THE central question of librarianship now and in the past is that which occupies some of our pages this month. Reading with purpose and with system, Matthew Arnold declared, was the last service to be rendered to education; and in various manner librarians and their committees have been endeavouring to do this for many years; it has indeed been a guiding principle of the best libraries that they presented to the community only good book's. Lately, however, more generous (or lax, according to the standpoint) ideas have been allowed to condition the admission of books; there are not wanting those who object to any exercise of judgment on the part of the librarian; if people want certain books they must be served, as they pay for them. This argument was exploded long ago, but its revival is justified if the librarians are unequal to their pretentions as guides to readers. And to be guides requires ever‐increasing knowledge, not only of all work done in bibliographies and reference books, but, as our writers indicate, of people and their manifold relations and reactions to books. This is enormously difficult in any community but is manifestly so in large cities. As a small illustration we may point to a librarian who, when a branch librarian was appointed to his staff, gave him a month of freedom from library work proper in which he was to walk every street of his branch area, interview the clergy, teachers, leading traders, and the secretaries and committees of local societies. He thus came to his work with at least an elementary notion of the community he had to serve. Such study must have its effect on book‐service; and this is the sort of study that must be pursued in the manner Dr. Waples has advocated and practiced (or some such manner) if we are to arrive at a science of book‐selection applicable to the areas a library serves.
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