OF old the public library was wont to take its reputation from the character of the newsroom. That room, as everyone knows, attracts every element in the community and it may be it attracts especially the poorer elements;—even at times undesirable ones. These people in some towns, but perhaps not so often now‐a‐days, have been unwashen and often not very attractive in appearance. It was natural, things being as they are, that the room should give a certain tone to the institution, and indeed on occasion cause it to be avoided by those who thought themselves to be superior. The whole level of living has altered, and we think has been raised, since the War. There is poverty and depression in parts of the country, it is true; but there are relief measures now which did not exist before the War. Only those who remember the grinding poverty of the unemployed in the days, especially the winter days, before the War can realise what poverty really means at its worst. This democratic levelling up applies, of course, to the public library as much as to any institution. At present it may be said that the part of the library which is most apparent to the public and by which it is usually judged, is the lending or home‐reading department. It therefore needs no apology if from time to time we give special attention to this department. Even in the great cities, which have always concentrated their chief attention upon their reference library, to‐day there is an attempt to supply a lending library service of adequate character. We recall, for example, that the Leeds Public Library of old was first and foremost a reference library, with a lending library attached; to‐day the lending library is one of the busiest in the kingdom. A similar judgment can be passed upon Sheffield, where quite deliberately the city librarian would restrict the reference library to works that are of real reference character, and would develop more fully the lending library. In Manchester, too, the new “Reference Library”—properly the new Central Library—has a lending library which issues about 1,500 volumes daily. There must be all over the country many libraries issuing up to a thousand volumes each a day from their central lending departments. This being the case the department comes in for very careful scrutiny.
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