were fortunate enough to hear her again in the room above, on Abraham Lincoln’s hundredth birthday, when she held the attention of a large number of boys and girls for more than an hour.
The next summer “What you can get out of a Henty book” was used as an excuse for showing books and pictures about the Crusades, Venice, the knights of Malta, the Rebellion of the Forty-five, the East India Company, the siege of Gibraltar, the Peninsula war, and modern Italy.
That summer we had a puzzle-club to show younger children how to work the puzzles in St. Nicholas and other magazines and newspapers. We held our first Christmas exhibition that year, 1906, in the room itself, for one day only, before the hour of opening.
After an exhibition of lace in the Athenaeum the next spring, the specialist who arranged it held the attention of her audience of girls between ten and fourteen, giving a practical illustration of the making of pillow-lace, showing specimens of different kinds, pointing out the use of lace in old-fashioned costumes for children, and exhibiting a piece of Valenciennes which had been stolen by a catbird and recovered before it was woven into a nest. This talk was given at my request, because we could find almost nothing on lace in books for children, and the exhibit was then attracting much notice.
That year our first children’s librarian, who had given only a part of her working hours to the room, the rest to the loan- desk, left us to be married. The school work had grown so fast that it had become necessary for us to find a successor who was equal to it, and whose sole time could be given to that and the care of the room, which is open only from 3.30 to 6 on school- days, except on Wednesdays, Saturdays and in vacations, when we have all-day hours. The children in vacation-time may change story-books every day if they like–practically none of them do it–but in school time they are allowed only one a week. This is not a hardship, for they may use their non-fiction cards, which give them anything else, including bound magazines.
Our children’s librarian makes up for lack of library technique by her acquaintance with teachers, and experience in day, evening and vacation schools, that have brought her into contact with children of all sorts and conditions.
The summer before her coming I had charge of the room for a part of every day, and observing that children under fourteen were beginning to think that they had read everything in the room and were asking to be transferred, I made a collection of books, principally novels, from the main library, marked them and the bookcards with a red star, and placed them on side shelves, where the younger children soon learned that they would find nothing to interest them. This keeps the older boys and girls in the room until they are ready for the main library, and when they are transferred they are sent to me in my office, where they are told that some one is always ready to give them help if they ask for it. The list of books for the first year after coming into the library is handed to them, and they are also referred to the high school shelves, to be mentioned later.
We insist on a father or mother coming with a child and leaving a signature or mark on the back of the application-card. This is placing responsibility where it belongs, and as we always have at least one of the staff who can speak Yiddish, and others who speak Italian, the parents are usually willing to come.
We are very strict in exacting fines as a means of teaching children to be responsible and careful of public property.
One summer the children acted simple impromptu plays, Cinderella, Blue Beard, Beauty and the beast, on the lawn outside the long windows. The lawn has been in bad condition for nearly two years, on account of the building of the Morgan memorial, but has now been planted again. One May-day we had an old English festival around a Maypole on the green, with Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlett, the hobby- horse, the dragon and all the rest, including Jack in the Green and an elephant. This was such a success that we were asked to repeat it across the river on the East Hartford Library green, where it was highly complimented on account of being so full of the spirit of play.
Our Christmas exhibits have been held every year, at first, as I have said, for one day only, then for two or three in the rooms above, and for the last two years in a large room used by the Hartford Art Society as a studio until it moved to a whole house across the street. This room has space for our school libraries, and the room which they had outgrown was fitted up at no expense except for chairs and a change in the lighting, as a study-room for the older boys and girls, who also have the privilege of reading any stories they find on the shelves, which are on one side only. The other shelves, placed across the room, were moved to the studio, which is so large that it has space for story-telling, or oftener story-reading. The winter of the Dickens centennial, through the month of February, the beginnings of “David Copperfield,” “Nicholas Nickleby,” “Dombey and son” and “Great expectations” were read.
In 1911, a gift of twenty-five dollars from a friend was spent for the boys’ and girls’ room, and has bought specimens of illustration, Grimm’s “Fairy tales,” illustrated by Arthur Rackham; Kate Greenaway’s “Under the window,” “Marigold garden,” “Little Ann” and “Pied piper”, Laura Starr’s “Doll book,” and a fine copy of Knight’s “Old England,” full of engravings, including a morris dance such as has been performed here, and Hare’s “Portrait book of our kings and queens.” The rest of the money bought a globe for the older boys’ and girls’ reading-table, and sent from Venice a reproduction of a complete “armatura,” or suit of Italian armor, eighteen inches high.
In 1912 the boys and girls of grades 7 to 9 in the district and parochial schools were invited to listen to stories from English history in the Librarian’s office of the Hartford Public Library on Tuesday afternoons in July and August. Some of the subjects were The Roman wall, The Danish invasion, King Alfred and the white horses said to have been cut to commemorate his victories, The Crusades, and The captivity of James I. of Scotland. The Longman series of colored wall-prints was used as a starting point for the stories. Children in grades 4 to 6 listened at a later hour to stories from Hawthorne’s “Wonderbook” and “Tanglewood tales.”
The Hartford Public Library had an exhibit at the state fair, September 2-7, 1912, in the Child-welfare building. In a space 11 by 6 were chairs, tables covered with picture-books, a bookcase with libraries for school grades, probation office, and a settlement, and another with inexpensive books worth buying for children. Pictures of countries and national costumes were hung on the green burlap screens which enclosed the sides of the miniature room. At about the same time we printed a list of pleasant books for boys and girls to read after they have been transferred to the main library. They are not all classics, but are interesting. The head of the high school department of English and some of the other teachers asked the library’s help in making a list of books for suggested reading during the four years’ course. This list has been printed and distributed. Copies are hung near two cases with the school pennant above them, and one of the staff sees that these cases are always filled with books mentioned in it. The high school has a trained librarian, who borrows books from the Public Library and tries in every way to encourage its use.
From Dec. 3 to 24, 1912 and 1913, the exhibit of Christmas books for children and young people was kept open by the library in the large room in the annex. The exhibit included three or four hundred volumes, picture books by the best American, English, French, German, Italian, Danish, and Russian illustrators, inexpensive copies and also new and beautiful editions of old favorites, finely illustrated books attractive to growing-up young people, and the best of the season’s output. It had many visitors, some of them coming several times. We sent a special invitation to the students in the Hartford Art Society, some of whom are hoping to be illustrators, and appreciate the picture- books highly.
The boys’ and girls’ room received last winter a fine photo- graphic copy of Leighton’s “Return of Persephone,” in time for Hawthorne’s version of the story, which is usually read when pomegranates are in the market and again six months later, when Persephone comes up to earth and the grass and flowers begin to spring.
One day John Burroughs made an unexpected visit to the room, and it happened that when the children reading at the tables were told who he was, and asked who of them had read “Squirrels and furbearers,” the boy nearest him held up his hand with the book in it. That boy will probably never forget his first sight of a real live author!
Last winter we received a gift of a handsome bookcase with glass doors, which we keep in the main library, filled with finely illustrated books for children to be taken out on grown-up cards only. This is to insure good care.
For several years we have been collecting a family of foreign dolls, who are now forty-five in number, of all sorts and sizes, counting seventeen marionettes such as the poor children in Venice play with, half a dozen Chinese actors, and nine brightly colored Russian peasants in wood. The others are Tairo, a very old Japanese doll in the costume of the feudal warriors, Thora from Iceland, Marit the Norwegian bride, Erik and Brita from Sweden, Giuseppe and Marietta from Rome, Heidi and Peter from the Alps, Gisela from Thuringia, Cecilia from Hungary, Annetje from Holland, Lewie Gordon from Edinburgh, Christie Johnstone the Newhaven fishwife, Sambo and Dinah the cotton- pickers. Mammy Chloe from Florida, an Indian brave and squaw from British America, Laila from Jerusalem, Lady Geraldine of 1830 and Victoria of 1840. Every New Year’s Day, in answer to a picture bulletin which announces a doll-story and says “Bring your doll,” the little girls come with fresh, clean, Christmas dolls, and every one who has a name is formally presented to the foreign guests, who sit in chairs on a table. Lack of imagination is shown in being willing to own a doll without a name, and this year the subject of names was mentioned in time for the little girls to have them ready. Mrs. Mary Hazelton Wade, author of many of the “Little cousins,” lives in Hartford, and lately gave us a copy of her “Dolls of many countries.” I told her about the party and invited her, and she told the fifty children who were listening about the Feasts of Dolls in Japan. The doll-story was E. V. Lucas’s “Doll doctor,” and it was followed by William Brightly Rands’s “Doll poems.”
In 1893, the year after the library became free, the Connecticut Public Library Committee was organized. For about ten years it had no paid visitor and inspector, and I, as secretary of the committee, had to go about the state in the little time I could spare from regular duties, trying to arouse library interest in country towns. Now most of the field work is done by the visitor, but I have spoken many times at teachers’ meetings and library meetings. We began by sending out pamphlets–“What a free library can do for a country town”–emphasizing what its possibilities are of interesting children, and “What a library and school can do for each other.” Every year the libraries receive a grant of books from the state, and send in lists subject to approval. We often found the novels and children’s books asked for unworthy of being bought with state money by a committee appointed by the Board of Education, and began to print yearly lists of recommended titles of new books, from which all requested must be chosen. The standard is gradually growing higher. The Colonial Dames have for years paid for traveling libraries, largely on subjects connected with colonial history, to be sent to country schools from the office of the committee, and have also given traveling portfolios of pictures illustrating history, chosen and mounted by one of their number. The Audubon Society sends books, largely on out-of-door subjects, and bird-charts, to schools and libraries all over the state. Traveling libraries, miscellaneous or on special subjects, are sent out on request.
A Library Institute has been held every summer for five years under the direction of the visitor and inspector. It lasts for two weeks, and several lectures are always given by specialists in work with children.
The choice of books, sources of stories for children, and what to recommend to them are frequently discussed in meetings for teachers and librarians.
A book-wagon has for the last two or three years gone through a few towns where there is no public library, circulating several thousand books a year for adults and children, and exciting an interest which may later develop into the establishment of public libraries. The committee has now 105 which receive the state grant. Wherever a new library is opened, a special effort is made through the schools to make it attractive to children.
At this time of year the mothers’ clubs in the city and adjoining towns often ask for talks on what to buy, and boxes of books are taken to them, not only expensive and finely illustrated copies, but the best editions that can be bought for a very little money. These exhibitions have been also given at country meetings held by the Connecticut Public Library Committee.
A library column in a Hartford Sunday paper is useful in showing the public what libraries in other states and cities are doing, and in attracting attention to work with children. Letters to the children themselves at the beginning of vacation, printed in a daily paper and sent to the schools, invite them to book-talks. Other printed letters about visits to places connected with books and authors, sent home from England and Scotland with postcards, have excited an interest in books not always read by children. This year the Hartford children’s librarian has read the letters and shown the books referred to, post-cards and pictures, to a club of girls from the older grammar grades, who were invited through the letters just spoken of to leave their names with her.
A club of children’s librarians from towns within fifteen miles around Hartford meets weekly from October to May. Meetings all over the state under the Public Library Committee have stimulated interest in work with children, and Library Day is celebrated every year in the schools.
The visitor and inspector reports visits to eight towns in December, and says: “Somewhat more than a year ago, at the request of the supervisor, I made out a list of books for the X—- school libraries. These were purchased, and this year the chairman of the school board requested my assistance in arranging the collection in groups to be sent in traveling library cases until each school shall have had each library. I spent two days at the town hall working with the chairman of the school board, the supervisor, a typist and two school teachers.
“A new children’s room has been opened in the Y—- library since my visit there. It is double the size of the room formerly in use, and much lighter and more cheerful. The first grant from the state was expended entirely for children’s books, the selection being made in this office.
“In Z—- I gave an Audubon stereopticon lecture, prefacing it with an account of the work on the Audubon Society, and an enumeration of the loans to schools. The audience in a country schoolhouse, half a mile from Z—- village, numbered 102.”
A CHAPTER IN CHILDREN’S LIBRARIES
The following account of the beginning of children’s work in Arlington, Mass., in 1835, marks the earliest date yet claimed for the establishment of library work with children, and was written for the January, 1913, number of The Library Journal. Alice M. Jordan was born in Thomaston, Maine, and was educated in the schools of Newton, Massachusetts. After teaching for a few years she entered the service of the Boston Public Library in 1900, Since 1902 she has been Chief of the Children’s Department in that library, and since 1911 a member of the staff of Simmons College Library School.
“In consequence of a grateful remembrance of hospitality and friendship, as well as an uncommon share or patronage, afforded me by the inhabitants of West Cambridge, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in the early part of my life when patronage was most needful to me, I give to the said town of West Cambridge one hundred dollars for the purpose of establishing a juvenile library in said town. The Selectmen, Ministers of the Gospel, and Physicians of the town of West Cambridge, for the time being shall receive this sum, select and purchase the books for the library which shall be such books as, in their opinion, will best promote useful knowledge and the Christian virtues among the inhabitants of the town who are scholars, or by usage have a right to attend as scholars in their primary schools. Other persons may be admitted to the privilege of said library under the direction of said town, by paying a sum for membership and an annual tax for the increase of the same. And my said executors are directed to pay the same within one year after my decease.”
This “extract from the last will and testament of Dr. Ebenezer Learned, late of Hopkinton, N. H.,” forms the first book plate of the Arlington (Mass.) Public Library, founded in 1835. It appears to be the earliest record we have of a specific bequest for a children’s library, free to all the children of the town receiving it.
In the late eighteenth century it was the custom at Harvard College to grant a six-weeks’ vacation in winter and summer, when students could earn money for college expenses. The popular way of doing this was to teach school. Ebenezer Learned, a young man in the class of 1787, availed himself of this opportunity and taught in West Cambridge, or Menotomy. His associations there were pleasant ones, and the memory of the friends then made persisted through his later successful career. Dr. Learned became a practicing physician, first in Leominster (Mass.) and later in Hopkinton, N. H. He is said to have been warmly interested in education and science throughout his life, and was the originator of the New Hampshire Agricultural Society and vice-president of the New Hampshire Medical Society. And yet with all these later interests, his thought, toward the end of his life, was of the little town where he taught his first school.
At the time of receiving this legacy there were in West Cambridge two ministers–a Unitarian and a Baptist–and one physician. Together with the selectmen, they formed the first board of trustees, which met on Nov. 30, 1835, and voted that the books selected for the library should be such as were directed by Dr. Learned’s will, “the same not being of a sectarian character.” Selection of books was left largely to Mr. Brown, of the newly formed firm of Little & Brown, publishers. He was directed to spend at least half of the bequest for books suitable for the purpose, and these were sent to the home of Dr. Wellington, the physician on the board.
Then followed the task of selecting a librarian, and the obvious choice was Mr. Dexter, a hatter by trade and already in charge of the West Cambridge Social Library. This was a subscription library, founded in 1807, and consisting mainly of volumes of sermons and “serious reading.” The question of the librarian’s salary was the next care, for the state law authorizing towns to appropriate tax money for libraries was yet ten years in the future. At town meeting, in 1837, however, one of the trustees called attention to the clause in Dr. Learned’s will which provided that others, beside children, might use the library by paying a sum for membership and an annual assessment. “Why should not the town pay the tax, and thus make it free to all the inhabitants?” he asked. And this was done. The town at once appropriated thirty dollars for the library, and the right to take books was extended to all the families in town. From this time the institution has been a free town library, the earliest of its class in Massachusetts.
The little collection of books for the West Cambridge Juvenile Library traveled to its first home on a wheelbarrow. “Uncle” Dexter would make hats during the week, and on Saturday afternoons open the library for the children. Three books were the limit for a family, and they could be retained for thirty days. That the books were actually read by the children is vouched for by those who remember the library from its beginning. Even free access to the shelves was permitted for a while. But we come to a period, later, when the by-laws declare, “No person except the librarian shall remove a book from the shelves.”
One would like to know just what those books were for which one-half of that precious bequest was first spent. The earliest extant catalog of the juvenile library is dated 1855, though there exists an earlier list (1835) of the Social Library. Tradition has handed down the names of two books said to be in the first collection, but one of these is certainly of later date. The first is still in existence, a copy of the “History of Corsica,” by James Boswell. One who as a boy read this book, years ago, in the West Cambridge Juvenile Library, recalled it with delight when he visited Corsica years afterward.
The other title, mentioned as belonging to the first library, is “The history of a London doll.” But this delightful child’s story, by Richard Hengist Home, was not published until 1846. Some of the Waverley novels are also remembered as being among the earliest purchases. Of course, we realize that books which “will best promote useful knowledge and the Christian virtues” in school children are not necessarily children’s books. So we may be tolerably sure that Rollins’ and Robertson’s histories, as well as Goldsmith and Irving, would have appeared in the catalog had there been one.
The juvenile library remained a year in its first home, the frame house still standing near the railroad which runs through Arlington. There have been five library homes since then, including the meeting house, where the collection of books was nearly doubled by the addition of the district school libraries and a part of the Social Library.
In 1867 the town changed its name to Arlington, discarding the Indian name of Menotomy, by which it was known before its incorporation as West Cambridge. The library then became known as the Arlington Juvenile Library, and, in 1872, its name was formally changed to Arlington Public Library. With the gift of a memorial building, in 1892, the present name, the Robbins Library, was adopted by the town.
It is characteristic of our modern carelessness of what the past has given us, that we have lost sight of this first children’s library. Not Brookline in 1890, not New York in 1888, but Arlington in 1835 marks the beginning of public library work with children. Here is one public library, with a history stretching back over seventy-five years, which need not apologize for any expenditure in its work with children. Its very being is rooted in one man’s thought for the children of the primary schools. Dr. Learned could think of no better way of repaying the kindnesses done to a boy than by putting books into the hands of other boys and girls. A children’s librarian may well be grateful for the memory of this far-seeing friend of children, who held the belief that books may be more than amusement, and that the civic virtues can be nourished by and in a “juvenile library.”
THE CHILDREN’S LIBRARY IN NEW YORK
The leading editorial in The Library Journal for May, 1887, says: “The plan of providing good reading for very little children begins at the beginning, and the work of the Children’s Library Association, outlined in a paper in this number, may prove to be the start of a movement of great social importance.” This interesting personal account was written by Miss Emily S. Hanaway, principal of the primary department of Grammar School No. 28, in New York City, to whom came the thought, “Why not give the children reading-rooms?”, and through whose efforts the Association was organized.
Emily S. Hanaway was married in 1891 to the Reverend Peter Stryker. She died in 1915 in her eightieth year. Her library was ultimately forced to close its doors, but its influence remains.
For several years it had caused me much pain to find that many of the children in our school were either without suitable reading or were reading books of a most injurious kind. The more I pondered the matter the more I became convinced that much of the poison infused into the mind of a child begins at a very early age. As soon as a child takes interest in pictures the taste begins to be formed. Give him only common comic or sensational ones, and he will seize them and look no higher. On the other hand, give him finely-wrought sketches and paintings, tell him to be very careful how he handles them, and he will despise the trash of the present day. Place in his hand clear print, and he will never want the vile copy of a sensational paper often thrown in at our doors. Place in his hand Babyland, tell him that he is an annual subscriber, and the importance of having his name printed on the copy will induce him to do as a little relative of mine has frequently done. He will run after the postman and ask him how long before the next number will arrive.
Upon one occasion we endeavored to find out what sort of books our school-children were reading, and asked them to bring a few for us to examine. Some of them, having been directed in their reading by discreet, faithful parents, brought such periodicals as St. Nicholas, Chatterbox, Harper’s Young People, etc., while others brought the vilest kind of literature, and one little fellow brought a large copy of the “Annual Report of the Croton Aqueduct.”
In the summer of 1885, while seated in a room where the National Association of Teachers had assembled, a thought, as if some one had leaned over my shoulder and suggested it, came suddenly into my mind: “Why not give the children reading- rooms?” There was no getting rid of the thought. All that afternoon and evening it followed me. After the meeting, in the evening, I asked Prof. E. E. White, of Ohio, if he thought such an undertaking could be carried out. He answered, “Yes; but it is gigantic.” I came home fully persuaded that it must be tried; but where should I begin? As soon as school opened in September, it occurred to me that almost opposite our school- building there was a day-nursery, the lady in charge of which appeared to be a very earnest worker. She said she would be very glad to help, as she had a small library at that time, which her children used in the nursery.
On visiting the publishers, generous donations were promised from Treat, Scribner, Taintor & Merrill, Barnes, and others. These were sent to the nursery. A few years before, a former principal in our school, Miss Victoria Graham, had worked with great energy to have a library in P. D., G. S. 28, and the proceeds of an entertainment given in 1872 in the Academy of Music had furnished two or three hundred books. Miss Graham died the same year, and as we had no regular librarian, many of the books were lost. About sixty were left. These also were sent to the nursery, and our children went over every week to draw books. This was the first attempt. But we felt that it was but a small beginning, and that if we wished to bring in all creeds we must free the public mind from suspicion, and have a representation from every denomination, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Hebrew. Accordingly, we planned that when a committee should be organized, every religious faith should be represented among those who were to choose the books. As we wished to have many of these rooms throughout the city, and as our friends at the day-nursery, under their arrangements, could not have a committee, we thought it would do no harm to start anew. So we conferred with the various clergymen of all denominations, in a neighborhood well known to us, and received great encouragement. Dr. Mendez became a member of our organization committee, and has been present at very many of our business meetings.
We then visited the persons named by these gentlemen, for our organization committee, and when we had found eleven willing to serve, a kind friend in West 22d St., Mrs. Hanford Smith, gave us the use of her parlors for our meeting. A more gloomy committee has been seldom seen. “Have you a room for a library?” was asked. “No.” “Any money?” “No.” “Any books?” “No.” “Absurd! How do you expect to start such a work?” “On faith.” Next a vote was taken whether to organize or not. It was decided to organize. Mr. Edward Chichester was elected president, Mr. Edward Vanderbiit secretary, and Mr. E. P. Pitcher to the very responsible position of treasurer, without a cent in the treasury.
Here it is only due to Rev. Dr. Terry to speak of the encouragement he gave. The Y. M. C. A. connected with the South Reformed Church, on 21st St. and 5th Ave., were talking of taking rooms at 243 9th Ave., for a young men’s club, and through the doctor’s efforts we were allowed to come into these rooms from 4 to 6 p. m., all through the season, from December to May, with the understanding that we might pay or not, according to our success in obtaining funds. One trouble was over. We then began our circuit once again through the city, after school hours, visiting every publishing-house named in the directory, beside making many personal visits to friends, who encouraged us by gifts of books.
We are largely indebted to Dodd, Mead & Co., Carter, Taintor, Merrill & Co., and many others, who have given most liberally; also to friends, who have given us many $5 bills, and enabled us not only to pay expenses, including librarian, tickets of admission, covers for books, circulars, etc., but also to hand over most joyfully to Dr. Terry $40 for the use of room at the close of the season.
Last fall we tried to begin our work once more, and after walking from 40th to 23d St., along 8th and 9th Avenues, I at last found rooms on W. 35th Street. Dr. Terry kindly loaned us furniture, and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union shared with us the modest rent of $13 per month, $6.50 each.
Last year P. D. No. 45, in West 24th St., sent a large representation from their school. This year they asked for and received tickets. We had about 350 books, and issued about 700 admission tickets. At one time during the winter the librarian sent me this message: “Only eight books are left on the shelves. Do you think it best to close the room to-day?” I returned word: “Get in all the books you can; do not give out any for a short time, but let the children come in and look at the stereoscopic views, play games, look at or read pamphlets. When they have returned a sufficient number, begin to distribute again.” That week we received several parcels of books, and started up again. We had applications for tickets from P. D., G. S. No. 11, 37th St. Prim. Deptt, 34th St. R. Ch. S. School, Ind. School, West 415t St., and others. Male Dep’t, G. S. No. 67, asked for 91 tickets. Some of the children in P. D., G. S. No. 28, shed tears when their teacher informed them that we had no more tickets.
The children stood on the sidewalk on a Friday afternoon, not long ago, from 2:30 until 5:30, patiently waiting for their turn to enter the room, as the librarian could only allow a certain number to enter at one time.
Dr. Barnett visited the rooms with the intention of putting up chest-expanders for exercise, but he found them too small, and the woodwork too frail, for any such purposes.
We have a number of subscribers at $1 per year, although some have gone far beyond this in subscriptions. We closed on May 1, to reopen in the fall.
One great reason for keeping open through the year is that many parents are obliged to work all day, and the children run the risk of getting into all sorts of crime. As an instance, not long since I found a little girl in our department who had been frequently caught pilfering. At last we thought it necessary to send for the mother. She burst into tears and said: “What am I to do? My children are alone after school hours until I return, and I do not know what they are doing.” I asked if the children had tickets for the reading-room, and here found another difficulty. “Not on the same day,” she said. We had been obliged to send the girls on three days of the week, and the boys on two days, because of the lack of room, and of helpers. Several teachers have since come forward and offered their services. Two teachers in our department have gone every Monday, and two others every Friday, and appeared to take great pleasure in the work. All honor to such young, earnest workers, for they deserve it!
We have recently received a box of books, toys, etc., from the “Little Helpers” in Elyria, Ohio, and Columbia College is taking an active interest in our work. We are leaning upon our friends of the college library for support and help, in time to come. All our meetings are held at Columbia College.
We hope for liberal donations, and we feel quite sure–yes, as sure as we felt on that gloomy evening last winter, when we decided to go on–that from the kind words of encouragement, and the liberal gifts that we have received in the past, the gifts are coming in the future; and when we are resting from our labors, others yet unborn shall rise up and call those blessed who have strengthened our hands. And we believe that when this comes the prison doors will open less frequently.
THE WORK FOR CHILDREN IN FREE LIBRARIES
In the following paper, read in 1897 before the Friends’ Library Association of Philadelphia, and the New York Library Club, Miss Mary W. Plummer discussed some of the “experiences and theories” of a number of libraries and the “requisites for the ideal children’s library.” Mary Wright Plummer was born in Richmond, Indiana, in 1856, was graduated from the Friends’ Academy there, and was a special student at Wellesley College, 1881-1882. She entered the “first class of the first library school,” and in 1888 became a certified graduate of the Library School of Columbia College. For the next two years she was the head of the Cataloguing department of the St. Louis Public Library. She was Librarian of the Pratt Institute Free Library from 1890 to 1904, and Director of the Pratt Institute of Library Science until 1911. She then became Principal of the Library School of the New York Public Library, the position she held until her death in 1916. Miss Plummer was President of the A. L. A. in 1915-1916. She contributed many articles to library periodicals, and has written numerous books, several of which are for children.
It is so early in the movement for children’s libraries that by taking some thought now it would seem possible to avoid much retracing of steps hereafter, and it is for this reason that even at this early day a comparison of experiences and theories by those libraries which have undertaken the work is desirable and even necessary. It is as well, perhaps, to begin with a few historical statistics, gathered from questions sent out last December and from perusal of the Library Journal reports since then.
Many libraries, probably the majority, have had an age-limit for borrowers, and the admission of children under 12 to membership is of comparatively recent date. The separation of children from the adult users of the library by means of a room of their own was probably originated by the Public Library of Brookline, which in 1890 set aside an unused room in its basement for a children’s reading-room. In 1893 the Minneapolis Public Library fitted up a library for children, from which books circulate also, where they had (as reported in December, 1896) 20,000 volumes, the largest children’s library yet reported. In 1894 the Cambridge Public Library opened a reading-room and the Denver Public Library a circulating library for children. An article on the latter undertaking may be found in the Outlook for September 26, 1896. In 1895 Boston, Omaha, Seattle, New Haven and San Francisco, all opened either circulating libraries or reading-rooms for children, and in 1896 Detroit, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Pratt Institute of Brooklyn, Everett (Mass.) and Kalamazoo (Mich.) followed suit. The libraries of Circleville (O.), Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Helena (Mont.) are all projecting plans for the same, and probably this year will show a notable increase. The new Public Library of Chicago has made no especial provision for children, from the fact that its situation in the heart of the business district of the city will prevent many children from coming to it, but provision of some sort will be made for them at the various branch reading-rooms throughout the city. In the new building of the Providence Library considerations of cost made it necessary to give up the addition of a children’s library, a matter of great disappointment to every one.
From all these libraries except the last two, reports were received by us in December, 1896, on comparing which we found considerable similarity of usage, though as there had been but little in print on the subject up to 1896 this probably arose not from communication between the libraries but from the fact that like circumstances and causes produced like effects in different places.
Of the 15 libraries reporting, 11 circulated books from the children’s room, three making an age-limit for this, while the four remaining contented themselves with giving the children a reading-room, in which a number of books–about 300–were placed, for reading on the premises. The temptation for a child who becomes interested in a book, to carry it off when closing- hour comes, in order to finish it, is a strong one, and of these four libraries one reported 35 books missing in its first six months, or over one-tenth of its stock. Two others which circulate from open shelves to all borrowers lost 100 children’s books in a little over 12 months. A number of others reported that as yet they had taken no inventory of the books in the room, and were evidently willing that ignorance should remain bliss a little longer. Several report that very few books are unaccounted for, and one or two that not a book has been taken. Free access to the children’s books is allowed in all the 15, and in about half of them the room is open all day, and in two cases in the evening also.
The number of volumes shelved ranges all the way from 300 to 20,000, the average number being from 3,000 to 4,000. An age- limit for the use of the room is set by seven libraries, three of these making the limit for circulation only, while eight admit children of any age, and doubtless make provision for the very youngest The circulation of these rooms that lend books ranges from 65 to 350 as a daily average, frequently exceeding this. As a rule, one attendant is kept in the room, with assistance when necessary, two libraries only reporting two regular assistants and the Boston Public Library three. The Detroit Library has two attendants in order to give the children personal attention. The library at Kalamazoo has for one of its assistants a trained kindergarten. Eight libraries report no reference-books on the children’s shelves and the majority of the others only a few such works. The largest number of periodicals taken appears to be our own list of 10, though by this time the libraries reporting in 1896 may have increased their number. Instead of taking a variety of periodicals, they seem to prefer duplicating a few favorites. One library reports a number of copies of Puck taken for children, the wisdom of which I should doubt, and two subscribe for Golden Days. The Minneapolis Library circulates 10 copies of St. Nicholas. The Boston Public Library, having a large foreign clientele among children as well as adults, takes one German and one French periodical for them. In the Detroit Library the Scientific American is on the list, and in our children’s library we take a copy of Harper’s Weekly.
A number of libraries report crowding and lack of time and space. In one no periodicals can be kept in the children’s library, because there is no room for the children to sit down to read them. Another reports as many as 75 children frequently in the room at once, a third that the room is so full children have often to be sent out, and a fourth, which at the time was only a reading-room, that the attendance was so large very little could be done except to keep order. Most of the libraries report a fair proportion of foreigners among the children, and one speaks of having many colored children among the readers.
Turning from these reports to a general consideration of the subject, we must admit, first, that a definite decision as to the object of a children’s library is the first thing needful.
This decision will doubtless vary in different libraries, and the results will differ accordingly, but almost any decision is better than none, since one cannot be arrived at without giving much thought to the subject, and the desirable thing is that the work should be entered upon thoughtfully.
We have passed the time when reading in itself was considered a vast good. The ability to read may easily be a curse to the child, for unless he be provided something fit to read, it is an ability as powerful for evil as for good. When we consider the dime-novels, the class of literature known as Sunday- school books, the sensational newspapers, the vicious literature insinuated into schools, and the tons of printed matter issued by reputable publishers, written by reputable people, good enough in its intention but utterly lacking in nourishment, and, therefore, doing a positive harm in occupying the place of better things– when we consider that all these are brought within a child’s reach by the ability to read, we cannot help seeing that the librarian, in his capacity as selector of books for the library, has the initial responsibility. Certain classes of the printed stuff just spoken of do not, of course, find their way into children’s libraries, since they are barred out from all respectable shelves; but we are still too lenient with print because it is print, and every single book should be carefully examined before it goes into a library where children should have access to the shelves.
But given an ideal selection of books, or as near it as we can get and still have enough books to go around, is just the reading of them–that is, the passing of the eye over the types, gaining a momentary impression–the most desirable thing to be got out of them? Are there not here and there children who are reading to the lasting detriment of their memories and powers of observation and reflection, stuffing themselves with type, as it were? Nearly every observant librarian knows of such cases. Are there not days when the shining of the sun, the briskness of the air, the greenness of the turf and of the trees, should have their invitation seconded by the librarian, and the child be persuaded AWAY from the library instead of TO it? We are supposed to contribute with our books toward the sound mind, but we should be none the less advocates of the sound body–and the child who reads all day indoors when he ought to be out in the fresh air among his kind, should have our especial watching.
But, granted the suitable book and the suitable time for reading, what do we know of the effect our books are having? We count our circulation just the same whether a book is kept two days–about long enough for the family to look at the pictures– or a week. Whether it has been really read we do not know. Sometimes I think those pencilled notes on the margin, recording the child’s disgust or satisfaction, should have more meaning for us than they do. At least, they prove that the book has taken hold of the reader’s imagination and sympathies. Don’t let us be too severe with a criticism written in the honest feeling of the moment (if it be in pencil); we are really gathering psychological and sociological data for which the child-study clubs would thank us, perhaps.
I see only one way in which we can be enabled to estimate fairly the value of what we are doing, and that is by so gaining the good-will and confidence of the children as to get them to answer our questions as to their reading or to tell us of their own accord what they get from it. From this information we may make our inferences as to the value of our books in themselves, and may be enabled to regulate their use. A child whose exclusive diet is fairy-tales is evidently over-cultivating the imagination; a girl who has outgrown children’s books and dipped into the premature love-stories that are written for her class needs our most careful guidance; a boy whose whole thought is of adventure, or who cannot read anything but jokes, is also in a critical condition.
In short, the judicious regulation of the children’s reading should be made practicable for the librarian, if the children’s library is to be the important agency in education which it may be made.
In regard to the desirability of amusements in the library, I own that I am somewhat sceptical. The library has its own division of labor in the work of education, and that division is the training of the people to the use and appreciation of books and literature. An argument in favor of games is that they draw in children who might not otherwise come, but I should fear they would be drawn in finally in such crowds as to be unmanageable. Books properly administered should have the same drawing power, and their influence, once felt, is toward quietness and thought, rather than toward activity and skill with the complications of dispute and cheating that may arise from the use of games. Children are natural propagandists. Let one child find that at the children’s library he may select his own books from a good-sized collection, may find help in his composition-work, the news of what is going on in the world in the shape of an attractive illustrated bulletin-board, different every week–and tomorrow 10 children will know of it, and each of these will tell other 10, and so on. The library will have all the children it can attend to eventually, and they will have come gradually so that the assistants shall have been able to get a proper grasp of the situation, while the earlier children will have been somewhat trained to help, like the elder brothers and sisters in a family.
Certain freedoms may be granted in the children’s library as an education for the adult constituency of the future; for instance, the guarantee may be done away with, thus putting the child on his honor to pay his own fines and damages–the only penalties for not doing so being those which society naturally inflicts on offenders–the debarring from privileges and from association. If there is nothing injurious or doubtful on the shelves, freedom in choice of books may be allowed to the smallest child, only he must know that help and guidance are at hand if he wishes them, and if a tendency to over-read in any one direction or in all is noticed, the librarian should feel at liberty to make suggestions. And as to freedom of action, the maxim should be that one man’s liberty ends where another man’s begins. No child should be allowed to disturb the room or to interfere with the quiet of those who are studying, for many children, more than one would think, really come to study. But the stiffness and enforced routine of the school-room should by all means be avoided. There should be no set rules as to silence, but consideration for others should be inculcated, and in time the room will come to have a subduing, quiet atmosphere that will insensibly affect those who enter. Whispering, or talking in a low tone, where several little heads are bent together over picture-books, is certainly admissible, and the older heads are very soon quiet of their own accord, each over its own book or magazine.
After the selection of the books themselves there is nothing so important as thoughtful administration, a practical question, since the employment of assistants comes in under this head. Educators have for some time seen the mistake of putting the cheapest teachers over the primary schools–kindergartners have seen it–and it remains for the library to profit by their experience without going through a similar one. If there is on the library staff an assistant well read and well educated, broad- minded, tactful, with common sense and judgment, attractive to children in manner and person, possessed, in short, of all desirable qualities, she should be taken from wherever she is, put into the children’s library, and paid enough to keep her there. There is no more important work in the building, no more delicate, critical work than that with children, no work that pays so well in immediate as well as in far-off results. Who that has met the fault- finding, the rudeness and coldness too frequent in a grown-up constituency, would not expand in the sunshine of the gratitude, the confidence, the good-will, the natural helpfulness of children! And it rests partly with the assistant to cultivate these qualities in them, and so modify the adult constituency of the future.
I say THOUGHTFUL administration because the children’s library is no sooner opened than it begins to present problems. Some of these are simply administrative and economic, others take hold of social and ethical foundations. There will be scarcely a day on which the librarian and the children’s librarian will not have to put their heads, and sometimes their hearts, together over puzzling cases–cases of fraud, of mischief-making, of ignorant evil-doing, of inherited tendencies, physical, mental, and moral– and sometimes it will seem as if the whole human creation were incurably ailing, and the doctrine of total depravity will take on alarming probability. But at this point some sound, smiling, active boy or girl comes in with a cheerful greeting, and pessimism retires into the background. And all this reminds me of one more quality which the children’s librarian must have–a sense of humor. It is literally saving in some circumstances.
Our own experience has led to the following suggestions, made by the children’s librarian in our library to those who come in at given hours from the other departments to take her place or to assist her. It will be seen that most of them are the product of observation and thought arising from the daily evidence of the room itself:
“Always tell a child how to fill out his application-blank, even when you are busy. Tell him just where to write his name in the register and stay near him till it is completed. Whenever it is possible, go to the shelves with a child who has just received his card of membership. Show him where different kinds of books are to be found. Ask him what kind of book he likes. Show him one or two answering to his description and then leave him to make his own selection.
“Explain the routine carefully and fully to children just beginning to use the library.
“Let no child sign the register, look at a book, receive or present an application, with soiled hands. Soiled and crumpled applications are considered defective and cannot be accepted.
“Do not expect or demand perfect quiet. Frequent tapping upon the desk excites the children and betrays nervousness on the part of the person in charge. Let the discipline of the room seem to be incidental; let the child feel that it is first and foremost a library where books are to be had for the asking, and that you are there to make it easier to get them.
“Never call children’s numbers, but use their names if necessary, though a glance of recognition pleases them better. Do not force acquaintance. Children like it even less than grown people. Be sympathetic and responsive, but beware of mannerism or effusiveness. Remember, too, that questioning is a fine art, and one should take care not to offend.
“Speed is not the first requisite at a children’s desk. Children have more patience with necessary formalities than grown people.
“Let some of the children help in the work of the room, but do not urge them to do so.
“Avoid stereotyped forms of expression when reproving a child or conversing with him. Let him feel you are speaking to him personally; he will not feel this if he hears the same words used for 50 other boys.”
For evening work, when there is no circulation of books: “read to them sometimes; talk to them at others; and sometimes leave them quite alone. They are more appreciative when they find you are leaving work to give them pleasure than they would be if they found you were making their pleasure your work.”
These are a few of the instructions or suggestions consequent upon daily observation and experience. Doubtless every children’s librarian could supplement them with many more, but they are enough to show what I mean by “thoughtful administration.”
Occasionally the librarian who serves children will have to take account of stock, sum up the changes for better or for worse in the use and treatment of the room, in the manners and habits of the children and in their reading. She will have to retire a little from her work, take a bird’s-eye view of it, and decide if on the whole progress is making toward her ideal. Without identifying itself with any of the movements such as the kindergarten, child-study, and social settlement, without losing control of itself and resigning itself to any outside guidance, the children’s library should still absorb what is to its purpose in the work of all these agencies. “This one thing I do,” the librarian may have to keep reminding herself, to keep from being drawn off into other issues, but by standing a little apart she may see what is to her advantage without being sucked in by the draft as some enthusiastic movement sweeps by. Must she have no enthusiasm? Yes, indeed; but is not that a better enthusiasm which enables one to work on steadily for years with undiminished courage than the kind that exhausts itself in the great vivacity of its first feeling and effort?
It will not be long after the opening of the children’s library before an insight will be gained into domestic interiors and private lives that will make the librarian wish she could follow many a child to his home, in order to secure for him and his something better than the few hours’ respite from practical life which they may get from the reading of books. When the boy who steals and the girl who is vicious before they are in their teens, have to be sent away lest other children suffer, it is borne in upon the librarian that a staff of home-missionaries connected with the library to follow up and minister in such cases would not be a bad thing–and she has to remind herself again and again that it is not incumbent on any one person to attempt everything, and that Providence has other instrumentalities at work besides herself. The humors of the situation, on the other hand, are many. The boys who, being sent home to wash their hands, return in an incredibly short time with purified palms and suppressed giggles, and on persistent inquiry confess, “We just licked ’em,” present to one who is “particular” only a serio-comic aspect; and the little squirrel who wriggles to the top of the librarian’s chair until he can reach her ear, and then whispers into it, “There couldn’t be no library here ‘thout you, could there?” is not altogether laughable; but incidents of pure comedy are occasionally to be set over against the serious side.
Last spring, with a view to gaining information directly in the answers to our questions and indirectly in the light the answers should throw on the character of the children, we chose 150 boys and girls who were regularly using the library and sent to them a series of questions to be answered in writing. They were apparently greatly pleased to be consulted in this way, and it seemed to us that very few of the replies were insincere in tone, or intended merely to win approbation. From the 100 replies worth any consideration I have drawn these specimen answers:
One of the first questions we asked was, “How long have you been using the library?” Of 100 who answered, 25 had used the library more than six months, 33 more than a year, 22 more than two years, 11 more than three years, nine more than four years, and one six years, since books were first given out to children. Many children first hear of the library when they are 13 and over, and after 14 they have the use of the main library, so that in their case the time of use is necessarily shorter. However, if a child has not done with the children’s library by the time he is 14, we allow him to continue using it until he wishes to be transferred.
Of 100 children, 68 reported that other members of their families used the library, while 32 reported themselves the only borrowers. This is interesting in connection with their answers to the question, “Does any one at home or at school tell you good books to read?” 71 reported yes and 29 no, about the same proportion. In many families the parents are of a mental calibre or at a stage in education to enjoy books written for children, and we have found that children often drew books with their parents’ tastes in view. One little girl whose own tastes led her to select a charming little book on natural history was sent back with it by an aunt who said it was not suitable and requested one of the semi-demi-novels that are provided for quite young girls, as being much more appropriate. The difficulty in keeping “hands off” in a case where grown people are thus influencing children injuriously can be fully appreciated only by one who knows and cares for the children.
Fifty-seven children reported that they were read to at home or that they read to their younger brothers and sisters, while 43 stated that their reading was a pleasure all to themselves. The large number who shared their reading was a pleasant surprise to us, evincing a companionship at home that we had hardly anticipated.
Twenty-eight children stated that they preferred to have help in selecting their books, 63 that they preferred to make their own choice, while nine said it depended. 49 said that they came to the library to get help in writing their compositions or in other school-work, while 51 said they did not, one proudly asserting, “I am capable of writing all my compositions myself,” and another, seeming to think help a sort of disgrace, “I do not come to the library for help about anything at all.”
Seventy out of the 100 children answering used no library but ours–the others made use of their Sunday-school libraries also.
An inquiry as to the books read since New Year’s, the questions being sent out in May, brought out the fact that an average of six books in the four and a half months had been read–not a bad average, considering that it was during term-time in the schools, when studies take up much of the child’s otherwise spare time. Boys proved to prefer history and books of adventure, travel and biography, to any other class of reading; girls, books about boys and girls, fairy stories and poetry. The tastes of the boys on the whole were more wholesome, and the girls need most help here. It is not at all unlikely that it is chiefly the wars and combats in history which make it interesting to the boys, as they seem to go through a sanguinary phase in their development that nothing else will satisfy; but many of them will get their history in no other way, and since wars have been prominent in the past it is of no use to disguise the fact. Fairness to both sides would seem to be the essential in the writing of these children’s histories and historical tales, since the ability to stop and deliberate and to make allowances is rare even in grown people and needs cultivation.
The question as to the best book the child had ever read brought in a bewildering variety of answers, proving beyond a doubt that there had been no copying or using of other children’s opinions. While no list can be given, the reasons they offered in response to a request for them were often interesting. Girls wrote of “Little women”: “It is so real, the characters are so real and sweet.” “I feel as if I could act the whole book.” “This story has helped me a very great deal in leading a better and a happier life.” “It shows us how to persevere,” etc. Boys like “The Swiss family Robinson” “because it describes accurately the points of a shipwreck and graphically describes how a man with common sense can make the best of everything.” Another, “because it shows how some people made the most of what they had.” Another, “It shows how progressive the people were.” One liked “Uncle Tom’s cabin” “because it describes life among the colored people and shows how they were treated before the war”; another, “because it is a true story and some parts of it are pitiful and other parts are pleasant.” A boy of 12 says of “Grimm’s fairy tales,” “They are interesting to read, and I learn there is no one to give you wings and sandals to fly–you have to make your own.” Another likes “John Halifax” “because it tells how a boy who had pluck obtained what he wanted and made his mark in the world.” “Pluck,” I imagine, in a boy’s mind stands for the old virtue of the poets, “magnanimity,” that included all the rest. Harper’s story-books are still read and appreciated “because they tell me about different kinds of people’s ways, about animals, and a little about history.” Another child “learned games out of them, and how to tell the truth and the use of the truth.”
A child of eight puts in a pathetic plea worth considering for the Prudy books, “because I understand them better than any books I have read.” An incipient author says that she uses the library because “I make a good deal of stories and find pretty ideas.”
Perhaps the most enlightening replies came in answer to the question, “Can you suggest anything which would make the library more interesting that it is now?” One delightfully reassuring boy says, “I like the children’s library to stay just the same, and a boy who never went there would like it. I’ll bring more boys.” “Pictures of art” are requested, and “a set of curiosities from all parts of the world.” As we regard the children of all nationalities and types crowding about the desk on our busy days we sometimes think we already have this latter item. “A prize for the best story every month.” “More histories.” “Pictures of noted men on the walls.” “More fairy-tales.” “More magazines.” “Books showing how to draw.” “A pencil fastened to each table.” “Stories in Scottish history.” “More books of adventure.” “More funny books.” “A chart of real and genuine foreign stamps.” “Lectures for children between 10 and 14, with experiments accompanying them.” “A one-hour lecture once a week by noted men on different subjects.” “A book giving the value of celebrated paintings.” “More books. The shelves look bare,” as indeed they do after a rush-day. “Rules to keep the children in order,” from a nine-year-old who has doubtless suffered. “Not to be disturbed by other boys for unknown crimes,” says one mysterious victim of something or other. “Historical fiction.” “Catholic books.” “Tanks with fishes, in the windows.” “An aquarium; children would enjoy seeing pollywogs change to frogs every time they came to the library.” This is the comment of a little girl, I am glad to say. “School-books.” “More amusement for little children.” This was before we bought our linen picture-books. And the “Elsie books,” and Oliver Optic, and Castlemon are vainly desired by two or three. The general sentiment is pretty well voiced by one child who says, “The library is just perfect in about every respect.”
We feel that with this enumeration of desiderata, the children’s library has its work cut out for it for some time to come, and that these evidences of the children’s likings and needs have removed a certain vagueness from our ambitions. With lectures and experiments, reading clubs, and possibly original stories, in contemplation, there is no danger of rust from inaction, especially as to obtain any one of these there are serious obstacles to overcome. But always and everywhere the library should put forward its proper claim of the value and use of the book–though in the word book I by no means include all that goes under the name. If there are lectures with experiments or lantern-slides, they should be attended by information as to the best literature on the subject and the children encouraged to investigate what has been printed, as well as to take in through the ear. There is no “digging” in lecture-going, and it is “digging” that leaves a permanent impression on the mind. The lecture should stimulate to personal research. From reading aloud together at the library in the evening, reading clubs may come to be formed, each with a specialty, decided by the tastes of the members. The writing of stories, particularly if the library selected the subject, might be made the occasion of the use of histories, biographies, travels, etc. Quiet games in the evening for the older children, of a nature to require the use of reference-books, would be strictly within the library’s province. Personal talks with the children about their reading, if judiciously conducted, are always in order. With a generation of children influenced in this way to use books as tools and a mental resource as well as for recreation, and to find recreation only in the best-written books, the library constituency of the future would be worthy of the best library that could be imagined.
The bulletin-board is attracting attention generally as a means of interesting children in topics of current interest, and such a periodical as Harper’s Weekly is invaluable when it comes to securing illustrations for this purpose. Sandwiched in among the pictures, we have occasionally smuggled in a printed paragraph of useful information or a set of verses, and our latest move, to induce more general reading of the periodicals, has been to analyze their contents on the bulletin, under the head of “Animals,” “Sports,” “Engines,” “Short stories,” “Long stories,” etc. Boys who “know what they like” are beginning to turn to this analysis to see if there is anything new on their favorite topic and to explain the workings of the board to other boys, and the desired end is gradually being brought about. As the references are taken down to make way for new ones, they are filed away by subject, making the beginnings of a permanent reference list.
Birds, the new magazine with its colored plates, is a boon for the children’s room, The Great Round World is good for the assistant-in-charge and the teachers who come to the room, as well as for the children.
In order to add to the number of books without overstepping our rules as to quality, we are beginning, though not yet very systematically, to look over the works of certain authors of grown-up books with a view to finding material that can be understood sufficiently by children to interest them. A number of Stevenson’s books can be given to boys and girls, and we hope to find many others. Most children, I think, read books without knowing who has written them, and if we can induce them to learn to know authors and can interest them in a writer like Stevenson, we can feel fairly secure that they will not drop him when they are transferred from the children’s room to the main library.
Perhaps it is best always to have a working hypothesis to begin with, in children’s libraries as elsewhere; but we can assure those who have not tried it that facts are stubborn things, and the hypothesis has frequently to be made over in accordance with newly-observed facts, and theories may or may not be proven correct. The whole subject is as yet in the empirical stage, and the way must be felt from day to day. If the children’s librarian lives in a continual rush, what “leisure to grow wise” on her chosen subject does she have? and if she is hurried constantly from one child to another, what chance have the children for learning by contact with the individual? which, as Mr. Horace E. Scudder truly says, is the method most sure of results. This contact may be had most naturally, it seems to us, through the ordinary channels of waiting on the children, provided it is quiet, deliberate waiting upon them. We go out of our way to think out new philanthropies and are too likely to forget that, as we go about our every-day business, natural opportunities are constantly presenting for strengthening our knowledge of and our hold upon the people who come to us–who are sent to us, I might almost say.
The registry and the charging-desks offer chances for acquaintance to begin naturally and unconsciously and for much incidental imparting of seed-thoughts. And it is in these every-day chances, if appreciated and made the most of, that the work of the children’s library is going to tell. The necessity of especial training in psychology, pedagogy, child study, and kindergarten ideas, has been treated of recently in a paper before the A. L. A. There is no doubt that the “called” worker in this field will be better for scientific training, but let him or her first be sure of the call. It is quite as serious as one to the ministry, if not more so, and no amount of intellectual training will make up for the lack of patience and fairness and of a genuine interest in children and realization of their importance in the general scheme.
To sum up, the requisites for the ideal children’s library, as we begin to see it, are suitable books, plenty of room, plenty of assistance, and thoughtful administration. Better a number of children’s libraries scattered over a town or city than a large central one, since only in this way can the children be divided up so as to make individual attention to them easy. But if it devolves upon one library to do the work for the entire town, and branches are out of the question, something of the same result may be obtained by providing at certain hours an extra number of assistants. I can imagine a large room with several desks, at each of which should preside an assistant having charge of only certain classes of books, so that in time she might come to be an authority on historical or biographical or scientific or literary books for children, and the children might learn to go to her as their specialist on the class of books they cared most for. Perhaps this may sound Utopian. I believe there are libraries present and to come for which it is entirely practicable.
THE GROWING TENDENCY TO OVER-EMPHASIZE THE CHILDREN’S SIDE
An investigation of rural libraries in North Carolina and of library work with children in Boston and New England towns led Miss Caroline Matthews, a member of the Examining Committee of the Public Library of Boston to believe that “exaggerated leaning toward one phase of library work must throw out of the true the work as a whole.” The following paper explaining her conclusions was read before the Massachusetts Library Club in October, 1907.
Caroline Matthews was born in Boston in 1855. She has contributed articles to the Educational Review and to the Atlantic Monthly. Miss Matthews is at present living in Switzerland.
I have been asked to speak on this subject, not because I have professional or technical knowledge of the subject to be discussed, but rather because I have not. This does not mean that I have no knowledge whatever of this or other phases of library work. It simply means that the little knowledge I do possess is non-professional, and that my impressions, points of view, conclusions, are wholly those of an outsider.
Up to three years ago I had had no connection with public libraries beyond being an occasional borrower of books. Then suddenly, through making a comparative study of the financing of public school systems here and in France, I found myself in touch with the public schools of an American city, and through them with the school deposits of the Public Library of the same city. Even so, I did not come in touch with the library side of the work. It was always the school or teachers’ side, or the pupils’ side, never any other.
The second year I became a member of the Examining Committee of the Public Library of the city of Boston. My position on this committee for my first year of service was a minor one. There was never anything very important to do, certainly not enough to keep up one’s interest to the point of being a live interest. Moreover, I spent the winter away from town. But I had the great good fortune to pass it in the mountains of North Carolina. There I lived for weeks at a time in the homes and cabins of the mountain whites. I knew the men their wives, their children. I visited the logging camps, the mines, the missions, the mills, the schools. The life was rough, but it was worth while. It gave me an intimate knowledge of the social surroundings of the people, and I found the one vital problem, the problem touching the citizen the nearest, to be that of the rural school, and affiliated with the rural school, though affiliated in a crude way, was the library.
Thus, for the second time in my life, I came into contact with the library by means of the school. This coincidence led me to think, and I reasoned out that library workers North and South must be working along similar lines toward unity in practice. Both were doing educative work. And both, apparently, had the same goal–the reaching of the parent or adult through the child or through child growth.
How far such work was legitimate work, how far such work had intellectual or educational value, how far such work lacked or had balance, I now wished to determine. To do this it was necessary to assume some line of active investigation; also to study results from the standpoint of the library, as well as from that of the school and the citizen.
There was no need to search for a subject. I had it at hand. Living as I did with the people I found myself in the very center of the rural library movement–a movement so splendid in conception; so successful in results, if statistics are credited; so direct as to method, the entire appropriation being expended on but two things, books and bookcases; so naively simple as to administration, there being neither librarians, libraries, or pay-rolls–that a study of it could not fail to prove helpful.
What were the actual conditions? First, the name “rural libraries” I found a misnomer. It in no sense represents facts. The words imply community interests, interests alike of adult and child, whilst the reality is that these libraries are simply school deposits, composed wholly of “juvenile books,” graded up to but not beyond the seventh grade. When one realizes that these books reach a total of 200,000 volumes, that they are sent to people living in scattered communities strung shoe-string fashion high along mountain ridges–back and apart from civilization– to a people of rugged character, demanding strength in books as in life, capable of appreciating strength, one sees what a stupendous opportunity for community uplift has been wasted, and one stands aghast at the folly, economic and intellectual, of the limitations imposed. Why should children alone be considered? And if they alone are to be considered why should they be fed nothing but “juvenile” literature? It is both over-emphasis and false emphasis of the most harmful kind.
Second, far and away the most interesting phase of this library work in North Carolina is that the whole movement lies outside of the hands of professionally trained librarians. To understand why this is so it is necessary to turn to the Department of Education. Education in North Carolina is a state affair and centralized, the state being for all practical purposes autocratic in every educational matter. Decentralization has set in to the extent of admitting local taxation; otherwise education in North Carolina to-day is as highly centralized as it is in France. There is no difference whatever between the power of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction at Raleigh, and that of the Minister of Public Instruction in France. Such being the case it is but natural that the rural library movement should be absorbed by the state, incorporated into the Department of Education, and administered by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Neither would it be wise to change this. It would be wise, however, to appoint as one of the county superintendents of public instruction a trained librarian, having as his charge the entire supervision and administration of library interests.
Third, all responsibility for the care of these libraries rests with teachers. The teachers should never have such responsibility. It is entirely beyond and outside of their proper work. I feel sure that this problem of how to care for school deposits of library books, a problem which is an issue North as it is South, is not so difficult of solution as library workers would have us believe. Disabuse yourselves of the notion that it is the teachers’ work, and a way out of the difficulty will be found.
Fourth, not only is there a growing dissatisfaction with the library act as administered, but there is actually active opposition to it–on the part of some teachers, and on the part of certain public-spirited citizens. So much so is this a fact that a counter movement is already in progress. This consists in the establishment of rural libraries by private gift, by the citizens at large, and by certain societies. Tryon has such a library, a delightful building with two rooms and an ample supply of standard books; Lenoir has one; Boone has one. Yet these are small towns, two of them not exceeding 300 inhabitants each. An interesting feature of one of these libraries is that it serves largely as a social center for community life. Afternoon tea is served in it; musicals held; club papers read; even the Woman’s Exchange meets and exhibits once a week. I had no means of discovering how general this movement was, nor yet of determining the ratio of emphasis laid on the social side of the work. But I want you to note one point–the movement starts with the adult and with standard works, and only by means of the adult, or through the parent, is the child reached. It is the exact antithesis of the state movement.
Fifth, the libraries are neglected. In no school did I find a well-appointed one, and where there were bookcases they were tucked aside in corner or entry, thick with dust, unused.
The state statistics as to the growth of this movement ignore absolutely the facts I have mentioned. Therefore, I claim that in no true sense are these statistics representative. The movement, however, has interest. It is alive. It is sweeping through the state. It spends thousands of dollars a year. It concerns itself wholly with children. These are its characteristics. There can be no two opinions as to its lack of balance, for the adult is not even considered. There can be no two opinions as to its intellectual and educational values. Buying only “juvenile literature” they are of the smallest. There can be no two opinions as to its morality: the people are taxed, yet only a fraction of the people, only those who have children below the seventh and above the first grades, receive a return.
How far North Carolina was seeking guidance of the North, how far the North was also over-emphasizing, if it was, the children’s side in library work, I next wished to determine.
This brought me back to Boston, and to my second and final year of service on the Examining Committee. The chairmanship of the sub-committee on branches gave me opportunity for studying library work as it touched the child and the school in cities. This I supplemented by a less intensive study of library conditions in towns, in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, seeking to make my knowledge comprehensive.
The first impression I received was that of the many interpretations put upon library work. These were almost as numerous as were the librarians and custodians. Viewing the work as a whole such divergence in practice seemed an error. There is power in unity; results worth while follow. There is loss in the frittering away of time caused by casual experiment; moreover, it bears heavily on the child. To this you may be inclined to answer that social and moral conditions vary so in each city and town that the individual condition must be faced individually. Granted, but not to the extent you might wish. To illustrate: there is wisdom in allowing a certain station of the Boston system complete liberty of action. But the situation at this station is unique. It could not be duplicated even in Boston. The work is in the hands of a skilled leader, and it forms part of a large private work, financed by a philanthropist noted for leadership in wise experimentation. The library shows breadth in accepting the situation. But it is not wisdom to allow the introduction of the story hour, or, as is the case in a neighboring town, the throwing wide open of the children’s room to tots so tiny that picture blocks have to be furnished them to play with–before the educational authorities have pronounced such work necessary and just.
I next noticed and with some alarm the feminization of the library corps. And I confess that I see no remedy. The schools are facing the same difficulty, but eventually it will be solved for them in the raising of certain salaries to a man’s standard. This is not likely to happen in library work. Consequently we have this feminization to reckon with, and to me it is an active factor in the diversity of library practice to which I have referred, for women far more than men are prone to indulge individual fads.
A third impression was the lack of fitness of some library workers for their posts. This is particularly unfortunate when it occurs in a children’s room. Unless the person in charge possess the requisite qualifications, better far close the room. The fault lies perhaps with the colleges offering library courses. It may well be that the training in these should be more specialized than it is. Take the case of a student intending to pursue a given line of work–say children’s departments. Something definite should be offered her, something corresponding in worth to the graduate courses in practice and observation offered students of education in departments of education at universities. This is a practical suggestion; it only requires on the part of colleges and libraries similar agreements to those already existing between universities and schools. A second phase of this question is that of libraries whose employees are not drawn from library schools or colleges, but who reach the several posts by a system of promotion based on efficiency and faithful service. Is there any reason why employees of such a system, specializing in children’s work should not serve an apprenticeship in the children’s department at central and be required to return to it again and again for further instruction? As far as I know the heads of these children’s departments have no duties of this kind. But would not the value of a library corps be increased tenfold if they had? They seize eagerly the opportunity to go out and instruct the teacher, to go out and instruct the parent. They have classes for the schools in the use of the library. But they neglect utterly the training of the library employee who is to serve as assistant first, as chief later, in the children’s room at branch or station. Yet the knowledge acquired by only one day of observation under skillful guidance in the children’s department at central would prove invaluable to these women. Broaden the training given employees, and centralize experimentation.
I found no TRUE affiliation with the schools. There was none in North Carolina; there is none here. In countless ways the library and the school are overlapping. Why there should not be a clearer vision as to what is library work and what is school work is incomprehensible to an outsider.
I grew to have a horror of children’s rooms–as distinct from children’s departments. Intellectually, physically, morally, I believe them harmful. Neither can I see their necessity.
As regards classification of books, I received the impression that the broad division into “adult” and “juvenile” is too dogmatic, too arbitrary. Whatever other forms or divisions are necessary, this particular one should be abolished. It lowers the intellectual standing of the library with the community.
The splendid character of library work in tenement districts stood out strongly. It is vigorous, alive, with an ever-broadening opportunity.
More vivid, however, than any other impression, stronger still, was that of the time and thought and care bestowed on the Child. Everywhere, in city, town and suburban library, the effort to reach the Child is apparent. Special attendants are in readiness to meet him the instant he comes into reading room and station after school hours. Thoughtful women are assigned to overlook and guide his reference work. Entertainment is offered him in the form of blocks to play with, scrap-books to look at, story hours to attend. Books specially selected with regard to his supposedly individual needs are placed on the shelves. Picture bulletins are made for his use in the schools. Where he is not segregated he is allowed to monopolize tables and chairs. I find no corresponding effort made to reach the adult, to reach the young mechanic, to draw to the library the parent. I at times wonder whether librarians and custodians are even aware that exaggerated leaning toward one phase of library work must throw out of the true the work as a whole.
Nothing has astonished me more than this new development in library practice–the placing of the child in importance before the adult. The old belief that the library is primarily for adults and only incidentally for children still holds good at the central buildings of large city public library systems. In these we find the children’s department only one of many departments–the child always subordinate, the adult dominant–the result of a well balanced, admirable whole, each unit in its proper place, all forces pulling together. I fail to see why the same relative balance should not be maintained throughout the entire system, from branch to station, not always in kind and measure, but approximately.
A second thought to which I cannot adjust myself–is that of the parent as a factor in school and library work. The parent believes in the public school, and he pays heavily in taxes for the education of his children by means of it. The parent believes in the establishment of public libraries and he pays heavily in taxes for their equipment. Both sums raised are sufficiently generous to enable school and library to furnish trained, capable, efficient teachers and librarians. Such being the case does not the parent show intelligence in turning over to the public care the direction of his children’s education and reading? Is he not justified in so doing? Why then should he be held ignorant or selfish? Eliminate the parent as a factor in library practice. Give the children quality in books. Strike off 50 per cent., if you only will, of the titles to be found on the shelves of children’s rooms. Substitute “adult” books, and you will not need to appeal to the parent to guide the child’s choice.
That there is similarity of practice in library work, in North Carolina and here, you can hardly deny. Point by point, in so far as the work relates to the child, the problems are mutual. Their solution lies in the getting together of school and library authorities, and the setting aside of the modern thought that library work is primarily educative and primarily for the child. Let the schools educate the children; and, if you can, let the adult once more dominate in library practice. You will then have a well-balanced whole, free from over-emphasis on the child’s side.
LIBRARY WORK WITH CHILDREN
A conception of the meaning and the possibilities of children’s work interpreted by means of present day social and industrial conditions is given by Henry E. Legler, librarian of the Chicago Public Library, in a paper on “Library work with children,” read at the Pasadena Conference of the A L. A. in 1911. Henry Eduard Legler was born in Palermo, Italy, June 22, 1861. He was educated in Switzerland and the United States. In 1889 he was a member of the Wisconsin Assembly; from 1890 to 1894 secretary of the Milwaukee School Board; from 1904 to 1909 secretary of the Wisconsin Library Commission, and since 1909 has been librarian of the Chicago Public Library. In 1912-1913 Mr. Legler was President of the A. L. A.
Not long since a man of genius took a lump of formless clay, and beneath the cunning of his hand there grew a great symbol of life. He called it Earthbound. An old man is bowed beneath the sorrow of the world. Under the weight of burdens that seemingly they cannot escape, a younger man and his faithful mate stagger with bent forms. Between them is a little child. Instead of a body supple and straight and instinct with freedom and vigor, the child’s body yields to the weight of heredity and environment, whose crushing influence press the shoulders down.
In this striking group the artist pictures for us the world-old story of conditions which meet the young lives of one generation, and are transmitted to the next. It is a picture that was true a thousand years ago; it is a picture that is faithful of conditions today. Perhaps its modern guise might be more aptly and perhaps no less strikingly shown, as it recently appeared in the form of a cartoon illustrating Mrs. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s verse:
The Cry of the Children
Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers, Ere the sorrow comes with years? They are leaning their young heads against their mothers, And THAT cannot stop their tears. The young lambs are bleating in the meadows, The young birds are chirping in the nest, The young fawns are playing with the shadows, The young flowers are blowing towards the west– But the young, young children, O my brothers, They are weeping bitterly! They are weeping in the playtime of the others, In the country of the free.
Do you question the young children in the sorrow, Why their tears are falling so? The old man may weep for his to-morrow Which is lost in long ago; The old tree is leafless in the forest, The old year is ending in the frost, The old wound, if stricken, is the sorest, The old hope is hardest to be lost; But the young, young children, O my brothers, Do you ask them why they stand Weeping sore before the bosoms of their mothers, In our happy Fatherland?
Go out, children, from the mine and from the city, Sing out, children, as the little thrushes do. Pluck your handfuls of the meadow cowslips pretty, Laugh aloud to feel your fingers let them through!
Only in recent years has there grown into fulness a conception of what the duty of society is towards the child. For near two thousand years it was a world of grown-ups for grown-ups. Children there have been–many millions of them–but they were merely incidental to the scheme of things. Society regarded them not as an asset, except perhaps for purposes of selfish exploitation. If literature reflects contemporary life with fidelity, we may well marvel that for so many hundreds of years the boys and girls of their generation were so little regarded that they are rarely mentioned in song or story. When they are, we are afforded glimpses of a curious attitude of aloofness or of harshness. Nowhere do we meet the artlessness of childhood. In a footnote here, in a marginal gloss there, such references as appear point to torture and cruelty, to distress and tears. In the early legends of the Christians, in the pagan ballads of the olden time, what there is of child life but illustrates the brutal selfishness of the elders.
Certainly, no people understood as well as did the Jews that the child is the prophecy of the future, and that a nation is kept alive not by memory but by hope. Childhood to them was “the sign of fulfillment of glorious promises; the burden of psalm and prophecy was of a golden age to come, not of one that was in the dim past.” So in the greatest of all books we come frequently upon phrases displaying this attitude:
“There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.”
“They shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children.”
And most significant of all: “Suffer the little children to come unto me.”
In the centuries intervening, up to a hundred years ago, the men of pen and the men of brush give us a few touches now and then suggestive of childhood. However, they are observers rather than interpreters of childhood and its meaning. In the works of the great master painters, the dominant note is that of maternity, or the motive is devotional purely. Milton’s great ode on the Nativity bears no message other than this. In the graphic tale that Chaucer tells about Hugh of Lincoln, race hatred is the underlying sentiment, and the innocence of the unfortunate widow’s son appears merely to heighten the evil of his captors and not as typical of boyhood.
Of the goodly company known collectively as the Elizabethan writers, silence as to the element of childhood is profound. In all the comedies and the tragedies of the greatest dramatist of all, children play but minor parts. In none of them save in King John, where historic necessity precludes the absence of the princes in the Tower, they might be wholly omitted without impairment of the structure. In the Merry Wives of Windsor, Mistress Anne Page’s son is briefly introduced, and is there made the vehicle for conversation which in this age might be regarded as gross suggestiveness.
True, that is a rarely tender passage in the Winter’s Tale wherein Hermione speaks with her beloved boy, and the pathos of Arthur’s plea as he asks Hubert to spare his eyes is of course a masterpiece of literature; these, however, the sum total of the great dramatist’s significant references to childhood.
In the great works on canvas, save where the Christ-child is depicted, may be noted that same absence of the spirit of childhood. Wealthy and royal patrons, indeed, encouraged great artists to add favorite sons and daughters to the array of portraits in their family galleries. In time, the artists gave to the progeny of the nobility and the aristocracy generally, such creations as to them seemed appropriate to their years. These poses are but the caricature of childhood. Morland, Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds and other artists of their day represented the children of their wealthy patrons in attitudes which savor somewhat of burlesque, though it may have been intended quite seriously to hedge them about with spontaneity.
It has been said that “a child’s life finds its chief expression in play, and that in play its social instincts are developed.” If this be true, we find in some contemporary canvases of this English school a curious reproduction of the favorite pastimes of children. One is called “bird-nesting,” the title descriptive of the favorite diversion thus depicted. Another bears the legend “Snow-balling,” and with no apparent disapproval save on the part of the little victims, shows a group of larger children ruthlessly snow-balling some smaller ones who have sought shelter in the portico of a church. Some distance down the street the form of an aged woman suggests another victim of youthful playfulness.
A century and a half ago there was born, frail at first but with constant growth, a perception that the great moving forces of life contain elements hitherto disregarded. Rousseau sounded his thesis, Pestalozzi began to teach, and but a little later on, Froebel expounded his tenets. We need not be concerned as to the controversial disputation of rival schools of pedagogues whose claims for one ignore the merits of the other. A new thought came into being, and both Pestalozzi and Froebel contributed to its diffusion–whether in the form of Pestalozzi’s ideal, “I must do good to the child,” or Froebel’s, “I must do good through the child,” or perhaps a measurable merging of the two.
Responsive to the note of life and thought around them, the great authors of prose and verse began to inject the new expression of feeling into what they wrote. Perhaps best reflected, as indeed it proved most potent in molding public opinion, this thought entered into the novels of Charles Dickens. These, in the development of child life as a social force, not only recorded history; they made history, and the virile pencils of Leech and Phiz and Cruikshank aided what became a movement.
For the first time in literature, with sympathetic insight, there was laid bare the misery of childhood among the lowly and unfortunate, and the pathos of unhappy childhood was pictured with all its tragic consequences to society as a whole. In the story of Poor Joe, the street-crossing sweeper, who was always told to move on, we read the stories of thousands of the boys of to-day. His brief tenantry of Tom-all-Alones shows us the prototype of many thousands of living places in the slums of our own time. Conditions which environ growing boys and girls –not only thousands of men, but many millions–in the congested cities of the Anglo-Saxon world, are well suggested by the names which have been given in derision, or brutally descriptive as the case may be, to such centers of human hiving as the Houses of Blazes and Chicken-foot Alley, in Providence; Hell’s Kitchen in New York; the Bad Lands in Milwaukee; Tin Can Alley, Bubbly Creek and Whiskey Row back of the stockyards in Chicago. In these regions and in others like them darkness and filth hold forth together where the macaroni are drying; broken pipes discharge sewage in the basement living quarters where the bananas are ripening; darkness and filth dwell together in the tenement cellars where the garment-worker sews the buttons on for the sweat-shop taskmaster; goats live amiably with human kids in the cob-webbed basements where little hands are twisting stems for flowers; in the unlovely stable lofts where dwell a dozen persons in a place never intended for one; in windowless attics of tall tenements where frail lives grow frailer day by day.
Lisabetta, Marianna, Fiametta, Teresina, They are winding stems of roses, one by one, one by one– Little children who have never learned to play; Teresina softly crying that her fingers ache today, Tiny Fiametta nodding when the twilight slips in, gray.
High above the clattering street, ambulance and fire-gong beat; They sit, curling crimson petals, one by one, one by one. Lisabetta, Marianna, Fiametta, Teresina, They have never seen a rosebush nor a dewdrop in the sun. They will dream of the vendetta, Teresina, Fiametta,
Of a Black Hand and a Face behind a grating; They will dream of cotton petals, endless, crimson, suffocating, Never of a wild rose thicket, nor the singing of a cricket; But the ambulance will bellow through the wanness of their dreams, And their tired lids will flutter with the street’s hysteric screams
Lisabetta, Marianna, Fiametta, Teresina, They are winding stems of roses, one by one, one by one; Let them have a long, long playtime, Lord of Toil, when toil is done; Fill their baby hands with roses, joyous roses of the sun.
Reverting to Poor Tom, well may the words of Dickens in Bleak House serve as a text for to-day: “There is not an atom of Tom’s shrine, not a cubic inch of any pestilential gas in which he lives, nor an obscurity or degradation about him, nor an ignorance, nor a wickedness, nor a brutality of his committing, but shall work its retribution, through every order of society up to the proudest of the proud and the highest of the high.”
Whatever of permanence the ideal democracy which underlies our institutions may achieve, it will not be the survival of conditions such as these, but the fruition of their betterment. Recognition of the sinister elements involved determines the modern type of library work with children. That work rests upon a knowledge of the background which has been pictured, upon the use of methods that shall reach sanely and effectively the contributing causes, upon correlation of all the social forces that can be brought to bear unitedly.
Recognition of conditions and causation gives power to, and justifies the modern trend of, library work with children as the most important and far-reaching of all its great work. Of thirty million men and women, and their children, who have come from Over-seas in two generations, 83 per cent were dwellers along the rim of the Mediterranean. Largely from that source have our towns grown overnight into swarming cities. Their children of to-day will be the men and women who in a generation will make or unmake the Republic. Ignorance and greed, rather than necessity, breed the chief menace in our national life. Alone as a detached social force, the library cannot hope to combat these, but in correlation with other forces may serve as one of the most potent agencies. In the children’s rooms and in kindred places, the missionaries of the book take the disregarded bits of life about them and weave them into a human element of power. The children’s rooms in the library and what they imply in the life of the people, are of such recent origin and growth that the complete force of their present-day work will not be fully apparent for a quarter century. What they hope to do, the instruments they purpose to use, are given succinctly in the pronouncement of one of our most progressive libraries
OBJECTS OF LIBRARY WORK WITH CHILDREN
To make good books available to all children of a community.
To train boys and girls to use with discrimination the adult library.
To reinforce and supplement the class work of the city schools (public, private, parochial and “Sunday” schools).
To cooperate with institutions for civic and social betterment, such as playgrounds, settlements, missions, boys’ and girls’ clubs; and with commercial institutions employing boys and girls, such as factories, postoffice special delivery division, telegraph and telephone agencies and department stores.
And first and last to build character and develop literary taste through the medium of books and the influence of the children’s librarian.
Pursuing these purposes, endeavoring to meet these tests. library work with children will make for better citizenship. It will take account not only of the children of the poor, but of the children of the well-to-do, who may need that influence even more. In the cities, which now overshadow our national life, there are no longer homes; there are flats, where the boys and girls are tolerated–perhaps.
“Our problem is not the bad boy, but rather the modern city,” says Prof. Allen Hoben. “The normal boy has come honestly by his love of adventure, his motor propensities and his gang instincts. It is when you take this healthy biological product and set him down in the midst of city restrictions that serious trouble ensues. For the city has been built for economic convenience, and with little thought for human welfare. Industrial aim is evidenced to every sense. You smell industrialism in the far- reaching odors of the stockyards. You hear it in the roar of the elevated hard by the windows of the poor. You see it in a water front that people cannot use, and you touch it in the fleck of soot that is usually on your nose. The proof of industrial aggression ceases to be humorous, however, when it shows itself in the small living quarters of many a city flat where boys are supposed to find the equivalent of the old-time house. Constituted as he is, the boy cannot but be a nuisance in the flat community. And because the flat dweller moves frequently, he will be without those real neighbors of long standing whose leniency formerly robbed the law of its victims. Furthermore, he has no particular quarters of his own where he may satisfy his sense of proprietorship and save up the numerous things he collects with a view to using them in construction. The flat dwellers will not permit the noise or litter incident to such building as a boy likes; and he has little if any part in the labor of conducting the house. He loses dignity as a helpful and necessary member of the family, he loses that loyalty which attaches to the old familiar places of boyhood experience and strengthens many a man to-day, making him more kind and consistent in his living by virtue of homestead memories.”
So the boy is driven to the street as his domain. It is his playground. And here he encounters the policeman. Of 717 children arrested in one month in New York City, more than half were arrested for playing games. Parenthetically, the fact may be quoted that in this children’s chief playground in a period of ten months 67 children were killed and 196 injured.
Unerringly, these facts point to a union of social forces–the children’s library and the children’s playground, a realization of that clear comprehension which the ancient Greeks had of the unity between the body and the mind. Quoting Plato: “If children are trained to submit to laws in their plays’ the love of law enters their souls with the music accompanying their games, never leaves them, and helps them in their development.”
Having in thought physical recreation as a stimulus to mental development, in combination bringing home the joyousness of life, an ideal union of forces is being effected in some of the larger cities. In some places, the movement has assumed but an initial stage–a bit of tent shelter for distribution of books to children gathered at the sand pile. In some instances co- operation has joined the work of park breathing centers and library organizations. This has reached completed form in the placement of branch libraries as part of the park equipment, either quarters within a general building, or a separate little building adjacent to or on the athletic field.
But whether in place of high or low degree; whether in rented store or memorial building of monumental type; whether in the rooms of a school building or a corner in a factory; whether by this method or by that, the children’s librarian employs the printed page to serve as instrument to these ends:
The building of character, making for the best in citizenship.
The enlargement of narrow lives, bringing the joy and savour and beauty of life to the individual.
The opening of opportunity to all alike, which is the essence of democracy.
And in, the doing, an incidental and a great contribution is made to society as a whole. For, as the story hour unfolds a new world to the listener whose life has been bounded by a litter- covered alley and three bare walls, or whose look into the outside world has been perhaps a roof of tar and gravel and a yawning chasm beyond, so the development of the imagination through the right sort of books shall make possible the fullest development of the individual boy and girl. In many a life there has been a supreme moment when some circumstance, some stimulus has changed that life for good or ill. For want of that stimulus, the dormant power of many a man has gone to waste. Half the derelicts of humanity who are but outcasts of the night had in them the making of good men–perhaps some of them of great men, in science or in art. There is no waste that is greater than lost opportunity; there is no loss so great as undiscovered resource. Speaking of imagination in work, Mr. Hamilton Wright Mabie points out that: