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beneficial, the sole expense being five dollars for each library.
Travelling libraries, (mostly of fifty volumes each) have been set on foot in Massachusetts, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and other States, and, as the system appears capable of indefinite expansion, great results are anticipated in the direction of the public intelligence. It is pointed out that while the State, by its free school system, trains all the people to read, it should not leave the quality of their reading to chance or to utter neglect, when a few cents per capita annually would help them to an education of inestimable value in after life.
Some objections, on the other hand, have been urged to the system, as introducing features of paternalism into State government, and taking out of the hands of individual generosity and local effort and enterprise what belongs properly to such agencies. The vexed question of the proper function and limitations of State control in the domain of education cannot here be entered upon.
In the volume last published of statistics of American libraries, that of 1897, great progress was shown in the five years since 1891. The record of libraries reported in 1896 embraced 4,026 collections, being all which contained over 1,000 volumes each. The increase in volumes in the five years was a little over seven millions, the aggregate of the 4,026 libraries being 33,051,872 volumes. This increase was over 27 per cent. in only five years.
If the good work so splendidly begun, in New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and some of the Western States, in establishing libraries through public taxation and private munificence, can only be extended in the Southern and Middle States, the century now about to dawn will witness an advance quite as remarkable as we have seen in the latter years of the century about to close.
LIBRARY BUILDINGS AND FURNISHINGS.
Proceeding now to the subject of library buildings, reading-rooms, and furnishings, it must be remarked at the outset that very few rules can be laid down which are of universal application. The architectural plans, exterior and interior, of such great institutions as the Library of Congress, or the Boston Public Library, with their costly marbles, splendid mural decorations, and electric bookserving machinery, afford no model for the library building in the country village. Where the government of a nation or a wealthy city has millions to devote for providing a magnificent book-palace for its library, the smaller cities or towns have only a few thousands. So much the inore important is it, that a thoroughly well-considered plan for building should be marked out before beginning to build, that no dollars should be wasted, or costly alterations required, in order to fit the interior for all the uses of a library.
The need of this caution will be abundantly evident, in the light of the unfit and inconvenient constructions seen in so many public libraries, all over the country. So general has been the want of carefully planned and well-executed structures for books, that it may fairly be said that mistakes have been the rule, and fit adaptation the exception. For twenty years past, at every meeting of the American Library Association, the reports upon library buildings have deplored the waste of money in well-meant edifices designed to accommodate the library service, but successful only in obstructing it. Even in so recent a
construction as the Boston Public Library building, so many defects and inconveniences were found after it was supposed to have been finished, that rooms had to be torn out and re-constructed on three floors, while the pneumatic tube system had been found so noisy as to be a public nuisance, and had to be replaced by a later improved construction.
One leading cause for the mistakes which are so patent in our library buildings is that they are not planned by librarians but mainly by architects. The library authorities commonly take it for granted that the able architect is master of his profession, and entrust him with the whole design, leaving out of account the librarian, as a mere subordinate, entitled only to secondary consideration. The result is a plan which exhibits, in its prominent features, the architect's skill in effective pilasters, pillars, architraves, cornices, and balustrades, while the library apartments which these features ornament are planned, not for convenient and rapid book-service, but mainly for show. It is the interest of architects to magnify their profession: and as none of them has ever been, or ever will be a librarian, they cannot be expected to carry into effect unaided, what they have never learned; namely, the interior arrangements which will best meet the utilities of the library service. Here is where the librarian's practical experience, or his observation of the successes or failures in the reading-room and delivery service of other libraries, should imperatively be called in. Let him demonstrate to the governing board that he knows what is needed for prompt and economical administration, and they will heed his judgment, if they are reasonable men. While it belongs to the architect to plan, according to his own ideas, the outside of the building, the inside should be planned by the architect in direct concert with the librarian, in all save merely ornamental or finishing work.
We do not erect a building and then determine whether it is to be a school house or a church: it is planned from the start with strict reference to the utilities involved; and so should it always be with a library.
In treating this subject, I shall not occupy space in outlining the proper scheme of building and interior arrangement for a great library, with its many distinct departments, for such institutions are the exceptions, while most libraries come within the rule of very moderate size, and comparatively inexpensive equipment. The first requisite for a public library, then, is a good location. It is important that this should be central, but it is equally important that the building should be isolated—that is, with proper open space on all sides, and not located in a block with other buildings. Many libraries have been destroyed or seriously damaged by fire originating in neighboring buildings, or in other apartments in the same building; while fires in separate library buildings have been extremely rare. It would be a wise provision to secure a library lot sufficiently large in area to admit of further additions to the building, both in the rear and at the side; and with slight addition to the cost, the walls and their supports may be so planned as to admit of this. Committees are seldom willing to incur the expense of an edifice large enough to provide for very prolonged growth of their collection; and the result is that the country is full of overcrowded libraries, without money to build, and prevented from expanding on the spot because no foresight was exercised in the original construction or land purchase, to provide for ready increase of space by widening out, and removing an outer wall so as to connect the old building with the new addition. If a library has 10,000 volumes, it would be very short-sighted policy to plan an edifice to contain less than 40,000, which it is likely to reach in from ten to forty years.
The next requisite to a central and sufficient site is that the location must be dry and airy. Any low site, especially in river towns, will be damp, and among the enemies of books, moisture holds a foremost place. Next, the site should afford light on all sides, and if necessary to place it near any thoroughfare, it should be set back so as to afford ample light and ventilation in front.
It need hardly be said that every library building should be fire-proof, after the many costly lessons we have had of the burning of public libraries at home and abroad. The material for the outside walls may be brick or stone, according to taste or relative cost. Brick is good enough, and if of the best quality, and treated with stone trimmings, is capable of sufficiently ornate effects, and is quite as durable as any granite or marble. No temptation of cheapness should ever be allowed to introduce wood in any part of the construction: walls, floors, and roof should be only of brick, stone, iron, or slate. A wooden roof is nothing but a tinder-box that invites the flames.
In general, two stories is a sufficient height for library buildings, except in those of the largest class, and the upper floors may be amply lighted by sky-lights. The side-lights can hardly be too numerous: yet I have seen library buildings running back from a street fifty to seventyfive feet, without a single window in either of the side walls. The result was to throw all the books on shelves into a gloomy shade for many hours of each day.
The interior construction should be so managed as to effect the finding and delivery of books to readers with the greatest possible economy of time and space. No shelves should be placed higher than can be reached by hand without mounting upon any steps or ladders; i. e., seven to seven and a half feet. The system of shelving should all be constructed of iron or steel, instead of surrounding the