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A Librarian's Open Shelf
by Arthur E. Bostwick
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A LIBRARIAN'S OPEN SHELF

ESSAYS ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS

ARTHUR E. BOSTWICK, Ph.D.



1920



PREFACE

The papers here gathered together represent the activities of a librarian in directions outside the boundaries of his professional career, although the influences of it may be detected in them here and there. Except for those influences they have little connection and the transition of thought and treatment from one to another may occasionally seem violent. It may, however, serve to protect the reader from the assaults of monotony.

A.E.B.



CONTENTS

DO READERS READ? (The Critic, July, 1901, p. 67-70)

WHAT MAKES PEOPLE READ? (The Book Lover, January, 1904, p. 12-16)

THE PASSING OF THE POSSESSIVE; A STUDY OF BOOK TITLES (The Book Buyer, June, 1897, p. 500-1)

SELECTIVE EDUCATION (Educational Review, November, 1907, p. 365-73)

THE USES OF FICTION Read before the American Library Association, Asheville Conference, May 28, 1907. (A.L.A. Bulletin, July, 1907, p. 183-7)

THE VALUE OF ASSOCIATION Delivered before the Library Associations of Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and Ohio, October 9-18, 1907. (Library Journal, January, 1908, p. 3-9)

MODERN EDUCATIONAL METHODS (Notes and News, Montclair, N.J., July, 1908)

SOME ECONOMIC FEATURES OF LIBRARIES Read at the opening of the Chestnut Hill Branch, Philadelphia Free Library, January 22, 1909. (Library Journal, February, 1909, p. 48-52)

SIMON NEWCOMB: AMERICA'S FOREMOST ASTRONOMER (Review of Reviews, August, 1909, p. 171-4)

THE COMPANIONSHIP OF BOOKS Read before the Pacific Northwest Library Association, June, 1910. (P.N.W.L.A. Proceedings, 1910, p. 8-23)

ATOMIC THEORIES OF ENERGY Read before the St. Louis Academy of Science. (The Monist, October, 1912, p. 580-5)

THE ADVERTISEMENT OF IDEAS (Minnesota Library Notes and News, December, 1912, p. 190-7)

THE PUBLIC LIBRARY, THE PUBLIC SCHOOL, AND THE SOCIAL CENTER MOVEMENT Read before the National Education Association. (N.E.A. Proceedings, 1912, p. 240-5)

THE SYSTEMATIZATION OF VIOLENCE (St. Louis Mirror, July 18, 1913)

THE ART OF RE-READING

HISTORY AND HEREDITY Read before the New England Society of St. Louis. (New England Society of St. Louis. Proceedings, 29th year, p. 13-20)

WHAT THE FLAG STANDS FOR A Flag Day address in St. Peter's church, St. Louis. (St. Louis Republic, June 15, 1914)

THE PEOPLE'S SHARE IN THE PUBLIC LIBRARY Read before the Chicago Women's Club, January 6, 1915. (Library Journal, April, 1915, p. 227-32)

SOME TENDENCIES OF AMERICAN THOUGHT Read before the New York Library Association at Squirrel Inn, Haines Falls, September 28, 1915. (Library Journal, November, 1915, p. 771-7)

DRUGS AND THE MAN A Commencement address to the graduating class of the School of Pharmacy, St. Louis, May 19, 1915. (Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association, August, 1915, p. 915-22)

HOW THE COMMUNITY EDUCATES ITSELF Read before the American Library Association, Asbury Park, N.J., June 27, 1916. (Library Journal, August, 1916, p. 541-7)

CLUBWOMEN'S READING (The Bookman, January-March, 1915, p. 515-21, 642-7, 64-70)

BOOKS FOR TIRED EYES (Yale Review, January, 1917, p. 358-68)

THE MAGIC CASEMENT Read before the Town and Gown Club, St. Louis.

A WORD TO BELIEVERS Address at the closing section of the Church School of Religious Instruction.

INDEX



A LIBRARIAN'S OPEN SHELF

ESSAYS ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS



DO READERS READ?

Those who are interested in the proper use of our libraries are asking continually, "What do readers read?" and the tables of class-percentages in the annual reports of those institutions show that librarians are at least making an attempt to satisfy these queries. But a question that is still more fundamental and quite as vital is: Do readers read at all? This is not a paradox, but a common-sense question, as the following suggestive little incident will show. The librarian-in-charge of a crowded branch circulating-library in New York City had occasion to talk, not long ago, to one of her "star" borrowers, a youth who had taken out his two good books a week regularly for nearly a year and whom she had looked upon as a model—so much so that she had never thought it necessary to advise with him regarding his reading. In response to a question this lad made answer somewhat as follows: "Yes, ma'am, I'm doing pretty well with my reading. I think I should get on nicely if I could only once manage to read a book through; but somehow I can't seem to do it." This boy had actually taken to his home nearly a hundred books, returning each regularly and borrowing another, without reading to the end of a single one of them.

That this case is not isolated and abnormal, but is typical of the way in which a large class of readers treat books, there is, as we shall see, only too much reason to believe.

The facts are peculiarly hard to get at. At first sight there would seem to be no way to find out whether the books that our libraries circulate have been read through from cover to cover, or only half through, or not at all. To be sure, each borrower might be questioned on the subject as he returned his book, but this method, would be resented as inquisitorial, and after all there would be no certainty that the data so gathered were true. By counting the stamps on the library book-card or dating-slip we can tell how many times a book has been borrowed, but this gives us no information about whether it has or has not been read. Fortunately for our present purpose, however, many works are published in a series of volumes, each of which is charged separately, and an examination of the different slips will tell us whether or not the whole work has been read through by all those who borrowed it. If, for instance in a two-volume work each volume has gone out twenty times, twenty borrowers either have read it through or have stopped somewhere in the second volume, while if the first volume is charged twenty times and the second only fourteen, it is certain that six of those who took out the first volume did not get as far as the second. In works of more than two volumes we can tell with still greater accuracy at what point the reader's interest was insufficient to carry him further.

Such an investigation has been made of all works in more than one volume contained in seven branches of the Brooklyn Public Library, and with very few exceptions it has been found that each successive volume in a series has been read by fewer persons than the one immediately preceding. What is true of books in more than one volume is presumably also true, although perhaps in a less degree, of one-volume works, although we have no means of showing it directly. Among the readers of every book, then, there are generally some who, for one reason or other, do not read it to the end. Our question, "Do readers read?" is thus answered in the negative for a large number of cases. The supplementary question, "Why do not readers read?" occurs at once, but an attempt to answer it would take us rather too deeply into psychology. Whether this tendency to leave the latter part of books unread is increasing or not we can tell only by repeating the present investigation at intervals of a year or more. The probability is that it is due to pure lack of interest. For some reason or other, many persons begin to read books that fail to hold their attention. In a large number of cases this is doubtless due to a feeling that one "ought to read" certain books and certain classes of books. A sense of duty carries the reader part way through his task, but he weakens before he has finished it.

This shows how necessary it is to stimulate one's general interest in a subject before advising him to read a book that is not itself calculated to arouse and sustain that interest. Possibly the modern newspaper habit, with its encouragement of slipshod reading, may play its part in producing the general result, and doubtless a careful detailed investigation would reveal still other partial causes, but the chief and determining cause must be lack of interest. And it is to be feared that instead of taking measures to arouse a permanent interest in good literature, which would in itself lead to the reading of standard works and would sustain the reader until he had finished his task, we have often tried to replace such an interest by a fictitious and temporary stimulus, due to appeals to duty, or to that vague and confused idea that one should "improve one's mind," unaccompanied by any definite plan of ways and means. There is no more powerful moral motor than duty, but it loses its force when we try to apply it to cases that lie without the province of ethics. The man who has no permanent interest in historical literature, and who is impelled to begin a six-volume history because he conceives it to be his "duty" to read it, is apt to conclude, before he has finished the second volume, that his is a case where inclination (or in this instance disinclination) is the proper guide.

As a matter of fact, the formation of a cultivated and permanent taste for good reading is generally a matter of lifelong education. It must be begun when the child reads his first book. An encouraging sign for the future is the care that is now taken in all good libraries to supervise the reading of children and to provide for them special quarters and facilities. A somewhat disheartening circumstance, on the other hand, is the multiplication of annotated and abbreviated children's editions of all sorts of works that were read by the last generation of children without any such treatment. This kind of boned chicken may be very well for the mental invalid, but the ordinary child prefers to separate his meat from the "drumstick" by his own unaided effort, and there is no doubt that it is better for him to do so.

In the following table, the average circulation of first volumes, second volumes, etc., is given for each of seven classes of works. The falling off from volume to volume is noticeable in each class. It is most marked in science, and least so, as might be expected, in fiction. Yet it is remarkable that there should be any falling off at all in fiction. The record shows that the proportion of readers who cannot even read to the end of a novel is relatively large. These are doubtless the good people who speak of Dickens as "solid reading" and who regard Thackeray with as remote an eye as they do Gibbon. For such "The Duchess" furnishes good mental pabulum, and Miss Corelli provides flights into the loftier regions of philosophy.

Vol. Vol. Vol. Vol. Vol. Vol. Vol. Vol. Vol. Vol. Vol. Vol. CLASS I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. VIII IX. X. XI. XII.

History 10.1 6.9 4.9 4.4 4.6 4.3 2.5 2.8 1.0 0.5 1.0 3.0 Biography 7.2 5.1 3.0 2.3 1.6 1.0 1.6 1.2 1.0 2. Travel 9.2 7.9 Literature 7.3 5.9 3.5 3.8 5.3 6.6 19.0 15.0 21.0 Arts 4.7 3.7 3.0 Sciences 5.2 2.7 1.5 Fiction 22.0 18.9 15.8 16. 26. 16.

The figures in the table, as has been stated, are averages, and the number of cases averaged decreases rapidly as we reach the later volumes, because, of course, the number of works that run beyond four or five volumes is relatively small. Hence the figures for the higher volumes are irregular. Any volume may have been withdrawn separately for reference without any intention of reading its companions. Among the earlier volumes such use counts for little, owing to the large number of volumes averaged, while it may and does make the figures for the later volumes irregular. Thus, under History the high number in the twelfth column represents one-twelfth volume of Froude, which was taken out three times, evidently for separate reference, as the eleventh was withdrawn but once. Furthermore, apart from this irregularity, the figures for the later volumes are relatively large, for a work in many volumes is apt to be a standard, and although its use falls rapidly from start to finish enough readers persevere to the end to make the final averages compare unduly well with the initial ones where the high use of the same work is averaged in with smaller use of dozens of other first and second volumes. That the falling off from beginning to end in such long works is much more striking than would appear from the averages alone may be seen from the following records of separate works in numerous volumes:

VOLUMES I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X HISTORY

Grote, "Greece" 11 6 5 2 1 0 1 1 1 0 Bancroft, "United States" 22 10 6 8 10 8 Hume, "England" 24 7 5 2 1 1 Gibbon, "Rome" 38 12 7 3 4 6 Motley, "United Netherlands" 7 1 1 1 Prescott, "Ferdinand and Isabella" 20 4 2 Carlyle, "French Revolution" 18 10 8 McCarthy, "Our Own Times" 27 8 11

BIOGRAPHY

Bourienne, "Memoirs of Napoleon" 19 18 9 7 Longfellow's "Life" 6 4 2 Nicolay and Hay, "Lincoln" 6 3 3 2 2 2 2 1 1 2 Carlyle, "Frederick the Great" 7 3 2 2 2

FICTION

Dumas, "Vicomte de Bragelonne" 31 30 24 22 21 16 Dumas, "Monte Cristo" 27 17 18 Dickens, "Our Mutual Friend" 5 4 1 0 Stowe, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" 37 24

Of course, these could be multiplied indefinitely. They are sufficiently interesting apart from all comment. One would hardly believe without direct evidence that of thirty-one persons who began one of Dumas's romances scarcely half would read it to the end, or that not one of five persons who essayed Dickens's "Mutual Friend" would succeed in getting through it.

Those who think that there can be no pathos in statistics are invited to ponder this table deeply. Can anyone think unmoved of those two dozen readers who, feeling impelled by desire for an intellectual stimulant to take up Hume, found therein a soporific instead and fell by the wayside?

A curious fact is that the tendency to attempt to "begin at the beginning" is so strong that it sometimes extends to collected works in which there is no sequence from volume to volume. Thus we have the following:

Vol. Vol. Vol. Vol. Vol. Vol. I. II. III. IV. V. VI.

Chaucer, "Poetical Works" 38 9 5 Milton, "Poetical Works" 19 8 Longfellow, "Poetical Works" 14 15 2 10 3 3 Emerson, "Essays" 48 13 Ward, "English Poets" 13 2 6

There are of course exceptions to the rule that circulation decreases steadily from volume to volume. Here are a few:

Vol. Vol. Vol. Vol. I. II. III. IV.

Fiske, "Old Virginia" 26 24 Spears, "History of the Navy" 44 39 36 36 Andrews, "Last Quarter Century" 8 8 Kennan, "Siberia" 15 13

In the case of the two-volume works the interest-sustaining power may not always be as great as would appear, because when the reader desires it, two volumes are given out as one; but the stamps on the dating-slips show that this fact counted for little in the present instances.

I would not assume that the inferences in the present article are of any special value. The statistical facts are the thing. So far as I know, no one has called attention to them before, and they are certainly worthy of all interest and attention.



WHAT MAKES PEOPLE READ?

Does the reading public read because it has a literary taste or for some other reason? In the case of the public library, for instance, does a man start with an overwhelming desire to read or study books and is he impelled thereby to seek out the place where he may most easily and best obtain them? Or is he primarily attracted to the library by some other consideration, his love for books and reading acting only in a secondary manner? The New York Public Library, for instance, carries on the registry books of its circulating department nearly 400,000 names, and in the course of a year nearly 35,000 new applications are made for the use of its branch libraries, scattered over different parts of the city. What brings these people to the library? This is no idle question. The number of library users, large as it is, represents too small a fraction of our population. If it is a good thing to provide free reading matter for our people—and every large city in the country has committed itself to the truth of this proposition—we should certainly try to see that what we furnish is used by all who need it. Hence an examination into the motives that induce people to make their first use of a free public library may bring out information that is not only interesting but useful. To this end several hundred regular users of the branches of the New York Public Library were recently asked this question directly, and the answers are tabulated and discussed below. In each of sixteen branch libraries the persons interrogated numbered forty—ten each of men, women, boys and girls. Thirty answers have been thrown out for irrelevancy or defectiveness. The others are classified in the following table:

A B C D E F G H I J K L Totals

Men 6 64 10 .. .. .. 37 20 3 1 9 4 154 Boys 38 63 28 .. 4 3 9 6 5 .. .. 3 159 Women 12 67 14 4 .. .. 20 21 2 1 2 5 148 Girls 33 69 34 .. .. .. 5 3 3 .. .. 2 149 Total 89 263 86 4 4 3 71 50 13 2 11 14 610

Col. A: Sent or Told by Teacher Col. B: Sent or Told by Friend Col. C: Sent or Told by Relative Col. D: Sent or Told by Clergyman Col. E: Sent or Told by Library Assistant Col. F: Through Reading Room Col. G: Saw Building Col. H: Saw Sign Col. I: Saw Library Books Col. J: Saw Bulletin Col. K: Saw Article in Paper Col. L: Sought Library

It will be seen that the vast majority of those questioned were led to the library by some circumstance other than the simple desire to find a place where books could be obtained. Of more than six hundred persons whose answers are here recorded only fourteen found the library as the result of a direct search for it prompted by a desire to read. In a majority of the other cases, of course, perhaps in all of them, the desire to read had its part, but this desire was awakened by hearing a mention of the library or by seeing it or something connected with it. These determining circumstances fall into two classes, those that worked through the ear and those that operated through the eye.

Those who heard of the library in some way numbered 449, while those who saw it or something connected with it were only 147—an interesting fact, especially as we are told by psychologists that apprehension and memory through sight are of a higher type than the same functions where exercised through hearing. Probably, however, this difference was dependent on the fact that the thing heard was in most cases a direct injunction or a piece of advice, while the thing seen did not act with similar urgency. There are some surprises in the table. For instance, only four persons were sent directly to libraries by persons employed therein. Doubtless the average library assistant wishes to get as far from "shop" as possible in her leisure hours, but it is still disappointing to find that those who are employed in our libraries exercise so little influence in bringing persons to use them. The same thing is true of the influence of reading rooms. In many of the branch libraries in New York there are separate reading rooms to which others than card-holders in the library are admitted, and one of the chief arguments for this has been that the user of such a room, having become accustomed to resort to the library building, would be apt to use the books. Apparently, however, such persons are in the minority. No less disappointing is the slight influence of the clergy. Only four persons report this as a determining influence and these were all women connected with a branch which was formerly the parish library of a New York church.

The influence of the press, too, seems to amount to little, in spite of the fact that the newspapers in New York have freely commented on the valuable work of the branch libraries and have called attention to it both in the news and editorial columns whenever occasion offered. Do the readers of library books in New York shun the public-press, or do they pay scant heed to what they read therein?

Another somewhat noteworthy fact is that of the 449 persons who sought the library by advice of some one, only 89 were sent by teachers. But perhaps this is unfair. Of 265 boys and girls who thus came to the library, only 71 were sent by teachers. This is a larger percentage, but it is still not so large as we might expect.

The difference between adults and children comes out quite strikingly in a few instances. We should have foreseen this of course in the case of advice by teachers, which was reported by 71 children and only 18 adults as a reason for visiting the library. Here we should not have expected this reason to be given by adults at all. Doubtless these were chiefly young men and women who had used the library since their school-days. In like manner the advice or injunction of relatives was more patent with children than with adults, the proportion here being 62 to 24. This probably illustrates the power of parental injunction. In another case the difference comes out in a wholly unexpected way. Of the 71 persons who reported that they were attracted to the library by seeing the buildings, 57 were adults and only 14 children. The same is true of those who were led in by seeing a sign, who numbered 41 adults to only 9 children. This seems to show either that adults are more observant or that children are more diffident in following out an impulse of this kind. It completely negatives the ordinary impression among librarians, at least in New York, where it has been believed that the sight of a library building, especially where the work going on inside is visible from the street, is a potent attraction to the young. Some of the new branch buildings in New York have even been planned with a special view to the exercise of this kind of attraction.

The small number of persons who were attracted by printed matter, in library or general publications, were entirely adults. The one instance where age seems to exercise no particular influence is that of the advice of friends, by which old and young alike seem to have profited.

The influence of sex does not appear clearly, although among those who followed the injunction of relatives the women and girls are slightly in the majority, and the four who were sent by clergymen were all women. Of those who were attracted by the buildings 46 were male and 25 female, which may mean that men are somewhat more observant or less diffident than women.

A few of those questioned relate their experiences at some length. Says one boy: "A boy friend of mine said he belonged to this library and he found some very good books here. He asked me if I wanted to join; I said yes. He told me I would have to get a reference. I got one, and joined this library." Another one reports: "I saw a boy in the street and asked him where he was going. He said he was going to the library. I asked him what the library was and he told me; so I came up here and have been coming ever since."

Critical judgment is shown by some of the young people. One boy says: "I heard all the other boys saying it was a good library and that the books were better kept than in a majority of libraries." A girl says that friends "told her what nice books were in this library." In one case a boy's brother "told him he could get the best books here for his needs."

The combination of man and book seems to be very attractive. One child "saw a boy in school with a book, telling what a boy should know about electricity; I wanted to read that book and joined the library." Others "followed a crowd of little boys with books"; "saw children taking books out of the building and asked them about joining"; "saw a boy carrying books and asked if there was a library in the neighborhood." A woman "saw a child with a library book in the park and asked her for the address of the library." Sometimes the book alone does the work, as shown by the following laconic report: "Found a book in the park; took it to the library; joined it." A cause of sorrow to many librarians who have decided ideas regarding literature for children will be the report of a boy who exclaimed: "Horatio Alger did it!" On being asked to explain, he said that a friend had brought one of Alger's books to his house and that he was thereby attracted to the library.

Among those who were brought in by relatives are children who were first carried by their mothers to the library as infants and so grew naturally into its use. Sometimes the influence works upward instead of downward, for several adults report that their children brought them to the library or induced them to visit it. One man reports that he "got married and his wife induced him to come."

Some of the reasons given are curious. A few are unconnected with the use of books. One girl came to the library because "it was a very handy library"; another, because she "saw it was a nice place to come to on a rainy day." Still another frankly avows that "it was the fad among the boys and girls of our neighborhood; we used to meet at the library." A postman reported that he entered the library first in the line of his duty, but was attracted by it and began to take out books. A clergyman had his attention called to the library by requests from choir-boys that he should sign their application blanks; afterwards thinking that he might find books there for his own reading, he became a regular user. One user came first to the library to see an exhibition of pictures of old New York. A recent importation says: "When I came from Paris I found all my cousins speaking English; 'well,' they said, 'go to the library and take books'"—a process that doubtless did its share toward making an American of the new arrival. In another case, the Americanizing process has not yet reached the stage where the user's English is altogether intelligible. He says: "Because I like to read the book. I ask the bakery lady to my reference and I sing my neam" [sign my name?].

Here are some examples of recently acquired elegance in diction that are almost baboo-like in their hopelessness: "Because it interest about the countries that are far away. It gives knowledge to many of the people in this country." "So as to obtain knowledge from them and by reading books find out how the great men were in their former days and all about them and the world and its people." It will be seen that the last two writers were among those who misunderstood our questions and told why they read books rather than how they were first led to the use of a library.

These reports are far from possessing merely a passing interest for the curious. For the public librarian, whose wish it is to reach as large a proportion of the public as possible, they are full of valuable hints. They emphasize, for instance, the urgent necessity of winning the good will of the public, and they forcibly remind us that this is of more value in gaining a foothold for the library than columns of notices in the papers or thousands of circulars or cards distributed in the neighborhood. It is even more potent than a beautiful building. Attractive as this is, its value as an influence to secure new readers is vastly less than a reputation for hospitality and helpfulness.

In looking over the figures one rather disquieting thought cannot be kept down. If the good will of the public is so potent in increasing the use of the library, the ill will of the same public must be equally potent in the opposite direction. Some of those who are satisfied with us and our work are here put on record. How about the dissatisfied? A record of these might be even more interesting, for it would point out weaknesses to be strengthened and errors to be avoided—but that, as Kipling says, "is another story."



THE PASSING OF THE POSSESSIVE: A STUDY OF BOOK-TITLES

If there is one particular advantage possessed by the Teutonic over the Romance languages in idiomatic clearness and precision it is that conferred by their ownership of a possessive case, almost the sole remaining monument to the fact that our ancestors spoke an inflected tongue. That we should still be able to speak of "the baker's wife's dog" instead of "the dog of the wife of the baker" certainly should be regarded by English-speaking people as a precious birthright. Yet, there are increasing evidences of a tendency to discard this only remaining case-ending and to replace its powerful backbone with the comparatively limp and cartilaginous preposition. This tendency has not yet appeared so much in our spoken as in our written language, and even here only in the most formal parts of it. It is especially noticeable in the diction of the purely formal title and heading.

That the reader may have something beyond an unsupported assertion that this is the case, I purpose to offer in evidence the titles of some recent works of fiction, and to make a brief statistical study of them.

The titles were taken from the adult fiction lists in the Monthly Bulletins of the New York Free Circulating Library from November, 1895, to March, 1897, inclusive, and are all such titles as contain a possessive, whether expressed by the possessive case or by the preposition "of" with the objective. Some titles are included in which the grammatical relation is slightly different, but all admit the alternative of the case-ending "'s" or "of" followed by the objective case.

Of the 101 titles thus selected, 41 use the possessive case and 60 the objective with the preposition. This proportion is in itself sufficiently suggestive, but it becomes still more so by comparing it with the corresponding proportion among a different set of titles. For this purpose 101 fiction titles were selected, just as they appeared in alphabetical order, from a library catalogue bearing the date 1889; only those being taken, as before, that contain a possessive. Of these 101, 71 use the possessive case and 30 the objective with "of." In other words, where eight years ago nearly three-quarters of such titles used the possessive case, now only two-fifths use it, a proportionate reduction of nearly one-half.

The change appears still more striking when we study the titles a little more closely. Of those in the earlier series there is not one that is not good, idiomatic English as it stands, whichever form is used; we may even say that there is not one that would not be made less idiomatic by a change to the alternative form. Among the recent titles, however, while the forms using the possessive case are all better as they are, of the 60 titles that use the objective with "of" only 22 would be injured by a change, and the reason why 8 of these are better as they are is simply that change would destroy euphony. Among these eight are

"The Indiscretion of the Duchess," "The Flight of a Shadow," "The Secret of Narcisse," etc.,

where the more idiomatic forms,

"The Duchess's Indiscretion," "Narcisse's Secret," "A Shadow's Flight," etc.,

are certainly not euphonic.

Of the others, 8 would not be injured by a change, and no less than 30 would be improved from the standpoint of idiomatic English. It may be well to quote these thirty titles. They are:

"The Shadow of Hilton Fernbrook," "The Statement of Stella Maberly," "The Shadow of John Wallace," "The Banishment of Jessop Blythe," "The Desire of the Moth," "The Island of Dr. Moreau," "The Damnation of Theron Ware," "The Courtship of Morrice Buckler," "The Daughter of a Stoic," "The Lament of Dives," "The Heart of Princess Osra," "The Death of the Lion," "The Vengeance of James Vansittart," "The Wife of a Vain Man," "The Crime of Henry Vane," "The Son of Old Harry," "The Honour of Savelli," "The Life of Nancy," "The Story of Lawrence Garthe," "The Marriage of Esther," "The House of Martha," "Tales of an Engineer," "Love-letters of a Worldly Woman," "The Way of a Maid," "The Soul of Pierre," "The Day of Their Wedding," "The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard," "The Hand of Ethelberta," "The Failure of Sibyl Fletcher," "The Love-affairs of an Old Maid."

Of course, in such a division as this, much must depend on individual judgment and bias. Probably no two persons would divide the list in just the same way, but it is my belief that the general result in each case would be much the same. To me the possessive in every one of the above-quoted titles would have been more idiomatic, thus:

"Hilton Fernbrook's Shadow," "Stella Maberly's Statement," "John Wallace's Shadow," "Morrice Buckler's Courtship," "A Stoic's Daughter," "Henry Vane's Crime," etc., etc.

In one case, at least, this fact has been recognized by a publisher, for "The Vengeance of James Vansittart," whose title is included in the list given above, has appeared in a later edition as "James Vansittart's Vengeance"—a palpable improvement.

I shall not discuss the cause of this change in the use of the possessive, though it seems to me an evident Gallicism, nor shall I open the question of whether it is a mere passing fad or the beginning of an actual alteration in the language. However this may be, it seems undeniable that there is an actual and considerable difference in the use of the possessive to-day and its use ten years ago, at least in formal titles and headings. I have confined myself to book-titles, because that is the department where the tendency presents itself to me most clearly; but it may be seen on street signs, in advertisements, and in newspaper headings. It is not to be found yet in the spoken language, at least it is not noticeable there, but it would be decidedly unsafe to prophesy that it will never appear there. Ten years from now we may hear about "the breaking of the arm of John Smith" and "the hat of Tom," without a thought that these phrases have not been part of our idiomatic speech since Shakespeare's time.



SELECTIVE EDUCATION[1]

[1] Read before the Schoolmen of New York.

Since Darwin called attention to the role of what he named "natural selection" in the genesis and preservation of species, and since his successors, both followers and opponents, have added to this many other kinds of selection that are continually operative, it has become increasingly evident that from one standpoint we may look on the sum of natural processes, organic and inorganic, as a vast selective system, as the result of which things are as they are, whether the results are the positions of celestial bodies or the relative places of human beings in the intellectual or social scale. The exact constitution of the present population of New York is the result of a great number of selective acts, some regular, others more or less haphazard. Selection is no less selection because it occurs by what we call chance—for chance is only our name for the totality of trivial and unconsidered causes. When, however, we count man and man's efforts in the sum of natural objects and forces, we have to reckon with his intelligence in these selective processes. I desire to call attention to the place that they play in educative systems and in particular to the way in which they may be furthered or made more effective by books, especially by public collections of books.

When we think of any kind of training as it affects the individual, we most naturally regard it as changing that individual, as making him more fit, either for life in general or for some special form of life's activities. But when we think of it as affecting a whole community or a whole nation, we may regard it as essentially a selective process. In a given community it is not only desirable that a certain number of men should be trained to do a specified kind of work, but it is even more desirable that these should be the men that are best fitted to do this work. When Mr. Luther Burbank brings into play the selection by means of which he achieves his remarkable results in plant breeding he gets rid of the unfit by destruction, and as all are unfit for the moment that do not advance the special end that he has in view, he burns up plants—new and interesting varieties perhaps—by the hundred thousand. We cannot destroy the unfit, nor do we desire to do so, for from the educational point of view unfitness is merely bad adjustment. There is a place for every man in the world and it is the educators business to see that he reaches it, if not by formative, then by selective processes. This selection is badly made in our present state of civilization. It depends to a large extent upon circumstances remote from the training itself—upon caprice, either that of the person to be trained or of his parents, upon accidents of birth or situation, upon a thousand irrelevant things; but in every case there are elements present in the training itself that aid in determining it. A young man begins to study medicine, and he finds that his physical repulsion for work in the dissecting-room can not be overcome. He abandons the study and by doing so eliminates an unfit person. A boy who has no head for figures enters a business college. He can not get his diploma, and the community is spared one bad bookkeeper. Certainly in some instances, possibly in all, technical and professional schools that are noted for the excellence of their product are superior not so much because they have better methods of training, but because their material is of better quality, owing to selection exercised either purposely, or automatically, or perhaps by some chance. The same is true of colleges. Of two institutions with the same curriculum and equally able instructors, the one with the widest reputation will turn out the best graduates because it attracts abler men from a wider field. This is true even in such a department as athletics. To him that hath shall be given. This is purely an automatic selective effect.

It would appear desirable to dwell more upon selective features in educational training, to ascertain what they are in each case and how they work, and to control and dispose them with more systematic care. Different minds will always attach different degrees of importance to natural and acquired fitness, but probably all will agree that training bestowed upon the absolutely unfit is worse than useless, and that there are persons whose natural aptitudes are so great that upon them a minimum of training will produce a maximum effect. Such selective features as our present educational processes possess, the examination, for instance, are mostly exclusive; they aim to bar out the unfit rather than to attract the fit. Here is a feature on which some attention may well be fixt.

How do these considerations affect the subject of general education? Are we to affirm that arithmetic is only for the born mathematician and Latin for the born linguist, and endeavor to ascertain who these may be? Not so; for here we are training not experts but citizens. Discrimination here must be not in the quality but in the quantity of training. We may divide the members of any community into classes according as their formal education—their school and college training—has lasted one, two, three, four, or more years. There has been a selection here, but it has operated, in general, even more imperfectly than in the case of special training. Persons who are mentally qualified to continue their schooling to the end of a college course, and who by so doing would become more useful members of the community, are obliged to be content with two or three years in the lower grades, while others, who are unfitted for the university, are kept at it until they take, or fail to take, the bachelor's degree. An ideal state of things, of course, would be to give each person the amount of general education for which he is fitted and then stop. This would be difficult of realization even if financial considerations did not so often interfere. But at least we may keep in view the desirability of preventing too many misfits and of insisting, so far as possible, on any selective features that we may discover in present systems.

For instance, a powerful selective feature is the attractiveness of a given course of study to those who are desired to pursue it. If we can find a way, for example, to make our high school courses attractive to those who are qualified to take them, while at the same time rendering them very distasteful to those who are not so qualified, we shall evidently have taken a step in the right direction. It is clear that both parts of this prescription must be taken together or there is no true selection. Much has been done of late years toward making educational courses of all kinds interesting and attractive, but it is to be feared that their attractiveness has been such as to appeal to the unfit as well as to the fit. If we sugar-coat our pills indiscriminately and mix them with candy, many will partake who need another kind of medicine altogether. We must so arrange things that the fit will like while the unfit dislike, and for this purpose the less sugar-coating the better. This is no easy problem and it is intended merely to indicate it here, not to propose a general solution.

The one thing to which attention should be directed is the role that may be and is played by the printed book in selective education. There is more or less effort to discredit books as educative tools and to lay emphasis on oral instruction and manual training. We need not decry these, but, it must be remembered that after all the book contains the record of man's progress; we may tell how to do a thing, and show how to do it, but we shall never do it in a better way or explain the why and wherefore, and surely transmit that ability and that explanation to posterity, without the aid of a stable record of some kind. If we are sure that our students could and would pick out only what they needed, as a wild animal picks his food in the woods, we might go far toward solving our problem, by simply turning them loose in a collection of books. Some people have minds that qualify them to profit by such "browsing," and some of these have practically educated themselves in a library. Even in the more common cases where formal training is absolutely necessary, access to other books than text-books is an aid to selection both qualitative and quantitative. Books may serve as samples. To take an extreme case, a boy who had no knowledge whatever of the nature of law or medicine would certainly not be competent to choose between them in selecting a profession, and a month spent in a library where there were books on both subjects would certainly operate to lessen his incompetence. Probably it would not be rash to assert that with free access to books, under proper guidance, both before and during a course of training, the persons who begin that course will include more of the fit and those who finish it will include less of the unfit, than without such access.

Let us consider one or two concrete examples. A college boy has the choice of several different courses. He knows little of them, but thinks that one will meet his needs. He elects it and finds too late that he is wasting his time. Another boy, whose general reading has been sufficient to give him some superficial knowledge of the subject-matter in all the courses, sees clearly which will benefit him, and profits by that knowledge.

Again, a boy, full of the possibilities that would lead him to appreciate the best in literature, has gained his knowledge of it from a teacher who looks upon a literary masterpiece only as something to be dissected. The student has been disgusted instead of inspired, and his whole life has been deprived of one of the purest and most uplifting of all influences. Had he been brought up in a library where he could make literary friends and develop literary enthusiasms, his course with the dry as dust teacher would have been only an unpleasant incident, instead of the wrecking of a part of his intellectual life.

Still again, a boy on a farm has vague aspirations. He knows that he wants a broader horizon, to get away from his cramped environment—that is about all. How many boys, impelled by such feelings, have gone out into the world with no clear idea of what they are fitted to do, or even what they really desire! To how many others has the companionship of a few books meant the opening of a peep-hole, thru which, dimly perhaps, but none the less really, have been descried definite possibilities, needs, and opportunities!

To all of these youths books have been selective aids merely—they have added little or nothing to the actual training whose extent and character they have served to point out. Such cases, which it would be easy to multiply, illustrate the value of books in the selective functions of training. To assert that they exercise such a function is only another way of saying that a mind orients itself by the widest contact with other minds. There are other ways of assuring this contact, and these should not be neglected; but only thru books can it approach universality both in space and in time. How else could we know exactly what Homer and St. Augustine and Descartes thought and what Tolstoi and Lord Kelvin and William James, we will say, are even now thinking?

It has scarcely been necessary to say all this to convince you of the value of books as aids to education; but it is certainly interesting to find that in an examination of the selective processes in education, we meet with our old friends in such an important role.

A general collection of books, then, constitutes an important factor in the selective part of an education. Where shall we place this collection? I venture to say that altho every school must have a library to aid in the formative part of its training, the library as a selective aid should be large and central and should preferably be at the disposal of the student not only during the period of his formal training, but before and after it. This points to the public library, and to close cooperation between it and the school, rather than to the expansion of the classroom library. This is, perhaps, not the place to dispute the wisdom of our Board of Education in developing classroom libraries, but it may be proper to put in a plea for confining them to books that bear more particularly on the subjects of instruction. The general collection of books should be outside of the school, because the boy is destined to spend most of his life outside of the school. His education by no means ends with his graduation. The agents that operate to develop and change him will be at work so long as he lives, and it is desirable that the book should be one of these. If he says good-by to the book when he leaves school, that part of his training is likely to be at an end. If he uses, in connection with, and parallel to, his formal education a general collection of books outside of the school, he will continue to use it after he leaves school. And even so far as the special classroom library is concerned, it must be evident that a large general collection of books that may be drawn upon freely is a useful supplement. For the teacher's professional use, the larger the collection at his disposal the better. A sum of money spent by the city in improving and making adequate the pedagogical section of its public library, particularly in the department of circulation, will be expended to greater advantage than many times the amount devoted to a large number of small collections on the same subjects in schools.

These are the considerations that have governed the New York Public Library in its effort to be of assistance to the teachers and pupils in the public schools of the city. Stated formally, these efforts manifest themselves in the following directions:

(1) The making of library use continuous from the earliest possible age, thru school life and afterwards;

(2) Cooperation with the teacher in guiding and limiting the child's reading during the school period;

(3) Aid within the library in the preparation of school work;

(4) The supplementing of classroom libraries by the loan of books in quantity;

(5) The cultivation of personal relations between library assistants and teachers in their immediate neighborhood;

(6) The furnishing of accurate and up-to-date information to schools regarding the library's resources and its willingness to place them at the school's disposal;

(7) The increase of the library's circulation collection along lines suggested and desired by teachers;

(8) The granting of special privileges to teachers and special students who use the library for purposes of study.

Toward the realization of these aims three departments are now cooperating, each of them in charge of an expert in his or her special line of work.

(1) The children's rooms in the various libraries, now under the direction of an expert supervisor.

(2) The traveling library office.

(3) The division of school work, with an assistant in each branch, under skilled headquarters superintendence.

When our plans, which are already in good working order, are completely carried out, we shall be able to guarantee to every child guidance in his reading up to and thru his school course, with direction in a line of influence that will make him a user of books thruout his life and create in him a feeling of attachment to the public library as the home and dispenser of books and as a permanent intellectual refuge from care, trouble, and material things in general, as well as a mine of information on all subjects that may benefit or interest him.

Some of the obstacles to the immediate realization of our plans in full may be briefly stated as follows:

(1) Lack of sufficient funds. With more money we could buy more books, pay higher salaries, and employ more persons. The assistants in charge of children's rooms should be women of the highest culture and ability, and it is difficult to secure proper persons at our present salaries. Assistants in charge of school work must be persons of tact and quickness of perception, and they should have no other work to do; whereas at present we are obliged to give this work to library assistants in addition to their ordinary routine duties, to avoid increasing our staff by about forty assistants, which our appropriation does not permit.

(2) Misunderstanding on the part of the public, and also to some extent on the part of teachers, of our aims, ability, and attitude. This I am glad to say is continually lessening. We can scarcely expect that each of our five hundred assistants should be thoroly imbued with the spirit of helpfulness toward the schools or even that they should perfectly understand what we desire and aim to do. Nor can we expect that our wish to aid should be appreciated by every one of fifty thousand teachers or a million parents. This will come in time.

(3) A low standard of honesty on the part of certain users of the library. It is somewhat disheartening to those who are laboring to do a public service to find that some of those whom they are striving to benefit, look upon them merely as easy game. To prevent this and at the same time to withstand those who urge that such misuse of the library should be met by the withdrawal of present privileges and facilities uses up energy that might otherwise be directed toward the improvement of our service. Now, like the intoxicated man, we sometimes refuse invitations to advance because it is "all we can do to stay where we are." Here is an opportunity for all the selective influences that we may bring to bear, and unfortunately the library can have but little part in these.

Have I wandered too far from my theme? The good that a public library may do, the influence that it may exert, and the position that it may assume in a community, depend very largely on the ability and tact with which it is administered and the resources at its disposal. Its public services may be various, but probably there is no place in which it may be of more value than side by side with the public school; and I venture to think that this is the case largely because education to be complete must select as well as train, must compel the fit to step forward and the unfit to retire, and must do this, not only at the outset of a course of training but continuously thruout its duration. We speak of a student being "put thru the mill," and we must not forget that a mill not only grinds and stamps into shape but also sifts and selects. A finished product of a given grade is always such not only by virtue of formation and adaptation but also by virtue of selection. In human training one of the most potent of these selective agencies is the individual will, and to train that will and make it effective in the right direction there is nothing better than constant association with the records of past aims and past achievements. This must be my excuse for saying so much of libraries in general, and of one library in particular, in an address on what I have ventured to give the name of Selective Education.



THE USES OF FICTION[2]

[2] Read before the American Library Association, Asheville Conference, May 28, 1907.

Literature is becoming daily more of a dynamic and less of a static phenomenon. In other days the great body of written records remained more or less stable and with its attendant body of tradition did its work by a sort of quiet pressure on that portion of the community just beneath it—on a special class peculiarly subject to its influence. To-day we have added to this effect that of a moving multitude of more or less ephemeral books, which appear, do their work, and pass on out of sight. They are light, but they make up for their lack of weight by the speed and ease with which they move. Owing to them the use of books is becoming less and less limited to a class, and more and more familiar to the masses. The book nowadays is in motion. Even the classics, the favorites of other days, have left their musty shelves and are moving out among the people. Where one man knew and loved Shakespeare a century ago, a thousand know and love him to-day. The literary blood is circulating and in so doing is giving life to the body politic. In thus wearing itself out the book is creating a public appreciation that makes itself felt in a demand for reprinting, hence worthy books are surer of perpetuation in this swirling current than they were in the old time reservoir. But besides these books whose literary life is continuous, though their paper and binding may wear out, there are other books that vanish utterly. By the time that the material part of them needs renewing, the book itself has done its work. Its value at that moment is not enough, or is not sufficiently appreciated, to warrant reprinting. It drops out of sight and its place is taken by another, fresh from the press. This part of our moving literature is what is called ephemeral, and properly so; but no stigma necessarily attaches to the name. In the first place, it is impossible to draw a line between the ephemeral and the durable. "One storm in the world's history has never cleared off," said the wit—"the one we are having now." Yet the conditions of to-day, literary as well as meteorological, are not necessarily lasting.

We are accustomed to regard what we call standard literature as necessarily the standard of innumerable centuries to come, forgetful of the fact that other so-called standards have "had their day and ceased to be." Some literature lasts a century, some a year, some a week; where shall we draw the line below which all must be condemned as ephemeral? Is it not possible that all literary work that quickly achieves a useful purpose and having achieved it passes at once out of sight, may really count for as much as one that takes the course of years to produce its slow results? The most ephemeral of all our literary productions—the daily paper—is incalculably the most influential, and its influence largely depends on this dynamic quality that has been noted—the penetrative power of a thing of light weight moving at a high speed. And this penetrative power effective literature must have to-day on account of the vastly increased mass of modern readers.

Reading is no longer confined to a class, it is well-nigh universal, in our own country, at least. And the habit of mind of the thoughtful and intent reader is not an affair of one generation but of many. New readers are young readers, and they have the characteristics of intellectual youth.

Narrative—the recapitulation of one's own or someone else's experience, the telling of a story—is the earliest form in which artistic effort of any kind is appreciated. The pictorial art that appeals to the young or the ignorant is the kind that tells a story—perhaps historical painting on enormous canvasses, perhaps the small genre picture, possibly something symbolic or mythological; but at any rate it must embody a narrative, whether it is that of the signing of a treaty, a charge of dragoons, a declaration of love or the feeding of chickens. The same is true of music. The popular song tells something, almost without exception. Even in instrumental music, outside of dance rhythms, whose suggestion of the delights of bodily motion is a reason of their popularity, the beginner likes program music of some kind, or at least its suggestion. So it is in literature. With those who are intellectually young, whether young in years or not, the narrative form of expression is all in all. It is, of course, in all the arts, a most important mode, even in advanced stages of development. We shall never be able to do without narrative in painting, sculpture, music and poetry; but wherever, in a given community, the preference for this form of expression in any art is excessive, we may be sure that appreciation of that form of art is newly aroused. This is an interesting symptom and a good sign. To be sure, apparent intellectual youth may be the result of intellectual decadence; there is a second as well as a first childhood, but it is not difficult to distinguish between them. In general, if a large proportion of those in a community who like to look at pictures, prefer such as "tell a story," this fact, if the number of the appreciative is at the same time increasing, means a newly stimulated interest in art. And similarly, if a large proportion of those persons who enjoy reading prefer the narrative forms of literature, while at the same time their total numbers are on the increase, this surely indicates a newly aroused interest in books. And this is precisely the situation in which we find ourselves to-day. A very large proportion of the literature that we circulate is in narrative form—how large a proportion I daresay few of us realize. Not only all the fiction, adult and juvenile, but all the history, biography and travel, a large proportion of literature and periodicals, some of the sciences, including all reports of original research, and a lesser proportion of the arts, philosophy and religion, are in this form. It may be interesting to estimate the percentage of narrative circulated by a large public library, and I have attempted this in the case of the New York public library for the year ending July 1, 1906.

Class Per cent. Estimated per Fiction cent. of narrative Juvenile 26 Adult 32 ........... 58 58 History ................. 6 6 Biography ............... 3 3 Travel .................. 3 3 Literature .............. 7 3 Periodicals ............. 4 2 Sciences ................ 9 3 Arts .................... 3 1 Philos. & Relig. ........ 2 1 Foreign ................. 5 4 —- — 100 84

In other words, if my estimates are not too much out of the way—and I have tried to be conservative—only 16 per cent. of our whole circulation, and 38 per cent. of our non-fiction, is non-narrative, despite the fact that our total fiction percentage is low.

I attach little importance in this regard to any distinction between true and fictitious narrative, people who read novels do not enjoy them simply because the subject matter is untrue. They enjoy the books because they are interesting. In fact, in most good fiction, little beside the actual sequence of the events in the plot and the names of the characters is untrue. The delineation of character, the descriptions of places and events and the statements of fact are intended to be true, and the further they depart from truth the less enjoyable they are. Indeed, when one looks closely into the matter, the dividing line between what we call truth and fiction in narrative grows more and more hazy.

In pictorial art we do not attempt to make it at all. Our museums do not classify their pictures into true and imaginary. Our novels contain so much truth and our other narrative works so much fiction, that it is almost as difficult to draw the line in the literary as it is in the pictorial arts. And in any case objections to a work of fiction, as well as commendations, must be based on considerations apart from this classification.

To represent a fictitious story as real or an imaginary portrait as a true one is, of course, a fault, but the story and the portrait may both be of the highest excellence when the subjects are wholly imaginary. It should be noted that the crime of false representation, when committed with success, removes a work from library classification as fiction and places it in one of the other classes. Indeed, it is probable that much more lasting harm is done by false non-fiction than by fiction. The reader, provided he uses literature temperately, has much less need to beware of the novel, which he reads frankly for entertainment, than of the history full of "things that are not so," of the biased biography, of science "popularized" out of all likeness to nature, of absurd theories in sociology or cosmology, of silly and crude ideas masquerading as philosophy, of the out-and-out falsehood of fake travellers and pseudo-naturalists.

In what has gone before it has been assumed that the reader is temperate. One may read to excess either in fiction or non-fiction, and the result is the same; mental over-stimulation, with the resulting reaction. One may thus intoxicate himself with history, psychology or mathematics—the mathematics-drunkard is the worst of all literary debauchees when he does exist—and the only reason why fiction-drunkenness is more prevalent is that fiction is more attractive to the average man. We do not have to warn the reader against over-indulgence in biography or art-criticism, any more than we have to put away the vichy bottle when a bibulous friend appears, or forbid the children to eat too many shredded-wheat biscuits. Fiction has the fatal gift of being too entertaining. The novel-writer must be interesting or he fails; the historian or the psychologist does not often regard it as necessary—unless he happens to be a Frenchman.

But with this danger of literary surfeit or over-stimulation, I submit that the librarian has nothing to do; it is beyond his sphere, at least in so far as he deals with the adult reader. We furnish parks and playgrounds for our people; we police them and see that they contain nothing harmful, but we cannot guarantee that they will not be used to excess—that a man may not, for example, be so enraptured with the trees and the squirrels that he will give up to their contemplation time that should be spent in supporting his family. So in the library we may and do see that harmful literature is excluded, but we cannot be expected to see that books which are not in themselves injurious are not sometimes used to excess.

I venture to suggest that very much of our feeling of disquietude about the large use of fiction in the public library and elsewhere arises from our misapprehension of something that must always force itself upon the attention in a state of society where public education and public taste are on the increase. In this case the growth will necessarily be uneven in different departments of knowledge and taste, and in different localities; so that discrepancies frequently present themselves. We may observe, for instance, a quietly and tastefully dressed woman reading, we will say, Laura Jean Libbey. We are disconcerted, and the effect is depressing. But the discrepancy may arise in either of two ways. If we have here a person formerly possessing good taste both in dress and reading, whose taste in the latter regard has deteriorated, we certainly have cause for sadness; but if, as is much more likely, we have one who had formerly bad taste of both kinds and whose taste in dress has improved, we should rather rejoice. The argument is the same whether the change has taken place in the same generation or in more than one. Our masses are moving upward and the progress along the more material lines is often more rapid than in matters of the intellect. Or, on the contrary, intellectual progress may be in advance of manners. Such discrepancies are frequently commented upon by foreign travelers in the United States, who almost invariably misinterpret them in the same way. Can we blame them, when we make the same mistake ourselves? M. Jules Huret, in his recent interesting book "En Amerique," notes frequently the lapses in manners and taste of educated persons among us. He describes, for instance, the bad table-manners of a certain clergyman. His thought is evidently, "How shocking that a clergyman should act in this way!" But we might also put it: "How admirable that professional education in this country is so easily obtained that one of a class in which such manners prevail can secure it! How encouraging that he should desire to enter the ministry and succeed in doing so!" These are extreme standpoints; we need of course endorse neither of them. But when I find that on the upper west side of New York, where the patrons of our branch libraries are largely the wives and daughters of business men with good salaries, whose general scale of living is high, the percentage of fiction circulated is unduly great, I do not say, as I am tempted to do "How surprising and how discouraging that persons of such apparent cultivation should read nothing but fiction, and that not of the highest grade!" I say rather: "What an evidence it is of our great material prosperity that persons in an early stage of mental development, as evidenced by undue preference for narrative in literature, are living in such comfort or even luxury!"

Is not this the right way to look at it? I confess that I can see no reason for despairing of the American people because it reads more fiction than it used to read, so long as this is for the same reason that a ten year old boy reads more stories than a baby. Intellectual youth is at least an advance over mental infancy so long as it is first childhood—not second. It is undoubtedly our duty, as it is our pleasure, to help these people to grow, but we cannot force them, and should not try. Complete growth may take several generations. And even when full stature has been obtained, literature in its narrative modes, though not so exclusively as now, will still be loved and read. Romance will always serve as the dessert in the feast of reason—and we should recollect that sugar is now highly regarded as a food. It is a producer of energy in easily available form, and, thinking on some such novels as "Uncle Tom," "Die Waffen nieder" and shall we say "The jungle"? we realize that this thing is a parable, which the despiser of fiction may well read as he runs.



THE VALUE OF ASSOCIATION[3]

[3] An address delivered before the Library Associations of Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and Ohio, October 9-18, 1907.

Man is a gregarious animal; he cannot think, act, or even exist except in certain relations to others of his kind. For a complete description of those relations we must go to a treatise on sociology; our present subject is a very brief consideration of certain groups of individuals, natural or voluntary, and the application of the laws that govern such groups to the voluntary associations with which we are all familiar in library work. Men have joined together to effect certain things that they could not accomplish singly, ever since two savages found that they could lift a heavy log or stone together, when neither one could manage it alone. Until recently the psychology of human groups has received little study. Le Bon, in his book on "The Crowd," gives the modern treatment of it. A group of persons does not think and act precisely as each of its component individuals would think or act. The very act of association, loose as it may be, introduces a new factor. Even the two savages lifting the log do not work together precisely as either would have worked singly. Their co-operation affects their activity; and both thought and action may likewise be affected in larger groupings even by the mere proximity of the individuals of the group, where there is no stronger bond.

But although the spirit that collectively animates a group of men cannot be calculated by taking an arithmetical sum, it does depend on that possessed by each individual in the group, and more particularly on what is common to them all and on the nature of the bonds that connect them. Even a chance group of persons previously unconnected and unrelated is bound together by feelings common to all humanity and may be appealed to collectively on such grounds. The haphazard street crowd thrills with horror at the sight of a baby toddling in front of a trolley-car and shouts with joy when the motorman stops just in time. But the same crowd, if composed of newly-arrived Poles, Hungarians and Slovaks, would fail utterly to respond to some patriotic appeal that might move an American crowd profoundly. You may sway a Methodist congregation with a tale of John Wesley that would leave Presbyterians or Episcopalians cold. Try a Yale mob with "Boola" and then play the same tune at Princeton, and watch the effect.

Thus, the more carefully our group is selected the more particular and definite are the motives that we can bring to bear in it, and the more powerful will its activities be along its own special lines. The mob in the street may be roused by working on elemental passions—so roused it will kill or burn, but you cannot excite in it enthusiasm for Dante's Inferno, or induce it to contribute money or labor toward the preparation of a new annotated edition. To get such enthusiasm and stimulate such action you must work upon a body of men selected and brought together for this very purpose.

Besides this, we must draw a distinction between natural and artificial groups. The group brought together by natural causes and not by man's contriving is generally lower in the scale of civilization when it acts collectively than any one of its components. This is the case with a mob, a tribe, even a municipal group. But an artificial or selected group, where the grouping is for a purpose and has been specially effected with that end in view may act more intelligently, and be, so far as its special activities are concerned, more advanced in the scale of progress than its components as individuals. There is the same difference as between a man's hand and a delicate tool. The former is the result of physical evolution only; the latter of evolution into which the brain of man has entered as a factor. The tool is not as good for "all round" use as the hand; but to accomplish its particular object it is immeasurably superior.

If, then, we are to accomplish anything by taking advantage of the very peculiar crowd or group psychology—owing to which a collected body of men may feel as a group and act as a group, differently from the way in which any one of its components would feel or act—we must see that our group is properly selected and constituted. This does not mean that we are to go about and choose individuals, one by one, by the exercise of personal judgment. Such a method is generally inferior and unnecessary. If we desire to separate the fine from the coarse grains in a sand-pile we do not set to work with a microscope to measure them, grain by grain; we use a sieve. The sieve will not do to separate iron filings from copper filings of exactly the same size, but here a magnet will do the business. And so separation or selection can almost always be accomplished by choosing an agency adapted to the conditions; and such agencies often act automatically without the intervention of the human will. In a voluntary association formed to accomplish a definite purpose we have a self-selected group. Such a body may be freely open to the public, as all our library clubs and associations practically are; yet it is still selective, for no one would care to join it who is not in some way interested in its objects. On the other hand, the qualifications for membership may be numerous and rigid, in which case the selection is more limited. The ideal of efficiency in an association is probably reached when the body is formed for a single definite purpose and the terms of admission are so arranged that each of its members is eager above all things to achieve its end and is specially competent to work for it, the purpose of the grouping being merely to attain the object more surely, thoroughly and rapidly. A good example is a thoroughly trained military organization, all of whose members are enthusiastic in the cause for which the body is fighting—a band of patriots, we will say—or perhaps a band of brigands, for what we have been saying applies to evil as well as to good associations. The most efficient of such bodies may be very temporary, as when three persons, meeting by chance, unite to help each other over a wall that none of them could scale by himself, and, having reached the other side, separate again. The more clearly cut and definite the purpose the less the necessity of retaining the association after its accomplishment. The more efficient the association the sooner its aims are accomplished and the sooner it is disbanded. Such groups or bodies, by their very nature are affairs of small detail and not of large and comprehensive purpose. As they broaden out into catholicity they necessarily lose in efficiency. And even when they are accomplishing their aims satisfactorily the very largeness of those aims, the absence of sharp outline and clear definition, frequently gives rise to complaint. I know of clubs and associations that are doing an immense amount of good, in some cases altering for the better the whole intellectual or moral tone of a community, but that are the objects of criticism because they do not act in matters of detail.

"Why don't they do something?" is the constant cry. And "doing something," as you may presently discover, is carrying on some small definite, relatively unimportant activity that is capable of clear description and easily fixes the attention, while the greater services, to the public and to the individual, of the association's quiet influences pass unnoticed. The church that has driven out of business one corner-saloon gets more praise than the one that has made better men and women of a whole generation in one neighborhood; the police force that catches one sensational murderer is more applauded than the one that has made life and property safe for years in its community by quiet, firm pressure.

There is no reason of course, why the broader and the more definite activities may not be united, to some degree, in one organization. Either smaller groups with related aims may federate for the larger purpose, or the larger may itself be the primary group, and may subdivide into sections each with its specified object. Both these plans or a combination of the two may be seen in many of our large organizations, and it is this combination that seems finally to have been selected as the proper form of union for the libraries and the librarians of the United States. We have a large organization which, as it has grown more and more unwieldy, has been subdivided into smaller specialized sections without losing its continuity for its broader and perhaps vaguer work. At the same time, specialized bodies with related aims have been partially or wholly absorbed, until, by processes partly of subdivision and partly of accretion, we have a body capable of dealing alike with the general and the special problems of library work. It should not be forgotten, however, that its success in dealing with both kinds of problems is still conditioned by the laws already laid down. The general association, as it grows larger, will be marked less and less by the enthusiasm of the specialist, will be less and less efficient, will move more slowly, will deliver its opinions with reticence and will hesitate to act upon them. The smaller constituent bodies will be affected by none of these drawbacks, but their purposes appeal to the few and their actions, though more energetic, will often seem to the majority of the larger group devoid of meaning. This is, of course, the case with the National Educational Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and hosts of similar bodies here and abroad. To state the difficulty is merely to confess that all attempts hitherto have failed to form a group that is at once comprehensive, powerful and efficient, both in the larger matters with which it deals and in details.

Probably the most successful attempt of this kind is formulated in the Constitution of the United States itself and is being carried on in our country from day to day, yet successful as it is, our history is witness, and the daily press testifies, that the combination of general and local governments has its weak points and is dependent for its smooth working on the cordial consent and forbearance of the governed. This is true also of smaller combinations. In our own organization it is easy to find fault, it is easy to discover points of friction; only by the cordial effort of every member to minimize these points can such an organization begin to accomplish its aims. Failure is much more apt to be due to lack of appreciation of this fact than to any defect in the machinery of organization. This being the case we are thrown back upon consideration of the membership of our institution. How should it be selected and how constituted?

The constitution of the association says that "Any person or institution engaged in library work may become a member by paying the annual dues, and others after election by the executive board." We have thus two classes of members, those by their own choice and those by election. The annual lists of members do not record the distinction, but among those in the latest list we find 24 booksellers, 17 publishers, 5 editors, 9 school and college officials, 8 government employees not in libraries, and 24 wives and relatives of other members, while in the case of 132 persons no qualification is stated in the list. We have or have had as our associates, settlement workers, lawyers, lecturers, indexers, binders, and so on almost indefinitely. Our membership is thus freely open to librarians, interpreting this word very broadly, and to any others that we may desire to have with us, which means, practically, any who have sufficient interest in library work to come to the meetings. We must, therefore, be classed with what may be called the "open" as opposed to the "closed" professional or technical associations. The difference may be emphasized by a reference to two well-known New York clubs, the Players and the Authors. These organizations would appear by their names to be composed respectively of actors and writers. The former, however, admits also to membership persons interested in the drama, which may mean little or much, while the Authors Club, despite repeated efforts to broaden it out in the same way, has insisted on admitting none but bona fide authors. In advocacy of the first plan it may be said that by adopting it the Players has secured larger membership, embracing many men of means. Its financial standing is better and it is enabled to own a fine club house. On the other hand, the Authors has a small membership, and owns practically no property, but makes up in esprit de corps what it lacks in these other respects. It is another phase of the question of specialization that we have already considered. The larger and broader body has certain advantages, the smaller and more compact, certain others. We have, doubtless been right in deciding, or rather in accepting what circumstances seem to have decided for us, that our own association shall be of the larger and less closely knit type, following the analogy of the National Educational Association and the various associations for the advancement of science, American, British and French, rather than that of the Society of Civil Engineers, for instance, or the various learned academies. Our body has thus greater general but less special influence, just as on a question of general scientific policy a petition from the American association might carry greater weight, whereas on a question of engineering it would be incomparably inferior to an opinion of the civil engineers. There is in this country, it is true, a general scientific body of limited membership—the National Academy of Sciences, which speaks both on general and special questions with expert authority. In the formation of the American Library Institute it was sought to create some such special body of librarians, but it is too soon to say whether or not that expectation is to be fulfilled. The fact remains that in the American Library Association we are committed to very nearly the broadest plan of organization and work that is possible. We are united only by our connection with library work or our interest in its success, and are thus limited in our discussions and actions as a body to the most general problems that may arise in this connection, leaving the special work to our sections and affiliated societies, which are themselves somewhat hampered by our size in the treatment of the particular subjects that come before them, inasmuch as they are not separate groups whose freedom of action no one can call in question.

In illustration of the limitations of a general body of the size and scope of our Association, I may perhaps be allowed to adduce the recent disagreement among librarians regarding the copyright question, or rather regarding the proper course to be followed in connection with the conference on that question called by the Librarian of Congress. It will be remembered that this conference was semi-official and was due to the desire of members of Congress to frame a bill that should be satisfactory to the large number of conflicting interests involved. To this conference our Association was invited to send, and did send, delegates. It is obvious that if these and all the other delegates to the conference had simply held out for the provisions most favorable to themselves no agreement would have been possible and the objects of the conference would have been defeated. Recognizing this, all the bodies and interests represented worked from the beginning to secure an agreement, striving only that it should be such as would represent a minimum of concession on all sides. This view was shared by the delegates of this Association. The law as it stood was, it is true, most favorable to libraries in its provisions regarding importation, and the retention of these provisions might have been facilitated by withdrawal from the conference and subsequent opposition to whatever new bill might have been framed. But the delegates assumed that they were appointed to confer, not to withdraw, and that if the Association had desired to hold aloof from the conference that result would have been best attained by appointing no delegates at all. The Association's delegates accordingly joined with their fellows in the spirit of compromise to agree on such a bill as might be least unacceptable to all, and the result was a measure slightly, but only slightly, less favorable to libraries than the existing law. With the presentation of this bill to the proper committees of Congress, and a formal statement that they approved it on behalf of the Association, the duties of the delegates ended. And here begins to appear the applicability of this chapter from library history to what has preceded. The action of the delegates was officially that of the Association. But it was disapproved by very many members of the Association on the ground that it seemed likely to result in lessening the importation privilege of libraries. Whether these dissidents were in a majority or not it seemed impossible to say. The Association's legislative body, the Council, twice refused to disapprove or instruct the delegates, thus tacitly approving their action, but the dissidents asserted that the Council, in this respect, did not rightly reflect the opinion of the Association. The whole situation was an instructive illustration of the difficulty of getting a large body of general scope to act on a definite, circumscribed question, or even of ascertaining its opinion or its wishes regarding such action. Recognizing this, the dissidents properly and wisely formed a separate association with a single end in view—the retention of present library importation privileges, and especially the defeat of the part of the bill affecting such privileges as drafted in the conference. The efforts of this body have been crowned with success in that the bill as reported by the committee contains a modified provision acceptable to the dissidents. Thus a relatively small body formed for a definite purpose has quickly accomplished that purpose, while the objects of the larger body have been expressed but vaguely, and so far as they have been definitely formulated have failed of accomplishment. There is a lesson in this both for our own association and for others.

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