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The Library World Volume 14 Issue 8

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 1 February 1912



The series of articles on the reform of the British Museum Library, which began to appear, of all places in the world, in the columns of The Morning Post, on January 19th, 1912, should have the effect of informing the public on certain defects in the administration of that institution which are known to many who, unfortunately, remain silent. Among the alleged blemishes pointed out are the bad method of appointing the staff by a narrow and unsatisfactory system of nomination, which does not always succeed in procuring properly qualified men; the absence of a fairly complete subject catalogue; the tendency to give special attention to favourites among the readers by certain members of the staff; and the hopeless jumble of the classification in the reading room, and in the library generally. Other serious defects have been pointed out, such as the official insistence on limitations of various kinds both in the collecting and cataloguing of books; and, above all, the delays which occur in the delivery of requisitioned books to readers. The library is, bluntly speaking, a thoroughly stagnant place, which has only changed slightly for the better during the past thirty years. Although supported by the contributions of publishers, who are compelled to deposit copies of their publications, and by the people at large through the Civil Service Estimates of the Government, the library remains a kind of close corporation, swathed in red‐tape convention and official traditions to such an extent that it is of much use only to a handful of authors, antiquarian grubbers of various kinds, and the officials. It has done little for the man of business or the general student, or for the national education of the country, and the time has come when this great public library should be democratised and made useful and valuable to the many instead of to the pampered few. The army of effete literary hacks who haunt the reading room, without a perceptible infusion of fresh young life, and the lack of business‐like purpose in more than a third of the number, is probably unique. Why should such a group of ordinary individuals have practically the monopoly of a great publicly‐supported library, to the exclusion of the aspiring young, the practical man of affairs, and the citizens of the country in general? Why should such exclusion be brought about by impossible conditions, hours, regulations, and imperfect cataloguing, not to mention other defects? And why should a body of trustees (responsible to no one) and officials have power to perpetrate with impunity such injustice upon the general public of the country? These are questions which must now be threshed out in the open, and all professional men should applaud the Morning Post for its public‐spirited action.


(1912), "The Library World Volume 14 Issue 8", New Library World, Vol. 14 No. 8, pp. 224-256.




Copyright © 1912, MCB UP Limited

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