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The Library World Volume 7 Issue 9

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 1 March 1905



IN a system like that of the Public Library, which is yet in the evolutionary stage, it is but natural—as it is also a sign of vitality —that there should be conflicting opinions on many questions of administration. On one general principle, however, librarians are unanimous. It is that the Public Library should be conducted upon sound business methods. Yet, strange to say, although it is generally conceded that sound business principles are essential to success in librarianship, that a lack of business acumen is fatal to efficiency, one of the cardinal points of modern business has been almost altogether overlooked. Systematic advertising, the key‐note of modern business, which forms the chief difference between the new methods and the old, is the point to which we refer. That advertisement, the real secret of success, has been overlooked, is not wholly the result of accident, but is rather due to the fact that many librarians are haunted by a fear of degrading their profession by employing this means of reaching the public. They fear that, if they advertise, they may be classed with the vendors of Black's Pills or Green's Ointment; but, after all, the Public Library is a business institution—it may not be a commercial institution, but it is certainly a business one. It is here—if we may be allowed a short digression to illustrate our point—that British and American libraries differ so radically. The successful American librarian is not a librarian as we know one. He is a business man. Granted that it is a part of his business to know the ins and outs of technical librarianship; yet, unlike his British contemporary, he does not consider it his whole business. He has a trained staff to whom he can leave the technical detail, while he devotes himself to running the library on the most approved business lines. The result has been that, instead of the American librarian being degraded, he has risen very highly in the estimation of the public. And if the status of the American librarian can thus be raised, why not that of the British? It is not necessary to use startling handbills or aggressive posters to achieve the desired end. It is absolutely true that in many towns possessing excellent and old‐established libraries, there is a large percentage of the population to which the library is a dead letter, or is altogether unknown. On examining the figures in the Annotated Syllabus, which have been compiled from the returns of most British libraries, we find that the percentage of possible readers is fifty, while the percentage of actual readers is twenty. This leaves the large percentage of thirty, representing people who must be reached through advertising.


(1905), "The Library World Volume 7 Issue 9", New Library World, Vol. 7 No. 9, pp. 228-256.




Copyright © 1905, MCB UP Limited

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