Page images
PDF
EPUB

and makes the book a more easy prey to dust and disintegration. However busy I may be, I instinctively turn back every turned-down leaf I notice in any book, before using it, or handing it to another. A good safe-guard would be to provide a supply of little narrow strips of paper, in the ticket boxes at the library tables to serve as the book-markers so frequently needed by readers. For this purpose, no thick or smooth calendered

should be used, which falls out of any loosely bound book too readily—but a thin soft paper un-sized, which will be apt to retain its place. I have lost valuable time (which I shall never see again) in trying to find the pages marked for me by a searcher who had thoughtlessly inserted bits of cardboard as markers—which kept falling out by their own weight. The book-marks should be at least two inches long, and not more than half an inch wide; and rough edges are better than smooth ones, for they will adhere better to the head of the volume where placed. Better still it is, to provide paper book-marks forked at the lower end by slitting, then doubled so that the mark will go on both sides of the leaf at once. This is the only sure safeguard against these bits of paper falling out, and thus losing the place. Never put cards, or letters, or documents, or any solid substance into a book. It weakens the binding, and if continued, often breaks the back. The fact that most of the injuries to which books are exposed are unintentional injuries does not alter the fact that they are none the less injuries to be guarded against. Wilful perpetration of the many abuses referred to may be rare, but the unconscious perpetrators should be instructed how to use books by a vigilant librarian. And they who have thus been taught to be careful of the books in a public library will learn to be more careful of their own, which is a great step in the education of any one.

paper

It ought not to be needful to charge any one never to wet the finger to turn over the leaves of a book- -a childish habit, akin to running out the tongue when writing, or moving the lips when reading to one's self. The only proper way to turn the leaf is at the upper right-hand corner, and the index-finger of the right hand will always be found competent to that duty.

Still less should it be needful to insist upon the importance to every reader of books, of coming to their perusal clean-handed. When you reflect that nine-tenths of the soiling and spoiling which books undergo comes from the dirty hands of many readers, this becomes a vital point. Fouquet, a learned book collector of France, used to keep a pile of white gloves in the ante-room of his library, and no visitor was allowed to cross the threshold, or to handle a book without putting on a pair, lest he should soil the precious volumes with naked hands. Such a refinement of care to keep books immaculate is not to be expected in this age of the world; and yet, a librarian who respects his calling is often tempted to wish that there were some means of compelling people to be more careful about books than they are.

It ought not ever to be true that an enemy to the welfare of library books is found in the librarian himself, or in any of his assistants, yet there have been those employed in the care of books who have abused their positions and the volumes entrusted to their charge, not only by neglect of care, (which is a negative injury) but by positive and continual ill treatment. This may arise from ignorance of better methods, but ignorance is a poor excuse for one credited with the intelligence of a librarian. In some libraries, books are treated with positive indignity, and are permanently injured by tightly wedging them together. Never crowd books by main force into shelves too short or too small for them. It strains the backs, and seriously injures the bindings. Every book should slip easily past its fellows on the shelf. If a volume is too tall to go in its place, it should be relegated to lower shelves for larger books, never letting its head be crowded against the shelf above it.

One should never pull books out from the shelf by their head-bands, or by pulling at the binding, but place the finger firmly on the top of the book, next to the binding, and press down while drawing out the volume. From failure to observe this simple precaution, you will find in all libraries multitudes of torn or broken bindings at the top -a wholly needless defacement and waste.

Never permit a book to be turned down on its face to keep the place. This easily besetting habit weakens the book, and frequently soils its leaves by contact with a dusty table. For the same reason, one volume should not be placed within the leaves of another to keep the place where a book-mark of paper, so easily supplied, should always be used. Books should not be turned down on the fore-edges or fronts on the library tables, as practiced in most bookstores, in order to better display the stock. The same habit prevails in many libraries, from careless inattention. When necessary, in order to better read the titles, they should never be left long in such position. This treatment weakens the back infallibly, and if long continued breaks it. Librarians, of all persons in the world, should learn, and should lead others to learn, never to treat a book with indignity, and how truly the life of a book depends upon proper treatment, as well as that of an animated being.

These things, and others of my suggestions, may seem trifles to some; but to those who consider how much success in life depends upon attention to what are called trifles—nay, how much both human taste and human happiness are promoted by care regarding trifles, they will not appear unimportant. The existence of schools to teach library science, and of manuals devoted to similar laudable aims, is an auspicious omen of the new reign of refined taste in those nobler arts of life which connect themselves with literature, and are to be hailed as authentic evidences of the onward progress of civilization.

CHAPTER 6.

THE RESTORATION AND RECLAMATION OF BOOKS.

We are now to consider carefully the restoration and the reclamation of the books of a library, whether public or private.

Nothing can be more important than the means of restoring or reclaiming library books that are lost or injured, since every such restoration will save the funds of the library or collector from replacing them with fresh or newly bought copies, and will enable it to furnish its stores with as many new books as the money thus saved represents. The cardinal thing to be kept always in view is a wise economy of means. An every-day prudence is the price of successful administration. A management which permits any of the enemies of books to destroy or damage them, thereby wasting the substance of the library without repair, is a fatally defective management, which should be changed as soon as possible.

This consideration assumes added importance when it is remembered that the means of nearly all our libraries are very limited and inadequate to the drafts upon them, year by year. A great many libraries are compelled to let their books needing rebinding accumulate, from the mere want of money to pay for reclothing the nearly worn-out volumes, thus depriving the readers for a considerable time, of the use of many coveted books. And even with those which have large means, I have never yet heard of a library that had enough, either to satisfy the eager desire of the librarian to fill up deficiencies, or to meet fully the manifold wants of readers. So much the more important,

« PreviousContinue »