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  • 1917
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“So long as the uses of the imagination in creative work are so little comprehended by the great majority of men, it can hardly be expected that its practical uses will be understood. There is a general if somewhat vague recognition of the force and beauty of its achievements as illustrated in the work of Dante, Raphael, Rembrandt and Wagner; but very few people perceive the play of this supreme architectural and structural faculty in the great works of engineering, or in the sublime guesses at truth which science sometimes makes when she comes to the end of the solid road of fact along which she has traveled. The scientist the engineer, the constructive man in every department of work uses the imagination quite as much as the artist; for the imagination is not a decorator and embellisher, as so many appear to think; it is a creator and constructor. Wherever work is done on great lines or life is lived in field of constant fertility, the imagination is always the central and shaping power.”

I would have liked in this over-lengthy, but yet fragmentary survey of the field from the viewpoint of the library, to say something of the mistakes which have perhaps been made, and which may still be made unguardedly by reason of over-zeal whereby the relationship of the work to other things may be ignored or misunderstood; of the danger that over-strong consciousness as to possession of high ideals may dictate too urgent use of books that may have literary style, but do not reach the heart of the boy–driving him to the comic supplement and to the dregs of print for his reading hours. These, and other comments must be left for another occasion.

I would also have liked to say something of the history of work with children in libraries, but Miss Josephine Rathbone has told the story fully and well. In that history, when it shall be written a quarter century hence, it will be fitting to give full meed of honor to Samuel Sweet Greene, Edwin H. Anderson, Mrs. H. L. Elmendorf, Miss Frances J. Olcott, Miss Linda A. Eastman and some of the other splendid women of the profession whose presence here precludes the mention of their names.

So, too, I would have liked to give the result, statistically, of an inquiry, which the helpful kindness of Miss Faith E. Smith, chairman of this section, has enabled me to make. It must suffice here to limit the statement to a brief summary that shows less what has been accomplished than what remains to be attempted:

There are in the United States to-day approximately 1,500 public libraries containing each more than 5,000 volumes. The number reporting children’s work is 525, with a total of 676 rooms having an aggregate seating capacity of 21,821, and an available combined supply of 1,771,161 volumes on open shelves. The number of libraries in which story hours are held is 152, and 304 report work with schools. Of course, this work is pitifully meager as to many libraries. The number of children who come more or less under the direct influence of children’s librarians is generously estimated as 1,035,195 (103 libraries, including all the large systems reporting). There are in the United States of children from 6 to 16 years of age, approximately thirty-three millions.

Behind the work of the children’s librarians there is a fine spirit of optimism–not blind to difficulties, but courageous, ardent and hopeful.

Disregarding ridicule, which is but a cheap substitute for wit; regardful of criticism, which is often provocative or promotive of improvement, inspired with the dignity of their high calling, and with a fine vision that projects itself into the future, the librarians engaged in the work with children willingly give thereto the finest and the best of personality that they possess. Descriptive of their spirit, we may aptly paraphrase the words of a great humanitarian of our own generation:

“Some there are, the builders of humanity’s temples, who are laboring to give a vast heritage to the children of all the world. They build patiently, for they have faith in their work.

“And this is their faith–that the power of the world springs from the common labor and strife and conquest of the countless age of human life and struggle; that not for a few was that labor and that struggle, but for all. And the common labor of the race for the common good and the common joy will bring that fulness of life which sordid greed and blighting ignorance would make impossible.”

And you have the faith of the builders.


The function of library work with children as a factor in community life is further shown in the following articles. This function includes, in the minds of the writers, a recognition that the chief aim in education is character building; the necessity of the careful selection of books for all classes of children; the understanding of the personal relationship of the child to the library; the development of a sense of ownership on the part of the child; the possibility of being a factor in the assimilation of the foreign element of the population; and the realization that all are workers in a common cause, thus bringing encouragement and inspiration.


One of the sessions of the Children’s librarians section of the A. L. A. meeting at Minnetonka in 1908 was given up to the discussion of the place of children’s library work in the community. The library point of view was presented by Miss Moore.

Annie Carroll Moore was born in Limerick, Maine, and was graduated from Limerick Academy in 1889 and Bradford Academy in 1891. After completing her work in the Pratt Institute Library School in 1896 she became children’s librarian in the Pratt Free Library where she remained until 1906. She then organized the children’s department in the New York Public Library, of which she is still supervisor. Miss Moore has lectured on library work with children and has contributed many articles on the subject to library periodicals.

Fifteen years ago the Minneapolis public library opened a children’s room from which books were circulated. Previous to 1893 a reading room for children was opened in the Brookline (Mass.) public library but the Minneapolis public library was the first to recognize the importance of work with children by setting aside a room for their use with open shelf privileges and with a special assistant in charge of it.

Since 1893 children’s rooms and children’s departments have sprung up like mushrooms, all over the country, and first in Pittsburg, then in Brooklyn, Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York City and Queens Borough, children’s rooms in branch libraries have been organized into departments from which a third, at least, of the entire circulation of the libraries is carried on by assistants, either trained or in training to become children’s librarians.

It has been the inevitable accompaniment of such rapid growth that the work should suffer growing pains in the form of criticism and even caricature at the hands of casual observers and clever writers. Those of us who have been identified with the movement since its inception have somehow managed to preserve our faith in a survival of the fittest by remembering that there was a time when everything was new, and have felt that if we could keep a firm grip on the active principles which inspire all successful work with children, whether it is the work of a small independent library or that of a large system of libraries, our labor was not likely to be lost. The children, the books and ourselves are the three elements to be combined and the success of the combination does not depend upon time, nor place, nor circumstance. It depends upon whether we have a clear vision of our surroundings and are able to adapt ourselves to them, a growing appreciation of the value of books to the persons who read them, and the power of holding the interest and inspiring the respect and confidence of children.

If we can do all these things for a period of years we have little need to worry about the future success of the work. The boys and girls will look after that. In many instances they have already begun to look after it and the best assurance for the future maintenance of free libraries in America rests with those who, having tried them and liked them during the most impressionable years of their lives, believe in the value of them for others as well as for themselves to the extent of being ready and willing to support them.

In passing from a long and intimate experience in the active work of a children’s room in an independent library to the guidance of work in the children’s rooms of a system of branch libraries, a great deal of thought has been given to deepening the sense of responsibility for library membership by regarding every form of daily work as a contributory means to this end.

The term “library membership” is a survival of the old subscription library but it defines a much closer relationship than the terms “borrower” or “user” and broadens rather than restricts the activities of a free library by making it seem more desirable to “belong to the library” than to “take out books.”

It is the purpose of this paper to present in outline for discussion such aspects of the work as may help to substantiate the claim of its ambitious and perhaps ambigious title: Library Membership as a Civic Force.

1. Our first and chief concern is with the selection of books and right here we are confronted by so many problems that we might profitably spend the entire week discussing them.

In general, the selection of books for a children’s room which is seeking to make and to sustain a place in the life of a community should offer sufficient variety to meet the needs and desires of boys and girls from the picture book age to that experience of life which is not always measured by years nor by school grade but is tipified by a Jewish girl under 14 years old, who, on being asked how she liked the book she had just read, “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm,” said to the librarian, “It’s not the kind of book you would enjoy yourself, is it?”, and on being answered in the affirmative, tactfully stated her own point of view: “Well, you see it is just this way, children have their little troubles and grown people have their great troubles. I guess it’s the great troubles that interest me.” We have been quick to recognize the claim of the foreign boy or girl who is learning our language and studying our history but we are only just beginning to recognize the claims of those, who, having acquired the language, are seeking in books that which they are experiencing in their own natures. Human nature may be the same the world over, but there is a vast difference in its manifestations between the ages of ten and sixteen in a New England village or town and in a foreign neighborhood of one of our large cities.

The selection of adult books in all classes, especially in biography, travel, history and literature is too limited in the children’s rooms of many libraries and should be enlarged to the point of making the shelves of classed books look more like those of a library and less like those of a school room. Titles in adult fiction should include as much of Jane Austen as girls will read and an introduction to Barrie in “Peter Pan” and the “Little Minister.” “Jane Eyre” will supply the demand for melodrama in its best form, while “Villette,” and possibly “Shirley,” may carry some girls far enough with Charlotte Bronte to incline them to read her life by Mrs. Gaskell. William Black’s “Princess of Thule” and “Judith Shakespeare” will find occasional readers. “Lorna Doone” will be more popular, although there are girls who find it very tedious. There should be a full set of Dickens in an edition attractive to boys and girls. A complete set of the Waverly novels in a new large print edition, well paragraphed and well illustrated, with the introductions left out and with sufficient variation in the bindings to present an inviting appearance on the shelves would lead, I believe, to a very much more general reading of Scott.

Conan Doyle’s “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” “The Refugees,” “The White company,” “Micah Clarke” and “At the Sign of the four” will need no urging, nor will Dumas’ “Count of Monte Cristo,” “The Three guardsmen” and “The Black tulip.” “Les Miserables” and “The Mill on the Floss” will fully satisfy the demand for “great troubles,” treated in a masterly fashion. We should include Thackeray’s “Henry Esmond,” “The Newcomes” and “The Virginians”; Bulwer’s “Last Days of Pompeii,” “Harold,” “Rienzi” and “The Last of the barons”; Charles Kingsley’s “Westward Ho,” “Hereward the Wake” and “Hypatia”; Charles Reade’s “Cloister and the hearth,” “Peg Woffington,” “Foul play” and “Put yourself in his place”; Besant’s “All sorts and conditions of men” and “The Children of Gibeon”; Wilkie Collins’ “The Moonstone” and “The Woman in white” as many of Robert Louis Stevenson’s stories as will be read “Cranford” and “The Vicar of Wakefield” with the Hugh Thomson illustrations; Miss Mulock’s “John Halifax,” “A Noble life,” “A Brave lady” and “A Life for a life”; Lever’s “Charles O’Malley” and “Harry Lorrequer”, Lew Wallace’s “Ben Hur” and “The Fair god”; Stockton’s “Rudder Grange,” “The Casting away of Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine” and “The Adventures of Captain Horn”; Mrs. Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s cabin” and “Oldtown folks”; Howells’ “Lady of the Aroostook,” “A Chance acquaintance,” “The Quality of mercy” and “The Rise of Silas Lapham”; Gilbert Parker’s “Seats of the mighty” and “When Valmond came to Pontiac”; Paul Leicester Ford’s “The Honorable Peter Stirling”; Richard Harding Davis’ “Van gibber,” “Gallagher,” “Soldiers of fortune” and “The Bar sinister”; Rider Haggard’s “King Solomon’s mines” and “Allen Quartermain”; Weir Mitchell’s “Hugh Wynne”, Marion Crawford’s “Marietta”, “Marzio’s crucifix”, and “Arethusa”; Kipling’s “The Day’s work”, “Kim” and “Many inventions” and, if they have been removed as juvenile titles, I think we should restore “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn” under the head of adult fiction.

Other titles will be freely and frequently used in a children’s room, which is taking into active account the interests of its users and is seeking to establish a genuine taste for good reading which will not be abandoned later on as artificial or forced. In general, the principle of selection should be to provide the best standard novels in order that the boys and girls who go out from the children’s room may know what good novels are and so much of modern fiction as shall serve to give the collection the appearance of being interesting and up to date without lowering the standard of that taste for good reading which is the chief purpose in shelving such a collection in a children’s room. The presence of the books is good for the children’s librarian as well as for the children and it goes without saying that she must be familiar with them if she is to use them intelligently.

The point to stop in the purchase of books designed for supplementary reading is with the smallest number that will meet the active demands which are not met by REAL books. We may well stop with the third book in most cases of purchase of books in sets. Does anybody know whether informational readers on the shelves of a children’s room leads to genuine interest in the subject so presented? To quote one boy’s opinion of nature readers, “The nature you get in books is the most disinteresting subject there is.” The cheapness of these publications has led to a larger duplication of them in libraries than seems desirable for the best interests of the work. We need in place of them such books, with certain modifications in treatment, as were indicated by Dr. Stanley Hall in his recent and very suggestive address on Reading as a factor in the education of children (Library Journal, April, 1908). Most of all do we need a series of books which will put foreign children and their parents in touch and in sympathy with the countries from which they came by spirited illustrations in color of street scenes, festivals and scenes from home life accompanied by simple direct statements and with translations of such stories and poems as may aid in making and keeping the impressions of their country vivid and lasting. There has been a rising wave of production of primers and first reading books during the past five years. Some libraries have experienced a primer craze and it becomes exceedingly difficult to decide which ones to buy and bow freely to duplicate them. Primers and “easy books” have a use for children who are learning to read but too free a use of them may be one of the influences responsible for that lack of power of sustained attention and limitation in vocabulary which is frequently shown by boys and girls from twelve to fourteen years old.

The edition in which a book for children appears is a matter of very much greater importance than is realized by those who view the work from a distance. It is not purely an aesthetic consideration. It has a very practical bearing on whether the book will be read or not and libraries which have the least money to spend should be most careful to spend it for books in editions which are attractive to children.

2. The only thoroughly successful means of securing respect and good care of library books is for libraries to maintain higher standards of excellence in respect to intelligent repairing and binding, to discard promptly a book which is to any extent mutilated or which is so soiled as to make it seem unwarrantable to ask a boy to wash his hands before touching it. The books on the circulating shelves should be the most attractive part of a children’s room. That it is possible to make and to keep them so is not a theory but a demonstrable fact. Three years ago a branch library was opened in one of the poor districts of a large city. The usual problems in the discipline of individuals and of gangs were present. Many of the new books were soiled, others were mutilated and several were missing at inventory taking. The librarian believed the moral lesson conveyed to children by training them to take care of library books to be one of the first requirements of good citizenship. She determined that no boy or girl should be able to say: “I took it that way”, in returning a soiled or mutilated book. In order to carry out her ideas to a successful issue it has been necessary for her to inspire her entire staff with a sense of the value of such training and to impress upon them that careful handling of books by library assistants is the first requisite to securing like care on the part of the children. Every book is examined at the time it is returned and before it is placed on the shelves it is given such repair as it may need. By careful washing, skillful varnishing and by the use of a preparation for removing grease spots many books are given an extended turn of service without lowering the standards established. Paper covers are provided as wrappers on rainy days and on sticky days. Such care of books requires time and sustained interest but I believe that it pays in the immediate as well as in the future results, when grown into men and women, the boys and girls who were taught this first lesson in citizenship will look back upon it with feelings of respect and satisfaction.

The cost to the library is less in expenditure for books and for service. The library mentioned affords direct evidence that loss of books by theft is very largely controlled by such simple means provided the means are consciously and consistently related to the larger end of regarding the property rights of others. It is interesting to note that three-fourths of its membership has been sustained during the three years.

3. In dealing with large numbers of children of foreign parentage it is evident that we need to define their relationship to the library more clearly than we have done as yet. Quite frequently they do not distinguish between the building and the books and refer to the latter as “taking libraries”. Now “taking a library” home is a very different matter from playing a part in the life of a civic institution and the parents as well as the boys and girls are quick to feel a difference which they are not always able to express in words. Quite early in my experience this was brought home to me by a visit from the mother of a Jewish boy who had been coming to the children’s room for about a year. She came on a busy Saturday afternoon and after looking about the room seated herself near the desk while the boy selected his books. As Leopold always tested the interest of several books before committing himself to a choice the visit lasted the entire afternoon. When they were ready to go she explained why she had come. She had been curious to discover for herself, she said, what it was Leopold got from the Library that made him so much easier to get on with at home. He had grown more thoughtful of his younger brothers and sisters, more careful of his books and other belongings and more considerate of his mother. “I wouldn’t have him know the difference I see,” she continued, “but he told me you were always asking him to bring me here and I made up my mind to come and see for myself and I have.

“These children are learning how to BEHAVE in PUBLIC as well as how to choose good books and I think it comes from the feeling they have of belonging to the Library, and being treated in the way they like, whether they are as young as my Simon, who is six years old, or as old as Leopold, who will be fourteen next month. If they were all boys of Leopold’s age it would be the same as it is at school; but having the younger ones here makes it more as it is at home.”

Should it not be the plan and purpose of a children’s room to make every boy and girl feel at home there from the moment of signing an application blank? Forms of application blanks and the manner of registration differ in nearly every library. Whatever form is used, personal explanation is always essential and it does not seem worth while to advocate a simplified form for the use of children. I believe there are very decided advantages in a system of registration which requires the children to write their own names in a book. The impression made upon their memories is distinctly different and more binding than that made by writing the name on a slip of paper and has frequently been of great service in cases of discipline as the signature is headed by a reminder of obligations:

“When I write my name in this book I promise to take good care of all the books I read in the Library and of those I take home and to obey the rules of the Library.” Such a method of registration is not impractical, even in a large library provided the work is carefully planned to admit of it.

Recent inquiries and investigation show very convincingly that a large proportion of parents, both foreign born and American, and a considerable number of educators, social workers and persons connected with libraries in England and in this country, have exceedingly hazy ideas respecting the work public libraries are doing for children. The issue of an admirable illustrated hand book on “The Work of the Cleveland public library with children” and the means used to reach them, should make clear to the latter whatever has seemed vague or indefinite in the work.

But there are many parents in large cities and in manufacturing towns, who cannot be induced to visit libraries and see for themselves as Leopold’s mother did, and they are frequently averse to having their children go to a place they know nothing about, believing that they are being drawn away from their school tasks by the mere reading of story books. How is it possible to stimulate their curiosity and interest to the point of making a Library seem desirable and even necessary in the education of their children to become citizens and wage earners? Printed explanations and rules issued by libraries are either not read or not understood by the majority of persons to whom they are addressed. There is something very deadening to the person of average intelligence about most printed explanations of library work. Pictures which bring the work before people from the human side might be more successful and I wish to submit an outline for a pictorial folder designed to accompany an application blank to the home of an Italian child.


In size it is five inches long and three inches wide. On the outer cover appears a picture of the exterior of the library, underneath the picture the name of the library, its location and the hours it is open.

On the first page a picture of the children’s room with this inscription underneath:

Boys and Girls come here to read and to study their lessons for school. Picture Books for little children.

On the second page a picture of the adult department, showing its use and giving the information all foreigners seem desirous to have:

Men and Women come here to read and to study.

Books on the Laws and Customs of America.

Books, Papers and Magazines in Italian and other foreign languages.

Books from which to learn to read English.

On the back of the cover these simple directions:


The use of the Library is Free to anyone who comes to Read or to Study in its rooms.

If you wish to take Books home you must sign an application blank and give the name and address of some one who knows you.

The information on the folder should be given in the language or languages of the neighborhood in which the library is situated.

This folder was designed for a branch library in an Italian neighborhood but a similar folder might be utilized in any community provided the information is given in simple, direct form and the pictures show the Library with people using it.

4. Joining the library is not all. However carefully and impressively the connection is made we are all conscious of those files of cards “left by borrower,” which indicate that a connection must be sustained if library membership is to prove its claim as a civic force. There are those who regard a restriction of circulation to one or two story books a week as a desirable means to this end, believing that interest in reading is heightened by such limitation. That many boys and girls read too much we all know, but I am inclined to think that whatever restriction is made should be made for the individual rather than laid down as a library rule. Other libraries advocate a remission of fines, at the same time imposing a deprivation in time of such length that it would seem to defeat the chief end of the children’s room which is to encourage the reading habit. Children who leave their cards for six months at a time are not likely to be very actively interested in their library. There seem to be three viewpoints regarding fines for children.

1. Children should be required to pay their fines as a lesson in civic righteousness. Persons holding this view would allow the working out of fines under some circumstances but regard the fine as a debt.

2. Any system of fines is a wrong one, therefore all fines should be remitted and some other punishment for negligence substituted. Persons holding this view would deprive children of the use of the library for a stated period.

3. A fine is regarded as slightly punitive and probably the most effective means of teaching children to respect the rights of others in their time use of books. Persons holding this view would reduce the fine to one cent, wherever a fine is exacted and would exercise a great deal of latitude in dealing with individual cases, remitting or cutting down fines whenever it seems wise to do so and imposing brief and variable time deprivations of the use of the library rather than a long fixed period.

Whatever viewpoint is taken it will be necessary to remind children constantly that by keeping their books overtime other boys and girls are being deprived of the reading of them.

One of the most effective means of sustaining and promoting such a sense of library membership as I have indicated is the extension of reading-room work by placing on open, or on closed shelves, if necessary, a collection of the best children’s books in the best editions obtainable, to be used as reading-room books. Children may be so trained in the careful handling of these books as to become very much more careful of their treatment of the book they take home and the experiment is not a matter of large expense to the library. The reading-room books should never be allowed to become unsightly in appearance if they are to do their full work in the room as an added attraction to the children and as suggestive to parents, teachers and other visitors who may wish to purchase books as gifts.

The value of a well conducted Story hour or Reading club as a means of sustaining the library connection and of influencing the spontaneous choice of books by boys and girls has not been fully recognized because it has been only partially understood. There are various methods of conducting Story hours and Reading clubs. There are many differences of opinion as to whether the groups should be large or small, differentiated by age or by sex, whether the groups should be made up entirely of children or whether an occasional adult may be admitted without changing the relation between the story teller and the children. Those who desire suggestion of material and specific information as to method and practice will find much that is valuable and practical in the publication of the Carnegie library of Pittsburg and in the Handbook of the Cleveland public library. Those who are seeking to place a Story hour in work already established will do well to remember that it is a distinctly social institution and as such is bound to be colored by the personality of its originator whether she tells the stories herself or finds others to carry out her ideas. Make your Story hour the simple and natural expression of the best you have to give and do not attempt more than you can perform. I believe the Story hour is the simplest and most effective means of enlisting the interest of parents and of stirring that active recollection of their own childhood which leads to sharing its experiences with their children. Folk tales told in the language his father and mother speak should give to the child of foreign parentage a feeling of pride in the beautiful things of the country his parents have left in place of the sense of shame with which he too often regards it. The possibilities in this field are unlimited if wisely directed.

The value of exhibits depends upon the subject chosen and the exercise of imagination, good taste and practical knowledge of children’s tastes in selecting and arranging the objects or pictures. The subject must be one which makes an immediate appeal to the passing visitor. There should not be too much of it and it should not be allowed to remain too long in the room. A single striking object is often more effective than a collection of objects. Some interpretation of an exhibit in the form of explanation or story is needed if the children are to become very much interested in reading about a subject.

To those who believe that Story hours, Clubs, Exhibits, and Picture bulletins are not “legitimate library work,” I would say, suspend your judgment until you have watched or studied the visible effects of such work in a place where it is properly related to the other activities of the library and to the needs of the community in which it is situated. If by the presence of an Arctic exhibit in an Italian and Irish-American non-reading neighborhood an interest is stimulated which results in the circulation and the reading of several hundred books on the subject during the time of the exhibition and for months afterward, the exhibit certainly seems legitimate.

5. Since it is true that social conditions, racial characteristics and individuality in temperament enter very actively into the problems of the care of children in libraries and since it is also true that the books children read and the care which is given to them in libraries are frequently reflected in their conduct in relation to the School, the Church, the Social settlement, the Playground, the Juvenile court and to civic clubs as well as to the Home, a more enlightened conception of the work of all these institutions is essential if the Children’s library is to play its full part in the absorption of children of different nations into a larger national life. This need is being recognized and partially met by lecture courses and by the practice work of students in library training schools but listening to lectures, reading, and regulated student practice does not take the place of that spontaneous eagerness to see for one’s self, the social activities of a neighborhood or town which makes a library in its town a place of living interest. Librarians, en masse, in relation to other institutions, stand in a similar position to that of the representative of those institutions. On both sides a firsthand knowledge of the aims and objects and methods of work of all the forces at work in a given community and a perception of their interrelationship is essential if we wish to do away with the present tendency to duplicate work which is already being carried on by more effective agencies. How far a library should go in relating its work to that of other institutions it is impossible to prescribe. The aim should be to make its own work so clear to the community in which it is placed that it will command the respect and the support of every citizen.


The second paper at the Minnetonka sectional meeting, mentioned in the introduction to the preceding article, was presented by Dr. Graham Taylor, Director of the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy, who believes that “equally with the schools and playgrounds, our library centers are essential to American democracy.” Dr. Taylor was born in Schenectady, N. Y., in 1851; received the degree of A.B. from Rutgers College in 1870, and was graduated from the Reformed Theological Seminary, New Brunswick, N. J., in 1873. He has since been granted the honorary degrees of D.D. and LL.D. From 1873 to 1892 he remained in the pastorale; from 1888 to 1892 was Professor of Practical Theology in Hartford Theological Seminary, and in 1892 became Professor of Social Economics in the Chicago Theological Seminary. In 1894 he became the founder and resident warden of the Chicago Commons Social Settlement. Dr. Taylor is associate editor of the Survey.

The child is coming to be as much of a civic problem as it ever has been a family problem. Upon the normality of its children the strength and perpetuity of the state depend, as surely as the dependency and delinquency of its children undermine the prowess and menace the life of the state. The education and discipline, labor and recreation of the child figure larger all the while in our legislation and taxes, our thinking and literature.

Democracy, machine industry, immigration and child psychology combine to make the child a new problem to the modern state and city, especially in America. With the problems of the child’s normality and defectiveness, discipline and delinquency, work and play, and its assimilation into the body politic, our towns and cities, states and nation have been forced to deal. Hitherto we have dealt far more with the negative and repressive aspects of these problems than with any constructive ideal, purpose and method respecting them. We have, for instance, paid more attention to defective children than to the prenatal antecedents and early conditions of child life. We have been too long punishing juvenile delinquency without trying to help the backward and wayward child. We have let young children work without regard to the industrial efficiency of their whole life. We are only beginning to share the attention we have paid to the education of our children with the equally serious problem of their recreation. We have been content merely with their physical exercise and have been stupidly obtuse to awaking and satisfying the pleasurable interest of the child in his play and the organization of it. Where there have been an un-American fear of immigration and feeling against the immigrant there has been all too little effort put forth to assimilate the foreign elements of our local population.

But we are coming to see that to prepossess is better than to dispossess. Prevention is found to be a surer and cheaper solvent of our child problems than punishment. The child’s own resources for self development and self mastery prove to be greater than all the repressive measures to obtain and maintain our control over him. Thus our very disciplinary measures have become saner and more effective. No way-mark of our civilization registers greater progress than our abandonment of the criminal procedure against children and our adoption of the paternal spirit and method of our juvenile courts and reformatory measures. To our agencies for dealing with defectives and delinquents we have added the kindergarten and all the kindred principles, methods and instrumentalities of constructive work with children.

Chief among these is the use we are making of the child’s instinct for play and mental diversion as a means of building up both the individual and the social life. Chicago has made the discovery of the civic value of recreation centers for the play of the people. Not since old Rome’s circus maximus and the Olympic games of Greece has any city made such provision for the recreation of its people as is to be found in these great playfields, surrounding the beautifully designed and well equipped field houses, which at a cost of $12,000,000 of the tax payers’ money have been built in the most crowded districts of Chicago. The recreation centers illustrate the civic opportunity and value of library work with children. For the Chicago public library was quick to see and seize the advantage thus offered to serve the city. The delivery stations and reading rooms established in these field houses are already recognized to be the most useful of its centers to the child life of the city. The organized volunteer cooperation of several groups of women has added the story hour as a regular feature of the library work at these playgrounds, and at two public school buildings where similar stations are to be established in cooperation with the Board of education. At the central library building the work in the Thomas Hughes Young people’s reading room has also been successfully supplemented by the story hour appointments in a large hall, with the same efficient cooperation.

The quick and large response given by the people to these civic extensions of library service in every city and town where they have been offered, demonstrates what a large field of usefulness awaits public library enterprise and occupancy. But the experiment has gone far enough to prove the absolute necessity of having librarians especially trained for work with children; and to that end, the addition of the position of children’s librarian to the classified civil service lists for which special examinations are set.

Equally with the schools and playgrounds, our library centers are essential to American democracy. All three are to be classed together as our most democratic and efficient agencies for training our people into their citizenship and assimilating them into the American body politic. Nowhere are we on a more common footing of an equality of opportunity than in the public schools, the public playground and the public library.

The public school stands upon that bit of mother earth which belongs equally to us all. The playground is open alike to all comers. And the public library is not only as free and open to all as to any of our whole people, but also confers citizenship in that time-long, world wide democracy of the Republic of Letters.

The civic service thus democratically to be rendered by library work with children is indispensably valuable. It may be made more and more invaluable to any community by intelligent insight into the needs of the people, and by the practical and prompt application of library resources which are limited only by our capacity, enterprise and energy to develop and apply them.


A broader idea of library work with children necessitates greater knowledge of other agencies which work with them and a spirit of willing cooperation on the part of the children’s librarian. From her experience in the city of Washington Miss Herbert contributed the following article of The Library Journal. Clara Wells Herbert was born in Stockbridge, Mass.; was a student in Vassar from 1894 to 1896; received a special certificate from the Training School for Children’s Librarians in 1904; was children’s librarian in the Brooklyn Public Library from 1904 to 1907, and since that time has been the head of the Children’s department in the Public Library of the District of Columbia.

The children’s departments of many city libraries are carrying on a fine aggressive work and through branch children’s rooms, close work with schools, including deposits of books in classrooms, deposits of books and story-telling in playgrounds, home libraries and home visiting, are coming close to the children and putting good books within their reach. Such work rests upon a large staff and a generous appropriation. On the other hand, the small town library has the advantage of informal relations with its people and is a part of the various activities of the town. Between these two types of libraries is a third. It is located in a city too large for the helpful informal relations of the town library. It cannot, on the other hand, carry on its own aggressive work, for it is hampered by the smallness of its staff and the meagerness of its appropriation.

To libraries of this sort the effecting of cordial relations with other civic institutions is of the utmost importance. Upon it depends largely the outside work of the library and a specialized knowledge of conditions very essential for intelligent work.

Nor is the library the only one to profit by cooperation.

“I never thought of asking for help there,” said a probation officer recently when talking of her difficulties in keeping a record of the use of the withdrawn books given to the court by the library. Not more than we need the benefit of the intimate personal knowledge of conditions of such workers, do they often need the help the library stands ready and eager to give but which they do not think to ask.

The work of the children’s department should be then twofold in purpose–to reach the children directly as far as possible, and to establish such relations with other organizations as will render it a vital interested force in the community, a place where people will naturally turn for help along the line of its work.

Certain practices which have been found useful in effecting this cooperation may be suggestive, but the basis of any satisfactory relationship is interest and the desire to help and has its beginnings in the children’s room.

The children’s librarian should keep always in mind that the city is full of workers who, strong in the belief that the hope of the future is in the children, are doing devoted work in their behalf. Sooner or later they will visit the children’s room and the opportunity presents itself to know their particular line of work. It is interesting to note in how many of such cases the conversation contains something which may be applied with advantage to the library’s activities. At least, the visitor receives the impression that the library assistant is interested in any work done for children and, if at some future time a need presents itself, turns to her for assistance.

This interest is also shown if the children’s librarians attend meetings or conferences held in behalf of children or from which they may gather information on home conditions. Frequently there are courses of lectures given by charity organizations or club meetings of sociological workers where the problems of the city are discussed.

Libraries having staff or apprentice meetings frequently invite as speakers persons representing some particular phase of work, and these occasions engender mutual interest. In other cases librarians have added to their staffs former kindergartners and charity workers that they might profit by their special training and the knowledge of conditions gathered from their former experiences.

Much may be said of the undesirability of distributing withdrawn books among institutions. But in libraries where the maintenance of travelling collections is limited they afford perhaps the only opportunity of reaching the children in orphanages, reform schools and similar institutions. Such distributions should be followed by visits to the institutions to talk, if possible, to the children and to get an idea of their needs and tastes.

Collections of withdrawn books at the juvenile court are used by the children while on probation and often after release, and by the grown people of their families as well. In Cleveland the list of official parents and paroled boys is furnished the library and booklists and information about the nearest branch are sent them. In Washington the library supplies the probation officers with application blanks. When a child who has shown a taste for reading is to be discharged the officer on the last visit to his home takes the application blank and secures the parent’s signature. The child brings the application to the library, obtains cards immediately and is helped in his selection of books.

The attendance or truant officers of the schools know home conditions better than teachers. They have a general knowledge of the city and the peculiarities of the different sections that is most helpful in the selection of places for home libraries or deposit stations. Their knowledge of the home life of troublesome children will often throw light on difficult cases of discipline.

In Washington the attendance officer issues permits under the child labor law. From this office may be secured a list of stores and other places of employment for children. The library should send notices to such buildings and place at the office invitations to use the library to be distributed at the time the permits for work are issued.

The Cleveland Public Library uses for a mailing list for publications pertaining to children’s work a card directory of social workers. This directory gives the name, address and connection of each individual and includes board members of set- tlement houses, associated charities, visiting nurses’ associations, pastors and their assistants, of churches conducting club work, and others similarly engaged. In some cities this same information may be gathered from the published directory of philanthropic agencies and their reports. Lists such as those published by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, “Stories to tell to children,” “Books for reading circles,” “Games,” or lists made especially in connection with the activities of a settlement, playground, etc., mailed to its club workers attract them to the library.

Rainy days when the hours drag and the children cannot be out of doors are good times to visit summer camps and vacation homes. There may be an opportunity to tell stories or for a talk to the children which, when their vacation is over, they are glad to remember.

There are two special collections which it is well for the children’s department to have–one for the children and one for grown people.

It should follow Newark’s notable example in putting into form, adapted for children’s use, all the information regarding the city, its institutions, historic spots, etc. The collection of such material informs the assistants, attracts the cooperation of those from whom the information is sought and by acquainting the child with the manifold features of the life of the city, helps to prepare him for intelligent citizenship.

It should collect, also, all material relative to the children of the city. It should have reports of settlements, institutions, summer camps and homes, day nurseries, work with foreigners, mounted maps of the location of schools and playgrounds, copies of the child labor law, compulsory education act, in fact, any information obtainable about the conditions of the child life of the city. Such material will draw interested people to the library and thus open up opportunities for further cooperation.

Such are a few of the many ways in which the children’s room may be tied to other organizations working for children. Under the varied conditions of different cities they develop indefinitely. Only a few could be mentioned here. Even the work with schools and playgrounds, the importance of which is generally established, has not been included. As these relations grow closer and closer the library’s work broadens and deepens and the realization that all are workers in a common cause brings encouragement and inspiration for the daily task.


The “possibility and duty,” on the part of the children’s library, of being a moral force in the community, was discussed by Clara W. Hunt in a paper presented at the Narragansett Pier Conference of the A. L. A. in 1906. Seven years later, at the Kaaterskill Conference in 1913, Miss Hunt again considered the influence of children’s libraries as a civic force. This later paper, representing more fully her point of view, and embodying her later experience, is here reprinted.

Clara Whitehill Hunt was born in Utica, N. Y., in 1871. She was graduated from the Utica Free Academy in 1889, and from the New York State Library School in 1898. From 1893 to 1896 she was a public school principal in Utica. She organized work with children in the Apprentices’ Library, Philadelphia, in 1898, and had charge of it in the Newark, N. J., Free Public Library from 1898 to 1902. Since 1903 she has been Superintendent of the Children’s Department of the Brooklyn Public Library. Miss Hunt has been a lecturer and contributor to magazines on children’s literature, library work with children and related topics, and has published a book on “What shall we read to the children?”

You are probably familiar with the story of the man who, being asked by his host which part of the chicken he liked best replied that “he’d never had a chance to find out; that when he was a boy it was the fashion to give the grown people first choice, and by the time he’d grown up the children had the pick, so he’d never tasted anything but the drumstick.”

It will doubtless be looked upon as heresy for a children’s librarian to own that she has a deal of sympathy for the down-trodden adult of the present; that there have been moments when she has even gone so far as to say an “amen”–under her breath–to the librarian who, after a day of vexations at the hands of the exasperating young person represented in our current social writings as a much-sinned-against innocent, wrathfully exploded, “Children ought to be put in a barrel and fed through the bung till they are twenty-one years old!”

During the scant quarter century which has seen the birth and marvelous growth of modern library work with children, the “new education” has been putting its stamp upon the youth of America and upon the ideas of their parents regarding the upbringing of children. And it has come to pass that one must be very bold to venture to brush off the dust of disuse from certain old saws and educational truisms, such as “All play and no work make Jack a mere toy,” “No gains without pains,” “We learn to do by doing,” “Train up a child in the way he should go,” and so on.

Our kindergartens, our playground agitators, our juvenile courts, our child welfare exhibits are so persistently–and rightly –showing the wrongdoing child as the helpless victim of heredity and environment that hasty thinkers are jumping to the conclusion that, since a child is not to blame for his thieving tendencies, it is our duty, rather than punish, to let him go on stealing; since it is a natural instinct for a boy to like the sound of crashing glass and the exercise of skill needed to hit a mark, we must not reprove him for throwing stones at windows; because a child does not like to work, we should let him play–play all the time.

The painless methods of the new education, which tend to make life too soft for children, and to lead parents to believe that everything a child craves he must have, these tendencies have had their effect upon the production and distribution of juvenile books, and have added to the librarian’s task the necessity not only of fighting against the worst reading, but against the third rate lest it crowd out the best.

It is the importance of this latter warfare which I wish mainly to discuss.

We children’s librarians, in the past fifteen or twenty years, have had to take a good many knocks, more or less facetious, from spectators of the sterner sex who are worried about the “feminization of the library,” and who declare that no woman, certainly no spinster, can possibly understand the nature of the boy. Perhaps sometimes we are inclined to droop apologetic heads, because we know that some women are sentimental, that they don’t all “look at things in the large,” as men invariably do. In view, however, of the record of this youthful movement of ours, we have a right rather to swagger than to apologize.

The influence of the children’s libraries upon the ideals, the tastes, the occupations, the amusements, the language, the manners, the home standards, the choice of careers, upon the whole life, in fact, of thousands upon thousands of boys and girls has been beyond all count as a civic force in America.

And yet, while teachers tell us that the opening of every new library witnesses a substitution of wholesome books for “yellow” novels in pupils’ hands; while men in their prime remark their infrequent sight of the sensational periodicals left on every doorstep twenty years ago; while publishers of children’s books are trying to give us a clean, safe, juvenile literature, and while some nickel novel publishers are even admitting a decline in the sale of their wares; in spite of these evidences of success, a warfare is still on, though its character is changing.

Every librarian who has examined children’s books for a few years back knows exactly what to expect when she tackles the “juveniles” of 1913.

There will be a generous number of books so fine in point of matter and makeup that we shall lament having been born too late to read these in our childhood. The information and the taste acquired by children who have read the best juvenile publications of the past ten years is perfectly amazing, and those extremists who decry the buying of any books especially written for children are nearly as nonsensical as the ones who would buy everything the child wishes.

But when one has selected with satisfaction perhaps a hundred and fifty titles, one begins to get into the potboiler class–the written-to-order information book which may be guaranteed to kill all future interest in a subject treated in style so wooden and lifeless; the retold classic in which every semblance to the spirit of the original is lost, and the reading of which will give to the child that familiarity which will breed contempt for the work itself; the atrocious picture book modeled after the comic supplement and telling in hideous daubs of color and caricature of line the tale of the practical joker who torments animals, mocks at physical deformities, plays tricks on parents, teases the newlywed, ridicules good manners, whose whole aim, in short, is to provoke guffaws of laughter at the expense of someone’s hurt body or spirit. There will be collections of folk and fairy tales, raked together without discrimination from the literature of people among whom trickery and cunning are the most admired qualities; there will be school stories in which the masters and studious boys grovel at the feet of the football hero; in greater number than the above will be the stories written in series on thoroughly up-to-date subjects.

I shall be much surprised if we do not learn this fall that the world has been deceived in supposing that to Amundsen and Scott belong the honor of finding the South Pole, or to Gen. Goethals the credit of engineering the Panama Canal. If we do not discover that some young Frank or Jack or Bill was the brains behind these achievements, I shall wonder what has become of the ingenuity of the plotter of the series stories–the “plotter” I say advisedly, for it is a known fact that many of these stories are first outlined by a writer whose name makes books sell, the outlines then being filled in by a company of underlings who literally write to order. When we learn, also, that an author who writes admirable stories, in which special emphasis is laid upon fair play and a sense of honor, is at the same time writing under another name books he is ashamed to acknowledge, we are not surprised at the low grade of the resulting stories.

With the above extremes of good and poor there will be quantities on the border line, books not distinctly harmful from one standpoint–in fact, they will busily preach honesty and pluck and refinement, etc., but they will be so lacking in imagination and power, in the positive qualities that go to make a fine book, that they cannot be called wholly harmless, since that which crowds out a better thing is harmful, at least to the extent that it usurps the room of the good.

These books we will be urged to buy in large duplicate, and when we, holding to the ideal of the library as an educational force, refuse to supply this intellectual pap, well-to-do parents may be counted upon to present the same in quantities sufficient to weaken the mental digestion of their offspring beyond cure by teachers the most gifted.

There are two principal arguments–so-called–hurled at every librarian who tries to maintain a high standard of book selection. One is the “I read them when I was a child and they did me no harm” claim; the other, based upon the doggedly clung- to notion that our ideal of manhood is a grown-up Fauntleroy, infers that every book rejected was offensive to the children’s librarian because of qualities dangerously likely to encourage the boy in a taste for bloodshed and dirty hands.

Now, in this day when parents are frantically protecting their children from the deadly house fly, the mosquito, the common drinking cup and towel; when milk must be sterilized and water boiled and adenoids removed; when the young father solemnly bows to the dictum that he mustn’t rock nor trot his own baby– isn’t it really matter for the joke column to hear the “did me no harm” idea advanced as an argument? And yet it is so offered by the same individual who, though he has survived a boyhood of mosquito bites and school drinking cups, refuses to allow his child to risk what he now knows to be a possible carrier of disease.

The “what was good enough for me is good enough for my children” idea, if soberly treated as an argument in other matters of life, would mean death to all progress, and it is no more to be treated seriously as a reason for buying poor juvenile books than a contention for the fetich doctor versus the modern surgeon, or for the return to the foot messenger in place of electrical communication.

It would be tactless, if not positively dangerous, if we children’s librarians openly expressed our views when certain people point boastfully to themselves as shining products of mediocre story book childhoods. So I would hastily suppress this thought, and instead remind these people that, as a vigorous child is immune from disease germs which attack a delicate one, so unquestionably have thousands of mental and moral weaklings been retarded from their best development by books that left no mark on healthy children. In spite of the probability that there are to-day alive many able-bodied men who cut their first teeth on pickles and pork chops, we do not question society’s duty to disseminate proper ideas on the care and feeding of children.

Isn’t it about time that we nailed down the lid of the coffin on the “did me no harm” argument and buried the same in the depths of the sea?

Another notion that dies hard is one assuming that, since the children’s librarian is a woman, prone to turn white about the gills at the sight of blood–or a mouse–she can not possibly enter into the feelings of the ancestral barbarian surviving in the young human breast, but must try to hasten the child’s development to twentieth century civilization by eliminating the elemental and savage from his story books.

If those who grow hoarse shouting the above would take the trouble to examine the lists of an up-to-date library they might blush for their shallowness, that they have been basing their opinions on their memory of library lists at least twenty-five years old.

We do not believe that womanly women and manly men are most successfully made by way of silly, shoddy, sorry-for-themselves girlhoods, or lying, swaggering, loafing boyhoods; and it is the empty, the vulgar, the cheap, smart, trust-to-luck story, rather than the gory one, that we dislike.

I am coming to the statement of what I believe to be the problem most demanding our study today. It is, briefly, the problem of the mediocre book, its enormous and ever-increasing volume. More fully stated it is the problem of the negatively as the enemy of the positively good; of the cultivation of brain laziness by “thoughts-made-easy” reading. It is a republic’s, a public school problem, viz.: How is it possible to raise to a higher average the lowest, without reducing to a dead level of mediocrity the citizens of superior possibilities? Our relation to publisher and parent, to the library’s adult open shelves of current fiction enter into the problem. The children’s over-reading, and their reluctance to “graduate” from juvenile books, these and many other perplexing questions grow out of the main one.

I said awhile ago that the new education has had a tendency to make life too soft for children, and to give to their parents the belief that natural instincts alone are safe guides to follow in rearing a child. I hope I shall not seem to be a good old times croaker, sighing for the days when school gardens and folk dancing and glee clubs and dramatization of lessons and beautiful text-books and fascinating handicraft and a hundred other delightful things were undreamed-of ways of making pleasant the paths of learning. Heaven forbid that I should join the ranks of those who carp at a body of citizens who, at an average wage in America less than that of the coal miner and the factory worker, have produced in their schools results little short of the miraculous. To visit, as I have, classrooms of children born in slums across the sea, transplanted to tenements in New York, and to see what our public school teachers are making of these children–the backward, the underfed, the “incorrigible,” the blind, the anaemic–well, all I can say is, I do not recommend these visits to Americans of the stripe of that boastful citizen who, being shown the crater of Vesuvius with a “There, you haven’t anything like that in America!” disdainfully replied, “Naw, but we’ve got Niagara, and that’d put the whole blame thing out!” For myself I never feel quite so disposed to brag of my Americanism as when I visit some of our New York schools.

And yet, watching the bored shrug of the bright, well-born high school child when one suggests that “The prince and the pauper” is quite as interesting a story as the seventh volume of her latest series, a librarian has some feelings about the lines-of- least-resistance method of educating our youth, which she is glad to find voiced by some of our ablest thinkers.

Here is what J. P. Munroe says: “Many of the new methods . . . methods of gentle cooing toward the child’s inclinations, of timidly placing a chair for him before a disordered banquet of heterogeneous studies, may produce ladylike persons, but they will not produce men. And when these modern methods go as far as to compel the teacher to divide this intellectual cake and pudding into convenient morsels and to spoon-feed them to the child, partly in obedience to his schoolboy cravings, partly in conformity to a pedagogical psychology, then the result is sure to be mental and moral dyspepsia in a race of milk-sops.” How aptly “spoon-fed pudding” characterizes whole cartloads of our current “juveniles”!

Listen to President Wilson’s opinion: “To be carried along by somebody’s suggestions from the time you begin until the time when you are thrust groping and helpless into the world, is the very negation of education. By the nursing process, by the coddling process you are sapping a race; and only loss can possibly result except upon the part of individuals here and there who are so intrinsically strong that you cannot spoil them.”

Hugo Munsterberg is a keen observer of the product of American schools, and contrasting their methods with those of his boyhood he says: “My school work was not adjusted to botany at nine years because I played with an herbarium, and at twelve to physics because I indulged in noises with home-made electric bells, and at fifteen to Arabic, an elective which I miss still in several high schools, even in Brookline and Roxbury. The more my friends and I wandered afield with our little superficial interests and talents and passions, the more was the straight-forward earnestness of the school our blessing; and all that beautified and enriched our youth, and gave to it freshness and liveliness, would have turned out to be our ruin, if our elders had taken it seriously, and had formed a life’s program out of petty caprices and boyish inclinations.”

And Prof. Munsterberg thrusts his finger into what I believe to be the weakest joint in our educational armor when he says, “As there is indeed a difference whether I ask what may best suit the taste and liking of Peter, the darling, or whether I ask what Peter, the man, will need for the battle of life in which nobody asks what he likes, but where the question is how he is liked, and how he suits the taste of his neighbors.”

What would become of our civilization if we were to follow merely the instincts and natural desires? Yet is there not in America a tremendous tendency to the notion, that except in matters of physical welfare, the child’s lead is to be followed to extreme limits? Don’t we librarians feel it in the pressure brought to bear upon us by those who fail to find certain stories, wanted by the children, on our shelves? “Why, that’s a good book,” the parent will say, “The hero is honest and kind, the book won’t hurt him any–in fact it will give the child some good ideas.”

“Ideas.” Yes, perhaps. There is another educator I should like to quote, J. H. Baker in his “Education and life.” “Whatever you would wish the child to do and become, that let him practice. We learn to do, not by knowing, but by knowing and then doing. Ethical teaching, tales of heroic deeds, soul-stirring fiction that awakens sympathetic emotions may accomplish but little unless in the child’s early life the ideas and feelings find expression in action and so become a part of the child’s power and tendency. . .”

Now we believe with G. Stanley Hall that, “The chief enemy of active virtue in the world is not vice but laziness, languor and apathy of will;” that “mind work is infinitely harder than physical toil;” that (as another says) “all that does not rouse, does not set him to work, rusts and taints him the disease of laziness destroys the whole man.”

And when children of good heritage, good homes, sound bodies, bright minds, spend hours every week curled up among cushions, allowing a stream of cambric-tea literature gently to trickle over their brain surfaces, we know that though the heroes and heroines of these stories be represented as prodigies of industry and vigor, our young swallowers of the same are being reduced to a pulp of brain and will laziness that will not only make them incapable of struggling with a page of Quentin Durward, for example, but will affect their moral stamina, since fighting fiber is the price of virtue.

Ours is, as I have said, a public education, a republic’s problem. To quote President Wilson again: “Our present plans for teaching everybody involve certain unpleasant things quite inevitably. It is obvious that you cannot have universal education without restricting your teaching to such things as can be universally understood. It is plain that you cannot impart ‘university methods’ to thousands, or create ‘investigators’ by the score, unless you confine your university education to matters which dull men can investigate, your laboratory training to tasks which mere plodding diligence and submissive patience can compass. Yet, if you do so limit and constrain what you teach, you thrust taste and insight and delicacy of perception out of the schools, exalt the obvious and merely useful things above the things which are only imaginatively or spiritually conceived, make education an affair of tasting and handling and smelling, and so create Philistia, that country in which they speak of ‘mere literature.’ “

In our zeal to serve the little alien, descendant of generations of poverty and ignorance, let us not lose sight of the importance to our country of the child more fortunate in birth and brains. So strong is my feeling on the value of leaders that I hold we should give at least as much study to the training of the accelerate child as we give to that of the defective. Though I boast the land of Abraham Lincoln and Booker Washington I do not give up one iota of my belief that the child who is born into a happy environment, of parents strong in body and mind, holds the best possibilities of making a valuable citizen; and so I am concerned that this child be not spoiled in the making by a training or lack of training that fails to recognize his possibilities.

It is encouraging to kind growing attention in the “Proceedings” of the N. E. A. and other educational bodies to the problem of the bright child who has suffered by the lock-step system which has molded all into conformity with the capabilities of the average child.

The librarian’s difficulty is perhaps greater than that of the teacher, because open shelves and freedom of choice are so essential a part of our program. We must provide easy reading for thousands of children. Milk and water stories may have an actual value to children whose unfavorable heritage and environment have retarded their mental development. But the deplorable thing is to see young people, mercifully saved from the above handicaps, making a bee line for the current diluted literature for grown-ups, (as accessible as Scott on our open shelves) and to realize that this taste, which is getting a life set, is the inevitable outcome of the habit of reading mediocre juveniles.

We must not rail at publishers for trying to meet the demands of purchasers. Our job is to influence that demand far more than we have done as yet. Large book jobbers tell us that millions and millions of poor juveniles are sold in America to thousands of the sort we librarians recommend. I have seen purchase lists of boys’ club directors and Sunday School library committees calling for just the weak and empty stuff we would destroy. I have unwittingly been an eavesdropper at Christmas book counters and have heard the orders given by parents and the suggestions made by clerks. And I feel that the public library has but skirmished along the outposts while the great field of influencing the reading of American children remains unconquered. Until we affect production to the extent that the book stores circulate as good books as the best libraries we cannot be too complacent about our position as a force in citizen making.

An “impossible” ideal, of course, but far from intimidating, the largeness of the task makes us all the more determined.

This paper attempts no suggestion of new methods of attacking the problem. It is rather a restatement of an old perplexity. I harp once more on a worn theme because I think that unless we frequently lift our eyes from the day’s absorbing duties for a look over the whole field, and unless we once and again make searching inventory of our convictions, our purposes, our methods, our attainments, we are in danger of letting ourselves slip along the groove of the taken-for-granted and our work loses in power as we allow ourselves to become leaners instead of leaders. May we not, as if it were a new idea, rouse to the seriousness of the mediocre habit indulged in by young people capable of better things? Should not our work with children reach out more to work with adults, to those who buy and sell and make books for the young? Is it not time for the successful teller of stories to children to use her gifts in audiences of grown people, persuading these molders of the children’s future of the reasonableness of our objection to the third rate since it is the enemy of the best? May it not be politic, at least, for the librarian to descend from her disdainful height and make friends with “the trade,” with bookseller and publisher who, after all, have as good a right to their bread and butter as the librarian paid out of the city’s taxes?

And then–is it not possible that we might be better librarians if we refused to be librarians every hour in the day and half the night as well? What if we were to have the courage to refuse to indulge in nervous breakdowns, because we deliberately plan to play, and to eat, and to sleep, to keep serene and sane and human, believing that God in His Heaven gives His children a world of beauty to enjoy as well as a work to do with zeal. If we lived a little longer and not quite so wide, the gain to our chosen work in calm nerves and breadth of interest and sympathy would even up for dropping work on schedule time for a symphony concert or a country walk or a visit with a friend–might even justify saving the cost of several A. L. A. conferences toward a trip to Italy!

This hurling at librarians advice to play more and work less reminds me of a story told by a southern friend. Years ago, in a sleepy little Virginia village, there lived two characters familiar to the townspeople, whose greatest daily excitement was a stroll down to the railroad station to watch the noon express rush through to distant southern cities. One of these personages was the station keeper, of dry humor and sententious habit, whom we will call Hen Waters; the other was the station goat, named, of course, Billy. Year after year had Billy peacefully cropped the grass along the railroad tracks, turning an indifferent ear to the roar of the daily express, when suddenly one day the notion seemed to strike his goatish mind that this racket had been quietly endured long enough. With the warning whistle of the approaching engine, Billy, lowering his head, darted furiously up the track, intending to butt the offending thunderer into Kingdom Come. When, a few seconds later, the amazed spectators were gazing after the diminishing train, Hen Waters, addressing the spot where the redoubtable goat had last been seen, drawled out: “Billy, I admire your pluck–but darn your discretion!”

The parallel between the the ambitions and the futility of the goat, and the present speaker’s late advice is so obvious that only the illogicalness of woman can account for my cherishing a hope that I may be spared the fate of the indiscreet Billy.


This second paper on Values in library work with children, was presented at the Kaaterskill Conference of the A. L. A. in 1913 by Caroline Burnite. In it are discussed “departmental organization as it benefits the reading child, and the principles and policies which have developed through departmental unity.” For inclusion in this volume it has been somewhat condensed by the author.

Caroline Burnite was born in Caroline County, Maryland, in 1875; was graduated from the Easton, Maryland, High School in 1892 and from Pratt Institute Library School in 1894. From 1895 to 1901 she was librarian of the Tome Institute in Port Deposit, Maryland. She was an assistant in the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh from 1902 to 1904, when she became Director of Children’s Work in the Cleveland Public Library, the position she now holds. Miss Burnite is also an instructor in the Western Reserve Library School.

To elucidate principles of value, I shall use, by way of illustration, the experience and structure of a children’s department where the problem of children’s reading and the means of bringing books to them has been intensively studied for some nine years…. Probably about six out of ten of the children of that city read library books in their homes during the year, and each child reads about twenty books on the average. In all, fifty- four thousand children read a million books, which reach them through forty-three librarians assigned for special work with these children, through three hundred teachers and about one hundred volunteers.

Now, we know that six out of ten children is not an ideal proportion of the total number. We know also, inversely, that the volume of work entailed in serving fifty-four thousand children may endanger the quality of book service given to each child. Both of these conditions show that the experience of each reading child should make its own peculiar contribution to the general problem of children’s reading and that the experience of large numbers of reading children should be brought to bear upon the problem of the individual. To accomplish this, work with the children was given departmental organization. My concern in this paper is with departmental organization as it benefits the reading child, and with the principles and policies which have been developed through departmental unity.

We think ordinarily that one who loves books has three general hallmarks: his reading is fairly continuous, there is a permanency of book interest, and this interest is maintained on a plane of merit. But in the child’s contact with the library there are many evidences of modifications of normal book interests. Instead of continuity of reading, the children’s rooms are overcrowded in winter and have far less use in summer; instead of permanency of book interest extending over the difficult intermediate period, large numbers of those children who leave school before they reach high school have little or no library contact during their first working years, and without doubt the interesting experiences with working children, which librarians are prone to emphasize, give us an impression that a larger number are readers than careful investigation would show. And as for the quality of reading of many children who are at work we cannot maintain that it is always on a high plane.

Such results are largely due to environmental influences. Deprived for the greater part of the year at least, of opportunity for normal youthful activities, the child’s entire physical and mental schedule is thrown out of balance and he turns to reading, a recreation at his service at any time, only when there is little opportunity to follow other interests. Since the strain upon the ear and the eye, and back and brain is so great in the shop, the tendency in the first working years is too often toward recreations in which the book has no place. The power of the nickel library over the younger boy and girl can be broken by the presence of the public library, but the quality of the reading of the intermediate is often due to the popularity of the mediocre modern novel, with its present-day social interests. For these and other reasons, the whole judgment of the results of library work with children can not rest upon such general tests of normal book interests as we have stated. Rather such variations from the normal are themselves conditions which influence the structure of the work and especially the principles of book presentation. Children with pressing social needs must have books with social values to meet those needs; chiefest of these are right social contacts, true social perspective, traditions of family and race, loveliness of nature, companionship of living things, right group association and group interests.

Starting with the principle that books should construct a larger social ideal for the greater number of children instead of confirming their present one, it was first necessary to find out from actual work with children, what their reactions to books with various interests are. Such knowledge was supplemented by the recorded testimony of men and women of their indebtedness to children’s books, especially such as “Tom Brown” and “Little Women,” and especially of their youthful appreciation of the relationships and interdependence of the characters.

After we were able to evaluate books and to have some definite idea of which were good and which poor, the question arose: Should we have books with manifestly weak values in the library as a concession to some children who might not read the better books, or by having them do we harm most those very children to whom we have conceded them? The gradual solution of this problem seems to me to be one of the greatest services which a library can render its children. A safe answer seems to be: No books weak in social ideals should be furnished, provided we do not lose reading children by their elimination. If such books are the best a child will read, and we take them away, causing him to lose interest in reading, he is apt to come under even less favorable influences.

Another problem which arose was that the cumulative experience of librarians working with children showed that many books, weak in social viewpoint, lead only to others of their kind, and that such books are the ones read largely by those children which are most occasional and spasmodic in their reading. Here was a determining point in the establishment of standards of reading, for it brought us face to face with the question: Shall we consider this situation our fault since we supply such books to children who need something better vastly more than do children in happier circumstances, or shall we merely justify our selection by maintaining that those children will under no circumstances read a higher grade of books? However, observation showed that other books were read also by children with social limitations; books which, although apparently no better, lead to a better type of reading, and this prompted the policy of the removal of books which had little apparent influence in developing a good reading taste. This was done, however, with the definite intention that an increasingly better standard of reading must mean that no children cease using the library, an end only made possible by a knowledge of the value of the individual book to the individual child.

Now let us see what changes have been evolved in the book collections in the department under consideration:

At first the proportion of books of the doubtful class to those which were standard was considered, and it was seen that this preponderance of the doubtful class should be decreased in order that a child’s chances for eventually reading the best might be improved. It is obvious that the reading for the younger children should be the more carefully safeguarded, and this was the first point of attack. As a result, two types of books were eliminated:

1. All series for young children, such as Dotty Dimples and Little Colonels.

2. Books for young children dealing with animal life which have neither humane nor scientific value, such as Pierson and Wesselhoeft.

Also stories of child life for young children were restricted to those which were more natural and possible, and on the other hand, stories read by older girls in which adults were made the beneficiaries of a surprisingly wise child hero, such as the Plympton books, were eliminated.

The successful elimination of these books, together with the study of the children’s reading as a whole, suggested later, that other books could be eliminated or restricted without loss of readers. In the course of time, the following results were accomplished:

1. The restriction of the stories of the successful poor boy to those within the range of possibility, as are the Otis books, largely.

2. The elimination of stories in which the child character is not within a normal sphere; for instance, the child novel, such as Mrs. Jamison’s stories.

3. Lessening the number of titles by authors who are undeservedly popular, such as restricting the use of Tomlinson to one series only.

4. The restriction of any old and recognized series to its original number of titles, such as the Pepper series. The disapproval of all new books obviously the first in a series.

5. The elimination of travel, trivial in treatment and in series form, such as the Little Cousins.

6. The elimination of the modern fairy tale, except as it has vitality and individual charm, as have those of George McDonald.

7. The elimination of interpreted folk lore, such as many of the modern kindergarten versions.

8. The elimination of word books for little children, and the basing of their reading upon their inherent love for folk lore and verse.

Without analyzing the weakness of all these types, I wish to say a word about the series. This must be judged not only by content, but by the fact that in the use of such a form of literature the tendency of the child toward independence of book judgment and book selection is lessened and the way paved for a weak form of adult literature.

The later policies developed regarding book selection have been these:

1. Recognizing “blind alleys” in children’s fiction, such as the boarding school story and the covert love story, and buying no new titles of those types.

2. Lessening the number of titles of miscellaneous collections of folk-lore in which there are objectionable individual tales, for instance, buying only the Blue, Green and Yellow fairy books.

3. The elimination, or use in small numbers, of a type of history and biography which is not scholarly, or even serious in treatment, such as the Pratt histories.

4. The elimination of such periodical literature for young children, as the Children’s Magazine and Little Folks, since their reading can be varied more wholesomely without it.

Reports of reading sequences from each children’s room have furnished the basis for further study of children’s reading. These are discussed and compared by the workers, a working outline of reading sequences made and reported back to each room, to be used, amplified and reported on again.

While those books which are no longer used may have been at one time necessary to hold a child from reading something poorer, we did not lose children through raising the standard, and the duplication of doubtful books in the children’s room is less heavy now than it was a few years ago. This is shown by the fact that there are more than twice as many children who are reading, and almost three times as many books being read as there were nine years ago, while the number of children of the city has increased but 72 per cent. Furthermore, the proportion of children of environmental limitations has by no means diminished, and the foreign population is much the same–more than 74 per cent.

Of course, the elimination of some books was accomplished because there were better books on the subject, but the general result was largely brought about because in the establishment of these higher standards we did not exceed the ideals and standards of those who were working with the children. The standards which they brought to the work, and which they deduced themselves from their experience, were crystalized through Round Table discussion, where each worker measured her results by those of the others and thereby recognized the need of constant, but careful experimentation.

Experience has proved that a children’s department can not reach standards of reading which in the judgment of librarians working with the children are beyond the possibility of attainment, for with them rests entirely the delicate task of the adjustment of the book to the child. A staff of children’s librarians of good academic education, the best library training, a true vision of the social principles; a broad knowledge of children’s literature is the greatest asset for any library doing children’s work.

But it is true, inversely, that in raising the standards of the children the standards of the workers were raised. By this I mean that with definite methods of book presentation in use, the worker saw farther into the mental and material life of the child and understood his social instincts better. This has been evidenced in the larger duplication of the better books. Among the methods are those which recognize group interest and group association as a social need of childhood. Through unifying and intensifying the thoughts and sympathies of the children by giving them great and universal thought in the story hour, the mediocre is often bridged and both the child and the worker reaches a higher plane of experience. Also by giving children a group interest, not only children recognize that books may be cornerstones for social intercourse and that there is connection between social conduct as expressed in books and their own social obligations, but what is also important, the worker learns that when children are at the age of group activity and expression they can often be more permanently influenced as a group than as individuals. This prompted the organization of clubs for older children.

Through the recognition of the principle that there are methods of book appeal for use with individual children and other methods for groups of children, it was shown that the organization of the work as a whole must be such that the chief methods of presentation of literature could be fully developed. It was seen that, far less with a group of children than with the individual child, could we afford to give a false experience or an unfruitful interest, and that material for group presentation, methods of group presentation and the social elements which are evinced in groups of children should receive an amount of attention and study which would lead to the surest and soundest results. This could be fully accomplished only by recognizing such methods as distinct functions of the department. In other words, that there should not only be divisions of work with children according to problems of book distribution, such as by schools and home libraries, but there must be of necessity, divisions by problems of reading. Whereas, in a smaller department all divisions would center in the head, the volume of work in a large library renders necessary the appointment of an instructor in story-telling and a supervisor of reading clubs, which results in a higher specialization and a greater impetus for these phases of work than one person can accomplish. Here we have a concrete instance of the benefit that a large volume of work may confer upon the individual child.

With the attainment of better reading results and higher standards for the workers, it is obvious that the reading experiences of the children and the standards of the workers must be conserved, and that the organization should protect the children, as far as possible, from the disadvantage of change of workers. Considerable study has been given to this, and yearly written reports on the reading of children in each children’s room are made, in which variations from accepted standards of the children’s reading in that library, with individual instances, are usually discussed. However, the children’s librarian is entirely free to report the subject from whatever angle it has impressed her most. Also a written report is made of the story hour, the program, general and special results, and intensity of group interest in certain types of stories. This report is supplementary to a weekly report in prescribed form, of the stories told, sources used and results. All programs used with clubs are reported and semi-annual report made of the club work as a whole. By discussion and reports back to individual centers, these become bases for a wider vision of work and a wiser direction of energy with less experimentation.

The connection between work with children and the problem of the reading of intermediates, referred to in the beginning, should not be dismissed in a paragraph. However, it is only possible to give a short statement of it. Recognizing that the reading of adult books should begin in the children’s room, a serious study of adult books possible for children’s reading was made by the children’s librarians, the reports discussed and the books added to the department as the result. A second report of adult titles which children and intermediates might and do read was called for recently and from that a tentative list had been furnished to both adult and children’s workers for further study. The increasing number of workers in the children’s department who have had general training, and in the adult work who have had special training for work with children make such reports of much value. In order to follow the standards of children’s work, there is one principle which is obvious, namely, a book disapproved as below grade for juveniles should not be accepted for general intermediate work. This is especially true of books of adventure which a boy of any age between 12 and 18 would read.

In conclusion, the chief means of determining values in library work with children are these: An intensive study of the reading of children in relation to its social and informational worth to them; the right basis of education and training for such study, on the part of the workers; the direction of such study in a way that brings about a higher and more practical standard on the part of the worker; the conservation of her experience. These are the great services which the library may render children and they can be most fully accomplished, I believe, through departmental organization.


The section devoted to administration and methods records the “expansion of the library ideal” in multiplying the sources from which books may be borrowed; pictures the opportunities of the small library; emphasizes the importance of personal work, since the “child must be known as well as the book”; explains the library league as a means of encouraging the care of books and as an advertising medium; gives a thorough discussion of the use of the picture bulletin, and suggests systematic work with mothers as an important and resultful method.

Four articles on reference work and instruction in library use bring out the importance of careful cataloguing, of thorough knowledge of resources, and of practical plans to enable the children to help themselves.

Three articles on discipline present this sometimes difficult problem from varying viewpoints. It is said to resolve itself “into the exercise of great tact, firmness, and, again, gentleness.” Again, “many of the problems of discipline in a children’s room would cease to be problems if the material conditions of the room itself were ideal.” The Wisconsin report is of special value because it represents the experiences of small as well as of large libraries. It lays stress on some of the points brought out by Miss Dousman, who says: “In our zeal to control the child, some have lost sight of the fact that it is quite as important to teach the child to control himself; that if he is to become a good citizen, he cannot learn too early to respect the rights of others.”


Some of the principles of library work with children, and the qualifications of a children’s librarian were discussed by Miss Eastman in the following paper read at the fourth annual meeting of the Ohio Library Association held in Dayton in 1898. Linda Anne Eastman was born in Oberlin, Ohio, in 1867; was educated in the Cleveland Public Schools, and taught in the public schools of West Cleveland and Cleveland from 1885 to 1892, when she became an assistant in the Cleveland Public Library. In 1895-1896 she was assistant librarian and cataloguer in the Dayton, Ohio, Public Library, and in 1896 became vice-librarian of the Cleveland Public Library, where she has since remained. Since 1904 she has been an instructor in the Library School of Western Reserve University. She was a charter member of the Ohio Library Association, and its president in 1903-1904, Miss Eastman has made frequent contributions to library periodicals.

In the planning of a new library building, or the remodeling of an old one, there is no department to which I should give more thought in the working out of the details than in the children’s department, in order to best adapt the arrangement to its use.

Its location in the building is the first matter for consideration. It should be easy of access from the main entrance, or, better still, have an entrance of its own directly from the outside, in order that the noise of the children may not become a disturbing element in the corridors and in other parts of the library. It would seem desirable, also, for many reasons, to have the children’s department not too far removed from the main circulating department.

The children’s department in a large library should contain at least two large rooms, one for the reading and reference room, the other for the circulating books. The rooms should be light, bright and cheery, as daintily artistic and as immaculately clean as it is possible to make and keep them. Wall cases seem best for the shelving of the books, low enough for the children to reach the shelves easily. These low cases also allow wall space above for pictures, and plenty of this is desirable. A children’s room cannot have too many pictures,[1] nor any which are too fine for it; choose for it pictures which are fine, and pictures which “tell a story.” Provide, also, plenty of space for bulletins, for the picture bulletins have become an important factor in the direction of the children’s reading. One enthusiastic children’s librarian wrote me recently that her new “burlap walls, admitting any number of thumb-tacks” were the delight of her heart. There should be reading tables and rubber- tipped chairs, low ones for the little children; and wherever there is space for them, the long, low seats, in which children delight to snuggle down so comfortably.

[1] If this paper were now open to revision, the writer would omit “cannot have too many pictures.” The reaction against bare, bleak walls may not make it necessary to warn against over-decoration, but its undesirability should he recognized.–L. A. E.

As to the arrangement of the books, I should divide them into three distinct classes for children of different ages:

(1) The picture books for the very little ones, arranged alphabetically.

(2) The books for children from seven to ten or twelve years of age. While these books should be classified for the cataloging, I should place them on the shelves in one simple alphabetical list by authors, mixing the fiction, history, travel, poetry, etc., just as they might happen to come in this arrangement. I believe this would lead the children to a more varied choice in their reading, and that they would thus read and enjoy biography, history, natural science, etc., before they learned to distinguish them from stories, whereas by the classified arrangement they would choose their reading much more often from the one class only.

(3) The books for boys and girls from ten or twelve years of age to fifteen or sixteen. These should be arranged on the shelves regularly according to class number, in order that the children may become acquainted with the classification and arrangement, learn to select their books intelligently, and be prepared to graduate from here into the adult library.

Where it is possible to duplicate the simple and more common reference books in the juvenile department, these should form a fourth class. Then there should be all of the good juvenile periodicals, with some of the best illustrated papers, such as Harper’s weekly, for the reading room.

With many libraries a children’s department on such a scale is an impossibility; but if you cannot give two rooms to the children give them one, and if you cannot do that, at least give them a corner and a table which they can feel belongs to them; and if you cannot give them a special assistant, set apart an hour or two each day when the children shall receive the first consideration–establish this as a custom, and both adults and children will be better served.

Whatever one’s specialty in library work may be, however far removed from the work with the children, it is well to understand something of the principles which underlie this foundation work with the children.

It is only recently that these principles have begun to shape themselves with any definiteness; the children’s department, as a fully equipped miniature library, and the children’s librarian, as a specialist bringing natural fitness and special preparation to her work, are essentially the product of today; but they have come to stay, and they open to the child-lover, and the educator who works better outside than inside of the schoolroom limits, a field enticing indeed, and promising rich results. It is to the pioneers in this field, the earnest young women who are now doing careful experimental work and giving serious study to the problems that arise–it is to them that the children’s departments of the future will be most indebted for perfected methods.

The library must supplement the influence of the schools, of the home, and of the church; with some children it must even take the place of these other influences, and on its own account it must be a source of pleasure and an intellectual stimulus. If it is to accomplish all or any great part of this, not only for one, but for thousands of children, what serious thought and labor must go to its accomplishment! The children’s librarian stands very close to the mother and the teacher in the power she can wield over the lives of the little ones. No one who lacks either the ability or desire to put herself into sympathetic touch with child-life should ever be assigned to work in the juvenile department, and the assistant who avowedly dislikes children, or who “has no patience with them,” will work disastrous results if allowed to serve these little ones with an unwilling spirit –she should be relegated to some department of the library to which the sunshine of childhood can never penetrate, and kept there.

I would name the following requisites for the successful accomplishment of the juvenile work:

(1) Love for children.

This being given, the way is open for intimate knowledge and understanding of them, which are likewise essential.

(2) Knowledge of children’s books.

This is imperative if one is to give the right book to a child at the right time. Familiarity with the titles and with the outsides of the books is not enough, nor is it sufficient to know that a certain book is recommended in all of the best lists of children’s books. A child will often refuse to take what has been recommended to him as a good book, when, if he be told some graphic incident in it, or have some interesting bit pointed out or read to him, he will bear it off as prize; with it, too, he will carry away an added respect for, and sense of comradeship with, the assistant, who “knows a good thing when she sees it,” and he will come to her for advice and consultation about his books the next time and the next, and so long thereafter as she can hold his confidence.

Carefully prepared lists are most valuable in directing your attention to the best books, but after your notice has been called to them read them, form your own judgment on them, and if you recommend them, at least know why. What? some one asks, attempt to read all of the best children’s books? Yes, read them, and do more than that with some; the children’s classics, the books which no child can grow up without reading and not be the poorer, with these one should be so familiar as to be able to quote from them or turn instantly to the most fascinating passages–they should form a constant part of her stock in trade. Other books one could not spend so much time on, nor is it necessary–the critical ability to go through a book quickly and catch the salient points in style, treatment and subject matter, is as essential for the children’s librarian as for anyone who has to do with many books, and it therefore behooves her to cultivate what I once heard called the sixth sense, the book sense.