Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

portioned to the several towns and cities of the State, would be à very different matter from the weak and utterly inefficient system which has thus far given, upon an average, less than a volume a year, for the last ten years, to each of the several school districts of the State. Larger libraries, annually replenished, would prove far more attractive than the present small and illassorted. collections, and hence the real amount of reading done, and useful knowledge imparted, would be increased beyond all estimation.

If all the districts in the State should promptly engage in the great work of securing libraries for themselves under the present library law, it would prove a far more onerous tax on the people, and they have far less to show for it, than by the State system here suggested. The universal experience of other States has proven beyond a doubt, that the district library system is, pecuniarily, a wasteful and extravagant one, while the township plan is not only one of true economy, but fraught with the richest and most enduring blessings to the people.

Perhaps the objection might be raised, that this new system would create new officers to eat out the substance of the people. If additional officers were really needed to carry out so noble a reform, they should unhesitatingly and ungrudgingly be provided. But under the Township Library plan, there need necessarily be no new offices created. 'Under the present district plan, we have 1,375 libraries, and each of these must have a librarian; while, with the Township system, we should require but about six hundred and fifty librarians for the whole State-one for each town and city. Here then would be a large decrease of officers. I think, however, it would be but just and proper, that as a Township Librarian would have largely increased labors over the District Librarian, he should receive some reasonable compensation. This should be provided either by the town, or by imposing a tax of one cent on each volume taken out of the library. This idea of a cent tax on the books taken out of the Library is not a new one, as Hon. HENRY BARNARD assured me; and he advised it as a good regulation. Fines and penalties could either be applied towards the Librarian's compensation, or for Library fixtures and occasional re-binding:

It may be asked, what, in the event of establishing Township Libraries, should be done with the present district libraries? I should hardly think any legislation wonld be necessary. They are indisputably the property of the districts possessing them; and probably a large majority of the volumes, from injudicious selections and long usage, would not prove sufficiently

desirable for the Township Library as to have them appraised, and the other parts of the town taxed for their proper share. By such a course, in a town where several district libraries. exist, many works might thus be duplicated. It would seem to me most proper, that if the districts would not generously contribute them to the Township Library, they had better retain them for their own use. In addition to furnishing each town and city in the State with a library, I would suggest whether it would not be advisable, to furnish such a selection, as the State officer or officers, having this matter in charge, might deem appropriate, to the State Library, the Libraries of the State Historical Society, the Department of Public Instruction, the State Prison, House of Refuge, Deaf and Dumb Institute, Insane Asylum, Blind Asylum, and to each State Normal School, or Normal department, under State patronage and supervision. In each of these, I am very confident a proper selection would prove eminently useful. "Every man and woman," writes Hon. E. M. Macgraw, State Prison Commissioner, “who can read at all, is very anxious to have books and papers, and the greatest uneasiness is manifested when a book is read through before the day of change, and they have no reading matter on hand. I think reading has a very beneficial influence on the inmates of the Prison.”

This general plan—at least the superiority of the township system over the old district plan, and the decided advantages of the State, through its properly constituted agents, selecting the books with a view to economy and superior excellence, has met with a far more general approval by the leading educators and friends of education in the country than almost any other matter connected with our Common School system. Among them it is gratifying to observe such a brilliant galaxy of names as those of Henry Barnard, Horace Mann, Barnas Sears, Caleb Mills, Ira Mayhew, Geo. S. Boutwell, Henry S. Randall, John D. Philbrick, H. H. Barney, Anson Smyth, W. C. Larrabee, Henry C. Hickok, H. H. Van Dyck, David N. Camp, J. S. Adams, and Maturin L. Fisher, who are now, or have been, at the head of the School Departments of their respective States, and such eminent men and friends of education as the venerable President Nott, Francis Wayland, Chancellor Amos Dean, Theodore Frelinghuysen, Alexander D. Bache, Samuel S. Randall, Edward Everett, Wm. H. Prescott, Washington Irving, Bayard Taylor and Benson J. Lossing, together with a long array of worthy names of our own State. Extracts of letters from these several gentlemen, may be found appended to this Report, and cannot fail to produce a favorable impression.

Such is an outline of the Township Library system, with

[graphic]

Adams,

abanā, ours he school with

ne

something of a survey of its superiority over the old district plan. It is feasible; it is practicable; it is within our means. What other States have done, and is really worth doing, Wisconsin can do. Look at Indiana with her 370,000 volumes in her Township Libraries, Ohio with her 232,000, and Michigan with her 200,000 volumes! What a magnificent spectacle! And Michigan, too, reports but 173,000 children of school age, while Wisconsin reports 264,000; and, with this number of school children, Wisconsin ought, by the same ratio, to have over 300,000 volumes in her School Libraries; but so far from it, she has in reality, by her puny and degenerate system, only 38,000. No sane man, at all acquainted with the two States, would venture an opinion that Michigan is the superior of Wisconsin in any point of view; the wonderful increase of the latter over the former during the past ten years in wealth and population is sufficient proof on this point. It is then, the fundamental difference in the two systems that has made such a wide variance in the results of their respective school library experience, Unfortunately for Wisconsin, ours has been the old fogy system, which Michigan wisely abandoned long ago. We can, if we will, do the same. We are fully able to go up and possess the land, for there are only imaginary giants in the way. With a property valuation of well nigh two hundred millions of dollars, we have the ability. A quarter of a mill tax on this valuation, would yield $50,000.

As a people, we are very ready to spend our money freely for purposes of very doubtful utility. The cost of crime alone foots up a very heavy item. Judging from its cost in Dane county,for officers' fees, jurors' expenses, &c., the aggregate for the whole State cannot be less than $300,000 annually, and fully two-thirds as much more should be added for lawyers' fees, in criminal cases, which would swell the total amount to half a million of dollars-one tenth of which annually, would soon bless every Township in the State with a noble library of the intellectual productions of the mightiest minds that ever existed. Had we more libraries, we should have less crime; the preventive is always cheaper and better than the cure.

I admire the frank and manly advice of Prof. J. B. TURNER, of Illinois, to the farmers of that State, urging them to write more than they do for their agricultural papers. “But when you write,'' he says, “ don't let it be exclusively about corn, pork, wheat and cattle, and pecuniary interests, -all of which are vastly important to you and to the world ; still, I say, don't speak of these exclusively, but let us also hear what you are doing to raise up a fine stock of children of men and womento live on these beautiful prairies, and rule this Western Continent

Property value are only ima fully able 18 ago. We Fogy system

[graphic]

when you and I are dead, and the world has forgotten us, and all have wholly forgotten us, save those dear children that now ask a School Library at our hands. When you write, tell us in few words whether you have got this School Library; how you like it ; how your children like it ; whether their eyes sparkle more brightly, and earthly and immortal hope swells more buoyantly in their youthful hearts than before its purchase. For of these things we would like to hear, and your report and your light will encourage others to 'go and do likewise.'

Noman could begin to estimate the good effect which would result from six or seven hundred noble Township Libraries in Wisconsin, with fresh and interesting additions made every year. "The history of a single country neighborhood,” says Prof. READ, “which I intimately know, most remarkably illustrates the power of a single library in awakening and calling forth talent. It is a neighborhood in our own West—in Athens County, Ohio. It lies some twelve miles from the county seat, in the midst of hills, with no important thoroughfare passing through it, and with as few external causes of mental excitement as any neighborhood which can be found anywhere in our country. Its inhabitants are in moderate circumstances, and do not, even at this day, exceed one thousand in number. About the close of the last century, and but some four or five years after the very first blows were struck in felling the forest in that region, a few of the settlers came together to devise a plan for opening roads in the neighborhood. After this business had been completed, one of the company raised the question, How shall our young people, in their isolated condition, be led to make the most of themselves by intellectual improvement ?

“The idea of a neighborhood library was started. But money would be needed to buy the books, and money among the early settlers of that day, was almost as much unknown as among the heroes of Homer. But where there is a will there is a way; and it was finally agreed, to hold, under suitable leaders, a series of hunting matches, and to devote the furs and peltries that might be the result, for the purchase of a small library. The plan was faithfully executed; the furs and peltries sent on to Boston, where the Rev. Thaddeus M. Harris, and the Rev. Dr. Manasseh Cutler, made the selection, I have often seen this collection, after it had been much enlarged beyond the original purchase. It consisted of such books as Plutarch's Lives, Franklin's Life, Goldsmith's Animated Nature, Robertson's America, and works of this general type.

“Now, mark the result of this library upon those growing up in the neighborhood, during the half century, and little more, since it was commenced. More men and women of high standing and wide influence in society, have come forth from that single country neighborhood, than from the whole county besides, and, I think I may say, than from the five surrounding counties. Lawyers, physicians, merchants, teachers of high rank, and clergymen have come from it in remarkable numbers, in proportion to the population. Some of these are of such eminence as to be well known throughout the nation.

“I once made inquiry of Thomas Ewing, the eminent lawyer, formerly Secretary of the Treasury, and afterwards Secretary of the Interior, who was from the neighborhood of which I have been speaking, as to the cause of a spot apparently so unpromising, having produced so many persons of distinction, as well as concerning the exciting cause of his own impulses. “The Library,” he replied, “the library has done the whole, both in my own case and in that of others.” In the same conversation, he proceeded to relate an anecdote of himself, which, as it illustrates the means which the children of the poorest families will employ to secure the opportunity of reading, I will repeat. “I had gathered," said he, “my usual quantity of hickory bark for my evening's light, and with book in hand, taken my seat in the chimney corner. A gentleman staying that night at my father's, asked to see the book, and by some means, in handing it to him, it fell on the hearth, and was soiled with grease and ashes. There was by the library rules a fine of a fip for every soiled spot, and never since have I been in such distress to know how I should meet the demand, which, however, the directors at their next meeting, considering all the circumstances of the case, but especially my poverty, and ardent love of reading, generously remitted, without depriving me of the use of the library.'

“Were School Libraries scattered abroad throughout the State, the books would be used in many a family by the light of hickory bark or pine knots, and would be the means of bringing forth from poverty and obscurity many who otherwise would never know their own powers." The boy who was so distressed because he could not play his fip fine, by the blessing of a single neighborhood. library rose to distinction, and has since had the management of hundreds of millions of the people's treasure. Plant School Libraries in every township in Wisconsin, and properly nourish them, and those of us now on the stage of action who may yet be lingering on the shores of Time twenty or thirty years hence, will be able to point to many a leading statesman and man of eminence-Governors, jurists, congressmen, ambassadors, cabinet officers, and perhaps even Presidents, whose humble beginnings may be traced to these very libraries. The rude cabins in the frontier settlements of Chippewa, Mara

« AnteriorContinuar »