public libraries

TalkBook Quotations

Join LibraryThing to post.

public libraries

This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.

Edited: Feb 7, 2016, 10:51am

Celebrating public libraries.

Feb 7, 2016, 10:53am

* Library Daylight - Tracings of Modern Librarianship, 1874-1922
* Edited by Rory Litwin

* Hear the Other Side
* 1896 ALA President's Address
* John Cotton Dana

"People wish also in the main, to give their fellows and themselves the opportunity for self-improvement. This wish is the vital fact at the bottom of the free, compulsorily supported public library. It is on these vital facts that we should keep our eyes and our thoughts, not on the feature of compulsion. Work then, 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 knowledge of conditions of human happiness"

Feb 7, 2016, 10:53am

* Library Daylight - Tracings of Modern Librarianship, 1874-1922
* Edited by Rory Litwin

* The Library: Its Past and Future
* Guido Biagi
* A talk given at the ALA conference, 1904

"graphical representation of human thought . . . the history of human thought"

Feb 7, 2016, 10:54am

* Library Daylight - Tracings of Modern Librarianship, 1874-1922
* Edited by Rory Litwin

* The Library's Primary Duty
* President's address, ALA annual conference, 1915
* Hiller C. Wellman

... But I should like to plead that however occupied with executive cares, and whether engaged in supplying with books the practical needs of the community, or turning to work of wider social application, the librarian should never forget or slight what seems to me to be a primary duty of the public library—a service so fundamental that, as I shall try to show, it may be said without exaggeration to touch the springs of our civilization itself.

For this twentieth century civilization of ours, which the world so easily takes for granted, is nevertheless regarded with misgiving by many who examine its evolution and condition. Within the past two or three years alone, not a few thoughtful writers have questioned its solidity and permanence. The Italian historian, Ferrero; the brilliant English churchman, J. N. Figgis; A.J. Hubbardin his "Fate of Empires," S. O. G. Douglas, Guy Theodore Wrench, Mrs. John Martin—all are impressed with the transitoriness of the phenomenon known as civilization. Macaulay's famous New Zealander taking his stand on a broken arch of London bridge to sketh the ruins of St. Paul's, in his "vast solitude" may count at least on the ghostly fellowship of a goodly number of our contemporary writers who have been solicitous as to the laws of modem civilization and its decay.

Perhaps the most interesting of these treatises is the immensely suggestive little volume which the archaeologist, W. M. Flinders Petrie, has traced the rise, the flourishing, and the decay of eight successive civilizations in Egypt during the period of ten thousand years, and five disdinct eras of civilization in Europe from the early Cretan down through the classical and that of our own day. It is only in recent years that, owing to the discovery and study of archaeological remains, it has become possible to take the long view. Hitherto, students have been confined largely to comparisons between our own civilization and the classical which immediately preceded it. Professor Petrie uses as criteria the development of the different arts, especially the period when each passes from a stage of archaism to a condition of full artistic freedom; and he finds that in all the civilizations he has presented, so far as discernible, the arts have reached their highest development in the same sequence. First comes sculpture, followed by painting, and then literature; these in turn are succeeded after a somewhat longer interval by the development of mechanics, of science, and the results of applied science, or wealth. There appears to be a striking conformity, not only in the sequence, but roughly, in the relative time, suggesting that the same laws are operative throughout the entire period. The intervals between the successive waves of civilization as shown by the point when sculpture, the first of the arts, reaches the stage when it is fully freed from archaism averages between thirteen and fourteen hundred years, with an apparent tendency towards lengthening in the case of the later civilizations. Our modern European civilization, according to Professor Petrie, reached the turning point of freedom in sculpture about 1240 A. D.; in painting, about 1400; in literature during the Elizabethan age, or about 1600; in mechanics possibly in 1890; while the full development in science and in the production of wealth is still to come.

Of course, I have not cited the interesting and ingenious conclusions of Professor Petrie, which are bristling with debatable points, nor referred to the works of the other authors, who differ much among themselves, as proving any definite theory of civilization. I merely wish to impress on you the well-recognized fact that civilization is an intermittent phenomenon. Nor can I personally see that our own civilization, though covering so much wider area than any which have preceded it, differs essentially from them, except in two respects. One of them is the possession of a religion so ennobling thai if its principles were valid in the hearts of men, it would seem in itself to afford a strong preservative, at least against the corruption and ill living that accompany a decaying civilization. But one of the phenomena that all students point out is the weakening in our times of the hold of religion on the minds and actions of men. The other essential difference, as I see it, between our civilization and previous ones lies in the remarkable development of the arts of communication. The facilities far travel by steamship and railroad, and for the transmission of information by mail and telegraph, have so united the world and brought into contact differing civilizations as to produce a condition without parallel in earlier ages.

But incomparably greater in its effect is the ease of communication from mind to mind resulting from the invention of printing. One would be rash, indeed, to assume that this new force in the world, powerful though it be, and aptly termed the art preservative of arts, has yet within itself sufficient virtue to overbalance the laws which, working through human nature for ages past, have caused one great civilization after another to rise, reach its zenith, and decay. Yet, when we consider that not simply in preserving knowledge, but in diffusing it among the whole people, it has produced a condition of general enlightenment that has never before been known; and when we remember also the immense acceleration given to the renascence of the very civilization we now enjoy through the recovery by scholars of the Greek manuscripts and classical texts, it may not be immoderate to hope that this great art of printing will have an incalculable influence in deepening, strengthening, carrying higher, and prolonging this present wave of our civilization; and should this likewise be destined to recede, in alleviating man's intervening low estate and hastening the world's next great advance. And in carrying to the whole people the solider and more vital product of the printing press, no such agency has ever before existed as the modern free public library.

This, then, I conceive to be the great fundamental obligation of the public library—to make accessible to all men the best thought of mankind, whether it be found in the classic works of the older civilizations that preceded our own, or in the master intellects of a later day, or in the innumerable derivative writings of lesser minds. And this function is one that I trust may never be forgotten, however far it may seem well to extend the province of the library in other directions. While striving in every wise way to further the material or ephemeral interests of our communities, above all, we as librarians should prize and cherish the things of the mind and of the spirit. Only those gifted by God can hope for the supreme joy of feeding the pure, white flame that lights man's pathway through the ages. Few they be and blessed. It is privilege enough for us to strive to hold aloft the light, and carry ourselves staunchly and worthily as torchbearers.

Feb 7, 2016, 10:55am

* Public Library Purpose - a reader
* edited by Barry Toterdell

* The purpose and values of a library service
* The public library system of Great Britain: a report on its present condition with proposals for post war reorganisation
* Library Association, 1942, Lionel R McColvin,

We may regard this matter the purposes for which libraries have been established and maintained in both general and specific terms—as to why ‘Wherever there is a civilization there must be books’ and as to how the public library can assist in the development of civilization by making books accessible. By ‘books’ we mean all printed, manuscript, graphic and related records by which knowledge, ideas and imagination can be conserved and disseminated. This definition is itself a statement of the first aspect. Books are not action, though they may be dynamic; nor thought, feeling or experience. They are the record of man’s reaction to his environment in all its phases. They are not life but the representation of life, and he who would regard books and reading as good in themselves starts with a fundamental misapprehension of their function, though this is a fault into which it is easy to fall. Their values lies in enabling men to do, think, feel and understand better than they could if they depended solely on their individual experience and that of those with whom they were in immediate contact. Books can abolish time and distance. Some matters cannot be embraced in such forms of record; many skills and understandings can only be acquired by experience and practice. But a substantial part of the experience, achievement and wisdom of the past and the present can be made and is made available for all who have the ability and desire to use them. We cannot easily deny that it is a good thing that they should be used. Such denial is certainly not part of the policy of modern democratic society. Indeed, democracy depends on the universal existence of the ability to participate in democratic government and its cardinal aim is to give equality of opportunity. No other equalities can avail if access to so important a means of individual development is not full and universal. The maintenance of a sound public library service is therefore as important to the community at large as it is to each of its members. Failure to provide this service is wasteful to the community and to civilization—wasteful because proper use is not made of those results of experience and thought which are and could be recorded, wasteful because, thereby, those who would find in books the means to increased prosperity, satisfaction and happiness are denied this advantage.

Books, staff and service points are the material elements. But they could exist in plenty and yet the libraries fail to give their full potential benefit to the community; they could even be harmful instruments. With them must go not only an appreciation of their purposes but also an acceptance of those tenets which form the philosophy of librarianship—tenets which are inherent in an understanding of its objectives.

The first of these is that the library service exists to serve—to give without question, favour or limitations. It is an instrument for the promotion of all or any of the activities of its readers. Therefore, secondly, it must be catholic and all embracing. Whenever, as may often be the case because of financial and other limitations, it must choose between types of provision, this must always be in accord with the value of the services to the individuals requiring them—not because of our own idea or opinion of what the demands should be. So, the third and all important tenet is that libraries should be ‘free in every sense’—not only universally available regardless of a man’s resources, but free also in the sense that they offer sanctuary to all facets of opinion and all aspects of knowledge. It is just because the library could be, and indeed has been, used as a powerful propaganda weapon that all who value librarianship insist that it shall not be so used.