The old snobbery in regard to public libraries expressed itself in the phrase “the provision of the illiterate for the illiterate by the illiterate” —a phrase which is too literate to have had any but an easily recognizable origin. It was always hypocritical or ignorant, or both, of course, but the snobbery it reflected has faded into its true values today. Recent careful analyses of the registers of a few public libraries go to show that the greater number of readers are actual ratepayers, and many of them substantial ones. The old fear of the “free” library with its charity associations has gone, except perhaps in such quarters as originated the phrase quoted above. A fair reflection of this was a remark in a very recent public case where the counsel asked a witness who complained that she had “to get pocket money to buy books” if she did not know of free libraries, and the presiding Chancellor of the Diocese of Norwich remarked that he had obtained books from the County Library. On all sides, too, we hear that the issues from public libraries at this Easier have surpassed all records.
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