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and others are preparing to do so, and the Township system is invariably the substitute. 1 914
B ! By the Township plan, with State provision for their establishment and replenishment, as in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, we should have far larger libraries, and their benefits far more generally diffused; for every town in the State, the poor as well as the rich, would have its proportionate share. As in the olden time, the blessedness of Christianity was manifest in that “to the poor the gospel was preached,'' so would these precious Libraries perform their noblest mission to the poor and the neglected, though often the excellent of the earth. I
By the Township system, we should have a far greater variety of books. Under the old district plan, suppose each of a dozen districts in a town was to have ten new volumes given for a new Library, or replenishing an old one—the same ten volumes that would be best and cheapest for one, would be best and cheapest for all ; so that in all the twelve districts there would be in truth but ten different works ; while upon the Township plan, there would be a hundred and twenty different works for the same money. Any one can readily see how much more attractive the large number would be to both youth and adults ; how many more tastes could be gratified ; and how much more knowledge would necessarily be diffused among the people.
By the Township plan, with the State to select and provide the books, a far better class of works would be obtained. The whole range of literature would be open from which to select with the most scrupulous care ; and thus the miserable trash served up by the itinerant venders would be avoided. It would not be possible to estimate the gain in virtue and morality that would result from this procedure. Very many of the districts are so situated, that if they buy books, they must procure them of peddlers, or not at all—the latter alternative, as a general rule, might prove the wisest and safest to adopt.
By the Township system, we should get far more books for the same amount of money expended ; and, I should fondly hope, with this system, we should have the needed State encouragement, so as to devote far more means to this important object than has ever been done before. Certainly its magnitude and importance urgently demand it. As an evidence of how much cheaper proper books can be procured by State contract, in large quantities, the experience of other States may be cited. In Michigan, it would appear from a letter from Hon. IRA MAYHEW, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, that the cost of the volumes as purchased by the local School Inspectors, of merchants or itinerant venders, may be
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set down at one dollar per volume,and, if full statistics were had on this point, it would probably be found to considerably exceed that sum, as the aggregate number of volumes at that rate, bears no proportion to the amount of means provided for that purpose. In New York and Massachusetts, where the books have been purchased by local school directors and committees, at retail stores or of hawkers and peddlers, the most of them bound in cheap muslin, the average cost has been ninety cents per volume. În Ohio, under the better system of State contract, equally as good — doubtless a far better, selection of books was obtained at an average of sixty-two cents per volume, The experience of Indiana is, we believe, fully equal to that of Ohio, in demonstrating the great saving by these wholesale purchases. The economy of this mode of purchase is so apparent, I trust, as to need no farther elucidation. Suffice it to say, that from the experience of Ohio and Indiana, and from what I have learned from the leading publishers of the country, a contract can be made for the delivery of the very choicest class of books at some central point in Wisconsin, at an average of from thirty-three to forty per cent. less than the usual retail prices, and that too in a far superior style of binding.
This matter of binding is an exceedingly important consideration in a State system of School Libraries. When the State contracts for the whole, a particular style of binding would be specified, combining neatness, uniformity and durability-with each volume stamped - WISCONSIN SCHOOL LIBRARY” on the back of the cover, and the Library Rules and Regulations pasted on the cover within. Under the first contract entered into by the State of Ohio, much complaint was made of the poor and defective character of the binding, by which not a few otherwise valuable books were soon rendered almost worthless ; but under the present contract, made in behalf of the State by Hon. Anson Smyth, the present Commissioner of Common Schools of that State, a superior style of half roan binding is provided for, with fine black muslin sides, marbled edges and linings, and three head bands, at prices ranging from fourteen to twenty-five cents per volume--specimens of which I have carefully examined, and better, cheaper, or more substantial binding I never saw. I feel the utmost confidence, that in this single item of binding, alone, adopting the very superior style of Ohio, a vast amount would be saved to the State, and our Libraries, in addition to their increased attractiveness, would prove serviceable a far longer period than they possibly could with the ordinary muslin binding generally in vogue.
By the Township plan, in addition to the appropriate variety of works suitable to the capacities of all, a superior class
of books which ought to be in every Township, could be gradually introduced. I allude to such noble works as the New American Cyclopedia, Benton's Congressional Debates, Bancroft's and Hildreth's Histories of the United States, Prescott's Histories, the works of Franklin, Irving and Sparks, Lossing's Field Book of the Revolution, and Randall's Life of Jefferson. Under the present district plan, few or none of these desirable works could ever be procured. What a flood of light and knowledge would works of this superior character, in a few brief years, pour into every Township in the State. Our noblest sources of literature would no longer be confined to the favored few, but placed within the reach of the humblest citizen and poorest youth of our State--and thus would our School Libraries become, what our Common Schools should and must be_“Good enough for the richest, and cheap enough for the
There are two objections I wish here to meet. The first is, that the Township system would not be quite so convenient as the district plan, as the majority of persons in each town would have farther to go for the books. This is true. But with our present district plan, two thirds of all the districts in the State have no libraries at all, and hence suffer an inconceivable loss ; and under the present system, the poorer, and thus really needier districts, will always be deprived of the priceless blessing of School Libraries. Cannot, and ought not, some personal sacrifices, if need be, be made by all good citizens, for the general good ? Is it not the special duty of governments, to provide for precisely just such cases as this, as a part and parcel of a cheap public education, which, it is universally conceded, we are bound to provide for all the children of the State ?
By having all the books concentrated in a single School Library in the Township, there would be such an increased number and variety of books, from which to select, as would richly compensate for a little extra walk in their procurement. But even this might be measurably obviated, by leaving each town, by vote of its annual meeting, or by the discretion of its proper school officers, to determine whether the Township Library should be divided into two or three sections, and these respectively placed in as many convenient localities, for six months, or a year, and then interchange these sections with other localities, and so the several sections would be alternating, and brought within the convenient reach of every part of the town. Or, as in Michigan, some district officer might be permitted to draw from the Township Library, every three months, the number to which his district would be entitled, and then loan them under proper regulations, to the people of his district. Either of these arrangements in connection with the Township plan, would subserve nearly every facility of the District Library system, with the superior advantages of a largely increased number and greater variety of books, offered, in permanent binding, and attractive style, to gladden the hearts, and improve the moral and mental faculties of all classes of community.
The other objection which I have intimated, is, that by a State system of supplying the books by contract, injustice would be rendered to a worthy class of our own citizens engaged in the business of book-selling. I do not think there can exceed fifty regular book-sellers in the State, who deal in miscellaneous literature, such as District Libraries are in the habit of purchasing. During the past year, in round numbers, there have been 10,000 volumes purchased and added to the libraries in the State, probably not to exceed one half of which were bought of regularly established book-sellers, the rest having been purchased of peddlers. If, then, for the 5,000 volumes bought of the legitimate trade of the State, we estimate a dollar and a half upon an average for each volume, it would be, upon an average, $150 trade with each merchant, with a profit of from thirty-three to fifty per cent. Ought this trifling advantage to fifty of our worthy merchants, to stand in the way of infinitely greater advantages to all the rest of our fellow citizens ? The greatest good, to the greatest number," is a maxim applicable in this case. But we may well doubt, whether, after all, this State system of providing School Libraries, would work any disadvantage to the book-sellers of Wisconsin; for, in the end, the largely increased library attractions and facilities, would naturally beget a love of reading, and in this way, make many a patron of books and book-sellers, that would never otherwise purchase so much in a whole twelve-month, as the value of a Family Almanac. And I should calculate, too, that not only the booksellers would be benefitted by this certain mode of increasing the lovers of reading, but also the publishers of agricultural, educational, and literary magazines, as well as the publishers of newspapers generally.
TOWNSHIP LIBRARIES ARE THEY DEMANDED? The people of Wisconsin, we may be very certain, want no feeble system, no half way work. The very best Library plan is none too good for them, if they can but feel a reasonable assurance that a really better system can be provided, and can but see the way clear to meet the expense. That a better system can be devised, the ample experience of the Township plan of our Western sister States of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, as compared with the partial, inefficient and dilapidated district systems of the older States, most conclusively demonstrates. The only remaining question, it seems to me, is, are the people able to bear the expense?
Before answering this question, let us see what other communities have done, and are doing, when high moral and intellectual appeals are made to their patriotism, their generosity, and the love they bear their children. Over a hundred and fifty years ago, Yale College was founded by ten thoughtful and benevolent men, each laying a few volumes on the table, with the declaration, “I give these books for the founding of a college in this colony.” Even the venerable University of Harvard was once supported by the scanty and precarious gifts of the infant colony of Massachusetts, presented in their primitive form—a bushel of wheat, a cord of wood, and a string of Indian wampum. We can better establish a noble library for every town in Wisconsin, and provide for its permanent growth and replenishment, than our New England fathers, a hundred and fifty or two hundred years ago, could found their infant colleges.
Look at the unparalleled sacrifices of Prussia. “Prussia," says BANCROFT, “in the hour of its sufferings and its greatest calamities, renovated its existence partly by the establishment of schools.” “Prussia, who furnishes us with a pattern of excellence in the present state of her public schools,” says Prof. STEVENS, of Girard College, in a letter to the Superintendent of Common Schools of Pennsylvania, written from Berlin, caffords us a still more brilliant example in the noble policy by which she sustained them in times of great public distress. Of all the nations of Europe, Prussia was reduced to the greatest extremity by the wars of Napoleon. In 1806, at the battle of Jena, her whole military force was annihilated. Within a week after the main overthrow, every scattered division of the army fell into the hands of the enemy. Napoleon took up his quarters in Berlin, emptied the arsenal, and stripped the capitol of all the works of art which he thought worthy to be transmitted to Paris. By the treaty of Tilsit, in 1807, the King of Prussia was deprived of one half of his dominions. A French army of 200,000 men were quartered upon the Prussians till the end of the year 1808. Prussia must pay to France the sum of 120,000,000 francs, after her principal sources of income had been appropriated by Napoleon, either to himself or his allies. The system of confiscation went so far that even the revenue from the endowments of schools, of poor-houses, and the fund for widows, was diverted into the Treasury of France. These last were given back in 1811. Foreign loans were made to meet the exorbitant claims of the conqueror. An army must