Imagens da página

a county tax for library purposes. The traveling library and county library systems have much in common, the more restricted territory covered by the county library allows it to adapt itself more closely to local needs than is possible for the state book-distributing agency. The county library plan is in successful operation in Washington Co., Md., Van Wert Co., Ohio, and Portland Co., Oregon, these counties being notable examples of the possibilities of the work. California has a county system which is working successfully, and seven other states have laws providing for county libraries, altho all do not take advantage of it. These states are Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Washington.

In a very informing and suggestive paper read by Prof. D. W. Working at the meeting of the American Library Association in Washington in 1914 the possibilities in the hands of the county agents for stimulating the establishment of rural libraries and for setting up the highly desirable connection between the farmer and the book, by demonstrating its use as a tool of great importance, are ably shown. Prof. Working says "The county agent is at the strategic point for study and for service. * * * He is the representative of the National Department of Agriculture and his own state agricultural college and experiment station; he is also the representative of his county. His aim is to arouse men to an intelligent dependence upon their own resources. The longer he works with the farmers of his county the less will the farmers need to depend upon him for information and for suggestions and for leadership in their organizations.” Prof. Working sent out letters to 227 agents asking whether they were doing any work with traveling libraries and it is significant that many of them were doing some such work and almost all testified to its value and possibilities. Some of the suggestions made by these county agents as to the best means of promoting interest in the rural library and increasing its usefulness are highly inspiring. A number of them from widely different sections of the country think that the county agent

should make himself an authority on the books and periodicals of use as tools to farmers in his own section of country. This of course means that he would have to evaluate what he recommends because there is a great deal published on the subject of agriculture which is almost worthless and only supports the contention of the non-reading farmer that “book farming” is valueless. The time has come when somebody has to weed out the publications on agriculture and separate the really valuable, of which there is a vast deal, from the utterly valueless "popular" book on agriculture, compiled only to sell. For agriculture (so called) has become one of the best selling subjects upon which one can write. The county agent who would make up a list of books, bulletins, circulars and periodicals which he can recommend to farmers themselves, and to the rural libraries of his neighborhood which would be only too glad to buy them, would be doing a real service to all concerned.

Miss Pratt, State Library organizer for New Jersey writes—“Couldn't each county superintendent give us what he considers a list of the best books on agriculture and allied subjects that are suitable for his particular county?"

One county agent in the far west, where most of the freight and passenger traffic is by water on the various rivers, inlets, bays and other waterways, is installing on steam boats shelves, racks or some such device to contain some of the best agricultural books and especially lists of the bulletins and circulars of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, pertaining to the most important subjects of agriculture as practised in this particular section of country. In this same state of Oregon each county agent is allowed 100 books of his own selection on agriculture from the state library. These he lends freely to farmers according to their desire and need. A book or bulletin that exactly fits a need or solves a problem will do more to develop the reading habit than a whole library of books of only general interest.

Another county agent suggests that it might be well for the U. S. Department of Agriculture to arrange a typical farm library. A list of the books in it might be sent to every county agent with advice that he adapt it to meet local conditions and advertise it as widely as possible.

Our foreign population who are farming in some sections of the country present a unique problem. Minnesota is making an effort thru traveling libraries to reach with books in their own language the aliens, who are farming in that state. French, Finnish, German, Norwegian, and Swedish traveling libraries are sent out and six books on agriculture are included when requested. It would seem a fine piece of work for the agricultural colleges to publish reading lists on agricultural and allied subjects in the languages of the aliens within the borders of the state.

Still another county agent suggests the giving of books, carefully chosen and pertinent, as prizes to the club boys and girls.

The enumeration of the suggestions of the county agents might be much extended but enough has been given to show the opportunity for usefulness, in this line which they themselves recognize and which the state library commissions and other agencies interested in getting books to farmers for use in their work, may find worth taking up.

It has been said before that the pressing thing now seems to be to establish the proper connection between the sources of information and those in need of it,-between the printed page and the farmer. The county agent in his intimate relation with the individual farmer and his knowledge of his needs, is in a position to do much to establish this connection. No single agency, however, can do it all. Each effort to

, aid in the rural betterment desired by so many can succeed only thru hearty cooperation with all the forces working towards the same end.


[ocr errors]

ARE OUR SCHOOLS HITTING THE MARK? The last decade or two has seen a wonderful expansion of activities in the school world. Vocational training, folk-dancing, recreation centers, supervised play, prevocational work, continuation and industrial schools and numerous other lines of effort have rapidly sprung into being in the endeavor better to solve the tremendous problems in our very complex social structure. Curriculums of our high schools have been broadened, methods of teaching old subjects revised, subject matter brought more nearly to date; and this general movement has in like manner but to a less degree extended to the elementary grades. And yet, at the end of a dozen years of service in city school systems, during which I can conscientiously say that I have studied as well as taught, I somehow find myself increasingly ill content with city schools as I find them, and with a constantly growing feeling that there is something deeper and more fundamental by far than all this enriching and broadening of the scope of school activities, good as it all is,- something which perhaps by neglect we are to a degree losing, without which all our efforts to develop what we should like to see embodied in the coming generation will surely prove futile.

Were what follows merely a complaint, the muttering of one disgruntled because of some real or imaginary injury, or the whine of a dyspeptic, it were better not written; on the contrary, it comes from a man in the prime of life, in reasonably good position in a large city high school, and possest of a firm faith in the ultimate triumph of efficiency in the school system and of the Golden Rule in the world, with education as one of the greatest factors in bringing it about. Nothing written here is intended to belittle the grand work in so many directions ungrudgingly assumed by our great city educational systems, much of it in times past performed by the home and the church. Time was when in New England, at least, practically every person was a church-goer, and when it was not necessary as it is now for father or mother to be away from home at the factory from sunrise to sunset (in winter), leaving the children to their own devices, frequently with the streets for the most convenient playground.

Nor is the present condition of which I shall speak due to any wilful misguidance or neglect on the part of those in authority. It is rather one of the natural results of a period of kaleidoscopic change, and I believe will in time meet with appropriate remedy; indeed I have reason to think that beginnings are already being made.

I refer to character-building. That, I contend, is the greatest function of the school, and the one which, with all our broadening and enriching, we are in danger unconsciously of neglecting, yet to neglect it is the gravest evil. The worst crook today, as ever, is the highly educated crook. We of the schools must assume this responsibility of moral education in greater and greater measure.

All children come to us, compelled to do so by law; it is not so with the church, and of the home it must be said, unfortunately, that the duties of the work-shop have decreased its opportunities, and that parents, even assuming that they are always competent for the task, can spend less hours with their children than in days gone by. Moreover, in the congested districts the daily grind, the struggle for a mere existence, the difficulties of labor against capital, unemployment, the curse of drink, all have tended to crush out of a life whatever ideals of high moral conduct may have been there at its beginning, and it remains for us to do our part in reinstating them in the children.

The influences bearing upon character are many of them so subtle that they often pass unnoticed. One can not make a boy what we want him to be morally by mere preaching, either in class or in a “heart to heart" talk, good as that may be at times. It is a question rather of his

« AnteriorContinuar »