Imagens da página
PDF
ePub
[graphic]

It has scarcely worked any better in Wisconsin-the inherent principle is the same everywhere. Town Superintendents, in very many instances, it may charitably be supposed, give the matter little thought ; and when they do, it may not be popular, for there is always a class in almost every community who pos sess little knowledge of books, and for that very reason oppose a tax for libraries, and object to the Superintendents' setting apart ten per cent. of the State apportionment for library purposes, as the district would thereby have so much less with which to pay their teachers, and consequently have just that amount added to their ordinary local tax for that object.-So that between ignorance, demagoguism, and prejudice, School Libraries have been but too generally neglected.

The recent returns show 1,125 District Libraries, and 250 joint libraries in the State, with an aggregate of 38,755 volumes -an average of 28 volumes to each library. As the result of ten years' efforts, it is insignificant; showing upon an average an annual increase of only 3,875 volumes for a great State like ours, with a population of nearly a million of people,* and two hundred and sixty-four thousand children of school age. This would, if equally distributed, furnish one volume to about every seven scholars; or a library of about nine volumes, on an average, to each of the 4,000 school districts in the State, each averaging sixty-six children; or exhibit the very stinted increase of less than a volume a year to each such library, upon an

* POPULATION OF WISCONSIN.-By taking the census of 1850, which, in round numbers, was 305,000, and that of 1855, which was 552,000, and by the chimben tre portes de plein ise thoses children reported in those respectively; and contrasting them with the vote and school children of this year, we can very nearly ascertain the present population of the State.

The vote, in round numbers, in 1850, was 42,000; in 1855, 72,000; in 1858, 116,000. The number of school children of 1850, in round numbers, was 92,000; in 1855, 188,000; in 1858, 264,000.00

íf, therefore, 42,000 votes in 1850. gave a population of 305,000, then 116,000 votes in 1858, should give a population of 842,000

. If 72,060 votes in 1855 exhibited a population of 552,000, then 116,000 in 1858, should show a population of 889,000. The average result of both calculations would show a present population of 365,000.

Îf 92,000 school children in 1850, exhibited a population of 305,000, then 264,000 school children, in 1858, would show a population of 875.000.

If 188,000 school children in 1856, exhibited a population of 552,000, then 264,000 children, in 1858, would show a population of 775,000. The average result of these calculations would show a present population of 825,000; or averaging the calculations both by the vote of 1850, 1855 and 1858, and the school children of those years, with the census of 1850 and 1855, and we shall show a present population of 845,000. Since, therefore, the census of 1855, 1860, when the census will be takene, veoma00 annually. By the middle of million; and if the ratio of congressional representation should be increased from 93,420 to as high as 125,000, or even 130,000, Wisconsin, under the next apportionment, cannot have less than eight representatives.

average, during the ten years since our school system went into operation. Take another view of our Wisconsin library statistics; of the 56 counties in the State, 20 of them report not a single library; 6 others report 9 libraries, with a total of 131 volumes; 8 others report 61 libraries, with 2,017 volumesthus exhibiting in 34 counties 70 libraries, with 2,148 volumes, and this for nearly three-fifths of the counties of the State. So that, in round numbers, 36,000 of the 38,000 volumes in the District Libraries, are confined to twenty-six of the more populous and wealthy counties, which comprise less than one-eighth of the territorial limits of the State. And here as elsewhere, in the sparsely settled counties, where there is most poverty, and least intellectual advantages-where, indeed, School Libraries are most particularly needed, such a thing is seldom or never known. 1. Such is our destitution in the matter of School Libraries. It should be humiliating to our State pride to ponder these facts--and doubly humiliating when we see, as we must, that we are doing almost next to nothing whatever in furnishing useful reading for our over a quarter of a million of children. When we bring to mind the 200,000 volumes in Township Libraries of Michigan, the 332,000 in the School Libraries of Ohio,and the 370,000 in the Township Libraries of Indiana—making altogether over nine hundred thousand volumes, all engaged in a work of love, intelligence, virtue and happiness, the magnitude of which is beyond all human calculation, fraught with the noblest and richest blessings to over a million and a half of children, we should feel a sentiment of pride that we have such sister States in the noble North-West, who are doing so much for the intellectual growth of our country. While we wonder and admire, shall not these amazing intellectual achievements quicken and encourage us to imitate their wise and munificent example.

On the present district system we have but one third of the districts in the State supplied with libraries, and they so small as scarcely to deserve the name ; and these few are located in portions of the State where they could better be spared than in the more remote destitute frontier regions. The few books purchased are but too generally obtained of itinerant hawkers and peddlers, at extravagant prices, which could well be borne if they did not prove, as they frequently do, moral pests of society. The district plan must necessarily exhibit puny, inefficient, and unsatisfactory results ; emphatically failing to accomplish the noble objects sought to be gained by such collections. Other States have wisely abandoned the district plan, and others are preparing to do so, and the Township system is invariably the substitute. 10 vjetoringa

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 neg

. 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. alex

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

[graphic]
[graphic][subsumed]
[ocr errors]

poorest."

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 Éildreth'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 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 numver 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

general

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »