The Library World Volume 3 Issue 12
Article publication date: 1 June 1901
MRS. — receives neither honourable nor other mention in annual reports, yet she cannot be unknown to every librarian. The assistant at the issue desk could probably give a very interesting account of her habits and instincts, of which he must perforce make a daily study. In a temple of literature issuing 100,000 volumes annually there will probably be twenty of her class, and each morning ten at least of “the old familiar faces” may be seen, apparently worshipping mystic, symbolic figures for awhile, and then offering and receiving gifts from the messenger of their goddess. From remarks passed by these devotees, we gather that they worship not Truth, but Fiction. Their saints are Miss Braddon, Mrs. Wood, Marie Corelli, and others. Many of their saints' good works are “not in,” “read long ago,” &c. Mrs. —'s reading may produce no apparent effect upon herself, but it has such an influence upon the tabulated results of Public Library work that it is worth while giving the matter some attention. It is most unfortunate that those judging the influence of a Public Library upon a community should rely solely upon the statistics usually given in annual reports. Pro and con may take the same statistics, and by most flawless logic each will prove the arguments of the other to be absurd, and in many cases it is done quite conscientiously; the conclusion arrived at quite depending upon the point of view. In this library issuing 100,000 volumes a year the percentage of fiction is, let us say, 60. Mrs. — comes at least every other day for a novel, and, as we may safely multiply Mrs. — by 20, we find she borrows 3,000 novels a year, or 3 per cent. Then, again, we never consider the many novels taken away and brought back next day because they were “not nice.” If there are 20 daily, we would now gladden the heart of the librarian by showing the percentage of fiction borrowed from his library to be 51, instead of 60. Should the issue in the class containing magazines and reviews be counted with fiction or not, certainly a large assortment of attractive magazines falsifies the record if not placed amongst fiction. Think of a classification which places in the same column—as is very frequent—the Strand Magazine and Mathew Arnold's “Essays”! Juvenile literature is surely fiction, and yet many reports totally ignore this fact, although it often amounts to 25 per cent. of the issues. For example, I find in the thirtieth Annual Report of the Borough of Tynemouth that the issue of fiction is 53 per cent. of a total issue of 85,625; but, if we take into account the 16,121 juvenile literature and 15,531 magazines and reviews, we will find the percentage of Fiction to have jumped up to 90 !
(1901), "The Library World Volume 3 Issue 12", New Library World, Vol. 3 No. 12, pp. 308-336. https://doi.org/10.1108/eb008832
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