« AnteriorContinuar »
in his annual report of 1851, thus recommends: “It seems to me, that the only feasible way of establishing a general system of public libraries in the State, is to apply the system to towns, instead of school districts."
New Hampshire and Vermont have no State system of School Libraries; but in Rhode Island and Connecticut, where Mr. BARNARD has labored and sown the good seed, better results have been accomplished. Mr. BARNARD, as the Rev. Dr. WAYLAND assured me, in conversation, “ did a great work for Rhode Island in the matter of School Libraries, while at the head of the department of Public Instruction of that State, by infusing the right spirit among the people.” The State furnished no direct aid, we believe, and the towns and districts' were left to their own discretion. Some 20,000 volumes were reported in 1852, in the School Libraries of the five small counties, comprising thirty towns of that State. Tudi
Connecticut.-In 1841, Mr. BARNARD, then Secretary of the Board of School Commissioners of Connecticut, eloquently urged the establishment of School Libraries, the districts to furnish as much as the State for the object. Public sentiment was not then prepared for this noble measure. Hon. JOHN D. PHILBRICK, as Superintendent of Common Schools of that State, in 1855, again brought the subject to the consideration of the Legislature, and pressed the matter with such earnestness, that a law was enacted the following year, granting ten dollars to every school district, for a School Library, and five dollars each succeeding year, on condition of such district raising as much by tax or subscription, for the same purpose:About one third of the districts of the State have availed themselves of the provisions of this law, the districts being left to select the books, subject to the approval of the Board of Town Visitors.
Middle and Southern States.-Except New York, and a spasmodic effort in New Jersey, none of the Middle States have yet done anything towards School Libraries. In Pennsylvania, their necessity is felt, but they have no State School Fund, and hence have a heavy educational tax to levy. The Southern States have done nothing in the direction of School Libraries. The West--the giant WEST, has outdone them all.
Michigan.-This State took the lead in the West, in establishing libraries for Schools. They were at first District Libraries, but in 1843, we find them changed into Township Libraries. The sum of $25 is by law annually set apart by each town, out of its local tax, for the Township Library; and to this is added about an equal amount, derived from the cle
proceeds of all fines and penalties for breach of the penal laws of the State, recognizances, and exemption equivalents from military duty. Thus the sum of about $30,000, is annually expended for the replenishment of these libraries, the Township School Inspectors being charged with the duty of selecting and purchasing the books. It is the testimony of Hon. IRA MAYHEW, the Superintendent of Public Instruction of that State, that “wherever Township Libraries have been established, and properly maintained, they have been productive of incalculable good.”
There are now over 500 Township Libraries in Michigan, possessing an aggregate of over 200,000 volumes, or an average of 400 volumes to each library. From the large amount of money appropriated to this purpose, it would seem that there should have been a much larger number of volumes in the libraries ; but we may charge something, doubtless, of this apparent deficiency, to the system of purchasing the books of itinerant hawkers and pedlars, who naturally enough feel that they should have pretty liberal profits, with something clever, added for freights, and still, perhaps, another item for selecting the books for the local officers.
Ohio.- Hon. SAMUEL LEWIS, Hon. JOHN SLOANE, Hon. SAMUEL GALLOWAY, Hon. HENRY W. KING, and Hon. H. H. BARNEY, successive heads of the School Department of that State, urged the establishment of School Libraries. After fifteen years' agitation of the subject, the Legislature at length became awakened to its importance, and in 1853, one-tenth of a mill State tax was imposed on the State valuation, and annually appropriated for the specific purpose of School Libraries, the State Commissioner being charged with the duty of selecting the books, and contracting for their delivery. This tax amounts to upwards of eighty thousand dollars a year; and in the years 1854, 1855, and 1856, the total value of the books distributed, amounted to over two hundred and two thousand dollars, and and the value of over nineteen thousand dollars in addition was distributed in school apparatus. The total number of volumes distributed to the School Libraries of Ohio in those three years, was 332,579. After a suspension of the library tax for two years, it has again become operative, and probably not less than 100,000 additional volumes will shortly be distributed.
The present library law of Ohio, fraught as it is with such incalculable good, has met with some opposition, which the present State School Commissioner, Hon. ANSON SMYTH, thinks" has arisen from the fact that sub-district, rather than Township libraries have been attempted. This plan has given to many of the districts so small à number of books, as to render these libraries little else than objects of contempt ; whereas, if all the books apportioned to the township had formed a single Library, it would have been an object of esteem and proper management. For example, here is a Township which receives an apportionment of books to the value of $100 ; sufficient for the beginning of an extensive and useful library. But the Township is divided into twelve sub-districts; and when the books are distributed, each receives a library of the average value of about eight dollars. It has been a disputed point, whether the law designed to establish Township, or sub-district Libraries. In regard to the matter, it is not so clear and explicit as it should be. I therefore recommend that the language of the law be so amended as to require the establishment of Township Libraries. If this shall be done, I doubt not that the Library Law will soon become acceptable and popular throughout the State. Pored
Indiana.--As nobly as Ohio has done for School Libraries for her children, Indiana has done still better. Seven years ago, when the School Laws of Indiana were undergoing a revision, Prof. DANIEL READ, now of our State University, and then a Professor in the Indiana State University, and who had shortly previous held a seat in the Convention for the revision of the Constitution of that State, was invited by the joint committee on education of the two houses of the Legislature, to deliver an address on the means of promoting common school education.
Among other appropriate topics, Prof. READ strongly urged the establishment of an efficient School Library plan, as indispensable to give vitality to any school system which might be adopted ; and, with some hesitancy, ventured
propose an appropriation of some $30,000 for this object. -66 The next day,' says Prof. READ, “ROBERT DALE OWEN, now our Minister resident at the Court of the Two Sicilies, who was then chairman of the joint committee on education, sent for me to call at his room. He said to me, 'You proposed $30,000 for School Libraries. That will never do. The committee will not assent to such an appropriation. What! said he in his earnest manner, - will the people of Indiana freely raise taxes to pay the interest on millions of money for which they never received the value of a pin-hook, and when the children of the State cry for the bread of intellectual life shall they refuse them, or put them off with the half of a loaf ? No, sir ! No, sir! The committee will report nearer $130,000, for this the greatest object which has ever been proposed to our consideration."
Where such enlarged and patriotic views prevailed, it is scarcely necessary to add, that others caught the same noble
spirit, and the present Township Library system -- the praise and admiration of all the land
- was promptly adopted. A State property tax of one-fourth of a mill, and a twenty-five cent poll tax, provided the means for the purchase of the libraries, and the State Board of Education were charged with the duty of selecting the books, and contracting on the best terms for them. The law was limited in its operations to two years, but has since been renewed. But two purchases have yet been made, and the reports of 1855 and 1856 seem to exhibit over three hundred and seventy thousand volumes in the several Township Libraries of the State, at an apparent cost of $296,000_or an average of 80 cents a volume. The partial suspension of legislation which has since unfortunately existed, has checked the progress of the library system of Indiana, but this can be only a temporary evil, from which the State will speedily recover, and continue in the noble career upon which it has so auspiciously entered.
Hon. CALEB MILLS, formerly Superintendent of Public Instruction of that State, denominates the Township. Library feature as the “crowning excellence” of the Indiana educational system. " The operation of the library feature of the system, as far as heard from," he remarks in his annual report of Feb., 1856, “has been exceedingly happy, disappointing the predictions of its enemies, and the fears of its timid friends, and even transcending the most sanguine expectations of its more ardent advocates. The interest awakened by its use, and the estimation in which it is held by adults, as well as youth, confirm the wisdom that gave it a township character rather than a district mission. Its selection and purchase by the Board of Education is not without advantages of an important character. The former may be controlled and governed by the principles of a wise, judicious and well matured plan, and thus secure all that could be desired in forming the taste and giving direction to the reading material furnished by the State, while the latter cannot be else than superior in economy to any other method."
Illinois, Iowa and Missouri.-These States have as yet done but little in the way of School Libraries. In Illinois private enterprise is doing something for the supply of librar ries, with the sanction of the local Boards, and Superintendent of Public Instruction. In the revised School Law of Iowa, provision is made for Township Libraries. Missouri has reported the commencement of a district system.
Upper Canada has an efficient school system, not the least important or successful feature of which is its School Libraries. These are furnished for County, Township, or District organizations, the Government apportioning one hundred per cent. upon all
sums contributed for this purpose of not less than five dollars, either for the establishment or increase of Public Libraries the Government furnishing the books at the lowest wholesale rates. During the three years since this system went into operation, about 170,000 volumes have been distributed ; and about one third of all the sections or districts in the Province, have secured libraries.
THE TOWNSHIP LIBRARY SYSTEM THE WANT OF WISCONSIN.
I hesitate not to say, that after a careful survey of the School Library experiences of this country, every unprejudiced, impartial man will come to the conclusion, that the greatest success has attended that system where the State has provided the books, and sent them forth to every township within her borders. The Township Library system is what we want in Wisconsin. Its superiority over the old district plan, is thus briefly pointed out by Hon. CALEB MILLs, late Superintendent of Public Instruction of Indiana, in speaking of the system of that State : "Its peculiar and crowning excellence is, that it is a Township in distinction from a district library. Libraries on this basis assume, at once, a character for permanence, importance and usefulness, that the lapse of years and the expenditure of ten-fold the funds will hardly impart to the district collection. It also posseses another element, distinguishing it om the product of a mere township association, charged with
e responsibility of selection and purchase, which may be denominated its State feature, and securing to each township its due proportion of books, under circumstances that promise a more judicious selection, and a more economical purchase.These features are sufficient to recommend it to the favorable regard of the public, and justify the expectation that the principles controlling the selection, will be sound and judicious, as well as the purchase will be wise and economical.”
Let us see what Wisconsin has done for School Libraries 'under its district system, during the ten years since its organization as a State. In the first place, ten per cent. of the State apportionment was to be appropriated by the Town Superintendents for District Library purposes ; this requirement was subsequently changed, so as to leave it optional with the Superintendents whether or not to so appropriate it.
In either case, the districts were authorized to levy a tax not exceeding thirty dollars annually for the establishment or increase of their libraries. This simple permission for the Town Superintendents, and the districts, to do something for libraries, was long ago regarded as a signal failure in New York and New England.