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   Chapter 1 No.1

A Library Primer By John Cotton Dana Characters: 3298

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

What does a public library do for a community?

And what good does a public library do? What is it for?

1) It supplies the public with recreative reading. To the masses of the people-hard-worked and living humdrum lives-the novel comes as an open door to an ideal life, in the enjoyment of which one may forget, for a time, the hardships or the tedium of the real. One of the best functions of the public library is to raise this recreative reading of the community to higher and higher levels; to replace trash with literature of a better order.

2) A proper and worthy aim of the public library is the supplying of books on every profession, art, or handicraft, that workers in every department who care to study may perfect themselves in their work.

3) The public library helps in social and political education-in the training of citizens. It is, of course, well supplied with books and periodicals which give the thought of the best writers on the economic and social questions now under earnest discussion.

4) The highest and best influence of the library may be summed up in the single word, culture. No other word so well describes the influence of the diffusion of good reading among the people in giving tone and character to their intellectual life.

5) The free reading room connected with most of our public libraries, and the library proper as well, if it be rightly conducted, is a powerful agent for counteracting the attractions of saloons and low resorts. Especially useful is it to those boys and young men who have a dormant fondness for reading and culture, but lack home and school opportunities.

6) The libra

ry is the ever-ready helper of the school-teacher. It aids the work of reading circles and other home-culture organizations, by furnishing books required and giving hints as to their value and use; it adds to the usefulness of courses of lectures by furnishing lists of books on the subjects to be treated; it allies itself with university extension work; in fact, the extension lecture given in connection with the free use of a good library seems to be the ideal university of the people.

The public library, then, is a means for elevating and refining the taste, for giving greater efficiency to every worker, for diffusing sound principles of social and political action, and for furnishing intellectual culture to all.

The library of the immediate future for the American people is unquestionably the free public library, brought under municipal ownership, and, to some extent, municipal control, and treated as part of the educational system of the state. The sense of ownership in it makes the average man accept and use the opportunities of the free public library while he will turn aside from book privileges in any other guise.

That the public library is a part of the educational system should never be lost sight of in the work of establishing it, or in its management. To the great mass of the people it comes as their first and only educational opportunity. The largest part of every man's education is that which he gives himself. It is for this individual, self-administered education that the public library furnishes the opportunity and the means. The schools start education in childhood; libraries carry it on.

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