Page images

While, therefore, there is always a liability of finding inany crude and sketchy contributions in the literature of the periodical press, its conductors are ever on the alert to reduce to a minimum the weak or unworthy offerings, and to secure a maximum of articles embodying mature thought and fit expression. The pronounced tendency toward short methods in every channel of human activity, is reflected in the constantly multiplying series of periodical publications.

The publishing activities of the times are taking on a certain coöperative element, which was not formerly known. Thus, the “literary syndicate” has been developed by degrees into one of the most far-reaching agencies for popular entertainment. The taste for short stories, in place of the ancient three volume novel, has been cultivated even in conservative England, and has become so wide-spread in the United States, that very few periodicals which deal in fiction at all, are without their stories begun and finished in a single issue. The talent required to produce a fascinating and successful fiction in this narrow compass is a peculiar one, and while there are numerous failures, there are also a surprising number of successes. Well written descriptive articles, too, are in demand, and special cravings for personal gossip and lively sketches of notable living characters are manifest. That perennial interest which mankind and womankind evince in every individual whose name, for whatever reason, has become familiar, supplies a basis for an inexhaustible series of light paragraphic articles. Another fruitful field for the syndicate composition is brief essays upon any topic of the times, the fashions, notable events, or new inventions, public charities, education, governmental doings, current political movements, etc. These appear almost simultaneously, in many different periodicals, scattered throughout the country, under the copyright imprimatur, which warns off all journals from republishing, which have not subscribed to the special "syndicate" engaging them. Thus each periodical secures, at extremely moderate rates, contributions which are frequently written by the most noted and popular living writers, who, in their turn, are much better remunerated for their work than they would be for the same amount of writing if published in book form. Whether this now popular method of attaining a wide and remunerative circulation for their productions will prove permanent, is less certain than that many authors now find it the surest road to profitable employment of their pens. The fact that it rarely serves to introduce unknown writers of talent to the reading world, may be laid to the account of the eagerness of the syndicates to secure names that already enjoy notoriety.

The best method for filing newspapers for current reading is a vexed question in libraries. In the large ones, where room enough exists, large reading-stands with sloping sides furnish the most convenient access, provided with movable metal rods to keep the papers in place. Where no room exists for these stands, some of the numerous portable newspaper-file inventions, or racks, may be substituted, allowing one to each paper received at the library.

For filing current magazines, reviews, and the smaller newspapers, like the literary and technical journals, various plans are in use. All of these have advantages, while none is free from objection. Some libraries use the ordinary pamphlet case, in which the successive numbers are kept until a volume is accumulated for binding. This requires a separate case for each periodical, and where many are taken, is expensive, though by this method the magazines are kept neat and in order. Others use small newspaper files or tapes for periodicals. Others still arrange them alphabetically on shelves, in which case the latest issues are found on top, if the chronology is preserved. In serving periodicals to readers, tickets should be required (as for books) with title and date, as a precaution against loss, or careless leaving upon tables.

Whether current periodicals are ever allowed to be drawn out, must depend upon several weighty considerations. When only one copy is taken, no circulation should be permitted, so that the magazines and journals may be always in, at the service of readers frequenting the library. But in some large public libraries, where several copies of each of the more popular serials are subscribed to, it is the custom to keep one copy (sometimes two) always in, and to allow the duplicate copies to be drawn out. This circulation should be limited to a period much shorter than is allowed for keeping books.

In no case, should the bound volumes of magazines, reviews, and journals of whatever kind be allowed to leave the library. This is a rule which should be enforced for the common benefit of all the readers, since to lend to one reader any periodical or work of general reference is to deprive all the rest of its use just so long as it is out of the library. This has become all the more important since the publication of Poole’s Indexes to periodical literature has put the whole reading community on the quest for information to be found only (in condensed form, or in the latest treatment) in the volumes of the periodical press. And it is really no hardship to any quick, intelligent reader, to require that these valuable serials should be used within the library only. An article is not like a book ;a long and perhaps serious study, requiring many hours or days to master it. The magazine or review article, whatever other virtues it may lack, has the supreme merit of brevity.

The only valid exception which will justify loaning the serial volumes of periodicals outside the library, is when there are duplicate sets of any of them. Some large libraries having a wide popular circulation are able to buy two or more sets of the magazines most in demand, and so to lend one out, while another is kept constantly in for use and reference. And even a library of small means might secure for its shelves duplicate sets of many periodicals, by simply making known that it would be glad to receive from any families or other owners, all the numbers of their magazines, etc., which they no longer need for use. This would bring in, in any large town or city, a copious supply of periodicals which house-keepers, tired of keeping, storing and dusting such unsightly property, would be glad to bestow where they would do the most good.

Whatever periodicals are taken, it is essential to watch over their completeness by keeping a faithfully revised check-list. This should be ruled to furnish blank spaces for each issue of all serials taken, whether quarterly, monthly, weekly, or daily, and no week should elapse without complete scrutiny of the list, and ordering all missing numbers from the publishers. Mail failures are common, and unceasing vigilance is the price that must be paid for completeness. The same check-list, by other spaces, should show the time of expiration of subscriptions, and the price paid per year. And where a large number of periodicals are received, covering many parts of the country, they should be listed, not only by an alphabet of titles, but by another alphabet of places where published, as well.

If a new library is to be formed, having no sets of periodicals on which to build, effort should be made to secure full sets from the beginning of as many of the prominent magazines and reviews, American and foreign, as the funds will permit. It is expedient to wait a little, rather than to take

up with incomplete sets, as full ones are pretty sure to turn up, and competition between the many dealers should bring down prices to a fair medium. In fact, many old sets of magazines are offered surprisingly cheap, and usually well-bound. But vigilant care must be exercised to secure perfect sets, as numbers are often mutilated, or deficient in some pages or illustrations. This object can only be secured by collation of every volume, page by page, with due attention to the list of illustrations, if any are published.

In the absence of British bibliographical enterprise (a want much to be deplored) it has fallen to the lot of American librarians to produce the only general index of subjects to English periodical literature which exists. Poole's Index to Periodical Literature is called by the name of its senior editor, the late Dr. Wm. F. Poole, and was contributed to by many librarians on a coöperative division of labor, in indexing, under direction of Mr. Wm. I. Fletcher, librarian of Amherst College. This index to leading periodicals is literally invaluable, and indispensable as an aid to research. Its first volume indexes in one alphabet the periodicals embraced, from their first issues up to 1882. The second volume runs from 1882 to 1887, and the third covers the period from 1887 to 1891, while a fourth volume indexes the periodicals from 1892 to 1896, inclusive. For 1897, and each year after, an annual index to the publications of the year is issued.

Besides this, the Review of Reviews publishes monthly an index to one month's leading periodicals, and also an annual index, very full, in a single alphabet. And the “Cumulative Index," issued both monthly and quarterly, by W. H. Brett, the Cleveland, Ohio, librarian, is an admirably full means of keeping our keys to periodical literature up to date. There are other indexes to periodicals,

« PreviousContinue »