and unimaginative trustees, have
assumed that the one thing essential to a museum is a long series of oil paintings, in
elaborate gilded frames, hung in sky-lighted rooms. Tho many visit these long series of
pretty, colored pictures and enjoy them much as they do our colored Sunday supplements,
they do so because they think they ought; and they find those visits wearying to body, brain

Reprinted from Library Journal 46 (1921): 455-456, 539-540.

and eyes; and they carry away from them a minimum of suggestion for making daily life
more entertaining and houses, homes, dress and domestic equipment more attractive and
What I mean is this: That the oil painting seems not to help in any discernible degree
to make us more interested or inteHigent in the appHcation of decoration to daily Hfe; but
that the worship of it does seem to help to increase the number and size of soul-and-body-
tiring galleries of pictures.
Among the obstacles to the development of museums which shall daily add to the
agreeable reactions of all members of the community which supports them, and at the same
time be helpful in broadening and enriching Hfe thru the educational work they do, is the
all-pervading convention concerning the character and location of museum buildings. This
has already been touched on; but needs another word of explanation.
As kings and princes passed away, or became little more than conventions, some of
the palaces they had occupied were taken over by the new government, and were turned into
museums. This set the fashion of making museum buildings low, usually one story and a
basement only, and of Greek or renaissance style.
The ideal museum building to-day, constructed in conformity with the precedent just
noted and with the fashion that other precedents have set, is made to look as if it were one
story, with a basement; has skylighted rooms in the roof; is located at such a distance from
the center of its city as to discourage visits; is grand and uninviting to the common people
and within is elegantly embarrassing to most visitors.
If these preceding brief notes are in the main correct, then they sufficiently explain the
average museum's unpopularity. To them should be added a further word as to lack of
friendly and helpful relation between the contents of museums and the daily life of the
people who maintain them.
Art, as represented by a museum of art, is thought of by museum enthusiasts and by
the country at large as peculiar to itself, remote from daily life and quite unrelated to
chairs, linoleum, wall-paper, bonnets, shoes and tableware as used by the world outside.
This potent convention as to the isolation of art-in-a-museum from all other things has been
recently aptly iHustrated by the remarks of a museum enthusiast in a talk on art
appreciation. The assumptions the writer made were that a knowledge of art and an
appreciation of it could be gained only by seeing real art, and that as real art can be seen by
the non-wealthy only within the walls of a museum of art, a person who has grown up in a
western town or village cannot have either art knowledge or art appreciation! It would be
difficult to add to the impression that remark makes on the thoughtful by discussion of it.
The foregoing brief mention of some of the factors that have made museums remote,
unvisited and melancholy, needs modification, of course. Especially does it need mention
of the fact that in the past ten or fifteen years much has been done in not a few museums to
redeem themselves from the charge of being unused and unattractive....

n . The Functions of a Museum

To librarians, when speaking of museums, it should first be said that to be interested
in museums after the modern manner is to be interested in visual instruction. Just what is
meant by this phrase is not easy to say. The methods, the tools and the results of teaching
with the aid of objects and pictures are being studied as never before. The movie would have
compelled such study if the modern museum idea had not. For the purposes of this
discussion it is enough to say that the old type of museum was almost useless as an
educational tool, education here being used in its popular meaning. This educational

inutility of museums of the old type would still remain even were they greatly visited by
both old and young, and they are not.
Hence the question which confronts one who considers museums is not how to make
them more attractive—that can be done, as experiments have shown, by the skilful use of
free ice cream and free music. The question is, how can they be made so useful, so helpful
toward happiness, intelligence and general well-being, that all save those of quite the lowest
mentality will be moved to use them.
It is impossible to bring to a museum in any community so many interested visitors
as to make the aid it gives to those visitors in making them happier and more intelligent
citizens, an adequate return for the cost of building, contents and maintenance. A study of
its finances and of its report on its visitors of our largest and richest museum, located in
our largest city, will be sufficient proof of the truth of that statement. A few students can and
do visit museums each year for definite and useful ends. The relatively small attendance
on them, however, is chiefly made up of casuals; and even if they gain from their visits
reactions of extraordinary esthetic value or enthusiasms for popular science of
extraordinary range and depth, those reactions are adherent to so small a part of the whole
citizenship as to make them almost negligible; and they are entirely negligible if one
attempts to set them over against the museum's cost as an adequate return therefor.
Space is here lacking for further argument against the old doctrine that a museum,
like beauty, is its own excuse for being; and in favor of the new doctrine that all institutions
supported from the public purse, including museums, should show returns for their cost
which are definite, and in fair degree measurable. The conclusion is, briefly, that no
museum can pay for its upkeep thru the good it does its visitors.
If library enthusiasts here interrupt to say that the facts and conclusion which have
just been roughly outlined can be applied to libraries established for reference use only, this
comment may be made in return: that the use of books in a reference library is in most
cases far different than the use made of objects in a "reference museum," and that the
development of printing in the last half century has given us conditions under which the old
type of reference library is in much the same position as is the old type of museum; and that
nearly all of the world's reference libraries would be far more useful than they now are did
they lend freely or place in branches, or both, about seventy-five per cent of their books and
The museum that is chiefly under view in these notes is the museum which frankly
admits that its value to visitors is quite slight, being a value realized by few and decidedly
minute to most of the few, and finds its excuse for being chiefly in four forms of activity, to
wit: it lends objects for use in school, studio, shop or home; it places its objects, often
moveable groups, in branch museums; it publishes things of use to its community, things
based on the museum's objects and activities, yet not demanding of one who gets profit and
pleasure from them, a visit to the museum itself; and it teaches many, not merely thru
casual gsizing at its objects, but with those objects as illustrations of spoken and written
It is now obvious that the libraries of a public library [are] in many respects well
equipped to do the fundamental things in modern museum making; and that a public
library is a good and proper place in which to lay the foundations of a museum. The
librarian is friendly to students who come to his collection of books; he lends books freely;
he puts books in branches, including in this term every group of books that goes out to a
certain spot and there eagerly seeks for ways of usefulness; and he publishes useful things,
so far as funds and imagination permit.

It is worth while to note here the fact that most of the movements toward museum
beginnings that have been set up in libraries have had the ear-mark of the modem library
and consequently of the modern museum. Objects and collections gathered in libraries have
been selected, where that was possible, not with a mind set on cost, rarity and age; but on
immediate value as a tool in teaching. And, again, the collections of pictures which
libraries make and lend are in fact collections of museum objects. One very important
museum consists of pictures only. Many museums have picture collections; but are in most
cases far behind libraries in that they do not lend them.
A library, then, is a good place in which to lay a museum's foundations, or, to put it in
better phrase, in which to begin a modern museum's pleasure-giving and helpful
The museums of the future, especially those in industrial cities and smaller towns,
will not be each of a definite kind. That statement does not say and does not imply that
collections of objects in many specific fields will not continue to be made, and, if wisely
administered, will not be useful and even essential tools in the development of knowledge
in the fields they severally represent.
The meaning of the statement, that the coming museum will be, in most communities,
not of one kind but of all kinds, will perhaps be made fairly clear by what follows.
The new museum wishes to be useful to its community from the very first day of its
existence. It finds in the public school system of its community demand for the most modest
objects it can collect. It proceeds at once to make itself a helpful adjunct to that system, thus
following that fundamental law of social economy which insists that existing organs be
utilized to the utmost in the development of new ones. To fill the demands for objects useful
in school rooms it must go into fields of art, science, industry and history. So doing it forms
collections which make it at once, not a museum of a certain fixed type, but a group of
museums of all types. Looking about for other fields of usefulness it finds that in its
community is a wish to see and to make use of industrial products, old and modern, local
and foreign; a wish that is in most communities far stronger than that for seeing and
enjoying paintings and sculptures. It begins, therefore, to collect samples of the city's own
products, and forms thus an industrial and commercial museum such as England is now
developing thru some of its most important industrial and educational organizations.
And so it proceeds; gathering and making available for study such things as it finds
its constituents can enjoy and can use and are eager thus to do.
The new museum, then, is not a museum of art, or science, or industry or history or
any other type or field; it is such a wide-ranging collection of material as careful
observation and controlled experiment indicate are useful and pleasure-giving to the
community which supports it.
These remarks have, it is hoped, cleared the ground for the statement that, just as a
librarian selects for purchase for a library for the public the books that will be to that public
most acceptable and most useful and most used; so the director of a museum of the new type
collects for his community, not what convention and fashion say a museum should contain,
but what a study of the tastes, industries and pastimes of the community suggests as best
fitted to fill that community's wishes.
It follows, once more, that a good librarian is eminently well-fitted to be a museum


It is easy for a museum to get objects; it is hard for a museum to get brains. The objects
are seen, talked about, wondered at, bring pr£use to those who give them and prestige to those
who choose them for purchase. The brains are not seen, are chiefly in the heads of mere
hirelings, produce results slowly, and the results produced are seen only by those with a gift
for education or with training and experience in it.
What is true of museum objects—rare, wonder-producing, and pride-evoking objects—
is true also of museum buildings. It is easy to get them, much easier than to get museum
brains. They are large, monumental, shiny, obtrusive, make impressive photographs, help
to give cities plausible reasons for existence, furnish to donors a refined publicity for
unselfish expenditures, and endow laborious trustees with a sense of duty done and with the
immortality! of a bronze inscription.
Probably no more useless public institution was ever devised than that popular ideal,
the classical building of a museum of art, filled with rare and costly objects. And it adds to
its inutility a certain power for harm. To its community it gives a specious promise of
artistic regeneration, and it permits those who visit it to put on certain integuments of
culture which, although they do not conceal esthetic nakedness, inhibit the free exercise of
both intellect and sensibility.
What I mean is this: Museums, and especially art museums, are social conventions
or community fashions. When a city puts on a museum it puts it on in obedience to the
dictates of municipal fashion; it erects a museum building in accordance with current
architectural fashion; and it places in the building objects selected after the fashions of art
museums. These municipal, architectural, and museum-object fashions are becoming out-
of-date. Conformity to them is not useful, but is moderately harmful, giving conformists the
notion that they are doing something which in fact they are not doing.
If, now, museums are to be of greater use to the world, here are the things that museum
brains must fight against: fashionable museum buildings, fashionable museum collections,
and fashionable treatment of collections.
In the kind of conflict here indicated—brains and ideas against the inborn tendency
of good citizens to prefer the old way—the better manner of conducting the campaign is
plainly that of a seeming retreat, accompanied by the construction of new and better things
in the peace and quiet of the rear. Then, when the cohorts of the ancient, honorable, and
ignorant finally penetrate the lines of the intelligent and reach the rearguard, they will
find there, already constructed and in use, institutions so well adapted to obvious needs that
they will adopt them at once, and call them their own creations and the very realizations of
the ideals for which they so long have fought.
That which common sense dictates as the proper course for protagonists of the new
museum is precisely the course which they are following. Here and there you find men and
women, relatively few but in the total a goodly number, who are constructing institutions of
usefulness so great that they are paying in some cases fair returns on their cost, even
though burdened with the handicap of being called museums. Mr. [Paul Marshall] Rea's
museum studies of recent years are most discouraging if you set down results in cold
figures; but quite cheering if you read them with an eye to the future. Miss [Louise]

Reprinted from American Association of Museums. Proceedings 10 (1916): 80-87.

Connolly's study is more optimistic, of necessity so, being an effort at construction rather
than a description of conditions. The recent annual reports of this Association can give
even the most depressed of museum revolutionists much encouragement, for they prove that
the one ever-present desire of museum workers is to discover and exploit new avenues of
definite usefulness.
I shall try to suggest this rapid increase in the utility of museums by drawing, from
latter-day writings, reports of those forms of museum activities in which progressive
museum workers take the most pride, which are most approved by their associates, and
which are plainly making museums in which they appear more widely and more definitely
useful to their respective communities. These varied forms of activity I shall unite in one
imaginary museum, which, as I shall try to suggest, is so valuable an asset to its
community as to make it seem that its title museum, already a misnomer, should be
changed to "institute of visual instruction." In thus depicting, in rough and incomplete
outline, an institution of an excellence and effectiveness as yet quite unattained, I must add
to it certain features and put upon it certain peculiarities born of my own imagination. Only
thus, it seems, can I give the vision a certain needed strength and fullness. In thus adding,
to what I find in actual practice, possibilities that are mere ejects of myself, I shall, as I am
well aware, give you a project of which no one of you will entirely approve. But, after all,
you are not asking of me something to which you can all give assent; but something which
may strengthen your faith in your own work and—though this is asking too much of a non-
expert—something which may move you to pursue your present tasks with added zeal and to
venture upon new lines with proper courage.
Those things which the new museum will not do, and the kind of institution which it
distinctly will not be, must be indicated chiefly by exclusion. It is not needful to begin by
saying that the ideal institute of visual instruction will not be thus and so. One negation,
however, seems essential; it is, that the new museum is not a museum of a certain kind. It
is not of fine art or applied art; nor of pedagogy or technology, nor of hygiene or religion.
Carefully selected and laboriously identified, completely labeled, fitly installed, and safely
housed collections of objects in all the fields mentioned, and in subdivisions of those fields
and in many others not mentioned, are needed now, and have now and always will have
their select, high, and usually narrow range of usefulness. But basic to all the project I shall
briefly set before you is the statement that either these must no longer be called museums,
but collections; or a new name must be discovered and adopted, such as I have roughly
suggested in the phrase "institute of visual instruction," for those creations whose
usefulness is wide, direct, obvious, and in fair degree measurable.
And that word measurable leads to one more remark prefatory.
All public institutions, and museums are no exceptions, should give returns for their
cost and those returns should be in good degree positive, definite, visible, measurable. The
goodness of a museum is not in direct ratio to the cost of its building and the upkeep thereof,
nor to the rarity, auction-value, or money cost of its collections. A museum is good only in
so far as it is of use. It is easy to evade the importance of this obvious fact by airy talk of the
uplift value of architectural facades in the classic manner, of priceless antiques, of
paintings by masters, and of ancient porcelains, jades and lacquers, to say nothing of
replicas of whales, Indians, and mastodons. But the evasion does not serve. Common sense
demands that a publicly supported institution do something for its supporters, and that some
part at least of what it does be capable of clear description and downright valuation.
The museum project I present is in one of our large, ugly, industrious, and rich
American cities of mixed population.

Its museum is near the center of the daily movement of its citizens. The narrow and
modestly decorated entrance fronts on a side street just off a main artery of travel. The
building itself is sixteen stories high, with an area of about 10,000 square feet on each floor,
giving a total of 160,000 above the basement. It is built in the ordinary modem, fireproof,
brick-steel-and-concrete, loft-building manner, at 25 cents per cubic foot, and cost, with the
land, complete with decorations, furniture, and cases, about one million dollars.
The main structure is a parallelogram, about 60 by 160 feet. The lighting problem is
solved by electricity, though windows are abundant, especially in workrooms.
The entrance hall, a stairway of moderate grandeur, cloak rooms, toilets, shipping
rooms, several small halls of wonders, and several lecture rooms occupy the first floors.
The halls of wonders contain a few examples of the oil paintings, sculptures, and curios
which every museum of art is supposed to possess, and a few of the habitat groups, large
skeletons, and curiosities of nature which convention bids us look for in a museum of
science. If these were not on view in a convenient place and near the entrance, they would
be earnestly and persistently sought by visitors until they were found. By putting them near
the entrance and by giving the entrance just a touch of grandeur, all visitors who have the
conventional museum expectancy enjoy at once the agreeable reactions they look for, and
are fit to proceed further with a quiet and receptive mind. Many of these objects, or others
akin to them, are found again where needed to teach this, that, and the other lesson. The
modesty of the entrance hall is compensated for in part by the presence in it of a panel of
glass mosaic, very unusual, very expensive, very laboriously made, very old, very
historical, and distinctly a museum piece. Always among the objects shown in these halls of
wonders are some which are recent acquisitions, some which cost a great deal of money,
some which enjoy provenances of astounding length and of aristocratic flavor, and several
which are the only ones in the world, or at least in this country.
The floors on which are found the other things to be mentioned need not be specified.
For all of them there is abundant space. Many of them are moved from time to time, as the
development of the museum's activity and as changes in museum method dictate.
I can tell what the building contains and what are the activities which center in it in
the briefest manner only. To those familiar with museum work the items on the list which
follows will almost automatically expand themselves.
Our projected institute contains the following:

1. A staff adequate for the work which the objects named and the activities suggested may
require. The staff is larger, relatively to size of building and cost of collections, and
more highly paid, than it is in any existing museum of equal floor-space.

2. Paintings, many of them, chiefly recent American, but with an abundance of copies of
old masterpieces. A few are shown in the building; some are lent to schools; some are
placed in windows of stores; some are in libraries and branch libraries; and some are
in the museum's branches.

3. Sculptures, including many American bronzes and others of all countries and times,
the latter being in most cases inexpensive copies. Most of these are usually stored, or
lent, or are on exhibition in other places. There is no grand sculpture hall of plaster
casts; though there is at least one room in which the peculiar esthetic emotion to be
experienced in the presence of a congruous group of marble sculpture is produced.

4. Prints, a large collection, but not necessarily an expensive one. Valuable prints are
accepted as gifts, but few are purchased. No large permanent collection is always on

5. A collection of about a million pictures of paintings, sculptures, architecture, and

chiefly, of decorated objects of daily use. It is classified by objects, schools, periods, etc.
These are used by students in the building and are lent freely for home, studio, school,
and factory use. They form one of the most valuable assets of the whole institution.

6. Collections of metal and wood work, textiles, etc. Such of these as were purchased are
largely copies. The acquisition, even by gift, of originals which have a very high
market value and involve great labor in handling and great care for preservation is
not encouraged.

7. A selection, constantly changing through rejections and renewals, of things made in

the city. Of some of these an important exhibit is held each year. These local industries
displays are quite frankly commercial. They illustrate each year the best the city can
produce in the line selected. They are accompanied by or preceded by or followed by
exhibits of goods in the same line from other countries and from other periods.

8. Many objects illustrating such fundamental industries, whether followed in the city or
not, as have greatly influenced the development of civilization; objects of clay and
glass, textiles, leather, metal objects, jewelry, wood, and foods.

These objects are shown from three standpoints: the historic development of industries
involved in its relation to the development of the social conditions influencing and
influenced by them; the processes by which such objects are made today, with the
science and skill involved; the art qualities inhering in such objects, in both past and
present times.

9. Habitat groups, usually rather small. Many of them are in miniature. They include
birds, animals, insects, and men. A few selected ones are always on view, and well
arranged to be shown to groups of school children. Many of the less important and less
complicated groups, small and easily moved, are placed in museum branches in
windows of stores, and in branch libraries and school houses as needed.

10. Science collections. These are made with special reference, first, to the science work in
the schools, and next, to the interests of local groups of scientists. They are quite largely
arranged as needed.

11. A library, for reference and lending use.

12. Lanterns, lantern-slides, stereomotorgraphs, moving picture films, all of a character

appropriate to the museum's work, with moving picture machines and rooms in which
all can be shown to small audiences.

13. A department of cooperation. The whole museum is in itself an institution for

encouraging the use, not only of objects in its possession, but also of natural and man-

made features of the city and its immediate surroundings. It is the habit of the city to
turn simultaneously to library and museum when information is wanted. It is the
custom of the museum to send to the parks of the neighborhood some of its movable
collections which illustrate the phenomena then and there visible. And the park
managers send to the museum many specimens illustrating natural phenomena. All
art, industry, and science schools use the museum and its collections just so far as
falls short of interfering with their more democratic use by the city's laymen. And their
first impulse, when producing or acquiring anything capable of use in visual
instruction, is to duplicate it or share it with the museum. These correlations tend to
prevent unnecessary duplication of collections. One department of the museum
contains lists, pictures, and reproductions of notable art, science, and industrial
features of the city, and visual information as to its political, religious, philanthropic,
and civic institutions.

14. With this department goes another which gives its time chiefly to instructing teachers
and others in the art of visual instruction, including the preparation of labels and of
descriptive leaflets.

15. Workshops. These include the places in which museum work is done, from the receipt,
examination, recording, photographing, cleaning, etc., of some ancient, rare, beautiful,
and costly gift like an early textile, to the making of a simple case to hold a few
geological specimens for lending. The shops are not rooms, save for a few types of
work, but spaces in one or more rooms to which the public has access. Separated from
the workers only by railings, visitors can see the handwork that goes to the making of
an active, teaching institution. Here boys and girls note how artisan, mechanic, or
craftsman treat the museum's rare material and bring it into proper form for effective
use in visual instruction. Child and man alike are somewhat moved to interest,
appreciation, clear understanding, and development of their powers by reading of a
thing or process; more by reading and at the same time seeing a picture of thing or
process; still more again by seeing the actual thing or process and learning of it
through the ear; still more by handling and hearing and asking questions and
receiving replies; and most of all by trying, under skillful guidance, to produce the
thing or repeat the process.

16. Branches. One central museum can be of slight benefit to all the people of a large city,
since not all can easily or quickly reach it, unless it extends it work in two ways: by
lending objects, and by establishing branch museums.

The branches are nearly all little more than rooms, like stores, fronting on the street,
at the street level, in the business parts of the city. One is in a building of its own.
Others are in factories, stores, schools, settlements, clubs, and churches. They are
decorated and finished in accordance with the uses made of them. Every branch aims
to be a complete teaching museum, and is, so far as possible, fitted to the character of its
neighborhood, that is, to the degree of education and the occupations of its residents.

17. A school. This had been in active operation as a school for many years before the
museum opened. As it grew slowly, and chiefly on its own initiative, it had adapted
itself admirably to the demands of such young people of the community as wished to

work in the field of applied art, or who, being already engaged in offices and shops,
wished to improve themselves by definite and formal instruction. It is now open both
day and evening and follows, as income permits, the development of the best schools of
fine and applied art in the country.

The museum teaches daily in its main building and its branches and wherever the
objects it lends may go. The influence it has on a community is difficult to measure. We
can put our fingers on results no more than we can say of a drop of water in the Gulf of
Mexico that it is the result of a shower in South Dakota. Emotions sink into the soul; actions
seep out at other levels of time and circumstances. All we can do is to plant and water;
somebody else will sit in the shade.
It will be said that it is impossible for a museum in any city to secure funds for the
purchase of efficient brains with which to carry out a program that even approximates the
one here roughly outlined. But large museum incomes are spent today in the acquisition of
expensive treasures, to which a few point with pride, on which a few gaze with that improper
self-satisfaction which is bought at the cost of museum fatigue.
This paper is based on the belief that the conditions which led to these expenditures are
past; and that the primary duty of those same institutions is to justify their existence by
becoming effective agencies in the intellectual, esthetic, industrial, and moral progress of
their respective communities. If they do not do this they should resign themselves to the
acceptance for all time of the fact that they are mere museums. Then, in their respective
communities, should arise new institutions, fitted to satisfy the needs of these days—
institutes of visual instruction.


The museum that helps a teacher to make her lessons easier for herself and more
interesting and more instructive to pupils, and that does this constantly, day in and day out,
and on every subject in the curriculum—that is the only museum worth speaking of in the
same breath with schools.
Let me qualify that a little by saying that non-lending, study museums of medicine,
Spanish history, of natural science, of safety appliances, of textiles; and mere gazing
museums of oil paintings, or Egjrptian antiquities or rare and costly curios, that all these
and many other kinds of museums may be worth an annual visit by teacher and class, and
may, through that one visit, give very definite help to classroom work. But if a museum is
used by pupils to the extent only of a visit or two each year, it is not a museum that can be
properly alluded to as an aid to schools.
The museum that really affects schooling, then, being one that teachers use daily,
ought to be in the school house itself? By no means.
The objects which teachers can profitably use in classes of all grades must be many in
number and of almost infinite variety; they are not easily found; they often need to be cased,
mounted or strengthened for handling, and always need to be labeled and often to be
described in accompanying leaflets. To collect and prepare these many things is work
which calls for space, tools, appliances, and skilled workers. It would be a great waste of
money to gather all this museum apparatus into every building in a system; and doing that
would mean a wasteful duplication on money, material and labor, and the collections in
any one school building would be of little value to the others.
These statements, also, may be qualified. The one large central school building of a
small town can quite wisely gather material for its own use; unless there is in the same
town a museum or some other educational organization that will undertake the work. The
teacher in a remote country school house may advantageously collect a few things, which
will, in effect, form a small museum and be useful to her and her successors. A rich friend
of education may put into a school house a collection of objects which, being wisely labelled,
arranged and cased, may help the teachers in that particular building; though it should be
called a school's museum and not a museum for schools. It could not be a live, growing,
daily-used museum, for it would have no staff of workers to handle it and keep it alive. It
would, in most cases, be what Mr. [George Brown] Goode called a dead museum, being as
finished and unchanging as an Egyptian mummy.
In telling what a museum for schools is not, I have quite clearly stated what it is. It is
a central, lending collection of objects useful in teaching. St. Louis has precisely this thing,
and all reports tell us that it is very helpful. Few cities are wise enough to know that they
should have a like institution. And few superintendents would recommend that its city
spend, as St. Louis does, $12,000 to $15,000 per year on the upkeep of a school museum.
This lending museum for schools is very much like a lending library. Before we had
many large central libraries, and before they were as liberally administered, especially for
children and teachers, as they are now, it was quite a common thing, and a very good thing
in its day, to find libraries in school houses. These school-house libraries had two serious
disadvantages. They were not well administered, that is, no one person made it her

Reprinted from Public Libraries 23 (1918): 60-63.

business to know them, to learn what subjects each teacher taught and when, and what books
most helped and entertained both teachers and pupils and, knowing these things, proceeded
to bring books, teachers and pupils together at just the right point of need. The other and
quite overwhelming disadvantage was that the collection of books, not being constantly and
wisely added to, soon went out of date and became almost worthless.
As it was with school libraries, set up independently in each building and not cared
for and kept up through the ministrations of a central bureau and store-house like a main
public library, so would it be with museums in school buildings. The objects in them would
gather dust, decay, and become broken, lose their labels, lack interest for pupils and
teachers alike and come to the proper end of non-managed, non-growing, unchanging, dead
Shall we say, then, that the museum a school system most needs is merely a central
storage warehouse, containing as many as can be secured of the countless things which
teachers use to advantage in adding object teaching to their methods, with facilities for
shipping the things to and from schools as requested? Far from it.
The storehouse is needed; but before the storehouse of objects useful in visual
instruction can be called a museum for schools, two things must be added to it; one, a staff
of skilled workers; the other, collections of not-lent objects, attractively and instructively
installed, and occasionally changed; together with frequent special, temporary exhibits
which are either borrowed or brought together by the museum itself
Here it will be the part of wisdom to say that I am writing of museums as if there were
in existence a well-thought-out and clearly expressed museum doctrine, and as if I had fully
mastered that doctrine. Neither of these assumptions is correct. The art and science of
museums are at about the same stage of development to-day as were the art and science of
libraries 40 years ago; and, in view of the fact that I am in the habit of censuring my
library colleagues when they seem to assume that certain qualities and functions of
libraries are even now known and thoroughly understood, it should be easy for me to clear
myself of the charge that I pretend to know much about museums!
The fact is that, just as libraries have grown inevitably out of peculiar qualities of
modern society, being far more truly products of our manner of self-education than factors
in that education; so have our museums come—the old type from our habit of imitating older
peoples in the collecting of curios, and the new type, and especially our educationally-
oriented museums, from an increase of visual instruction in our schools.
Now, no one has yet pointed out clearly any large and definite service rendered to
society by either the older type of gazing museum or the more recent type of school-object-
teaching museum. From this we may not conclude that either the old or the new kind of
museum is not a good and useful thing and worthy of being fostered. But from it we must
conclude that of the proper manner of setting up museums of any kind—and by setting up I
mean doing all that concerns them, from site and character of building to the details of the
smallest label—we know very little, and can learn only by study, experiment and
observation, and even then must draw merely tentative conclusions, and act as if we were
sure of our way only for purposes of immediate administration. It is as important to-day that
we have museums which, though not sure of their way, nevertheless do things, as it was 35
or 40 years ago that we have libraries of that same character. The museum that does things
because it is quite sure that they are the only right things to do is quite harmful to museum
development. In a new and largely unexplored field, only the inquirer who is not only bold
but is also fully conscious that the field is unexplored, can give us useful data for mapping
that which is as yet unknown.

The idea of the teaching museum, or of a museum as a definite aid to current
educational work has developed slowly. This is because the museum theory became fixed in
practice long before public-supported educational work had become more than a dream of the
student of society and of the alms-giving rich. Museum collections, and collections that
later formed the bases of museums, were at first made almost solely by rulers and nobles.
To them the objects collected, plus personal pride and selfish enjoyment, were all in all.
The objects, having been acquired and placed in proper receptacles, called for nothing more
of service. They were not to be used, handled, examined and studied by artists, artisans or
lovers of art or of its history. This tradition of the all-sufficiency of the ancient, the rare and
the costly as the constituents of a museum has continued, down to the present day, to
dominate largely the activities of nearly all museums of the fine arts, and to color the
activities of museums of other kinds.
Now comes the theory, slowly rising into reasoned belief and being developed, also
slowly, in actual practice, that publicly-owned or publicly-supported collections of valuable
objects should be made demonstrably useful. When a museum accepts this theory it finds
that it must at once equip its collections with brains. Among these brains there should be,
obviously, those of experts in art and its history and in science; also, and still more
obviously, those of the administrator, of the student, and of the expert in current educational
work, and of deft workers.
The conclusion seems inevitable. Put concretely it is that a collection of lending-
objects, to be used by teachers and pupils, needs for its useful and economic handling an
accompanying corps of diligent and intelligent workers.
Our own modest experience in Newark has led us to the conclusion that a collection of
objects costing, say, a thousand dollars, plus the activities of a group of museum workers
costing ten thousand per year, would be of far more value to a community, chiefly through
its use by schools, than would a collection which cost a hundred thousand and is merely
presided over in the ancient manner by a few curators.
As to the argument for permanent exhibits, accompanied by others constantly
changing, it is summed up in the statement that a museum for schools, a collection of
lending objects of use in visual instruction, should be attached to and form a component part
of a public museum of art, science, history and industry. For this there are many reasons
which can here only be suggested.
The large public museum, holding collections of rare and precious things in the fields
of art, science, industry and history, too fragile or too precious or too large to lend,
beautifully installed and visited by the public in its idle moments, by citizens as an
agreeable stimulant to local pride and by occasional students, is probably a good thing for a
community to construct for itself and will surely continue to be constructed by one
community after another for many years to come. As such a museum is, or is to be, in
almost every city, and as its fundamental purpose is already avowedly and soon will be
actually that of promoting education, it is clear that it should take up into itself the material
and work of a school museum, properly so called. From it will come much material, not fit
for the purposes of a gazing museum, but admirably suited to form part of the group of
lending things. In it will be found experts who can give the school-lending staff assistance
in identifying, arranging and presenting, through label and leaflet, the objects they are
handling. And, perhaps most important of all, it can offer, in its permanent and changing
and borrowed exhibits, a sufficient reason for receiving from school pupils, singly, and in
classes in school hours, one or more visits each year.

These visits may often arouse interests, incentives and suggestions that will add
much to the value of borrowed objects seen only in school rooms.
To summarize: The good school museum is a collection of lending objects useful in
school work, prepared by a corps of workers who are in close touch with the schools, and
forming part of a general public museum of art, science, industry and history.


Our art museums do not teach us to recognize good art and to like it; they do not help to
improve the design of our manufactured products; they do not encourage such of our people
as are born with talent or genius for drawing, painting, and designing to give their lives to
the development and training of that talent or genius.
Let me hasten to say that art museums do encourage the collection and preservation of
valuable objects; and that the objects they collect will some day probably be of definite
aesthetic influence.
A recent magazine article written by a worker in and a special pleader for the
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York says very truly that we are in error when we set
apart fine arts and applied; that in fact both are noble. He adds, not quite so truly, that
machine-production of applied art objects has, in the minds of the critical, in some degree
degraded applied arts. Then he says, truly, that we can ennoble the applied arts once again
by the slow processes of education in taste, with accompanying production of such designers
as will teach our machines to produce applied art objects which are in fact of the fine art
It is in his next step which parts him from me, and I even dare say, from common
sense; for he goes on to a description of the influence of art-museum collections on design,
and arrives at the opinion, which is, I confess, rather cryptically expressed, that only in the
objects of a museum of art like the Metropolitan can designs be found which, being made the
bases of designs for machine-made goods, can cause our machines to produce applied art
objects that are veritably in the fine-art field.
Do I make clear the essential point in the Metropolitan's claim? It is that no design is
good unless it is based upon study of old designs which are themselves good, and that good
old designs which will alone lead the student to the making of good new ones, are found
almost solely in art museums and notably the Metropolitan. To put it more bluntly: The
Metropolitan management, if one may judge of its opinions from the essay alluded to and
from other written expressions by the same official, seems to hold that the only real, true,
and holy art is found in objects it has gathered; that it is conferring a blessing on
manufacturers in permitting their designers to visit the Metropolitan and there draw real
art motives from its treasures; and that it is this studying and copying and adapting of
designs found in its objects by agents from a few of our tens of thousands of factories that is
leading to improvement in our applied art products.
These assumptions ignore the facts of manufacture and trade. To name only one
group of these facts, our own department stores alone sell thousands of millions of dollars
worth of goods each year. These goods are "objects," the vast majority of which are
"designed" to be attractive. Whence comes the "motives" for all these thousands of designs?
From other objects and from suggestions in books and journals, of course; all being
somewhat affected by the ideas in the heads of buyers for big corporations, of sellers, of the
general buying public, and of the foremen, owners, and hired designers in mills. What is
the motive power behind all the millions of choices made by millions of our fellows, of

Reprinted by permission of The Nation magazine/The Nation Company from The Nation
115 (1922): 374-376.

shape, pattern, design, color, and what not in the objects they buy? The taste of the buying
public, of course.
Every maker of things in this country, and every buyer for big stores, and every
salesman of things made, never forgets for a moment that the goods they produce or buy or
sell depend for their success in the market on their fitting the choice or taste of that market.
And that market is the people of the United States. Every day into thousands of planning
and forecasting minds, comes the question: "What shall we do to our products to make them
more alluring to our market? We must, of course, simplify our tools, produce goods at less
cost, transport them more easily and more cheaply; but, and this is of chief importance, we
must also make them more 'tast^; that is, we must fit them more closely to the likes, the
wishes, the opinions of our buying public."
And what is the chief factor in the formation of the taste of the buying public? It is
fashion, convention, what "they say," of course. And how is this fashion modified, for
modified it is every day and hour and notably every year? By the goods themselves, which
the public sees disposed before their eyes in shops, in pictured advertisements, including
fashion papers, and set forth in millions of journals and daily papers every year, and by
other factors too numerous to mention here, of which the study of rare and costly objects in
museums of art is so slight as to be entirely negligible.
Every year the buying public of this country learns more of the ways of the world. In
movies, in illustrated advertisements, in picture journals, and by travel in trains and
motors, in walks by shop windows and in daily conversations, this buying public acquires a
wider and fuller knowledge of what the world has produced for its pleasure and for the
adornment of life. Every year this buying public brings to its judgement of what is new in
the design of things offered to it for selection a fuller background of observation and
experience; and every year, if increase of knowledge does in truth modify favorably, as we
all assume it does, the fine art of choice, the buying public selects, on the whole, things that
are a little finer than were those they selected the year before. Hence good design finds more
often an appreciative observer; and hence design in the products of American mills
The current assumption of those who think the objects in museums of art are powerful
factors in improving public taste, ignores the mighty flood of impulse for better things which
pours daily through the nation-wide process of selection just outlined. That assumption bases
itself on the facts that in museums of art are objects which, having been approved by the few
who are expert in such matters, are working wonders in the improvement of public taste.
In passing we do well to remind ourselves that the expert few are lamentably prone to
think knowledge of things ancient is synonymous with a heaven-born sensibility to their
beauty, and are inevitably touched by that affection for the old, the rare, and the costly which
belongs of right only to the archaeologist, the ethnologist, the scientist, the historian, and the
wealthy amateur.
The man who has much faith in art museums may even go so far as to assert that
better design can come forth and win recognition in a country such as is our own today,
only by and through the processes of persuading all producers to base the designs of their
products on the designs of the past; and to assert, further, that as the best designs of the past
are found only in the objects in his museums, it is only by a careful adherence in design
today to the motives found in the objects in his museum that any progress toward making
fine art of our applied art products be secured.
It may be true that most designing has a fairly well-defined history; that it passed on
from Egypt, Crete, Assyria, and Persia to Greece, and to Rome and to the Renaissance, and

even to the Gothic. It may be true that he designs best who knows the most of what has been
well esteemed in design prior to his day. Design has passed from hand to hand, it is true;
but whence the new touches therein? Why did it widen its range? When did it pass from
temple column and sacrificial knife to ship's prow and water container? Surely all design
for all things did not come forth complete as one grand gift of the thoughts and passions of
one man of genius. To it ten thousand times ten thousand originating brains added here a
new thing and there another and another, up to millions of motifs, plans, arrangements,
colors, outlines, and masses. Did China bend the knee of a copyist and modifier to the
products of Egypt and Assyria and Greece that it might produce its millions of alluring
objects? Did Japan add nothing fundamental to the lessons learned of Corea and China?
Where did the Maori of New Zealand get the laws and principles of historic ornament in
obedience to which he wrought his decorations? And the same query jumps to the mind as
one considers the Maya temples of Yucatan, and the textiles of the Peruvian graves, and the
potteries and basketry of our Indians. And to come to a homely query born of our times and
our own products: "If the International Harvester Company wishes to beautify by colored
paints the marvelous mechanism which, in marching across a field of wheat, reaps and
threshes and cleans and bags and ties and drops the ripened grain, where, in the history of
design, will it get the motives, tried and true and infallible, which, being duly used as a
guide, will disclose the ornamentation divinely appointed for an American Harvester of
iln this country there are born each year, one may safely assume, as many persons in
each ten thousand who are by nature capable of adding somewhat to the joy of life by giving
a new and welcome touch of difference to objects of daily use, as were ever bom among
people in any age. But we are heirs of all past ages and borrowers from all other people to
greater degree than was ever any people before. At first we brought all our "art" from other
countries. When we learned to make things we borrowed the art of decorating them. Then
riches came, and inevitably those who had used them used them to bring here those veritable
objects of art, approved by experts, which gave distinction to their owners. Then came the
rich endowed museums, in which things other than the old smd rare and costly are
anathema. And soon the keepers of these objects, which time had hallowed and the student
had sanctified and the price had made to speak with tongues—these keepers said: "By the
study of our objects you get the secret of beauty, and only by and through that study can you
learn how to give to the products of your mills the gift of that beauty." And thereby they did
all that they could, though fortunately little, to suppress the creative and designing mind,
and art did not here flourish, because art does not thrive except in freedom of restraint and
can not thrive unless it is encouraged by patronage.
But fortunately the museum is but a tiny thing in the midst of our vast movement of
production and consumption; while in and by that movement is growing steadily a skill in
choice backed by wider and fuller knowledge; which is but another way of saying that our
taste is improving.
In the hope that I may make a little clearer the special point of my criticism, I add
three things.
First, this: As a nation we ignore our own artistic powers, not entirely but greatly.
Being inheritors of all that artists have ever done, we are not interested in producing artists
ourselves. For example, one of our skillful potters makes beautiful china; but to sell it he
must refuse credit for himself, his designers, and his artisans and permit it to be marketed
as "French Ware." A silk manufacturer does the same, and we may easily believe,
thousands of others do like things in some degree. In the mere matter of production the

resulting evil here is slight; but in the field of artistry, in the matter of giving our designers
and craftsmen a fair chance, it is serious in the extreme. It betokens a sad state of mind; a
state of mind which the museum that devotes its collecting powers almost solely to things
produced in other lands, and to products of native talent not at all, does its utmost to make
permanent and universal.
Second, this: That nearly all talk of art, as it comes out in the public press and is
exuded from museum experts, is first and foremost about oil paintings and next of things
rare, old, and costly. Now taste is something to be bettered by exercise. The general feeling
is that taste may be exercised only in the presence of real art. But if taste is to be bettered for
our general aesthetic welfare, the average citizen must be helped to realize that taste is not a
rare and recondite thing, to be brought forth and used only when he enters a gallery of
paintings of a museum of art; but is merely a certain aspect of the process of choosing which
he constantly practices. He should be led to see and to feel that he is dealing in "art"
matters, is exercising aesthetic emotions, is learning to be a "critic of art," is strengthening
his "taste," just as much as when he selects a cravat or a table cover or a rug or a chair as
when he goes to a museum and looks at rare, curious, costly, and confessedly beautiful
things. Having thus come to realize that art concerns him daily and almost hourly, he will
see how remote from daily life is most art talk; how near to daily life is design; how
important in daily life is the born designer; and he will transfer to the designer of good
umbrella handles some of the veneration and worship which he has been accustomed to give
only to oil paintings and rare, old, and costly objects.
Third, this: Two mental movements, by some called habits, are of great social
importance: one, imitation, which fits the average child to his social environment, giving
him the politics, morals, and religion of his fathers, all to be held pertinaciously through
life though backed by no reasons why; the other, curiosity, which leads to inquiry,
acceptance or rejection of things, to discovery, invention, adaptation, and design. Imitation
leads to copying; curiosity leads to thinking. Imitation is the stronger movement and
usually prevails; and in the guise of conservatism forbids modifications of manners and
beliefs. Curiosity and resulting thought, in so far as they may prevail, permit us to pass on.
A people which accepts its art from its forebears as a finished thing and forbids all the
invention and design that thinking inevitably begets—such a people is purely imitative. It
likes to think that the book of design is closed; it puts what has been done in a museum and
says to the curious, inquiring, inventive, and designing: "You may come here and borrow
ideas; those you may give birth to yourselves are not the children of imitation and should be
throttled at birth."
In a land where what has already been done in art is enshrined as the last word,
where imitation is encouraged and the product of inquiry is condemned because it is not the
child of convention and conservatism, what chance has the artisan, the designer, the artist
who are creators—or nothing?

The Technical Department, an early science hbrary, on the second floor of the Newark
Public Library. Reprinted from The Newarker 1 (Sept. 1912): 173.

Let us keep in a mood that is friendly to change.

In fifty years libraries have improved scores of ways.
They have now four national organs of information, suggestion and criticism. Fifty
years ago, not one.
They have now at least sixty periodicals or occasional bulletins of individual
libraries which are more than mere Hsts of additions. Fifty years ago they had none.
They issue each year several hundred annual reports of specific libraries, each
reporting on the success in new environments of old methods and on tests of methods that
are in some measure new. Such reports were very rare fifty years ago.
They have how in thirty-nine states groups of officials whose business it is to promote
public libraries. Fifty years ago they had none.
Each year they now hold not less than one hundred meetings or conferences for the
discussion of points of library management and the distribution of ideas, opinions and
results of experiments; these being meetings of librarians in a given state, or in a group of
states; or of Hbrarians of libraries of different types, as public, school, coHege, trade and
manufacture, medical, state, scientific and special. Fifty years ago they held only one
meeting per year.
They now have, of organized groups of workers in national, state, special and local
organizations to promote the development of and use of libraries, not less than one hundred
and fifty in active operation. Fifty years ago, they had one.
In these same fifty years libraries have acquired these methods, things and features,
to name a few only out of many: Open shelves, admitting children, children's rooms,
catalog cards, shelf Hsts, uniform classification, school libraries, branch libraries, library
These improvements, additions, extensions, tools, customs and whatnot all came to
libraries without a precedent survey of four thousand questions, chiefly on minute and
unimportant particulars; without an elaborate study of education for librarianship by non-
experts on education or in the teaching art; and without any heroic effort at classification,
standardization and certification of personnel.
And this question arises:
After we have adopted all the uniformitarian habits and devices, including the
supervision of the employment of all public workers in each state by a group of non-experts
at the capitol of each state, and have become completely militarized; and after, thru
exhaustive surveys, we have "scientifically" studied the minute details of the changes which
fifty years of development have brought us, shall we—meaning by "we" the whole library
movement—advance as rapidly in the next fifty as we have in the fifty just ending? And if
we do, will it be because we have completely and "scientifically" surveyed ourselves and
know where we now are, and have proclaimed our faith in regimentation, uniformity and
the goose-step?
Well nigh every step in advance in the past has been taken in the face of opposition,
often the opposition of sheer stupidity, and still more often the opposition of direct protest
against change.

Reprinted from Library Journal 51 (1926): 327.

When aH librarians are made to the same pattern, and carefully standardized thereto
as per the directions of non-expert office holders quite ahen to library work, condemnation
of the new will be more outspoken and effective than ever before. Library work will be as
completely a sociaHstic parade as the most ardent socialist can desire.
Would a standardized librarianship ever have accepted open shelves? Or children's
libraries, or library schools not guided by state officials, or apprentice classes, or any of the
innovations of the past fifty years?


The words "changing world" refer to more inventions, discoveries and habits than
time permits to be mentioned. A few of them are telephone, gas-engine, motor car, inflated
tire, air-plane, radio, railroad, steam engine, steam ships, photography, transmission of
electric power, electric light, tjT)ewriter, cheap postage, trolley car, movie, rapid printing,
type casting, typesetting, lithography, offset printing, color printing, zinc etching, half-tone,
paper making, advertising, psychology, steel, stainless steel, automatic machinery,
manipulation of metals, department store, shop windows, public free schools, state
universities and endowments for promoting well being.
These are taken at random. A few go back a hundred years; most of them fall within
the last fifty. Art-museum conventions that seem still to be nearly all-potent were quite well
established more than a hundred years ago.
If it is even approximately correct to say that our life has been notably affected by the
inventions and discoveries of recent decades, while the art museum is in temper and
conduct much what it was in 1800, the question in the title of this paper is answered in the
affirmative, is it not? Or was the art museum bom to perfection and still so remains?
But established institutions change reluctantly and slowly. Opponents of changes in
such institutions find it hard to act on the fact that all progress is change. They are
hypnotized by the sight of present good qualities, and cannot visualize better ones. Most of us
being conservative by birth and training are uncomfortable in the presence of a new idea.
The museum is an established institution. In its present form it seems to have begun
in Renaissance times. On its art side it retains, as I have said, its earliest form and
quality. It aims its influence at the cultured few, just as it did in its beginnings when a
culture which made refinement of any kind imderstandable was quite rare. It stresses the
oil painting and the gilt frame—the former having the weight of a religious origin and the
latter largely the natural outcome of the love in ignorant wealth of conspicuous waste. It has
established a cult of the museum piece, which may be the product of great technical skill, of
long labor and of a creative temper; and must be rare; expensive because desired by the
wealthy, and of toothsome age.
The home of the art museum is, in both location and character, as definitely
determined by precedent as are its contents. The building, its contents and traditions draw
to themselves, for a staff, persons friendly to the traditions and easily brought into full
harmony with them. Hence the art museum idea is little moved to modification by forces
within itself, and seems not to know of others. Hence it is rather a thankless task to suggest
that art museums be modified in aim or method.
In Newark we have a museum—only in small part a museum of art. It is but just
open, and on its art side particularly it does as yet little more than present itself to its
visitors as a modest gazing museum of the old type. I cannot tell you of what this Newark
Museum may have produced in the way of newness. In fact I am confident that no museum,
even a new one, and even one with five fold our Newark building and ten fold our funds
could not, even after many months of practice, declare with truth that it had solved the
problem of making itself a definitely effective factor for more wisdom and happiness in its

Reprinted from Publications of the American Association of Museums, n.s., 1 (1926): 17-22.

community, and a factor at all commensurate in its effectiveness with its cost. Hence I deal
here in hopes, not in proud facts. Our Newark free public schools cost us more than eight
and a half million dollars in a year. Our Newark Museum, with a scant third of all its
space and labor devoted to art, costs about a hundred thousand dollars—a little more than a
tenth of one per cent of what the schools cost. You can count what the schools do, if only by
noting how many children each year are taught to read, cipher and act somewhat like
human beings. Of the influence of the Newark Museum you can as yet say nothing; and
here is the point of this brief paper: you can as yet put your finger on extremely little of effect
wrought by any art museum.
Perhaps the art museum performs its wonders of amelioration in ways as mysterious
as are those of God in our ancient hymn. But my faith has long been and still is that if art
museum authorities will look carefully upon the changes that have taken place in human
society and its component units in the past fifty years, and then will open their eyes to the
fact than their own special organism has continued in its old aims and methods during
those same fifty years, they would see that changes are called for; they would even be able to
see what are some of the changes that new conditions and new mores demand and they
would appeal to their masters and supporters—the public they were established to please and
enlighten—to bestow on them funds for the special and definite purpose of making their
institutions definitely useful parts of the social organism. The art museum regnant shares
with other accepted institutions the power of making a critic of any of its doings seem guilty
of condemning all of its doings. Hence I once more try to avoid being entirely
misunderstood and charged with hostility to all of the art museum's works by saying that to
save the ancient and rare product of high technical skill and unusual taste is an admirable
thing and a thing that should be done more freely by all our cities than it is now. But as I
have suggested, the trustees and staff members of an institution which does this saving
seems compelled, by the character of the work in the field of preservation, to close their
minds almost utterly to the far more important task of teaching, and especially of
encouraging taste, and interest in the growth and refinement of that taste.
It almost inevitably develops this theory, and lives up to it; that real art can be found
only in the forms and decorations of the objects it has coHected, and that good taste can be
evolved only by and through contact with these objects. Of a young woman coming for the
first time to New York from a western state, it was said by an art museum enthusiast that,
until she came to New York, she had never seen any art. A spokesman for an art museum
has often said that good art is wherever the interested and intelligent open their eyes and
find color, form, line and light and shade—and it is never anywhere else. The task of those
who wish to promote interest in art is to incite man to a greater and more intelligent
interest in what he sees. In so far as the whole vocabulary of art, and all the nomenclature
of emotions used by art critics and enthusiasts, are held in leash by those who believe that a
museum piece is the world's only art object, by so much is made impossible the habit of
seeing art in daily life and of gaining practice in criticism of it and enjoyment of it.
Art is not in a museum save in relatively unimportant quantity. Art is where it is
seen and not merely where self-constituted experts have placed it.

The coming of the department store is one of the many changes I have noted. It calls
attention to an erroneous assumption, long so widely accepted as to have become almost a
gospel, that to train the eye and mind in art one must see the world's masterpieces. This

assumption is responsible for the fact that of the millions who daily visit the shops and gaze
into the shop windows of New York, not one in a hundred thousand realizes for a moment
that he or she is seeing art, learning of design, color harmony and what not. But, in fact,
these millions of shoppers are building their own art content better than they know!
And what, then, should the art museum do? To answer that is not now my job. If
within a city is a building in which is a collection of rare or costly or old or by-the-experts-
declared-to-be-of-the-best art, and if this building is open to the public at reasonable hours,
and if it is generally believed—as it at present always is—that a visit to it brings one
inevitably into touch with real art, emd if it is an accepted dogma in that city—as it is in all
cities—^that visual contact with those objects gives one almost the only opportunity the city
affords to take a step toward really knowing art and being truly artistic, and if now the
people of that city pay at least ten thousand visits to department stores and fine special shops
to one that they pay to the building in question, then this seems to follow: That, if the
officials in and of that building really believe that what is commonly said of the quality
and aesthetic potency of the objects in their charge is true, they should change some of the
tenets of their faith, and perhaps even go so far as to change their methods.
The Newark Museum is an experiment—and a small, inexpensive and simple one. It
tries, alas, to be popular. It is probably not so flatly condemned for trying as it would be if it
succeeded. Its effort at popularity is not along any one line. It is not an art museum, but in
the art field it would like to popularize art—and that means many things. Here is an
illustration of one of the many things it would like to do: Put up a little shrine-like alcove—
or a shallow box—say 20 inches high, 8 inches deep and 10 inches wide, open on one side
and lined with cloth of a dull color but of high reflective power. On a tiny pedestal within the
box place a plain drinking glass, costing perhaps 15 cents, half filled with clear water from
the tap. Below it put a card saying: "Is this a work of art? The glass surely is; the water is a
natural product, like a landscape; look carefully at line and mass, at the gleams and
reflections on the glass, on the water within, on the water's surface, on the color gathered
from the textile—and perhaps what you are looking at will cease, for a moment, to be merely
water in a cheap tumbler, and will come to be an exquisitely beautiful thing. If you thus see
it, is it then a work of art?"
The point aimed at is this:
If you look at an object and feel that it is, to you as you look at it, beautiful, you have at
once an aesthetic reaction, which means that your whole body is a little stimulated, your
heart beats a little more vigorously, your breath is a trifle deeper. You are exalted for a
moment and probably you have a cleaner and broader view of life. The delight you find in
the appearance of the glass of water should tell you that agreeable euid healthful and
morally improving bodily reactions, due to seeing art, need not be confined to your art-
seeing experiences in an art museum. They await you in the presence of almost any object
fashioned by human hands, and can be enjoyed by you if, for a moment, you will put
yourself in a receptive mood.
To put it briefly, the Newark Museum would like to put art into daily life—and this, of
course, without trying to make the museum-piece entirely worthless!
What has this to do with modern change? Well, chemistry and physics have put a
beautiful drinking glass into the hands of the poorest, who have but to look at it in a critical,
estimating and receptive mood—even as it stands on their own simple dinner table—to get
all the healthful and agreeable incitation which they could acquire did they spend hours in
a long journey and a visit to a certain glass by Stiegel, in a museum of real art.

Printing is revolutionizing all art questions. It is teaching and training artists more
effectively than all other factors combined. It is putting before the eyes of millions of people
every day pictures in black and white and color of well nigh every object that can be called
artistic or high art or aesthetic or a museum-piece. It brings to every fireside all that all our
museums have gathered and enshrined—and more. It does this better and more abundantly
every day. If one sees the joumals. Antiques and Good Furniture and a few others, why need
he visit the American Wing? If one can buy for a few cents excellent copies in color of
paintings and of fine prints in black and white, why should he haunt a print shop or a
museum's print department? I can give you reasons, of course, why some need do this; but
the "some" are few.
And will the work of the printer, the mere printer, never find in art museums the high
place it should have there? Printing produces in mere words, more things that interest the
eye and the brain than do all other crafts combined. In its more studied forms it is as
beautiful as are the outgivings of any art, and it adds to beauty an irresistible appeal to the
mind. Yet printers' products occupy no high place among "museum pieces." Is this because
printing is an industry? Or of today? Or of this coimtry? More probably it is because the
museum eye is blinded by conventions.
But of printing for museums: That may almost be said to have had a good part in
leading us Americans to better typography. The Metropolitan Museum began years ago to
treat its printing, not as a mere means of using words, but as a means of conveying to all
who read it, a hint at least of the art enjoyment and the health-giving pleasure, that may lie
in mere print. Recentl)' the press of this museum was opened for inspection. I rejoiced, for I
am quite confident that during the many years in which it has led the museum world in
typography, the fact that it was so doing was certainly quite effectively ignored by the
Museum as a whole—if the truth was not entirely unknown to it.


We librarians like to praise ourselves, and I have often fallen in with the habit. We
have done well with our calling, so well that we may modestly suggest that it rank as a
profession. But recently our leaders have, with all good intent, made, to my thinking,
serious errors of judgement. Of some of these I wish to speak plainly.
In 1896,1 was so fortunate as to be perhaps the severest critic of the "do-not-touch-the-
books" policy of public libraries and was one of the three or four downright advocates of the
"let-the-owners-handle-their-books" policy. Dr. [Arthur E.] Bostwick says that one of the two
fundamental points in the development of free libraries in 50 years was free access to books.
Time showed I was right in my revolutionary doctrine 30 years ago: possibly I am right in
the main points of this essay, which is: "Don't worship the library, but fit it to its new job."
From [American Library Association] headquarters comes the statement that about 60
million of our people enjoy the privileges of public libraries, while 45 millions do not. The
statement is, of course, not meant to mislead, but it can easily give the erroneous
impression that more than half our population, not only live within a few miles of libraries
which they can use, but that they do in fact use them. It is, of course, the kind of statement
that should be carefully guarded. It is unwise for workers in any field to overestimate the
size of the crops they produce. The field of reading we have won is not large, and, small as
it is, is being recaptured by others.
Public libraries of 5000 volumes or more increased in number in 20 years, 1903 to 1923,
from about 2000 to nearly 4000; the volumes in them from 44 million to 116 million; and the
books lent for home use in 1923 were about 240 million. This is excellent, seen by itself; but
not remarkable if set beside other figures of print distribution.
In the last 25 years, five journals have come into being—to speak for the moment of
five only out of thousands—and now each year readers buy for home use about 300 million
copies of these five joumals. This is much more than all the home reading material which
all our libraries annually furnish. These journals furnish good reading to 12 to 20 million
purchasers; reading quite as good in literary form as is that of the majority of the 240
million books borrowed from public libraries, and in its skill in promoting thot [thought]
and action is better than that majority. These facts should be looked at carefully and are
worth repeating. In 20 years, certain educational tools, public libraries, have grown on
public funds, until the organized workers in them are pleased to report that they have
induced the owners, the tax payers, to take for home use from them 240 million books in a
year. But, in these same years, these same tax paying owners of the public library have, by
voluntarily paying for them, brought into being thousands of journals, of a mere five of
which they now cheerfully buy for home use over 300 million copies per year, each of which
in quantity and quality of its text fully equals the average of the public library's lendings.
The wise librarian will think this over. And being wise he will hesitate before he
unduly exalts his calling. He will ask those who are leading the procession of librarians
militant to speak softly of things done, to be modestly hopeful. The present position of the
public library in the American scene is good, but not ultra good. The library's share in the

Reprinted from Libraries [formerly Public Libraries] 32 (1927): 215-219.

dissemination of reading is seen at once to be small, and each year grows relatively
Mr. Carnegie gave money to many towns and cities that they might improve their
looks and their brains by building and supporting public libraries. Granting that he did this
with the best will in the world, it is doubtful if his gifts were productive of good only. The
heights of excellence for men and cities are best attained by those who do all the climbing
themselves and are not pushed. Trustees of Carnegie funds seem to have found that gift
buildings do not always mean that the libraries within them are vigorous promoters of
culture and wisdom. They look abroad for methods of remedying defects in human nature
which freely-given homes for libraries brought to the surface. They hit upon the national
organization of librarians as the most hopeful remedial agent, and to that agent they gave
large sums for public library improvement. These recent Carnegie endowments are only in
part, it seems, the need of high endeavors. They are in part the result of the recognition of
shortcomings in certain library activities, and this aspect of those gifts should be borne in
The use we are making of the first installments of the remedial endowment suggests
once more that the possession of easy money does not assure its wise spending. Instead of
seeking straightway for weaknesses in the library business, money is spent freely in
exhaustively studying, and thereby exalting, the minutiae of methods which are already
overesteemed. We have put about $50,000 into an elaborate examination, not of the
possibilities of the growth of libraries in use and usefulness; not of possible changes, which
are always conditions precedent to growth, not of all obtainable suggestions for growth, and
not even of possible help from the profit-making publishing world, which now produces
many times the home-used print of libraries, but of the over-complex and semi-sacred
routine which probably hampers our present modest body of accomplishment.
We are told that this survey of present methods will tell us where we are, and that then
we shall be able to go forward! But 50 years of meetings, with their ten thousand hours of
speeches, and millions of printed words in journals, reports and bulletins, have told us
where we are! Why, then, a survey of the treadmill part of our doings? Why not a survey of
this new world of 1927, and of the better and larger part libraries may perhaps have in it?
If I had not been a fairly earnest worker in the library vineyard it might be more
difficult for me to be critical of the present method of its cultivation. But I feel compelled to
say what I think about what seem to be errors of judgement made by those who are leading
us; errors that surely come in large part from unwillingness to see, perhaps even downright
inability to see, that the world has changed for us in the last 25 years, and that we should be
devoting all our powers of imagination to devising methods whereby we may make our
necessarily modest efforts at social betterment of the greatest possible value and importance.
We need no elaborate survey to teH us that we have in recent years become lesser things in
a greater and richer world. Look for the fount and origin of the public library and we find
them, not in librarians, but in the national habit of wishing that all men be educated. Look
frankly at the growth of libraries in 50 years and we find it the inevitable accompaniment
of growth in wealth and an accompanying desire for knowledge. Not librarians and not
even the national association of librarians have been the chief motive powers that have
made libraries larger, better and more common. We must even grant to physicists,
chemists, inventors, managers, financiers, authors, editors and publishers, and to the rank
and file of diligent hand-workers under great leaders, as much of that downright urge to be
thoro, helpful and devoted as, under the dreadful name of missionary spirit, we so often
allude to as our own rather peculiar inheritance!

In the last 25 years, the wealth of this country has increased nearly 400 per cent. Of
electric power, the country generated 27 times as much in 1925 as in 1900. At least 1000
research organizations are now at work and nearly all were established in the past 12
years. In one generation the number of students in institutions of higher leaming has been
multipHed four times. In the four years from 1919 to 1923, the output per wage earner in
factories increased 20 per cent.
Libraries lend for home use 240 million books per year. The books and pamphlets
pubHshed in 1921 numbered 326 miHion, and nearly all of them were read, at least by a few.
The public which in 1923 borrowed 240 million books free, in the same 12 months paid more
than twelve hundred milHon dollars for sixteen thousand million copies of newspapers and
Libraries still cling to the subjects and methods which prevailed a generation ago.
They are academic in their atmosphere and still have their eyes too much on the "world's
best books;" failing to see that, to the message of the world's best books, science and
invention have added words, thoughts and things that insist on being heeded. The older
academic life and leaming have not lost their value; but the new learning and the new
ways it brings are changing the daily routine and the accompanying thoughts and feelings
of every one of us.
We compile lists of the world's best books, and forget that in our new world they are
best for a few only; we speak of education, meaning always a good book, a wise teacher, a
worshipful class, and an elaborate course of study, and forget that the Ford car, the radio,
the movie and antidotes to disease were not born in school rooms; we sit within the walls of
a building that bears the magic-working name of "library," and forget that the walls may,
none the less, shut off from us the outer world even tho they be covered with books; we believe
we Hve a full, rich life because we follow the ancient, hallowed and academic traditions;
and, thus shut in and thus content, we fail to realize that the world without has made such
changes and advances in 25 years as it made never before in centuries.
It will be said that the outer world only has changed and that the spirit of man is as it
ever was; needs as it ever did the impulse, the freshening and the sweetening that only the
classics can surely give; and that, in a world of tumultuous advance, we library dwellers
should be proud to feel that we are still urging our fellows to hold by the beauty and
inspiration of classic letters! Knowing as I do that such will be the comments of not a few of
my fellows, I give you these my opinions for the pleasure of their expression; not with any
slightest expectation that they will be approved and lead to action.
That the world has changed vastly in the last decades, and that the change has greatly
decreased the importance of libraries of the character of 25 years ago—and that means most
of them—these facts can not be demonstrated in the few words for which I have time. I have
given a few samples that suggest the scores that you will find if you venture to look abroad.
To emphasize this fundamental point, that the public library is already well submerged and
lives largely on the persistence of the tradition of its exceHence, let me say that a brief study
of the world outside your walls will, I have no doubt, convince you that less than two per cent
of the reading done in this day is of print that has ever been within the walls of any library.
You may say, "More's the pity; this 98 per cent of non-library reading is chiefly of tabloids
and yellow papers." Look at the facts, is my answer; and learn that your thot is quite as
erroneous as it is hasty.
Of possible changes in activities at headquarters, several have been hinted at; the gist
of them being that money be spent on studying the new world to which libraries must in due

course adapt themselves, and not on studying the technique that 50 years of work have
imposed on us.
A more definite suggestion is the study of fiction. Scores of journals now publish
novels, and they are bought by millions of copies; fiction libraries furnish readers the latest
novels at slight cost; and the whole question of how libraries should meet the novel question
awaits study.
Research organizations turn out countless new facts in scores of fields. Can libraries
strengthen their information resources by closer relation with research?
The special library movement surely points to the possibiHty of closer contact with
inquirers that can perhaps be enjoyed by many pubhc libraries; and I once more urge
headquarters to look carefully into this possibility.
Two milHon young people are reported to spend seventy miHion dollars per year,
which is nearly twice the income of all public libraries, on correspondence schools.
Inquiries into the possibility of bringing libraries into this field with advantage to all
concerned, have led to no suggestions of importance. About half the seventy million is paid
for text books. Careful study might indicate that the books in public libraries could be used
by some correspondence students, at notable savings for those students.
Loans between libraries and between libraries and individuals should be studied.
Books and journals cost more than they once did, but their cost in relation to wages and
national wealth is far less; hence they are bought more freely and are not sought so eagerly
in libraries. Their cost to libraries, after they have passed the catalog room and reached the
shelf, is greater than it was, and they decrease rapidly in value; scientific and technical
books being often out-dated by the time a library has prepared them for public use. If, then, a
Hbrary borrows and retums at moderate cost a book not often wanted by its clientele it has
perhaps both served and saved.
Rapid transit has made it possible for those who live near any given library to have
quickly at hand the resources of many others, and make it plain that random acquisition of
books is often a waste of money and effort, soon to be checked by the use of wiser methods.
Mail, telephone, wireless, photostat and television all point to the day when a librarian wiH
be proud to say that he has that more of giving access to aH the print his patrons may need
than he has of merely acquiring as many books as his funds wiH buy; and that, with funds
not spent for books, he can pay for bringing a needed book to his library or can get photos of
needed pages, or can give the inquirer a view of needed pages by television. Figures
showing recent social and economic changes are abundant.
Our population increased over three times in 50 years.
Libraries in general increased in number about five times in the same period.
Volumes in libraries in general increased about 10 times in the same period.
But, the country's national wealth quadmpled in 22 years—1900 to 1922; and, the value
of things printed more than doubled in seven years, 1914 to 1921.
And, the total paper made for newspapers increased in 24 years, 1899 to 1923, three
times, and in value over five times.
But they tire and confuse, and rarely convince. If you doubt my statement that as a
factor in reading promotion the library has during, say, the last 25 years, become of less
and less importance, study the figures for yourselves. Then add a few facts about economic
changes that have increased interest in life for millions of our people, have increased
incomes so that books and journals are easily afforded, and have made the desire for
education far more imperative than it was a few years ago. Instead of asking how the
library should be changed to meet a changing world, we are trying to make it, by

examining, standardizing, certificating and congratulating, even more static and more
repetitive of its past than its nature and origin compel it to be.
By now it must be fairly obvious that I do not think our national association is
spending wisely the gratuities of its good friends. The elaborate survey of what we are now
doing, and how, encourages us to keep looking backward at dead precedents. The study of
library extension seems not to suggest a single form of activity that has not long been quite
diligently pursued. Adult education—of this, in spite of our secretary's desire to keep his
associates pure and unspotted from the world of adverse criticism, I quote from a review in
The Nation, which is not to be republished in our bulletin, to the effect that had our
association proceeded to study "the library as an agency for adult its natural
state of stimulating poverty, something of worth might have resulted. Unfortunately...a few
money bags were opened so as to make the investigation indecently elaborate." And I leave
it at that phrase. The Education for Librarianship committee has had for about $30,000, a
year of informing travel; has assumed the air of expertness in education and has published
a book of great typographic beauty and charmingly illustrated. The book fails to convince
me that library schools were not doing good work before they were given the committee's
approval, and that they will do better work now that they have bowed to certain profusely
defined standards, which seem to leave not a crevice in their armor of conformity thru
which may creep a single new idea.
The curriculum study's method and results are both amusing—even when an agent
confronts the Newark Library staff with 50 large sheets of questions!
After education gained by mere living—which many seem to think is not education at
all—comes education by reading, chiefly of newspapers, also a form of education that adult
education talkers seem to ignore. Add to newspapers the magazines and you have the school,
the teacher, the curriculum and the interest and attention that are waking up this nation as
none was ever wakened before; and our country uses 50 per cent more newsprint paper than
does all the rest of the world combined. Now, the library is still a highly esteemed and
greatly privileged institution in this country. I ought to know, for I have had most enjoyable
experiences in living in and for three of them. Let libraries give the newspaper and
periodical press of this country the Macedonian cry; tell what they think they can do to
make the reading of what is chiefly read—the press of the day—more profitable to those who
read, and thus to make the day's and week's and month's outpourings of print still more
intently and wisely used than they now are. I believe that way lies an extension of library
influence beyond all our best dreams.

Special libraries Association
1700 Eighteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009