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The Library World Volume 5 Issue 1

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 1 September 1902



ACCORDING to a pamphlet just issued by Mr. Thomas Greenwood, the total amount expended by Mr. Andrew Carnegie on the provision of Public Library, school, and other educational buildings is about £14,000,000 sterling. Some of this enormous amount has been devoted to the endowment of scholarships in universities, but the major part of it has been given for the purpose of enabling towns to erect library buildings. About £1,300,000 have been given to Scotland for this purpose, and probably about £50,000 to England, though this latter sum is being augmented almost daily. Mr. Carnegie's action in this matter is without precedent in the history of the world, and his extraordinary generosity and enthusiasm in this particular field of educational work deserves the heartiest recognition and applause from every section of the public. His work, so far as British libraries are concerned, is largely supplemental to the niggardly and short‐sighted policy of Parliament, which allows municipal authorities to establish Public Libraries, and raise funds which are barely sufficient in many cases to pay the gas bill and provide a few of the current magazines. Hence it follows that, in many cases, our libraries are housed in all kinds of temporary premises, from disused warehouses to prisons, churches, and market‐halls, where their utility is impaired by the complete unsuitability of their environment. Thus, about 75 per cent. of the British municipal libraries are administered under conditions which are desperate when compared with those of the United States. But worse even than the matter of equipment is that of efficient administration. Extraordinarily good work is accomplished, and great use is made of the books, in library premises which are a disgrace to the community which owns them, and to the Parliament which sanctions such makeshifts in the name of education; but this is owing more to luck in obtaining capable officers than the action of any systematic attempt to train competent staffs and improve methods of administration. Mr. Carnegie has done such a great work in making good the failure of the Legislature to provide adequately or the material side of Public Libraries, that it is not too much to suggest a practical method of making his valuable gifts even more valuable and effective. At present many of the Carnegie libraries are object‐lessons in what to avoid in library administration. They are staffed by untrained men, whose methods are the laughing‐stock of the more competent American librarians, whose opinions Mr. Carnegie is bound to respect in view of his belief in everything American. They are classified in a manner which would prove ruinous in any business run for profit, and catalogued in such a painfully bald manner as to reduce the whole method of book‐selection to the level of a lottery. We could name libraries in Scotland, which have been lavishly helped by Mr. Carnegie, which are doing greatly inferior work to little municipal libraries elsewhere, which are not even decently housed. They have not adopted a single modern or scientific method of doing anything, and they have been officered in a manner which will prevent any possibility of improvement for years to come. Other instances could be given of libraries housed in fine buildings which are simply libels on the aims and objects of modern librarianship, but enough has been said in a general way to show that something more is required to make Public Libraries efficient than good homes, or even a penny rate. How this could in part be accomplished, it is the purpose of this article to try and show.


(1902), "The Library World Volume 5 Issue 1", New Library World, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 1-28.




Copyright © 1902, MCB UP Limited

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