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The Library World Volume 11 Issue 2

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 1 August 1908



ATTENTION has been repeatedly drawn to certain drawbacks in the library profession which tend to hinder progress in many ways, and recently some discussion has taken place concerning the long hours and short pay of library assistants. Some years ago there appeared, we believe, in one of Mr. Greenwood's valuable Library Year Books, an analysis of the hours of work in a large number of British Municipal Libraries, and it was made plain from this that a majority of assistants had to work considerably more than forty‐eight hours weekly. Conditions may have changed since then, although it is open to doubt, but the fact remains that too many assistants, and a considerable number of librarians in small places, are now working so long, and in such broken spells, as to preclude any possibility of attaining self‐culture or reasonable recreation. The case of the small town librarian is particularly distressing. In some instances he is a man who has been well‐trained in a large town library, and inspired by a mistaken ambition, elects to attain a position of independence by accepting the chief librarianship in a library of which he afterwards finds himself the sole officer. He is responsible for the cleaning, as well as the ordinary work of a librarian, and his efforts to convert a miserable library rate of a few pounds into an engine of immense efficiency (as expected by the local authority) are enough to make the financial operations of even an American millionaire seem petty in comparison. We have had several cases like this brought to notice within a few weeks, and they give added point to any plea for reform which may be advanced. One young man, well‐educated and well‐trained, undertook the charge of a small municipal library, chiefly because it happened to be near London, and he wished to be in touch with that great and attractive centre. He very soon discovered that the hours of the library were so arranged as to occupy his whole time and keep him employed all day, from 9 a.m. or earlier, till 10 p.m., with two short breaks which did not suffice for a visit to London. On Sunday he was too tired to think of London, apart from which, the institutions which interested him were closed, so that it is possible this librarian has not yet seen the longed‐for London of his cherished anticipations ! There are cases like this in the smaller libraries all over the country, where one official has to perform all the work in an unlimited number of hours. If, as is done in some places, the hours of opening are greatly curtailed in order to give the librarian his deserved and well‐earned rest, then the public suffer. On the other hand, a library administered by a single officer and kept open from nine to ten hours daily, is rather of the nature of a slave‐compound, in which an official is kept prisoner in the interests of the omnipotent ratepayer. Wherever small staffs are kept, there exists this tendency towards long hours, and a consequent eterioration in the efficiency and educational qualifications of assistants. A standing complaint among those who are engaged in the educational work of the Library Association is that so many candidates are deficient in the most elementary subjects, such as composition, spelling and arithmetic. This is undoubtedly caused by the employment of imperfectly educated assistants, who are afterwards tied so fast to their library duties that they are unable to find any time for study and reading. In libraries where small staffs and long hours of opening are found together, it is almost certain that the work‐hours of the assistants will be excessive, and the efficiency of the service impaired.


(1908), "The Library World Volume 11 Issue 2", New Library World, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 41-80.




Copyright © 1908, MCB UP Limited

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