those who have grown up in the atmosphere of the public library to a true appreciation of its value.
ELEMENTARY LIBRARY INSTRUCTION
Principles and methods and the part of the public library in giving library instruction are presented by Gilbert O. Ward, Supervisor of High School Libraries, Cleveland, Ohio, in Public Libraries, July, 1912. This and its allied subjects are more comprehensively treated in several of the articles included in the first volume of the present series, entitled “Library and School.”
Gilbert O. Ward was born in 1880 in New York City, and was educated in the New York City public schools. He was graduated from Columbia University in 1902 and from the Pratt Institute Library School in 1908. In 1908- 1909 he was an assistant in the Pratt Institute Free Library. Since 1909 he has been a member of the staff of the Cleveland Public Library, as librarian of the Technical High School in 1909-1910, and as technical librarian since 1910. From 1911 to 1913 he served as Supervisor of High School Branches. Mr. Ward has published “Practical use of books and libraries: an elementary textbook for use with high school classes.”
The term “elementary library instruction” is limited here to any instruction given in the technical use of books and libraries to students under college or normal school grade.
The object of this paper is to review briefly, (1) the reasons for giving such instruction, (2) subjects and some methods suitable for grade and high schools, (3) the part of the public library in giving such instruction.
The subject of bibliographical instruction for school children has become more important in recent years because of changes which have taken place in school methods. Schools now place much less reliance than formerly upon text-books, while on the other hand they require of the student more collateral reading and reference work. This is especially true in courses in English and history; for instance where the high school student formerly studied about Chaucer in a textbook, he is now more likely required to read a selection.
This method while more fruitful in results than the old text-book method presents new difficulties both to teacher and to student. On the teacher’s part, it is no longer sufficient to assign 10 pages for study and have done with it. References must be consulted and assigned to the students for written or oral report. With the troubles of the teacher however, we shall have nothing to do in the present paper. On the student’s part, instead of being able to sit down to a compact account in a single book, he is required to use perhaps a dozen books in the course of a month, to say nothing of possible magazine articles. In fine, instead of a single book, he must use a library. The practical effect of this condition is that without some understanding of the scientific use of books and of the possibilities of either high school or public library, the student wastes his time and finds these studies an increased burden. The ordinary student is ignorant of how to handle books.
The primary purpose of formal library instruction is clearly then to do away with the friction which hinders the student in his or her work. There is no charm in bibliographical information as such and no excuse for attempting to teach a child merely curious or interesting facts for which he has no natural appetite or use. An example of this mistake is the attempt to acquaint the student with very many reference books, or go deeply into the subject of classification.
The subject of library instruction in public schools conveniently divides itself into two parts, (1) instruction in grade schools, (2) instruction in high schools. I have elsewhere rather full tentative outlines by way of suggestion, and limit myself at this point to more general discussion.
In elementary classes, the subject matter must be simple, first because the needs of the student are simple, and secondly because it is more easily and willingly taught if simple. The subjects which suggest themselves are: (1) The physical care of a book, (2) printed parts of a book, (3) the dictionary, (4) the public library.
The physical care of a book comes naturally first because children have to handle books before they can read them for pleasure, or need to use them as reference helps. The subject is important both to librarian and to school boards because it affects the question of book replacement, and hence the expenditure of public money. Speaking broadly, it is a question of conservation.
The ordinary book, not the reference book, is the one with which the student will always have most to deal; therefore as soon as he is old enough, or as soon as his text books can serve for practical illustration, the important printed parts of the ordinary books can be called to his attention. It should be sufficient to include the title page (title, author’s name, and date), table of contents and index.
The study of the dictionary (the first reference book) should be taken up first with the pocket dictionaries when these are used in class and the children should be practiced in discovering and understanding the kinds of information given with each word. Then, when the unabridged is attacked later, the essentials will be familiar, and the mind freer to attack the somewhat complex problems of arrangement and added information, e.g., synonyms, quotations, etc.
After proper care of books, and the use of an ordinary book, and the use of a simple reference book, the next natural step is to the use of the public library. The talk on the public library obviously includes some description of the library’s purpose and resources both for use and amusement, a very general description of the arrangement of the books, possibly some description of the card catalog–personally I am somewhat skeptical as to the utility of the card catalog for grade pupils–and finally, possibly an explanation of the encyclopedia.
The instructor for all the subjects mentioned excepting the public library is logically the teacher, because the subjects must be introduced as occasion arises in class. For instance the time for teaching the physical care of a book is when a book is first put into the child’s hands. For the talk on the public library, the library itself is obviously the place, and the children’s librarian the instructor Some special methods which suggest themselves are as follows: for the physical care of a book, a class drill in opening, holding, shutting, laying down, etc., rewards for the cleanest books, etc.; for the card catalogue, sample sets of catalogue cards (author, title and subject). The latter method is successfully used by the Binghamton (N. Y.) public library.
In high school, students vary in age from the grammar school boy on the one side, to the college freshman on the other, and the subjects and methods of instruction vary accordingly. In the matter of bibliographical instruction this greater range is reflected in a closer study of reference tools, including those parts of an ordinary book not taken up in the grades, (e.g., copyright date, preface, peculiar indexes, etc.), the unabridged dictionary, selected reference books, card catalog, magazine indexes, etc. The intelligent care of books can be re-emphasized by an explanation of book structure from dissected examples.
The specific subjects to be taught will vary with the time available, the class of the student, the subjects taught in school and the method of teaching them, and the material on hand in the public or school library.
As to general methods of instruction, these also must vary to suit the subject, the age of the student and the time available. Straight lecturing economizes time but makes the class restless and inattentive. An oral quiz drawing on the student’s own experience is useful in getting the recitation started and revives interest when interspersed through a lecture. Each point should be illustrated by concrete examples from books themselves when possible, or from the blackboard. The lesson should be concluded by a written exercise, not too difficult, which should be marked. For example, the dictionary might be illustrated from the sample sheets issued by the publishers; and the class should then be given a list of questions to be answered from the dictionary. The questions can frequently be framed so as to be answered by a page number instead of a long answer, and each student should as far as practicable have a set of questions to answer different from every other student’s.
If the high school possesses a library, much of the instruction is most logically given there. This save the time of the class in travelling back and forth from the school to the public library, particularly if the course is an extended one.
But why does the instruction of school children in the use of books and libraries concern the public library?
Because if children learn to use ordinary books intelligently it means a saving of the librarian’s time by her not having to find the precise page of every reference for a child. It means a diminished amount of handling of books. It means less disturbance from children who do not know how to find what they want. Other results will doubtless suggest themselves.
It is not proposed to train the student to be a perfectly independent investigator. That would be impracticable and undesirable. It is simply proposed to give him such bibliographical knowledge as will be distinctly useful to him as a student now, and later as a citizen and patron of the library.
But what part may the public library play in this instruction? It obviously may play a very large part in high schools, the librarian of which it supplies, as in the city of Cleveland. In high schools when the librarian is appointed by the school authorities, it can cooperate with the school librarian by lending speakers to describe the public library, by furnishing sets of specimen catalogue cards for comparison–for public library cataloging may differ from high school cataloging–by lending old numbers of the Readers’ Guide for practice in bibliography making, etc., etc.
Where there is no high school library and instruction must be given by the teacher or the public librarian, again the opportunities of the public library are clear. First there are teachers to be interested. English and history teachers most obviously, and department heads of these subjects are strategic points for attack. The subject of course should never be forced and a beginning should be made only with those teachers who seem likely to take interest. In the Binghamton public library before referred to, the librarian contrived to get the teachers together socially at the library, and the plan was then discussed before being put into operation. In laying the foundation for such a campaign, the librarian should have a simple, but definite plan in mind, based on her experience with school children so that when asked for suggestion, she can advance a practicable proposition.
Finally, under any circumstances, the public library can always be open for visits from classes, and ready to give class instruction in either library or school room as necessity or opportunity suggests. These methods are of course well known. Much informal instruction can also be given to students on using the index of an ordinary book, or the encyclopedia as occasion arises.
Summing up the chief points of this superficial review, we have seen (1) that the change in teaching methods has made the subject of library instruction important. (2) That the subjects of such instruction should be simple, and that both subjects and methods must be adapted to the occasion, (3) and finally that the public library is interested in the subject from a practical point of view and is able to take an influential part in shaping and administering courses.
THE QUESTION OF DISCIPLINE
The first article quoted on the subject of discipline was contributed to The Library Journal, October, 1901, by Miss Lutie E. Stearns, who gives the experience of a number of librarians and interprets them from her own standpoint. Lutie Eugenia Stearns was born in Stoughton, Mass.; was graduated from the Milwaukee State Normal School in 1887, and taught in the public schools for two years. From 1890 to 1897 she was in charge of the circulating department of the Milwaukee Public Library; from 1897 to 1914 she was connected with the Wisconsin Library Commission, part of the time as chief of the Travelling Library Department. Miss Stearns now devotes her time to public lecturing.
In these days of children’s shelves, corners, or departments, or when, in lieu of such separation, the juvenile population fairly overruns the library itself, the question of discipline ofttimes becomes a serious one. The pages of library journals, annual reports, bulletins, primers, and compendiums may be searched in vain for guidance. How to inculcate a spirit of quiet and orderliness among the young folks in general; how to suppress giggling girls; what to do with the unruly boy or “gang” of boys –how best to win or conquer them, or whether to expel them altogether; how to deal with specific cases of malicious mischief or flagrant misbehavior and rowdiness–all these questions sometimes come to be of serious importance to the trained and untrained librarian.
It was with a view of gaining the experience of librarians in this matter that letters were recently sent to a large number of librarians, asking for devices used in preserving order and quiet in the library. The replies are of great interest, the most surprising and painful result of the symposium being the almost universal testimony that the leading device used in preserving order is the policeman! One librarian even speaks of his library as being “well policed” in ALL of its departments. Personally, we think the presence of such an officer is to be greatly deplored, believing him to be as much out of place in a library as he would be in enforcing order in a church or school room. The term of a school teacher would be short lived, indeed, who would be compelled to resort to such measures. In several instances, janitors do police duty, being invested with the star of authority; and in one case the librarian, who openly confesses to a lack of sentiment in the matter, calls upon the janitor to thrash the offender! “The unlucky youth who gets caught has enough of a story to tell to impress transgressors for a long time to come,” writes the librarian. “The average boy believes in a thrashing, and it is much better in the end for him and for others to administer it and secure reverence for the order of the library.”
In one state at least, Massachusetts, there is a special law imposing a penalty for disturbance; and one librarian reports that he has twice had boys arrested and tried for disturbing readers. Another librarian does not go as far as this but adopts the device of showing unruly boys a photograph of the State Reform School and the cadets on parade. “The mischief is quite subdued before I am half through,” she writes, “and they frequently return bringing other boys to see the photograph. This fact undoubtedly acts as a check upon the boys many times.” A pleasing contrast is offered to such drastic and unwholesome methods as these by the gentle and cheery methods pursued by a librarian who says, “The children in this library talk less than the grown-ups. When they do raise their voices, I go up to them and tell them in a very low tone that if everybody else in the room were making as much noise as they, it would be a very noisy place. That stops them. If children walk too heavily or make a noise on the stairs, I affect surprise and remark in a casual way that I did not know that it was circus day until I heard the elephants. This produces mouse-like stillness at once. Really, I know no other devices except being very impressive and putting quietness on the ground of other peoples’ rights.”
But it is not always such smooth sailing. One librarian writes: “We have had no end of trouble in a small branch which we have opened in a settlement in a part of our city almost entirely occupied by foreign born residents. A great many boys have come there for the sole purpose of making a row. We have had every sort of mischief, organized and unorganized. We have had to put boys out and we have had many free fights, much to the amusement and pleasure of the boys. We have never resorted to arrests, but instructed the young man who acted as body guard to the young lady assistants to hold his own as best he could in these melees. I finally resorted to the plan of taking the young man away and letting the young ladies be without their guard. This has resulted most satisfactorily. The order has been much better, and while I cannot say that we are free from disorder, nothing like the state of things that before existed now obtains. The manager of the Settlement House overheard a gang of these very bad boys consulting on the street a few nights ago, something in this wise: ‘Come, boys, let’s go to the library for some fun!’ Another boy said, ‘Who’s there?’ The reply was, ‘Oh! only Miss Y—-; don’t let’s bother her,’ and the raid was not made. Of course we have done everything ordinary and extraordinary that we know about in the way of trying to interest the boys and having a large number of assistants to be among them and watch them, but nothing has succeeded so well as to put the girls alone in the place and let things take their course.”
The experience of another librarian also furnishes much food for thought. She writes: “I could almost say I am glad that others have trouble with that imp of darkness, the small boy. Much as I love him, there are times when extermination seems the only solution of the difficulty. However, our children’s room is a paradise to what it was a year ago, and so I hope. The only thing is to know each boy as well as possible, something of his home and school, if he will tell you about them. The assistants make a point of getting acquainted when only a few children are in. This winter I wrote to the parents of several of the leaders, telling them I could not allow the children in the library unless the parents would agree to assist me with the discipline. This meant that about six boys have not come back to us. I was sorry, but after giving the lads a year’s trial I decided there was no use in making others suffer for their misdeeds. A severe punishment is to forbid the boys a ‘story hour.’ They love this and will not miss an evening unless compelled to remain away. To give some of the worst boys a share in the responsibility of caring for the room often creates a feeling of ownership which is wholesome. Our devices are as numerous and unique as the boys themselves. Some of them would seem absurd to an outsider. The unexpected always happens; firmness, sympathy and ingenuity are the virtues required and occasionally the added dignity of a policeman, who makes himself quite conspicuous, once in a while.”
Another reply is a follows: “Miss C—- has turned over your inquiry concerning unruly boys to me to answer. I protested that every boy that made a disturbance was to me a special problem–and very difficult; and I can’t tell what we do with unruly boys as a class. I remember I had a theory that children were very susceptible to courtesy and gentleness, and I meant to control the department by teaching the youngsters SELF control and a proper respect for the rights of the others who wanted to study in peace and quiet. I never went back on my theory; but occasionally, of a Saturday afternoon, when there were a hundred children or more and several teachers in the room and I was trying to answer six questions a minute, I did have to call in our impressive janitor. He sat near the gate and looked over the crowd and when he scowled the obstreperous twelve-year- olds made themselves less conspicuous. A policeman sometimes wandered in, but I disliked to have to resort to the use of muscular energy. I learned the names of the most troublesome boys and gradually collected quite a bit of information about them, their addresses, where they went to school, their favorite authors, who they seemed ‘chummy’ with, etc., and when they found I didn’t intend to be needlessly disagreeable and wasn’t always watching for mischief, but credited them with honor and friendly feelings, I think some of them underwent a change of heart. I made a point of bowing to them on the street, talking to them and especially getting them to talk about their books; had them help me hang the bulletins and pictures, straighten up the books etc. Twice an evil spirit entered into about a dozen of the boys and my patience being kin to the prehistoric kind that ‘cometh quickly to an end,’ after a certain point, I gave their names to the librarian, who wrote to their parents. That settled things for a while and they got out of the habit of talking so much. A serious conversation with one boy ended with the request that he stay from the library altogether for a month and when he came back he would begin a new slate. Once, within a week, he came in, or started to, when I caught his eye. Then he beckoned to another boy and I think a transaction of some kind took place so that he got his book exchanged. But he saw I meant what I said. The day after the month was up he appeared, we exchanged a friendly smile and I had no more trouble with him.”
We deem the question of banishment a serious one. Unruly boys are often just the ones that need the influence of the library most in counteracting the ofttimes baneful influence of a sordid home life. It is a good thing, morally, to get hold of such boys at an early age and to win their interest in and attendance at the library rather than at places of low resort. To withhold a boy’s card may also be considered a doubtful punishment– driving the young omnivorous reader to the patronage of the “underground travelling library” with its secret stations and patrons. Before suspension or expulsion is resorted to, the librarian should clearly distinguish between thoughtless exuberance of spirits and downright maliciousness. “If we only had a boys’ room,” plaintively writes one sympathetic librarian, “where we could get them together without disturbing their elders and could thus let them bubble over with their ‘animal spirits’ without infringing on other people, I believe we could win them for good.”
A number of librarians, however, report no difficulty in dealing with the young folks. Some state that the children easily fall into the general spirit of the place and are quiet and studious. “We just expect them to be gentlemen,” says one, “and they rarely fail to rise to the demand.” In such places will generally be found floors that conduce to stillness, rubber-tipped chairs, and low-voiced assistants. “Our tiled floors are noisy–not our children,” confesses one librarian. The use of noiseless matting along aisles most travelled will be found helpful. But one library mentions the use of warning signs as being of assistance, this being a placard from the Roycroft Shop reading, “Be gentle and keep the voice low.” In a library once visited were found no less than eighteen signs of admonition against dogs, hats, smoking, whispering, handling of books, etc., etc.–the natural result being that, in their multiplicity, no one paid any attention to any of them. If a sign is deemed absolutely necessary, it should be removed after general attention his been called to it. The best managed libraries nowadays are those wherein warnings are conspicuous for their absence. Next to the officious human “dragon” that guards its portals, there is probably no one feature in all the great libraries of a western metropolis that causes so much caustic comment and rebellious criticism as that of an immense placard in its main reading room bearing in gigantic letters the command, SILENCE–this perpetual affront being found in a great reference library frequented only by scholarly patrons. Such a placard is as much out of place there as it would be in a school for deafmutes.
The solution of the whole problem of discipline generally resolves itself into the exercise of great tact, firmness, and, again, gentleness. There should be an indefinable something in the management of the library which will draw people in and an atmosphere most persuasive in keeping them there and making them long to return. A hard, imperious, domineering, or condescending spirit on the part of librarian and assistants often incites to rebellion or mutiny on the part of patrons. As opposed to this, there should ever be the spirit of quietude, as exemplified in the words previously quoted–“Be gentle and keep the voice low.”
MAINTAINING ORDER IN THE CHILDREN’S ROOM
The following paper embodies practical suggestions for helping to give the children’s room a “natural, friendly atmosphere.” It was read by Miss Clara W. Hunt before the Long Island Library Club, February 19, 1903. A sketch of Miss Hunt appears on page 135.
So 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, that I shall touch first upon this, the less important branch of my subject. For although the height of a table and width of an aisle are of small moment compared with the personal qualifications of the children’s librarian, yet since it is possible for us to determine the height of a table, when mere determining what were desirable will not insure its production where a human personality is concerned, it is practical to begin with what there is some chance of our attaining. And the question of fitting up the room properly is by no means unimportant, but decidedly the contrary. For, given a children’s librarian who is possessed of the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job, the generalship of Napoleon, and put her into a room in which every arrangement is conducive to physical discomfort, and even such a paragon will fail of attaining that ideal of happy order which she aims to realize in her children’s reading room. The temper even of an Olympian is not proof against uncomfortable surroundings.
Children are very susceptible, though unconsciously to themselves, to physical discomfort. You may say you do not think so, for you know they would sit through a whole morning and afternoon at school without taking off their rubbers, if the teacher did not remind them to do it, and so, you argue, this shows that they do not mind the unpleasant cramped feeling in the feet which makes a grown person frantic. But while the child himself cannot tell what is wrong with him, the wise teacher knows that his restlessness and irritability are directly traceable to a discomfort he is not able to analyze, and so the cause is not removed without her oversight. While the children’s librarian will not have the close relations with the boys and girls that their school-teachers have, she may well learn of the latter so to study what will make for the child’s comfort, that, in the perfect adaptation of her room to its work, half the problems of discipline are solved in advance.
Let us suppose that the librarian is to have the satisfaction of planning a new children’s room. In order to learn what conveniences to adopt and what mistakes to avoid, she visits other libraries and notes their good and weak points. She will soon decide that the size of a room is an important factor in the question of discipline. Let a child who lives in a cramped little flat where one can hardly set foot down without stepping on a baby come into a wide, lofty, spacious room set apart for children’s reading, and, other conditions in the library being as they should the mere effect of the unwonted spaciousness will impress him and have a tendency to check the behavior that goes with tenement- house conditions. We of the profession are so impressed with the atmosphere that should pervade a library, that a very small and unpretentious collection of books brings our voices involuntarily to the proper library pitch. But this is not true to the small arab, who, coming from the cluttered little kitchen at home to a small, crowded children’s room where the aisles are so narrow that the quickest way of egress is to crawl under the tables, sees only the familiar sights–disorder, confusion, discomfort –in a different place, and carries into the undignified little library room the uncouth manners that are the rule at home. In planning a new children’s room then, give it as much space as you can induce the librarian, trustees, and architects to allow. Unless you are building in the North Woods, or the Klondike or the Great American Desert you will never have any difficulty in getting small patrons enough to fill up your space and keep the chairs and tables from looking lonesome.
The question of light has a direct bearing on the children’s behavior. Ask any school teacher, if you have never had occasion to notice it yourself, which days are the noisiest in her school-room, the bright, sunny ones, or the dingy days when it is difficult to see clearly across the room. Ask her if the pencils don’t drop on the floor oftener, if small feet do not tramp and scrape more, if chairs don’t tip over with louder reports, if tempers are not more keenly on edge, on a dark day than a bright one. I need not say “yes,” for one hundred out of a hundred will say it emphatically. So, if you cannot have a room bright with sunshine, do at least be lavish with artificial light, for your own peace of mind.
Floors rendered noiseless by some good covering help wonderfully to keep voices pitched low. I have seen this illustrated almost amusingly in Newark, where frequent visits of large classes were made from the schools to the public library. The tramp of forty or fifty pairs of feet in the marble corridors made such a noise that the legitimate questions and answers of children and librarian had to be given in tones to be heard over the noise of the feet. The change that came over the voices and faces as the class stepped on the noiseless “Nightingale” flooring of the great reading room was almost funny. The feet made no noise, therefore it was not necessary to raise the voice to be heard, and no strictures of attendants were needed to maintain quiet in that room.
Under the head of furniture I will give only one or two hints of things worth remembering. One is that whatever you decide upon for a chair, in point of size, shape, or style, make sure, before you pay your bill, that it cannot be easily overturned. If you have a chair that will tip over every time a child’s cloak swings against it, your wrinkles will multiply faster than your years warrant. And reason firmly with your electrician if he has any plan in mind of putting lamps on your tables of such a sort that they positively invite the boy of a scientific (or Satanic) turn of mind to astonish the other children by the way the lights brighten and go out, all because he has discovered that a gentle pressure to his foot on the movable plug under the table can be managed so as to seem purely innocent and accidental while he sits absorbed in the contents of his book. I would also ask why it is that librarians think we need so MUCH furniture, when our rooms are as small as they sometimes are? We seem to think it inevitable that the floor space should be filled up with tables, but, as Mr. Anderson remarked in his paper at Magnolia, if we saw a family at home gathered around the table, leaning their elbows upon it and facing the light, we should think it a very unnatural and unhygienic position to adopt. Why should we, in the library, encourage children to do just what physiologists tell us they should not do? Why provide tables at all for any but those actually needing them as desks for writing up their reference work? For the many who come merely to read, why is not a chair and a book, with light on the page of the book, and not glaring into the child’s eyes, enough for his comfort? This is worth thinking about, I am sure, and worked out in some satisfactory, artistic little back-to-back benches perhaps, would change the stereotyped appearance of the children’s room, and give the extra floor space which is always sadly needed. It is an axiom in library architecture that perfect supervision should be made easily possible. In a children’s room this should be taken very literally. There should be no floor cases, no alcoves in the room, no arrangements by which a knot of small mischief makers can conceal themselves from the librarian for she will find such an error in planning, a thorn in the flesh as long as the room stands.
So much time devoted to the planning of the children’s room, may give the impression that the room is of more importance than the librarian. It is a platitude, however, to say that the ideal children’s librarian, with every material condition against her, will do a thousand times more than the ideal room with the wrong person in it. The qualifications necessary to make the right sort of a disciplinarian are, many of them, too intangible for words, but a few things strike me as not always distinctly recognized by librarians.
In the first place, no librarian should compel that member of his staff who dislikes children to do the work of the children’s department. While on general principles to let an attendant choose the work she likes to do would be disastrous, since the person best fitted for dusting might choose to be reference librarian, in this one particular at any rate, the wishes of the staff should be consulted. For while all may be conscientious, faithful workers wherever placed, mere conscientiousness will not make a person who frankly says children bore and annoy her, a success in the children’s room. Love for children should be the first requisite, and the librarian who puts a person in charge of that work against her will, will hurt the department in a way that will be surely felt sooner or later. While love for children, sympathy with, and understanding of them are all of the first importance in the composition of a children’s librarian, some experience in handling them in large numbers (as in public school teaching, mission schools, boys’ clubs, etc.) is extremely desirable. To deal with a mob of very mixed youngsters is a different matter from telling stories to a few well-brought up little ones in your own comfortable nurseries. The best qualification for the work of children’s librarian is successful experience as a teacher, in these happy days when it is coming to be the rule that law and liberty may walk side by side in the school-room, and where firmness on the teacher’s part in no wise interferes with friendliness on the child’s.
The children’s librarian should have the sort of nerves that are not set on edge by children. This does not mean that she may not be a nervous person in other ways, indeed she must be, for the nerveless, jelly-fish character can never be a success in dealing with children. But I have seen people of highly nervous organization who were really unconscious of the ceaseless tramp, tramp, of the children’s feet, the hum and clatter and moving about inevitable in a children’s library. Visitors come into the room and say to such a person, “How can you stand this for many minutes at a time?” and the librarian looks round in surprise at the idea of there being anything hard to bear when she hears only the little buzz that means to her hundreds of little ones at the most susceptible age, eagerly, happily absorbing the ennobling ideals, the poetic fancies, the craving for knowledge that are going to make them better men and women than they would have been without this glimpse into the realms beyond their daily surroundings.
To attempt to enumerate, one by one, the qualities that combine to make a wise and successful disciplinarian would be fruitless. We can talk endlessly about what OUGHT to be. The most practical thing to do to obtain such a person, is not to take a raw subject and pour advice upon her in hopes she will develop some day, but to hunt till you find the right one and then offer her salary enough to get her for your library. And this suggests a subject worthy of future discussion, that head librarians should reckon this to be a profession within our profession, just as the kindergartner is a specialist within the teaching body, demanding a higher type of training than is the rule, and PAYING THE PRICE TO GET IT.
Just a word about what degree of order and quiet to expect, and to work for, in a children’s room. Are we to try to maintain that awful hush that sends cold chills down the spine of the visitor on his first entering a modern reading room, and tempts him to back out in fright lest the ticking of his watch may draw all eyes upon him?
I should be very sorry to have a children’s room as perfectly noiseless as a reading room for adults. It is so unnatural for a roomful of healthy boys and girls to be absolutely quiet for long periods that if I found such a state of affairs I should be sure something was wrong–that all spontaneity was being repressed, that that freedom of the shelves which is a great educator was being denied because moving about makes too much noise, that the question and answer and comment which mark the friendly understanding between librarian and child, and which make a good book circulate because one boy tells another that it is good, were done away with in order that no slight noise might be heard. If there were such a thing as a meter to register sound to be hung in a children’s room beside the thermometer, I should not be alarmed if it indicated a pretty high degree, provided I could look around the room and observe the following conditions: a large room, full of contented children, no one of whom was wilfully noisy or annoying, most of them being quietly reading, the ones who were moving about asking in low tones the children’s librarian or each other, perfectly legitimate questions that were to help them choose the right thing. It is inevitable that heavy boots, young muscles that have not learned self-control, the joyous frankness of childhood that does not think to keep its eager happiness over a good “find” under decorous restraint, will result in more actual noise than obtains in the adults’ reading room. And yet, while the “sound meter” of the children’s room would register farther up, it might really be more orderly than the other room, for every child might be using his room as it was intended to be used, while the adult department might contain a couple of women who came in for the express purpose of visiting, and yet who knew how to whisper so softly as not to be invited to retire. We must remember that, if children make more noise, they do not mind each other’s noise as adults do. The dropping of a book or overturning of a chair, the walking about do not disturb the young student’s train of thought; and while I do not wish to be quoted as advocating a noisy room, but on the contrary would work for a quiet one, day in and day out, I do feel that allowances must be made for noises that are not intended to be annoying, and that we should not sacrifice to the ideal of deathly stillness the good we hope to do through the child’s love for the room in which he feels free to express himself in a natural, friendly atmosphere.
PROBLEMS OF DISCIPLINE
The Wisconsin Library Bulletin for July-August, 1908, is given up to the presentation of widely varying experiences in regard to discipline, in a report by Mary Emogene Hazeltine and Harriet Price Sawyer, who sent a list of ten questions to 125 librarians, and incorporated the replies.
Mary Emogene Hazeltine was born in Jamestown, N. Y., in 1868, and was graduated from Wellesley College in 1891. She was librarian of the James Prendergast Free Library in Jamestown from 1893 to 1906, when she became Preceptor of the Library School of the University of Wisconsin, the position she now holds. She has given much help to small libraries.
Mrs. Harriet Price Sawyer was born in Kent, Ohio, received the degree of B. L. from Oberlin College: was an assistant in the Oberlin College Library 1902-1903; was graduated from the Pratt Institute Library School in 1904; was librarian of the State Normal School at New Paltz, N. Y., 1904-1905; a student in the University of Berlin, Germany, 1905-1906; Library Visitor and Instructor, Wisconsin Library Commission, 1906-1910. Since that time she has been chief of the Instructional Department in the St. Louis Public Library, including charge of the training class. In 1917 this class was expanded into a library school, with Mrs. Sawyer as principal.
In March, a list of questions concerning the problem of discipline in the library was sent out to 125 librarians. The answers show a most interesting variety of experiences and conditions. A few report that it is no longer a “vexed” problem, and one librarian thinks that it is “only a well-maintained tradition,” but most of the writers agree with Miss Eastman of Cleveland, who says: “You will note that while conditions vary somewhat in the different branches, discipline is a question which we have always with us whenever we work with children. I do believe, however, that each year places the library on a little higher and more dignified plane in the minds of the children as well as the public generally; and that the question of discipline becomes more and more a question of dealing with individuals.”
As to disturbance without the library, there is but one opinion, viz., to turn the matter over to the policemen, and this is reported in every instance to have put an end to the trouble.
Any serious misbehavior within the library has been treated by the suspension of library privileges, ranging in severity of sentence from one day to a month or, in a few cases, even longer. The variation, however, in the manner of carrying out the sentence forms an interesting study, from the lightest form reported, at Chippewa Falls, where the child may draw a book, but remains in the library only long enough to secure it, to the drastic measures taken at Sheboygan where the students were ordered out of the library en masse even in the midst of preparation for a test in history.
Miss Wood’s plan is an interesting one, but the tactful helpers are difficult to find.
The card system at Kenosha will no doubt solve the difficulty for many librarians who find the initiative in the disciplining of the older visitors at the library most difficult to undertake.
In some communities, the personal letter or visit to the parents has proved most helpful, and, doubtless, the plan reported by Miss Lord of asking the boy to sign his name will find favor in the larger libraries.
The aim of discipline, according to educators, is the moral foundation of character. The library as well as the school has to make up for the lack of moral training in many homes, and good conduct must be taught by the librarian as well as by the teacher. The whole matter is very well summed up by Miss Dousman of Milwaukee.
“It seems to me that order and good behavior are absolutely imperative in the library. Good manners, that outward and visible sign of the respect for the rights of others, should be expected of children. How? By never failing yourself to treat them with respect, courtesy and justice. To distinguish between unavoidable disturbances and those made with mischievous intent. To see and hear only the things you can prevent, else your nerves will get the better of your judgment.
“Allow children as much freedom as possible, consistent with the rights of others–and don’t nag.
“In case of bad behavior, make a tactful and pleasant appeal to the child first, thereby giving him a chance to reinstate himself. This appeal failing, reprimand in no uncertain terms. Dismissal from the room is the natural punishment for refusal to obey regulations. Obedience as a virtue has not entirely gone out of fashion. Suspension for a definite or indefinite period, according to the offense is necessary for the maintenance of good discipline. Limitation as to the number of times a week a mischievous child may visit the library has a good effect. A suspended sentence of permanent dismissal on failure to behave has a most salutary effect. Reinstate as soon as there is an evident desire to improve.
“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.”
At a meeting of the Massachusetts Library Club, reported in Public Libraries, v. 12, p. 362 (Nov. 1907), Miss Harriet H. Stanley of Brookline said of “Discipline in a Children’s Room,” that unnatural restraint was to be avoided, but the restraint required for the common good was wholesome, and that children were more, rather than less, comfortable under it, when it was exercised with judgment and in a kindly spirit.
“Judgment comes with experience. … As far as you are able, be just. If your watchfulness fails sometimes to detect the single offender in a group of children and you must send out the group to put an end to some mischief, say so simply, and they will see that they suffer not from your hard heartedness, but from the culprit’s lack of generosity or from the insufficiency of their devices for concealing him. Be philosophical. Most disturbance is only mischief and properly treated will be outgrown. Stop it promptly, but don’t lose your temper, and don’t get worked up. To the juvenile mind, ‘getting a rise’ out of you is no less exhilarating than the performance which occasions it. Habitually deny them this gratification and mischief loses its savor.
“Talk little about wrongdoing. Don’t set forth to a child the error of his ways when the ‘ways’ are in process of being exhibited, and the exhibitor is fully conscious of their nature. Choose another time–a lucid interval–for moral suasion.
“When children are intentionally troublesome, the simplest means of discipline is exclusion from the room; when necessary, formal exclusion for a definite period with a written notice to parents. The authority of the library should be exercised in the occasional cases where it is needed, both for the wrongdoer’s own good and for the sake of the example to others.
“Provided you are just and sensible and good-tempered, your patrons will respect the library more and like you none the less for exacting from them suitable behavior. We talk a good deal about the library as a place of refuge for boys and girls from careless homes, and they do deserve consideration from us, but to learn a proper regard for public law and order is as valuable as any casual benefit from books. The children of conscientious parents whether poor or well-to-do also deserve something at our hands, and we owe it to them to maintain a respectable standard of conduct for them to share. Let us be hospitable and reasonable, but let us be courageous enough to insist that the young citizen treat the library with the respect due to a municipal institution.”
It has been impossible to publish in full all of the replies to the circular letter sent out, but as much as possible has been incorporated in this report, believing that each situation delineated may give helpful hints toward the solution of this general difficulty. The list of questions is given in the synopsis appended to the admirable and helpful report contributed by the chief of the children’s department in Pittsburgh.
Miss Frances Jenkins Olcott, Pittsburgh
After ten years of experience we find our most difficult question of discipline arises when the older boys and girls come into the library. They usually come in the evening and we have the greatest trouble with the boys. Sometimes we suspect that our trouble with the boys is due to the influence of the girls, who know how to keep quiet and yet make confusion!
The question of discipline depends largely on the district in which a branch is placed and also on the planning and equipment of the children’s room–in fact of the whole branch building, and on the personal attention of the branch librarian toward the children.
In answer to question ten I might say that everything depends on the children’s librarian’s judgment and also on the children. Some children come into the library to be sent home. They wish to see how many times they can make mischief, and it is really a pleasure to them to have you send them out. In other cases children are much mortified by being sent from the room. It is necessary that the children’s librarian and her assistants should know the children individually, especially their names and something of their home conditions wherever possible. The handling of “gangs” takes a great deal of tact and sympathy with boys.
On the whole, given a well-planned and equipped children’s room, plenty of books, a sufficient number of the right kind of children’s librarians who are firm, tactful and sympathetic (having a sense of humor and a wide knowledge of children’s books) and by all means a sympathetic branch librarian, the question of discipline will usually smooth itself out. We have one room in a crowded tenement district where the right young woman has produced unusual order. The children come in and go out happy and interested in their books, and there is little need for reproof. This is due largely to the fact that we started in with a determination to have reasonable order and the children learned that to use the room it was necessary to be orderly, and they are much happier and get more from the library.
1. At what hour is the discipline most difficult?
Discipline is most difficult during the busiest time, the evening, our branch libraries being open until 9 o’clock.
2. With what ages do you have the most trouble?
The greatest trouble is with children from 10-16.
3. With boys or girls, or both?
Both boys and girls, but the greatest trouble with boys.
4. Are the scholars from the High School a special trouble?
It depends on the district in which the branch is situated and the social conditions of the people visiting the branch.
5. Do any use the library as a meeting place, or kind of club?
This also depends largely on the district.
6. Do they come in such numbers that they over-run the library and keep the older people away because of the consequent confusion, noise, and lack of room?
No, excepting under conditions produced by bad planning of buildings.
7. Do you ever ask for help in the discipline–from the trustees, police, or others?
The branches which have guards have less difficulty in discipline, otherwise in some of the crowded districts the janitors and police are occasionally called in.
8. Do the teachers help by talking to the scholars on the necessity of behavior in public places?
As far as our knowledge goes, only occasionally.
9. Have you ever addressed the schools on this topic?
No, with one exception, where it proved satisfactory.
10. Do you ever send unruly children (either older or younger ones) home? If so, with what result in the case of the individual? With what effect on the whole problem? For how long do you suspend a child? What are the terms on which he can return?
(a) We always send unruly children home, procuring their name and address first whenever possible. If we have to send the same child from the room frequently, a letter is sent to the parent stating the reason. (b) This has worked well with but three exceptions in four years. The crucial point is to find the name of the child. (c) We have never suspended a child for more than two months unless he were arrested for misbehavior. (d) An apology to the librarian and good behavior following. (Hazelwood)
We send children from the library.
In this district we have two classes of disorderly children. Those who came from homes where they have had no restraint of any sort, and have too recently come to the library to have acquired reading-room manners; and those who know very well how to conduct themselves, but enjoy making a disturbance. We do our best to help the former to learn how to conduct themselves quietly–the essential means of course is to interest them in books and to make them feel the friendliness of the room. But when a child of the second class is disorderly, he is first made to sit quite by himself; if he is persistently noisy, he is sent from the room. The length of time he is suspended depends on his previous conduct and on the offense in question; from a day to a month or more. A child usually behaves like an angel when he first comes back after being out of the library for any length of time.
We have a good many restless children, especially in winter, whom it is difficult to interest in reading, but who enjoy pictures. And we have found it useful to have plenty of copies of especially interesting numbers of illustrated magazines like Outing and World’s Work to give them. And we have a desk list of especially interesting illustrated books that we find useful for these children. (East Liberty)
Mr. Walter L. Brown, Buffalo, N. Y.
Our work, even in the branches, does not offer much suggestion so far as library discipline is concerned. I have talked the matter over with all those having charge of the branches, the work with the children in the main library, and the depositories at the settlement houses, and they all agree, without hesitation, that they are having no trouble whatever with the children of any size.
The William Ives Branch, which is in the district occupied by the Polish and German people, had some trouble when it occupied a store opening on the street. For a few weeks after this branch was opened, the rough boys in the neighborhood bothered by shouting, throwing things in the doors, and forming in large crowds around the front of the building. The police helped out by giving us a guard for a brief period. As soon as the novelty of the library had worn off, and the children began actually to use the books and get acquainted with the attendants, all trouble seemed to stop.
We also had some trouble at one of the depositories when it was first opened, this being in a rather unruly district in the lower part of the city. All is now quiet here, and has been for a number of years.
The consensus of opinion of our staff seems to be that when any slight disturbance, which is all that we ever have now, occurs that it is caused by one, two, or three boys. The problem of preventing its repetition is solved by recognizing these boys, and when matters are quiet, having a talk with them, gaining their confidence and friendship. This, of course, is after any punishment is administered. This has been done in a number of instances, and has always been successful. Some of the library’s best friends among the older boys have been gained in this way.
The only discipline that is exerted is by sending the children away from the library, and if they are told that they must stay away for two or three days or a week, this is final and they are not allowed to return until the time has expired. If a child is using the Library, this seems to be all the punishment that is necessary.
We should say that in a library where there is any continued trouble with the young people, it is not their fault, but the fault of the library, and we should solve it by changing the library methods.
Miss Clara F. Baldwin, Minnesota.
Of course we all know that almost everything depends on the personality of the librarian, and it has been my observation that the librarians of strong, winning personality, who make friends with the children and young people from the start, have little trouble with discipline. Your question relating to the co-operation with the teachers seems to me very pertinent. In some cases where discipline in the schools is not properly maintained, there has been corresponding difficulty in the library. Does it not all come back to personality, tact, and strength of character, just as every problem of success or failure does?
My theory is that order must be maintained even if the police have to be called in, but do not drive the offenders away from the library if you can possibly help it. They are probably just the ones who need it most. Sometimes it may mean personal visits to the parents, but I wouldn’t lose a boy or girl if I could possibly hang on to them.
Mr. George F. Bowerman, Washington, D. C.
We have your circular letter inquiring about the discipline in our library as related to school children. In general I would say that we have very little trouble in this direction. Most of the trouble we have comes from the colored element which forms about one-third of the population.
We are striving to get Congress, from which all our appropriations come, to give us a regular police officer. I am a great believer in the moral influence of brass buttons. At the present time, our engineer and fireman are both sworn as special police officers. They both have police badges, which they can display on occasions. I would, however, like to have a regular officer in uniform.
Miss Isabel Ely Lord, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn.
The difficulties of discipline in this library arise almost entirely from the nature of the building, as the chief disturbance with us is the noise of laughing and talking in the halls. This is done quite innocently because people do not realize that the big hall, with its beautiful stairway is really a part of the building and that noise made there echoes through into the various departments. The children have to cross a wide stretch of intarsia floor, and any natural, normal child is seized with a desire to run. For this reason we have the janitor stationed in the lower hall from twelve to one and three to six each day. When he is there, there is very little difficulty.
In the library rooms we do not have the trouble that occurs in a community where the constituents of the Library know each other well. In a big, shifting population like ours, people meet usually strangers and there is no temptation to disturbing conversation or to flirtation
In the children’s room, as indeed in the adult department, the matter is almost entirely controlled by personal knowledge of people who offend. A child is spoken to by name and is made to realize that it is a distinct individual matter if he or she has offended. There have been occasions in the children’s room when a crowd of the older boys has come in, with evident intention of making a little disturbance. Miss Moore established the custom, in such cases, of asking each of these boys to sign his name and address to a slip–or a separate sheet of paper– and this had usually a sufficiently quieting effect to obviate the need of anything further. Occasionally the children’s librarian has gone to visit a child’s parents, and so has the librarian. We also have asked some times fathers and mothers to come to the library to “hold court,” but this has been in cases of theft and suspected theft, and I suppose you do not include that in your questions of discipline.
We lay great stress, especially in the Children’s Room, on the importance of a perfectly quiet and controlled manner in the assistants. The training that our children have received in the Story Hour, we feel, to be very valuable to them. This is a special privilege to which they are admitted and they recognize it as such. They have learned to come in and to go out on Story Hour evenings with as much quietness as one can expect from a body of children, and they are very courteous in the Story Hours, saying a quiet “Thank you” to the story-teller instead of indulging in clapping of hands, stamping of feet, etc. These things help, I think, in the general control of the room, and I think that Miss Cowing (who is not here now to speak for herself) has occasionaly disciplined some child by refusing a Story Hour ticket because of misbehavior in the room.
Mr. A. L. Peck, Gloversville, N. Y.
This institution has been in existence over twenty-eight years and during all this time, there has been no trouble with discipline. I am not willing to say that our young people or even our older ones, are better than those of other places, but from the very beginning everybody was given to understand that they had to live up to a certain decorum, that is, men and boys have to take off their hats and disturbing conversation is not permitted.
While we do not hesitate to speak to any who need reminding that reading rooms are for serious purposes, in all these years we have sent out of the rooms, three adults and five boys. Our janitor is sworn in as a special policeman and everybody knows that not only prompt ejection from the room, but also discipline before the recorder in the city courts would be forthcoming in consequence of any serious breach of order.
I have never hesitated to make it known that the readers’ rights must be respected and that reading and studying is serious work and our people have always supported me in this, fully as much as the board of directors. I do believe that as soon as people understand this, there will be no trouble, but there must be no vacillating policy.
The trouble we have occasionally with boys, mainly, is that they try to be smart and will deliberately put books on the shelves bottom side up, but one of the youngsters was caught in the act and promptly sent home. His father was notified and fully agreed with us that the library was no place for such mischief and promised that his youngster would behave henceforth. This had a wholesome effect on all the others and there has been no trouble since.
I also have to say that our children’s room is 45 feet away from the adult department and we do not permit young people under 14 to roam about the building, we keep them strictly in their own room. As soon as young people are admitted to the high school, we at once admit them to the entire library even if they should be under 14 years of age. They consider this a great privilege and we thus far have had no trouble. The high school students come here for study as well as for reference work and make proper use of the library. They know from experience that we do not allow any nonsense and under no consideration would we permit the library to be a place of rendezvous for promiscuous visiting.
Our institution seems to discipline itself without any difficulty. The principle upon which we work is very simple. “Readers demand quiet, therefore, conversation even in low tones, is strictly prohibited.” This is literally carried out and not the least exception is made. Posters, with the rule quoted above printed on small cards are distributed through the rooms, placed on the tables and renewed from time to time.
As soon as the public realizes that it is the intention of the Board of Managers and their representative officers to live up strictly to this rule and to carry it out at all hazards, they soon learn to behave and not much difficulty is experienced.
Mr. A. L. Bailey, Wilmington, Del.
The discipline in this library while occasionally bothersome, does not on the whole cause us much annoyance. The offenders are chiefly students from the high school who use the library in the afternoon and forget at times that the reading room is a place of quiet. No special measures have been taken to preserve quiet. Generally once speaking to the offender will prove sufficient to stop whispering or loud conversation, but if he is persistent in talking or whispering, we request that he leave the room. This always has a good effect, for its seldom happens that we have to expel the same person more than once. In asking readers to leave the reading room, we realize that we run the risk of making them so angry that they will never again make use of the library but we believe that the great majority who are quiet and well-behaved shall not be annoyed if we can prevent it.
While the older children from the schools are the chief offenders, perhaps the most exasperating are the influential women of the city who come to the library on market days (Wednesday and Saturday mornings) and visit more or less with each other. This is a custom established long before the library became free, and owing to the prominence of the offenders and their real interest in and intelligent use of the library, one with which it is hard to deal. A sign placed in the reading room requesting readers to refrain from all unnecessary conversation has had a most noticeable effect on this class of readers and the annoyance is much less than it was three years ago.
The juvenile department occasionally has to call upon a policeman to help keep order. This, however, is due to the fact that there is a large hallway and broad stairways just outside the rooms which the library occupies. Discipline in this part of the building is a cause of great annoyance. We cannot afford to pay a guard to stay in the hall and as the police force is not sufficient for the city’s needs, a policeman can only spend a few moments as he passes by on his beat. In the juvenile room itself we have trouble only with gangs of young negroes and this only occasionally. When they come to the library it is hard to interest them and the demoralizing influence that they introduce compels us at times to expel them and even to forbid them to return. We have only once sent special word to the schools asking teachers to request children to preserve order. We believe that the teachers, so far as they are able, try to inculcate principles of right behavior in public places, but we believe that the discipline of this library is entirely in our own hands, and until the situation becomes one with which we can not cope, we prefer not to call upon the schools for assistance.
Miss Caroline M. Underhill, Utica, N. Y.
One of the problems in guiding these intermediate readers does not pertain to their reading, but to controlling the lawlessness which is frequently manifested. General restlessness, a desire for fun always and everywhere, characterizes many of the young people who frequent our libraries. A difference in locality brings different problems, but this one is universal. In Utica our new building brought increased opportunity to those inclined to fun. The strangeness of it, access to the stack, curiosity concerning the glass floors, the book-lift, the elevator, and even the electric lights, with the constant moving about of people who came simply to see the building, increased this tendency to restlessness among the young readers. In addition to this came the everpresent problem of the flirtatious boy and girl. Our wish to let them enjoy all possible liberty was soon interpreted to mean license.
Finding that they did not yield to ordinary methods, it was decided, as an emergency measure, to issue “stack cards” through the second year in High School. These were small cards having Utica Public Library printed at the top: then space for name and address, followed by “is hereby granted the privilege of using the stack for reading and study.” These gave permission to use the stacks for selecting books and for reading at the stack tables.
Before issuing these cards, each boy and girl was instructed as to the right use of a library and the consideration due from one reader to another, and then asked to sign a register in which they promised to use the library properly whenever they came. These cards were to be shown each time they wished to go into the stacks, but in no way did they interfere with drawing books at the desk, if they had neglected to bring them. Any mis-behavior took away this stack card until they were again ready to fulfill their promise.
This plan was entirely foreign to our theories, our wishes, or our beliefs, but in an emergency proved helpful in making the boys and girls realize we were in EARNEST when we said we wished to have it more quiet. Best of all, it gave an opportunity for a little personal talk with each one, and though of necessity this took much time, we considered it well worth while. Decided improvement made it unnecessary to continue the use of the card.
To the older boys and girls we take pains to explain why we ask them to respect the place and the rights of others. Occasionally we have written a letter to those who offend continually, signed by the librarian and a member of the library committee. In the majority of cases this brought about the needed reform– if not, the privileges of the library were taken away.
Miss Mary A. Smith, Eau Claire, Wis.
I am quite interested in your questions about discipline, as we feel we have reached a very comfortable stage in the problem after considerable agitation and I have wondered some times what plan others followed.
Our whole argument with young people–(that means high school here as they seemed the only disturbing element) was consideration for other people. When talking to grade pupils that were soon to come into high school, we explained that we could have only two grades in a public library, children and grown people. When they entered high school and used the main library almost entirely, we classed them as grown people and must expect from them the same carefulness, as older people were much more easily disturbed.
The discipline we found, as usually is the case, one of individuals. We first spoke to the transgressor. If he did not pay sufficient regard as shown in action, we suspended him usually for a week, with a very definite explanation, that before he returned, he must give a pledge in place of the one on the registration card which he had broken. He knew these pledges were filed away as part of the library record. If that pledge was broken it meant that the case would be referred to the Library Board. This had to be done but once and that had an excellent effect. The Board suspended for several months with the understanding that return then depended on pledges made to the librarian.
There must be one person who is making the standard for conduct and that person must be on hand during hours when trouble is likely to arise; that means the librarian. Assistants must be in sympathy, watch, help and report cases, but not take active part in discipline.
The penalty must be a very certain thing, as sure a law in the public library as violation of law on the streets. There must not be nagging of young people nor wasting of words. When a transgressor is told to do anything, it must be done in such a manner, and without anger or annoyance in voice, if possible, so that a librarian can turn away and know the order will be obeyed.
I believe it is possible to establish a standard of conduct in a public library, which a young person will feel and know if he is not within that standard. It can not be done in a week nor a month. I hope we have one here now. I mean by that also that a librarian can leave the library and not feel that any advantage is going to be taken of an assistant because she is not there. I do not believe in a librarian popping in any time during her off hours making the young people feel she is ready to spring upon them at unexpected moments.
The above states what we have been doing, and we seldom now have to think of discipline. If we see signs of carelessness, we nip them in the bud. One must discriminate between a moment’s thoughtlessness in a young person and the beginning of a wrong library habit. That may not seem clearly put. A firm, steady glance in his direction and the way he takes it will usually diagnose the case.
I think the object of discipline in a Public Library is much more than to keep young people quiet. It seems now-a-days one of the few public places where they may mingle with older people and show them consideration. A quiet library ought to be an antidote for unseasonable boisterousness suffered by young people. No librarian need fear she is driving people away, if she tightens up all along this line. That at least has not been our experience, as we grew rapidly while we were the most strenuous. People have more respect for an institution, where each person will be held to his privileges, and not be allowed to interfere with another’s.
I was amused the other night when a high school boy, who had needed suggestion himself two years ago, came to me and said he thought two younger boys were disturbing an older gentleman in the reference room. These younger boys who were only talking more than was necessary, had not used the reference room and did not clearly understand that the same amount of conversation was not allowed there as in the other room. I spoke to them and when I returned suggested to the older boy that he might keep an eye on them, as I much preferred they stay there and think of the older man than come into the other room. He reported that they gave no more trouble.
Our reference room discipline has been very much assisted by a signing of the simple agreement: “I promise to refrain from all unnecessary conversation in the reference room.” All high school students sign before using the room. The paper lies on the loan desk so at a glance we expect to be able to tell who is there. The room is away from the desk and can not be watched from it. “Unnecessary” was not in when we began. It was absolute, but we found we could give more liberty. Whenever this pledge was violated, which was not often even at first, no explanation was accepted, a word had been broken: “A bad thing,” we said, “for a young person in a public library. Don’t sign what you cannot keep.”
One must be even and not allow one day what one lets pass the next and that is not an easy thing to do. Do not start to evolve an orderly library out of a disorderly one and expect to escape all criticism. Be ready to explain fully to the parent whose child has been disciplined.
I have wondered sometimes if the disorderly library did not have more than one cause. If you wish orderly conduct you must also have an orderly library, a place for everything and everything in its place. We have not a perfect library yet in Eau Claire and we hope we may obtain some suggestions from other libraries to help on that glad time.
Miss Harriet A. Wood, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The difficulty can be largely overcome by giving the active boys something to do. We let them put up books and even slip the books, if they are careful, put in labels, etc. We have a Boy’s Club recently organized. Now the girls are clamoring for one. A trustee has charge of it. I believe that the librarian should make more of an effort to know the boys and girls personally. During the past two months, we have been working along this line with good results. The boys are simply full of spirit; they are not bad. We never ought to expect to eliminate noise entirely, unless we drive out the children. Our library is open without partitions between the children’s room and the other rooms. Boys that have been troublesome in the past, come in now that they are older, and read like gentlemen. Many of the boys, we find upon inquiry, are orphans. some without fathers, some without mothers. The probation officer of the Juvenile court works with us. One of her boys is an ardent helper in the children’s room. We have found it much better to speak to a boy quietly when he is not with his companions. He is more likely to respond. We try to make the boys and girls feel that we are interested in them. If they come to us to use the library as a meeting and perhaps a loafing place, we should be glad. If we have not the time and strength to seize this opportunity for social betterment, we should enlist tactful men and women in the city who can help with the problem.
Miss Mary A. Smith, La Crosse, Wis.
At the branch, the discipline is the great difficulty. The branch took the place of a badly managed boy’s club so we really did not have a fair start. The discipline in the room is still a problem not entirely solved. A large number of the most restless boys had no respect for authority and had the impression that the library, being a free and public institution, was a place where they could act as they pleased. Through the kindness of Mr. Austin and Mr. Hiller, who have given their time to read aloud to the boys two evenings a week and have personally interested the boys in the books at the library, this impression has changed and in its place has come an attempt on the part of some of the boys at a system of self government. Next fall we hope to establish clubs among the boys, giving them the use of the room back of the reading room and any assistance they may need, but leaving the organization in their hands.
The reading aloud has been most successful and has had a constant attendance of about 50 boys. With the children lies our chief hope of developing the reading habit and love of good books. Through the children also we look for the increase in adult readers. This grows slowly at the branch for the reason that older people do not yet come to read the magazines kept on file in the room.
Mr. Henry J. Carr, Scranton, Pa.
To send unruly children out of the building and forbid them to come again until prepared to behave properly is our strongest “card,” and it proves effective, too. No definite period is assigned.
Administration of all discipline promptly, pleasantly, but no less firmly and without relaxation, on the least sign of its need, we find to do much towards obviating the necessity.
Miss Maude Van Buren, Mankato, Minn.
I make occasional visits to all the schools, and the first talk of the year usually includes a word on conduct, but I am careful to have the young people feel that I know their shortcomings in this matter are only those of thoughtlessness, never of mischief nor meanness; that the only reason for requiring perfect quiet in a public library is a consideration of other’s rights. It is all a matter of the librarian’s attitude.
Miss Grace D. Rose, Davenport, Iowa.
When the children’s room was in the basement in a room much too small for the numbers which came, there was a great deal of noise and confusion. Since the removal to the large, beautiful room on the second floor, the order has been much improved. The children seem impressed by the dignity and quiet of the room, and even upon days when they come in large numbers, there is no confusion and very little of the former playing.
At present, we have several children who are allowed to draw books but must transact their business as quickly as possible, and cannot exchange them under two weeks.
Miss Ethel F. McCullough, Superior, Wis.
The question of library discipline is not so much a question of troublesome and disorderly patrons, as it is a question of library administration. Given a quiet, attentive staff, a building arranged for complete supervision, noiseless floors and furniture intelligently placed–given these five essentials, a well ordered library must be the inevitable result. With any one of these lacking, the problem of discipline becomes a complicated one.
Mrs. Grace K. Hairland, Marshalltown, Iowa.
The matter of discipline, in a small public library, where the loan desk with its unavoidable attendant confusion, is so near the Reading Room as to furnish a cover for the whispering and fun–is not the easiest problem in the world to solve. There is nothing we desire more than to have every man, woman, and child love the library. To wet blanket the enthusiasm with which they seek our sanctuary the instant school is over, surely would not be good administration. The majority come to do serious work; it is only a few who use it as a trysting place and who disturb the “Absolute silence” which we profess to maintain, (and of which we have tangible reminders conspicuously posted) and yet we realize that those few irrepressibles may prove most annoying to serious readers. Tact is necessary and methods must be devised to correct this without using so much severity or nagging, as to drive away the thoughtless. Often we have arranged to do some reference work, looking up material for club programs perhaps, at the hour just after school when the older children flock into the reading room. This can be done at the tables and “sitting in their midst” has a salutary effect. Of course it could not be done with a staff of one or two.
During this last winter the high school arranged for seven debates. The unbounded enthusiasm of those taking part resulted in a total ignoring of the rules; groups of debaters stood about hotly contesting points, causing consternation to the staff until the plan of giving over to them the newspaper room, (not used by the public) was carried into effect. Every effort is made to keep the good will of the older boys and girls, and it is only with these that there is any suggestion of trouble. The children’s room, especially since we have had a children’s librarian, is under perfect discipline. There are dissected maps, quiet games, and stereopticon views on their tables beside Caldecott’s and other picture books and they are so well entertained that there is no occasion for mischief.
Extreme measures are not resorted to among the older boys and girls except on rare occasions. If, after being spoken to once or twice and perhaps sent out, they still prove obstreperous, they are suspended for a month and this has always resulted in reform.
In no case have we found it necessary to resort to aid from the police. I should like very much to have a club room, or “conversation room” perhaps it might be called. The shelves of the newspaper room are filled with magazines for binding and these are often misplaced and even torn and lost when that room is used; besides it is in the basement and out of sight. The ideal room would have glass doors and the occupants in sight of the staff all the time. Then the high school students could come from the strict discipline and restraint of the school room and have a quiet discussion of their work or even a social chat and be in a much better place than the cigar stores or post office.
Miss Grace Blanchard, Concord, N. H.
When a librarian is much “dressed up” and can take time to play that she is an agreeable hostess, all children, whether little aristocrats or arabs, enter into the civilized spirit of the occasion and become more mannerly.
Miss Lucy Lee Pleasants, Menasha, Wis.
To achieve the best results, the librarian should never make an enemy and should lose no opportunity of making a friend. If children talk at the tables, separate them by asking them politely to change their seats. If they have really something to talk over, such as a lesson or a sleighride, permit them to go into another room to discuss it. They will appreciate the privilege and will behave better in consequence.
I have known a gang of little boys, who had the habit of coming to the reading room to make a disturbance, completely won over and converted into agreeable patrons by being captured red handed and told an amusing story. Children who come to the library are like everybody else–very apt to treat you as you treat them.
Mrs. C. P. Barnes, Kenosha, Wis.
About a year ago, I submitted a rule to the Board for their approval, and asked permission to have it printed on cards, for use on the tables in the reading room. It was worded as follows:– “A rule has been made that no whispering nor talking shall be allowed in the reading room, even for purposes of study. For the good of the public, this rule will be strictly enforced, and anyone failing to observe it will be requested to leave the building. By order of the Board of Directors.” It has been more effective in promoting order than any other experiment. Of course it occasionally happens that the card is overlooked or unheeded, but it is a very simple matter to hand one of these cards to the offender, and with a pleasant smile say, “We have no choice but to enforce this rule” and the deed is done.
Miss Helen L. Price, Merrill, Wis.
When we know our young scamp and always speak to him in a spirit of good fellowship when we meet him, and take an opportunity in the library some time when there is no one to be disturbed, to discuss postage stamps, chickens, rabbits, or, best of all, dogs with him, he will soon lose all desire to torment, and when it is only exuberance to contend with, then that is easy.
For malicious disturbance, we send the offender out, quickly and surely and discuss the matter with him later, if at all. “Go– quickly and quietly–and no noise outside if you want to come back.”
Miss Agnes Dwight, Appleton, Wis.
We do not have absolute quiet all the time and I do not aim to have, but it is a favorite place for all ages to come. I, myself, never tell a boy that if I have to speak to him again I shall send him out. He goes the first time if it is necessary to speak to him at all. That sounds savage, but it is a long time since I have had to be so cruel. We have the goodwill of the small boy, that is for the time being, they may begin to act up at any time.
Mrs. W. G. Clough, Portage, Wis.
Judging from the impression made upon people from other libraries I should infer that our library is in a pretty well ordered condition in the matter of discipline.
From the opening of our library we have impressed upon the public the necessity for quiet and order. We do not permit any talking aloud, a rule to which there are very few exceptions. The use, even, of subdued tones in the routine of selecting and exchanging books is not allowed among children and is discouraged among adults. The public understand and appreciate the fact that the library is no place for visitation or conversation. It has been necessary to pursue this course as we have but one large room for stacks, reference books, reading tables, children’s department and charging desk.
We have in a measure to contend against the noise attendant upon hard wood floors, and we are disturbed at times during the last hour of the evening from the room above which is the armory of the city company of the national guard. This, however, in no way affects the discipline of the library, excepting as it makes discipline there more essential.
Miss Deborah B. Martin, Green Bay, Wis.
Occasionally we have had difficulty from a crowd of boys entering the room in a body with a great deal of noise, annoying the librarian and readers by making a disturbance at the tables and altogether proving themselves a nuisance. We found that the most effective means for putting a decisive stop to the trouble was to write a polite note to the parents of each offender, saying that as the boy was proving an annoyance to library patrons, it might be well if he was kept away from the library until he was old enough to understand its uses. The parents have never resented this notice and after a reasonable time, the youth has returned to the library chastened and pleasant and there has been no further trouble with him.
High school boys and girls do make the library a meeting place, and two years ago it became so noticeable that the Principal of one of the high schools, in a communication to the parents of scholars, spoke of the public library as a rendezvous. It is certainly not the province of the librarian unless these young people prove an annoyance to the reader, to discipline them or tell them what company they should keep. At a meeting of the Woman’s club, the librarian was asked to speak to the club on the Public Library and its Work. This gave an opportunity to bring in the question of library discipline in its relation to the young people who flocked there less for study than for pleasure. The talk in this instance fortunately reached the right people, who perhaps had never thought the matter over before, and the library is not now, to any extent, used as a meeting place for high school students, although they still use it largely in their reference work.
Miss Nannie W. Jayne, Alexandria, Ind.
A few boys and girls from the high school and eighth grade have made two or three attempts to use the library as a meeting place. These meetings have been promptly broken up and a private talk with each offender has been the means used to prevent a repetition of the offense. A special effort has been made to impress the girls with correct ideas on this point, and in almost every case, these talks have resulted in an apology from the girl for her behavior.
If all general conversation be prohibited, the library offers but little attraction to those who would come merely for a good time.
Miss Martha E. Dunn, Stanley, Wis.
We have had some experience with the older scholars making the library a meeting place. I mentioned the fact to the library board, and the president, who was the editor of our local paper at that time, made mention of it in the next issue. Since then, there has been no trouble. Our local paper has done much toward helping to put down any annoyance in and around the library building. It is a good thing to have the editor of the paper on the library board.
Miss Anna S. Pinkum, Marinette, Wis.
Our problems of discipline are, in some respects, peculiar to local conditions and in other respects, are the results of a larger movement which seems to be sweeping the entire country. Broadly speaking, two causes which make discipline such a difficult task stand out prominently:
1. Local causes. A 9 o’clock curfew law and that not enforced; parents allowing their children to roam the streets at night; misdemeanors winked at by those in authority, particularly the police; a general laxity on the part of parents and city officials in correcting offences.
2. Universal movement. Loss of parental authority. This is not peculiar to Marinette, but it is a deplorable state of affairs which is being brought to light all over the country.
We find that moral suasion does not work effectively. Theoretically probably none of us believes in being caught wearing a frown, but most of our boys and girls respect sternness and assertive authority when they will not respond to any sort of kindly advice or appeal to their better natures.
After the study of this problem for some time, the conclusion reached is this:–With one assistant, we can control any situation that may present itself within the library and by so doing, in time, may create the habit of quiet and orderly conduct; but until parents realize that their children need guidance, correction, and above all need to be kept from roaming the streets at night, the problem of discipline will be an ever present one both in the schools and in the library at Marinette.
Mrs. Anna C. Bronsky, Chippewa Falls, Wis.
We have had only a few occasions when it was necessary to deny pupils the privileges of the library. In such cases, the suspended one may come to the library for any books needed in school work, but is not allowed to remain longer than is necessary and may not go in to the reading room. This has been found helpful in most cases. I dislike very much to send a child out of the library, and only do so when it is imperative; for while they may be trying at times, they are the very ones who need the help that the library can give. Often the mischievous mood is of short duration, the attention is arrested by something in one of the books before him, and suddenly, your noisy boy is transformed into a studious youth. It is a great satisfaction to know that while the small child is in the library, he is not only safe from the evil influences of the street but is deriving a double benefit–the enjoyment of the book that absorbs him for the time being, and the habit of reading that is unconsciously being formed.
Mr. R. Oberholzer, Sioux City, Iowa.
If a real disturbance is made which seems clearly intentional, a quick dismissal follows. Reproof is never repeated–once speaking in that way is enough. Reproof is always made in an undertone, and the command to go home, while imperative, is in a few words and followed by absolute silence until obeyed. This is much more impressive than any amount of talk. Dismissal is only for the day. I have never suspended anyone, and only once did I write to the lad’s mother that it would be better if her son did not come to the library for a time. If a child really wants to come to the library he learns to conduct himself so as not to offend the people who are in other ways such good friends of his. If he only comes for mischief, he soon concludes that the game is not worth the candle. The desire to “show off,” always a strong element in a mischievous child, is not gratified, and the whole atmosphere is against him.
To keep things going in this way is not easy except by eternal vigilance, both for the public who have to be taught some things over every day, and for library workers who have to learn to be good natured but unyielding, obliging but arbitrary, eternally patient but abnormally quick.
In short, discipline in a library is, as everywhere, a matter of atmosphere rather than method, and atmosphere always means a group of forces expressed through personality.
Miss Nelle A. Olson, Moorhead, Minn.
Before our library opened, I visited all the rooms of all the schools of the city to talk library. I tried to awaken interest and enthusiasm, and to make perfectly clear to the students beforehand the purpose of a library and what was expected of them there and why.
During the first few weeks I managed to spend a good deal of time in their room, moving about among them, helping them, and ready with a word of reminder the very moment a boy forgot himself. I tried in every possible way to help them to form correct library habits from the first. They all seemed anxious to conform to the library spirit when they understood it.
Now, when a boy does something a little out of the way, I try to pass over it as much as possible at the time, then when he comes in again some time, perhaps having forgotten his feeling of irritation, I try to talk kindly with him about it and I find he usually takes it kindly then, and does not trouble again.
I have tried always to take it for granted that the boy did not mean to annoy but forgot himself or was a little careless. I have no set procedure, but try to settle each little difficulty as that particular case seems to warrant and never to let it go on until it becomes a great one.
Miss Kate M. Potter, Baraboo, Wis.
The burning of our high school, two years ago, made the library the only place of general meeting for the scholars. While it was an added trouble at the time, I am not sorry for the experience either for the scholars or myself. Classes were held downstairs and study periods in the reading rooms. The children were made to realize they were under the same discipline as in the assembly room and while it took our time, it taught them the proper use of the library and we gained in the experience.
First:–In regard to the children coming in such numbers as to keep the older readers away. The older people make such little use of the books in comparison, I believe in giving the time and room to the children.
Second:–As to their making it a meeting place. In smaller places the children have no other place to go. Is it not better to attract them to the library?
Third:–As to discipline. We find one thing essential–not to let them get started in the wrong way. A boy or girl spoken to at first, generally does not repeat the offense.
While this all takes the librarian’s time I feel that it is spent, in the greatest good to the greatest number, after all.
Miss Gertrude J. Skavlem, Janesville, Wis.
The Janesville Public Library is so arranged that the desk attendant has almost no supervision over the Reading and Reference Rooms. The matter of discipline in those rooms was a source of considerable trouble until an attendant took charge there in the evenings. We find it necessary to have this attendant only during the winter months, when more High School students use the library than at other times.
It is not the policy of the Library Board to enforce any strict rules as to quiet in the rooms. Rules are very lenient and the enforcement more by inference than in any other way. An attendant if she has the requisite personality, may, simply by her manner ensure quiet and orderly conduct, at least that has been our experience during the past year.
Various other means were tried before the one which we now find so successful. Talks were given in the High School by the superintendent, and at one time a police officer had the Library on his regular beat. None of these methods were permanently successful.
Miss Jeannette M. Drake, Jacksonville, Ill.
I have never hesitated to take what measures seemed necessary to have a quiet library, otherwise how near can we come to fulfilling the purpose of a library?
Since the first few weeks that I was here as librarian I have had no trouble in regard to the discipline. I feel sometimes that I am too strict, but I cannot have patrons say “I cannot study at the library because of the confusion, etc.” The only solution of the problem that I know of is to ask every one not to talk, unless he can do so without disturbing others in the least. When it is necessary for people to talk about their work, except to us, we give them a vacant room in the building and often have people in every vacant space and the office at the same time. We encourage such use of the rooms; try to be courteous in our demands; interested in all; do everything in our power to get material for patrons and the result is that they feel that the library is a place of business.
The boys who used to come “for fun” come now and read for several hours at a time and are always gentlemanly and are our friends. I know of none who ceased to come because of the order we must have. At first, if we had spoken to anyone and they still were not quiet, we asked them to leave the building and to come back when they wanted to read or study. We always saw that they left when we told them to do so, and no one has been sent from the building for unruly conduct for two years. If I needed help I would call on the police as I would not want either teachers or students to feel that we could not manage our patrons when they were in the library. Of course we are always on the alert as we realize that the matter would get beyond us if we were careless for a time. It is not easy for librarians to carry out these rules, but it pays in the reputation of the library.
Mrs. Alice G. Evans, Decatur, Ill.
We have had very little trouble with discipline since moving into our own building, the rooms being so arranged that excellent supervision over them is possible from the loan desk. Then too, the children’s and reference rooms have their own attendants and any disturbance may be quickly settled.
Perhaps the most disturbing element comes from the boys preparing debates, who often forget and talk somewhat above a whisper, and it is sometimes necessary to request them every fifteen minutes, to lower their voices.
As to making the library a meeting place, this is done, I suppose, to some extent but we rarely have any particular trouble from it.
I think the main reason for the order in our library is the separation of the different departments, as we used to have a great deal of trouble when we had but one room for readers, students and children.
Miss Elizabeth Comer, Redwood Falls, Minn.
When I first came here, I sent both boys and girls home; it was seldom necessary to send the same child twice for the same offense. Some of the boys tried a new tack after being sent home once and were then told to stay away until they could conduct themselves properly on the library premises, with the result that I have not been obliged to send a child away from the library for months.
Miss Marie E. Brick, St. Cloud, Minn.
The question of discipline has always been such an easy matter with me and never a problem that it seems rather difficult to state just how the good results are accomplished. We have none of the disfiguring printed signs of warning about; we do not need them. A glance, a word, a motion, at the least sign of uneasiness or noise, and all is quiet.
Any good disciplinarian will say that her methods are the same. It is not what she says or does, but her entire attitude, her manner, her commanding personality, that secure the desired results.
Our High School pupils never give us any trouble. They enjoy too many privileges as students to abuse them. The school is in the next block, so near that the teachers almost daily excuse a number of them to do supplementary reading in the library during school hours. They hand me a printed slip or pass on entering, which I sign with the time of coming and leaving. These are returned to their respective instructors on returning to the school room. This pass acts as a check on anyone disposed to loiter by the way.
Miss Ella F. Corwin, Elkhart, Ind.
We never have had a great deal of trouble with the discipline. We try to make the children and young people feel that we depend