To read this content please select one of the options below:

The Library World Volume 5 Issue 4

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 1 December 1902



THE recently concluded Annual Meeting of the Library Association at Birmingham, brought into prominence the fact that a great change has come over the spirit in which all that concerns librarianship is approached. Matters of policy which were formerly tabooed, and methods of work which excited only coldness and distrust, are now discussed openly and without rancour, and everything points to a great advance in progressive ideas in the near future. For example, such a paper as that of Mr. Ballinger on the rate limitation would have received but scant attention a few years ago; but it is accepted now with unanimous approval, and the Association deliberately pledges itself to take immediate steps to approach Parliament on the question. The Association without hesitation abandoned its old attitude of unconcern towards this vital matter, and whether or not it succeeds at first in securing the necessary legislation, it has committed itself to a course which, if persevered in, will ultimately lead to the triumph of the municipalities over the antiquated restrictions of the Legislature. All the old arguments about the unwisdom of approaching Parliament, of meddling with local taxation, of interfering with local feeling, of creating a barrier to the future progress of libraries by frightening communities which have not yet adopted the Libraries Acts; all these, and other arguments of a similar sort, have been quietly dropped, and a thoroughly business‐like attitude adopted instead. This would have been impossible even five years ago, and the result obtained is certain evidence of a complete change of opinion in this direction. So in other equally important matters. It was only necessary to go about a little among the librarians at Birmingham to ascertain that the old‐time conservatism which once held the field is rapidly disappearing. While some of the older men cling in a half‐hearted way to their old gods, there is not lacking, even on their part, a disposition to discuss sanely and sympathetically some of the more recent methods which have been proposed for the development and improvement of libraries. With the younger men the ideal is even higher, and their aspirations after perfection stronger and more genuine. There is a general agreement among them that collections of books which are not made available to the public in the most thorough way, by means of analytical and descriptive cataloguing, classification, open access, and liberality of regulations, may as well as not be dispersed. They are agreed that improvement in the status and condition of Public Libraries can only be secured by convincing the people that they are managed on the most scientific and useful lines, and that they are being made a vital part of the national machinery for the general, technical, artistic, and scientific education of the whole of the people. Something of this spirit could be observed in the discussions on cataloguing, but it showed with even greater strength in the conversation of the great majority of the librarians who think, read, observe, and abstain from public talking. But even among some of the older men, who have in their time condemned both catalogue annotations and exact classification, there was noticeable a distinct change of feeling towards these outcomes of the progressive library spirit. The Morning Leader of September 23rd, in an article on “The Free Library,” signed by “Zenodotus,” seems to have completely overlooked this important change and all that it means for the future. It refers to a period in the history of the Library Association somewhat remote from Birmingham in 1902; and however much we agree with the writer as regards the feebleness of the Association in one or two respects in which it compares unfavourably with certain privately subsidised enterprises of the American Library Association, the fact remains that the average member is alert and anxious enough for all‐round improvement. The whole tone of the Birmingham meeting of 1902 was progressive, and there is no doubt that so much activity and interest will ripen into important developments before long. We have seldom seen meetings so fully attended or discussions followed so closely, and these are hopeful signs of an approaching period of advancement along modern progressive lines. There is no reason why the Library Association, once freed from certain reactionary elements which led to stagnation, should not keep abreast with modern developments in library practice in all departments, and be the means of leading its members to an appreciation of higher and more advanced work than has hitherto been possible.


(1902), "The Library World Volume 5 Issue 4", New Library World, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 84-112.




Copyright © 1902, MCB UP Limited

Related articles