During this month the average librarian is given furiously to think over the estimates, and in this year, perhaps more than any other, will that adverb be applicable. The matter is so important that we do not apologise for dealing with it once more. In March in nearly every town there will be a determined effort by men who call themselves “economists” to reduce the appropriation for public libraries. The war is the most handsome excuse that the opponents of public culture have ever had for their attacks upon the library movement. It is obvious that these attacks will take the direction of an endeavour to reduce the penny rate, where this has not been done already. In the year that has passed retrenchment has been the watchword of all municipal work, and many librarians have either ceased to buy new books or have bought only those of vital importance. This has meant that a certain amount of money usually devoted to books has accumulated. Seeing that legally money which has been raised for library purposes cannot be expended in any other direction, the only way in which the “economists” can work is to propose a reduction of next year's rate by an amount corresponding to the balance. It is an extraordinary thing that after decades of demonstration the average local public man cannot or will not see that money taken from the funds of a public library cannot be restored to it later. The limitation of the penny rate is nearly always forgotten or ignored, and the common phrase of such men: “You must economise now and we will give you more money after the war,” has been heard by most librarians. An endeavour should be made to drive home the fact that retrenchment in books, or in other matters in connexion with libraries, now means so much actual irreparable loss to the libraries. We have dealt several times in these pages with the vexed question of balances. Practice differs so much in different localities that it seems impossible to get any universal ruling in connexion with this matter. Many libraries have been able to invest their balances in some form of war loan ; in others the librarian has been told emphatically that such investment is illegal. We can speak of towns within five miles of each other in one of which money has been invested, and in the other investment is banned in this way. Unfortunately librarians have been rather silent upon this point, and it is difficult to obtain any reliable information as to how many towns have investments. It would strengthen the hands of many librarians if they knew that in so many other municipalities the library funds were so invested.
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