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The Library World Volume 6 Issue 3

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 1 September 1903



THE pages of the Library World have at all times been open to receive the opinions of every side, on all questions of library policy, and we believe that it can be fairly claimed that no other English professional journal can show a greater record of catholicity and freedom from prejudice. Just recently we have published three articles in succession, which plead for, or advocate, some method of mitigating what the writers term the “Fiction Nuisance,” and one result of our complaisance may be witnessed in the stir which has been caused in journalistic quarters, over the alleged shortcomings of Public Libraries, and their scandalous distribution of nothing but fiction! It is argued, with some justice, that, if librarians are so quick to admit the existence of a fiction nuisance, then the case must be very serious indeed; and that it is regarded in this light may be gathered from the article on “Free Libraries,” by Mr. J. Churton Collins, in the June Nineteenth Century. For some reason or another, best known, no doubt, to themselves, certain librarians are always ready to join in the hue and cry against Public Libraries, and to lend the sanction of their authority to the general execration of fiction reading, thus giving a weapon to the enemy which is promptly used to thrash municipal libraries into a pulp. For months past this outcry against libraries has been going on, and there cannot be a single doubt that it has been stimulated by, if it did not originate in, the injudicious apologies for high fiction percentages in some library reports, and the publication of articles by librarians who admit too much, without giving substantial grounds for their conclusions. We are unable to say whether such apologies and articles are dictated by the weak, but human, desire to side with the majority, but there can be no doubt as to their harmful tendency and the evil they are causing all over the country. It is time, therefore, that the other, and, we believe, true side of the question should be put forward, and we propose to devote a series of articles to show that the charges made against Public Libraries of being nothing but huge engines for the distribution of fiction, mostly bad in tone and quality, are either gross misrepresentations, or exaggerations capable of explanation, and justification. As an introduction to this series, we have obtained permission from Mr. Thomas Greenwood, to use the greater part of the paper entitled, “The Great Fiction Question,” which is printed in Greenwoods Library Year Book, 1897, and is now becoming scarce and difficult to procure, owing to the book being out‐of‐print; like the later Year Book of 1900–1901. This paper is a vigorous, fair, and able statement of the case for fiction, which has not received the amount of attention it deserves, and we think it will be performing a service to librarians if we reprint it as a preliminary to our own proposed examination of the question of Fiction Reading in Public Libraries:


(1903), "The Library World Volume 6 Issue 3", New Library World, Vol. 6 No. 3, pp. 28-56.




Copyright © 1903, MCB UP Limited

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