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few of those books which are possessed, are ever used by either pupils or parents. These Libraries are but seldom replenished; and when they are, it is too often by the purchase of volumes which ought never to be placed in the hands of children, and which had better not be read even by adults.
Whether the Town Library system, which has the same object in view, will be more successful, will very much depend, I think, upon the wisdom of its details. I do not propose to discuss these, but will simply make one or two suggestions. Very especial care should be taken, it appears to me, in the arrange ments of the plan, that it be properly guarded with respect to the selection of books. This is a vital point. I would also suggest, that selections should be made not for pupils only, but also for the teachers. Every Town Library should include a “ Teachers' Library," small it may be, but select, of which those giving instruction may freely avail themselves. I know not how the scholars or the community may be reached more beneficially by the Library, than through the teachers in this way.
I am not quite prepared to approve, nor yet to oppose decidedly your idea of sub-dividing the Library, and changing the localities of the sections once in a few months. It is true that this would secure some of the peculiar advantages of a District Library, but the danger of losing the books, from having them under the charge of so many different individuals, none of whom might feel any especial or permanent responsibility, would be much increased. It does not appear to me quite safe to ma thus a Circulating Library. Almost every town has some locality sufficiently central for practical purposes, where the Library could be permanently kept, and all the citizens accommodated. But still some such plan as that which has been tried in Michigan, where the Director of each district draws from the Township Library every three months, the number of volumes his district is entitled to, which, for the time being, constitutes the District Library, might prove successful, and I am not certain but that this would be the best way of making the Library available to all.
It is to be hoped, that some action will be taken upon this subject by the next Legislature, as almost any plan, it seems to me, would be preferable to our present inefficient system.
From Hon. CHARLES M. BAKER, Geneva, Walworth county.
I have just received your Circular of the 28th ult., requesting my views as to a proposition to be submitted to the next Legislature of this State to change the present School District Library system, to a Town Library system.
It appears to me that such a change is called for, and with proper guards and provisions would be eminently useful. Two desirable results would be thus produced; 1st, good selections of books; and 2d, a much larger number of volumes furnished for perusal; the effect of which should be a greater diffusion of intelligence, and that of a wider and higher range. The chief objection would be, that the facilities of access to the Library in remote districts would be less than under the present system. This in part might be obviated by granting the use of books to those living two or more miles from the Library for a longer period than to those living nearer.
From Rev. ALFRED BRUNSON, Prairie du Chien. Your Circular in reference to the Town Library system, was received a few days since, and the contents duly considered. At the first sight the plan struck my mind favorably, and also the thought that it might be connected with existing or future formed town and city Libraries to advantage, thus giving a greater number of both books and variety, and have the whole under better municipal regulations, than to have separate Libraries in the same place.
I saw by your issuing a Circular, that you desired to feel of the public pulse on the subject, and, believing that the stronger this pulse beat, the more satisfactory to you, I submitted the Circular to “ The Literary and Library Association of Prairie du Chien,” which was incorporated last winter; and the Association at once approved of your plan, as will be seen from the annexed copy from their proceedings last night.
As you do not give the details of your plan, nor the provisions of your proposed bill, to be presented to the Legislature, but ask my opinion generally upon the subject, in addition to a favorable answer, I venture a few suggestions.
1. It must be a paramount object, to have the Library preserved as much as possible, from waste and damage in the use of it. To secure this object, it must be under the care and supervision of a suitable and trusty person; and such a person should receive some compensation for his time, trouble, and use of the room, as Librarian; giving the Town Superintendent the general oversight of the Town books, whether in one, two, or more divisions.
Hvisions. 2. What better way to raise the means to meet this expense of Librarian, than a tax of 25 cents per quarter, or 5 or 10 cents per volume, upon those who use the books, and a fine for all damages done the books, or for detaining them longer than the prescribed rule permits?
3. Either the law should prescribe all the rules and regulations, or a Board of Directors should be elected, who should make such rules and regulations.
4. Where there is a Circulating Library already, or hereafter established in a Town, cannot this Town Library be attached to the one in existence, and be subject to the control of the same Board ?
Our town is in two general divisions—upper and lower town. The Literary and Library Association is in the lower town, while a majority of the inhabitants are in the upper town. There is a spirit of rivalry existing between the two, and whether the upper town will agree to have all the Library in the lower town, is questionable; and if not, the Town Library must be divided, as the lower town will not go up town for their books, while they have over 300 volumes of their own. The upper town is in two or three school districts—the lower town in one, as yet. But the lower town has the largest and best schoolhouse, now nearly finished, in which we contemplate a primary, intermediate, and high school to be kept.
5. The Library should be subject to as few removals as possible, to preserve from damage, and should be in the hands of a person whose business keeps him at home, in his shop, store, or office, as much as practicable, so as to accommodate the issue and return of books.
“At a regular meeting of the Literary and Library A880ciation of Prairie du Chien, held Nov. 9th, 1858, the President, Rev. A. Brunson, presented a printed Circular from Hon. L. C. Draper, Superintendent of Public Instruction, dated Oct. 28, 1858, relative to a town system of Libraries, instead of District ones, as now provided for by law; whercupon, it was unanimously,
Resolved, That this Association heartily concur in the views of Mr. Draper, and recommend the adoption of the system of Town, instead of School District Libraries. Attest: (Signed) GEO. COUSLAND,
From Rev. REUBEN SMITH, Town Superintendent, Beaver Dam.
I appreciate fully the honor of being consulted on the subject of School Libraries. It is a subject on which I have thought much, and with which I have had something to do—both here and elsewhere, and I shall be happy to communicate with you, on any views I may entertain on the subject.
As to its importance, no one can entertain a doubt, who has
given any attention to the subject; and I am persuaded that his convictions will be increased as to that importance, in proportion to his experience and observation. I succeeded last year, for the first time, in procuring a Library for our principal city school, of about 70 volumes. I had all the work to do myselfwhile the Board—to whom (according to our present law) it exclusively belongs—barely suffered me to go on; and I appropriated, at discretion—as permitted—a certain amount of our annual appropriation from the State for that purpose. But I had also to make the selection, provide a book-case, cover the books, insert printed rules, and put all into the teacher's hands, who consented to act as Librarian. Now you will see, that in much of this, I had to act in the place of others, and that the law needs amendment. Then things must be done by one man, or they will not be done at all.
And now as to results already experienced. One of the popular objections against providing any Library, was—that our young people had books enough, lying on the parlor table at home, which they did not read; why then procure more? The answer is in the fact reported by our Librarian, at the close of the first six months—of these 70 volumes, there had been about 500 readings !i. e. at the rate of 1,000 a year.
2. As to the books selected. I agree with you, that under our present system, they are generally worse than useless. Miserable trash, or mischievous poison—the only alleviating circumstance is, that they are so miserably bound, or so carelessly looked after, as to be out of the way in a short time. Here, again, we want amendment in our law, and stringent provision. All this should be attended to, in my opinion, by one man, in advisory conjunction, perhaps, with the Board of Directors, and subject, of course, to an annual report. He should be a man of large reading, good taste, sound judgment, and, above all, possessed of an honest and enlightened morality. Such service, you cannot get, or expect, in a popular Board.
I believe I may say without arrogancy, that in the Library selected by me, there is not one volume in history, biography, science, or general literature, which might not be read with propriety by a son or daughter. But it requires no small sum, to make a competent selection of this character. Ours ought to be doubled at once, and then added to every year. I have given notice, that, if I am continued Superintendent, this shall be, together with a pair of globes. We have some philosophical apparatus already.
3. Thus far, I presume, we should entirely agree; but in regard to making them Town instead of District Libraries, I submit for your consideration, some objections. On this plan, I am confident, as before, you must have one man to attend to the whole; and then, it is obvious, it would require all his time, and could not be done, without a small salary. Perhaps, however, the State will provide for this; and then the question will only have to be decided, whether there would not be jealousies and collisions letween the districts—and whether the whole work would be as well done, as by a proper Superintendent, and proper Librarian for each school, and more stringent laws, such as I hope we shall have.
On the whole, my prevailing view at present is, that the State should make separate appropriations for Libraries, maps, apparatus, &c., and not have it discretionary with districts whether they will have a Library or not. That a given sum should be granted to each town or city, graduated by population; or better, by the number of scholars attending each school-33 cents to a scholar, perhaps, would make a good beginning. In the particular regulations adopted, the State should designate the proper officers, and form of organization—whether in town or districts; and make them responsible both for books selected, and the care that is taken of them. I wish you much success in the prosecution of this important enterprise.
jou have to that a priother Site district of
From Rev. J. B. Pradt, Sheboygan, formerly County Super
intendent of Potter County, Penn. Your Circular in regard to School Libraries is received, and am truly glad you have taken the matter in hand.
It has long seemed to me, that a principal defect in our management of school affairs, in this and other States, is a want of concentration of interest and effort. The little district or neighborhood Library, is a natural concomitant of the district school, and both are abortive. Town Libraries, having everything to recommend them over the smaller Libraries now contemplated, and would readily connect themselves with the idea of a Union Central School, in each town, or other municipality. The two things would mutually help each other. The location of the Library is a matter of less consequence, however, than its being called into efficient existence, and while it might properly be deposited in a Central High School-house, and thus stimulate and aid the larger pupils, and form an additional link between the people and the principal school in the town—where such school exists-it might of course be located in any other suitable place.
The divisions of a Library into sections, as you propose, might have advantages, and it would be well enough to permit this arrangement, if desired.
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