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The Library World Volume 47 Issue 9

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 1 April 1945



What is the Purpose of the Library? The question is exercising not only the English librarian but his American colleague, and we notice that one of our contemporaries there has given some space to this fundamental question. The simple reply to the question would seem to be “To provide the community with the books it needs.” Such a reply, however, is likely to be regarded as an over‐simplification. Nevertheless, we may adhere to it because the operative word in our definition is “needs” and not “wants.” To discover the needs of a community, which are as manifold as there are people in it, is in itself a formidable task; to supply the books which are likely to satisfy them is a life‐work worthy of the ablest of men. These considerations should never be lost sight of in the attempts which occur from time to time to define a programme of library work. We are the last to believe that our province should be a limited one and we deprecate any attempt to thwart the enthusiasm of any librarian, young or old, who has something constructive to contribute. Our definition, however, is indisputable. The addition to it that the librarian makes was defined years ago in Brown's Manual, which declared his work to be the exploiting of books. A programme then, if there is to be one, is merely of the best methods of exploitation by good technique, tactful advertisement, and a personal service which radiates willingness. The librarian must always beware of the many attempts that are made to harness the library to particular movements, shibboleths or partisan‐ships: the so‐called programmes which endeavour to define a purpose for the library will often be found to be influenced by one of these three evils. The matter thus stated seems trite enough, but it would seem that there is necessity for its fequent re‐statement.


(1945), "The Library World Volume 47 Issue 9", New Library World, Vol. 47 No. 9, pp. 137-152.




Copyright © 1945, MCB UP Limited

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