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PRINCIPLES OF SELECTION OF BOOKS.*
By MARY S. CUTLER, Vice-Director N. Y. State Library School.
THE subject assigned to me is the principles | New York travelling library lists and the catawhich should guide in the selection of books logs of other small libraries. for a small library, which term, for purposes of discussion, shall mean from 500 to 5000 volumes. The work of the American Library Association for the last 17 years, the willingness on the part of all librarians to go out of their way to help the new libraries, and in New York state the library law of 1889 and the Public libraries department have made the organization of small libraries specially easy.
The problem of the selection of books is the most difficult one the small library has to face. There are three things necessary to a successful library-good books, good methods, and a good librarian. To my mind, good books and a good librarian are infinitely more important There are three requisites-abundance of time, than good methods. But in these days it is knowledge of books, and sympathy with the about as easy to have good methods as anti- popular taste. I believe that, if possible, the quated ones, and certainly trustees have no ex-library committee would do well to put the cuse for starting out with anything less than the responsibility in the hands of one of their numbest. These should in all cases be simple, econom- ber, reserving the veto power for exceptional ical, and practical, having due regard to prob- cases. This plan would be effectual only on able growth. By methods I would include not condition that the person selecting secured the simply cataloging and classification, but every-co-operation of a large number of persons. This thing that has to do with the attractiveness of can easily be managed in a town or village by a the library rooms and the comfort of the reader. person with a wide acquaintance. Nor do I think it difficult to secure in any town a local librarian who can be trained to carry on the simple methods which have been adopted, and who shall be active, alert, wise, and hospitable in making the library available to every reader.
It is important to get a great variety of points of view. Above all avoid the literary bias. It is so easy for things to fall into the hands of a small clique of dilettanti, with a fine appreciation of the best literature, but entirely lacking in sympathy with the sturdy life and thought of every-day people. Books should be ordered on approval, then they should be wisely distributed and read before purchased. Children's books should be read by children to see if the book is interesting, then by some one who makes a special study of juvenile literature to see if it is up to the required standard.
Novels should be read by persons of widely differing tastes. Specialists should be used with care. They are of unusual service in a college library, but it is hard to find one who has any respect for a book on his own subject written from a popular standpoint. I would rather say, get help from those who take a special interest in a subject, and inform themselves on it without being specialists; e.g., a book on amateur
* Paper read before the N. Y. Library Association, New photography might be submitted to an amateur York, Jan. 11, 1895; Buffalo, May 17, 1895.
The real problem now remains the selection of books. 1. For the original library. 2. For the expenditure of the small appropriation for new books.
1. It is seldom that a new library is built from the foundation. There is usually a collection of old books to start with, often the combination of several old collections. It is a case requiring heroic treatment. They should be gone over carefully and all those not well suited to the library should be thrown out. To do this requires courage, but it pays.
For the selection of the original library the "A. L. A. library catalog" will probably be used as the basis, supplementing this with the
2. The selection of new books for the library. I will consider here the principles which underlie selection, though they would also apply to a considerable extent to the selection of the original library.
a. Who shall select? b. What shall he select? c. How shall he select?
(a.) Who. Who will be competent and willing to study the field, i.e., the books and the readers, so that the small yearly appropriation shall in his hands produce the best possible results? In many cases the librarian will not be fitted for it. If not, it will be done by some member or members of the library committee.
(b) What? The idea of completeness, unless in the line of local history, should be banished. It is, perhaps, an instinct of a scholarly mind. It is also the refuge of the lazy and ignorant buyer. To buy all the books of an author, or all the books in a series, for the sake of completeness is the worst possible policy. A very few authors may merit such distinction, but it should be because each book has proved its claim on the needs of the library, not on the (c) How? The Publishers' weekly is indisground of completeness. It is even more dan-pensable. The Nation, Critic, Dial, and Litergerous to get all the books of a series, for even ary world are the most useful critical journals. reputable publishers yield to the temptation The following plan is approved by the usage of of working cheap books into a really valuable some of the best medium-sized libraries: series.
The strength of a small library is in a perfect adaptation of means to end ; i.e., books to readers. It makes itself ridiculous by following the aims of an encyclopædic library, which it can never attain.
It is well to bear this in mind when planning the charging system. In the book-card system which is generally used, the addition of the author and title to the call number of each book on its book card will expedite this study of the circulation. Of course, puchases should not be in direct proportion to circulation. 80% of the circulation might be fiction; it should not for that reason form 80% of the library.
In a small library a dull book, an inappropriate book, is not only of no service to the library, it is a positive injury. Two or three such books will often lose for you permanently a reader whom you have been beguiling to use the library. For the same reason a strong policy regarding gifts is imperative.
As a rule omit law and medical books, papercovered books and all books purely technical, unless the latter are likely to be used by a considerable number of people. However, if managed with care, it is desirable to buy technical books for a few people where they cannot afford to buy them for themselves.
Regard should be had to balance of subjects, though it is unwise to follow a hard-and-fast rule. It is well to bear this in mind whenever additions are made, which should be at least once a quarter, or, better, once a month. At the end of the year neglected subjects should be filled up.
Check in the Publishers' weekly all books likely to be wanted, cut out and mount on slips. Annotate titles with abbreviated references to critical articles. When ready to order, select the most timely and useful books in the list, leaving the others as a reserve fund. Order on approval. Add to slips opinions of those who have read or examined the books.
"As the London correspondent of the N. Y. Times he has distinguished himself as almost the only competent letter-writer fr. the Old World to the New. ... He sometimes bas a curious squint which prevents his seeing straight; but for good, all-round work, great industry, and capacity for saying what he has to say in clear, interesting English, Mr. Harold Frederic is the best of English correspondents." Review of Reviews, S 91, 4:227.
In making additions current books will naturally use up a large share of the funds, possibly two-thirds, but the remaining one-third should be carefully reserved for the regular addition of standard works and of old books needed to meet demands of the readers.
Close observers of the reading in popular libraries tell us that children and untutored adults do not enjoy reading short stories; also that many children are exceedingly fond of poetry. The contrary would seem likely to be true. The fact is, therefore, worth mentioning from its relation to selection. It sug-variation. But whatever the form and whatgests the desirability of studying the circulation.
"Mr. Hearn is a student of style. After that he is a dreamer of dreams, and somewhat later still a collector of facts. ... There is masterly
ever the matter, the strife is always for effect. It is almost always artistic, but it is rarely free
from the impression of self-consciousness." ashamed of the libraries of to-day, because they (See N. Y. Daily Tribune, 28 O'94, p. 14, column 41.)
are collections, not selections. I am glad that the program of this meeting does not stop at principles of selection, but goes on to discuss individual books. This has already been done in the meeting of the Massachusetts library club and will be an important feature of the A. L. A. meetings. Why should we compare notes on charging systems, book supports, and entry of pseudonyms and be afraid to talk about the books themselves? "This ought ye to have done and not to have left the other undone."
This principle is used to advantage in Mr. Lemcke's extremely useful “ Catalogue of German literature."
The whole subject of the selection of books is a fascinating one. I have only touched it on the surface. It is a subject which is to appear oftener on library programs and occupy more and more the attention of the best librarians. I believe that 10 years from now we shall be
DIRECTORIES IN PUBLIC REFERENCE LIBRARIES.
BY REUBEN G. THWAITES, Secretary State Historical Society of Wisconsin.
I have visited many an ambitious city library, whose otherwise enterprising chief has looked me to scorn when I inquired whether he had a full file of his own city directories-"We have no room for such rot!" Yet, if you will bear with me, these contemporary lists of the city's inhabitants, together with full files of the local newspapers the daily mirror of the city's life would be quite as important on his shelves as anything else he has there; more so than many of his volumes.
I WONDER how many of our large public ref- | tories and plenty of them; and not altogether to erence libraries are in the habit of accumulating be despised is the man who wishes to select admiscellaneous city and state directories, old and dresses to which more or less appropriate circucurrent? Not many, I fancy; yet, if members lars may be mailed. A wide range of queries, of our craft generally understood the practical many of them of supreme importance, are value of these, in numerous lines of research, answered by the directories; any keeper of a there would be a wider demand for this now collection of them can tell you curious tales of largely neglected class of books. his experiences which would make good material for the fiction-writers - I do not now recall that any one has yet given us a directory story. I make no charge for thus suggesting a new and fertile field to A. L. A. members who are ambitious to load the magazines with out-of-hours' copy. In a variety of ways - commercial, professional, and literary - collections of directories are of real value, and they are eagerly sought. Public librarians are seldom appealed to for this sort of thing, for it is generally recognized as a field which not many of them enter; a few historical societies and state libraries do something in this line, more or less spasmodically, but there is room for some large reference library, centrally located, with ample means, to make a record here; its collection will not lack patrons.
The duty of each city librarian to collect local directories and newspapers is to me so self-evident that it seems superfluous to argue the matter. What I would like to do is to call the attention of reference librarians to the value of general collections of directories. The office of the reference library is to supply information to the public, be it practical or æsthetic, and several classes of persons in every large community find miscellaneous directories of great importance to them: the genealogist, the biographer, the student of names, eagerly pore over these dusty old books and find in them many a missing link; detectives tracing the whereabouts of criminals, and lawyers hunting heirs to estates could ill dispense with directories; postal officials seeking clues for forwarding "blind" mail matter, where perhaps a New Orleans street is inadvertently written on an envelope intended for Winnipeg, need direc
Meanwhile, the leading directory men themselves are, in some measure, meeting the public demand for this sort of literature. By exchange or purchase, sometimes by both, many of them have in their central offices considerable libraries of current dictionaries of other American and foreign cities, those of say four years of age being removed from the cases as fast as the latest crop comes in. All publishers in cities of the first class with the exception of the Trow Directory Co., of New York and many of those of the second class, make a practice of exchanging directories in order to accommodate
The regulations for the public use of these directory libraries vary greatly. I think the Trows make no charge for single consultations, but impose a fee for the use of the books when lists are copied from them; in St. Louis the Gould Directory Co. charges 25 cents for each single reference, and in Chicago Polk charges 10 cents. I have been told that Boyd, of Washington, employs in his library five or six young women to wait upon customers, and charges two dollars for a three hours' consultation; and I have it from what seems good authority, that a not uncommon rate in several other cities is a dollar for the detailed use of each directory. The Postmaster-General orders a copy of each of the leading directories for each of the first and second class post-offices, but these are not open to the public.
The principal directory libraries in the United States, accessible to the public, and covering
from 50 to 500 cities each, are in Albany, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Hartford, Jersey City, Kansas City, Louisville, Milwaukee, Nashville, New York, Omaha, Philadelphia, Richmond, San Francisco, St. Louis, Syracuse, Topeka, and Washington; there is also one at Toronto. For commercial purposes these collections of current directories doubtless serve their patrons sufficiently well; but, as above pointed out, none of them keep up their files for more than a few years back; thus they are of little avail to the student in history and sociology, whose investigations, as often, indeed, do those of the estate or criminal lawyer, cover a far wider period than this. Without injuring the business of those who maintain private libraries of current directories, any public librarian, in a large town, who has abundant resources of space and money, can at least gather and preserve the old directories, and make himself blessed to many searchers for facts; indeed, he will not need much money for this purpose if he is intrenched in the good graces of the local directory firm, and contents himself with the castaways of the latter's growing collection.
FICTION IN PUBLIC LIBRARIES.*
BY EDWIN H. Woodruff, Librarian of Leland Stanford, Jr., University.
THIS topic, as a matter for discussion by | and economists are waging over individualism librarians, is undoubtedly somewhat frayed; and probably the final word will never be uttered upon the subject. But as it is said that charity is extremely beneficial to the giver, even though it may not add greatly to the welfare of the recipient, so perhaps we may be permitted to talk over this old question merely for the purpose of clarifying by expression our own more or less unsettled views, though the process may not add to our neighbors' information or change their opinions.
Moreover, the subject is large enough to offer ample room for consideration. Fiction deals largely with human emotions and their operations, and on this side we skirt the rugged domain of ethics. Its instrument is literary form, and here we are brought alongside the pleasant field of æsthetics. And to ask whether the city or state should supply fiction for the amusement of the people is to be launched into the irrepressible conflict that political scientists * Read before the Library Association of Central California, San Francisco, May 10, 1895.
At the 1894 meeting of the American Library Association the question of fiction in public libraries was again brought up, the addresses having been elicited by this question: "Is the free public library justified in supplying its readers ... books of entertainment only, such, for example, as the ruck of common novels?" It is not, “for example," the ruck of common histories, such as Froude's seemed in the eye of Freeman, or the ruck of popular scientific works-"Oh, my! science," as it is called by the impassive and relentless Simon Pure scientific investigator. But it is the "ruck of common novels." It turns out that "ruck," according to the dictionary, is a harmless word and means only the common run. But whatever the dictionary says one feels the contemptuous implication. So, too, in following back, through the volumes of the LIBRARY JOURNAL, the abstracts of the annual reports of public libraries, one remarks the tone of despair with which one public librarian refers to the in
crease of two per cent. in the circulation of fiction in his library, and the corresponding outburst of joy by another librarian at the reduction of three per cent. in the circulation of fiction in his library. At the Chicago conference of librarians in 1893 a summary was given of answers to requests for opinions by librarians upon the circulation of fiction. And it was to this effect: "The American Library Association, voiced by 60 of the 75 librarians to whom letters were sent, gives forth no uncertain sound as to the necessity and duty of restricting the provision for fiction (novels, strictly so speaking) to the smallest possible quantity of the best quality."
Does this not indicate that we are always placing fiction on the defensive? It is true that such prejudices may have arisen from the librarian's honest care for the soul of the reader and may be based upon actual observation of the evil effects of fiction-reading. But it may well be asked if much of the prejudice is not an inherited relic from our Puritanic great-grandparents, to whom story-books were silly and wicked and who found the imaginative side of their natures fully terrified and satisfied with a blazing description of "the other place" which, in a two-hour sermon, some local Jonathan Edwards could pave with the incandescent skulls of unbaptized infants.
If this is an evil to be suppressed, what is its extent ? what is the strength of the enemy? The Chicago summary just referred to shows that in response to the question, "What is the per cent. of issue of fiction in your library?" over 50 replies were received and that the average yearly issue of fiction was 56 per cent. The lowest was eight per cent., the highest 80. The fact that one library shows only eight per cent. issue probably indicates that at least one library was included that did not pretend to supply fiction. It is not unlikely that 56 per cent. was somewhat of an underestimate; for in going | through the abstracts of the annual reports for 1891-2, as given in the LIBRARY JOURNAL, and taking the public and subscription libraries as they come, it will be found that the average issue of fiction for 54 libraries was 68 per cent. This list included libraries of all sizes and in various parts of the country, from the great Boston Public Library, which issued 73 per cent., to the small library at Santa Rosa, California, which issued 63 per cent. The highest was the Carnegie Library, Allegheny City, with 90 per cent., and the lowest the Cleveland Library,
with 42 per cent. Among those issuing the larger per cent. were Chelsea, Mass., 85 per cent., Jersey City, 86; and the lower per cent., Lawrence, Mass., 43, and Cambridge, Mass., 45.
It is not an unreasonable approximation to say that the average annual per cent. issue of fiction in the public libraries in this country is 68 per cent. But this is not so appalling as it seems. It practically means that of every three volumes issued (not to the same person, of course) two are fiction and one is not fiction. It is to be noted that the library is not therefore filling 68 per cent. of the reading time of its constituents with fiction, for, say that at a liberal estimate it takes one-third as long to read a novel as to read a scientific or historical book in order to get the ascribed benefit of the instructive book, then 68 should be divided by 3 and the result compared with 32 in order to determine whether the public library is devoting itself chiefly to the improvement or entertainment of its readers.
But let us grant that the public library fills with imaginative literature, of a more or less high order, 68 per cent. of the time that its constituents give to books. Is this, on the whole, such an undue proportion as to be injurious? Here, to be fair, one must ask whether the total amount of time given to the reading of imaginative literature supplied by the public libraries is extravagant when one considers it with reference to the total amount of time given by the same persons, under the stress of modern life, to work always present or impending.
A tentative classification of those to whom the library supplies fiction, and an inquiry into the purpose for which they read it, may determine whether 68 per cent. issue of fiction is an evil of the magnitude it seems, and whether this demand is not in response to a legitimate need.
First, then, as to the professional man — lawyer, scholar, or doctor who works chiefly with his trained intellect. These readers may be dismissed briefly, as they probably do not rely upon public libraries for their fiction. But, nevertheless, instances of novel-hunger among such men shows how imperatively those who are under the pressure of brain-work demand to be taken out of themselves. You will recall those passages in “Darwin's life and letters" in which we find him resting every day in the forenoon between 9:30 and 10:30 with a novel being read to him, and again in the afternoon resting and listening to a novel or other