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The Library World Volume 53 Issue 2

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 1 August 1950



THE centenary celebration is that of the apparently prosaic public library acts ; it is not the centenary of libraries which are as old as civilization. That is a circumstance which some may have overlooked in their pride and enthusiasm for the public library. But no real librarian of any type will fail to rejoice in the progress to which the celebration is witness. For that has been immense. We are to have a centenary history of the Public Library Movement—that is not its title—from the Library Association. We do not know if it will be available in London this month; we fear it will not. We do know its author, Mr. W. A. Munford, has spent many months in research for it and that he is a writer with a lucid and individual Style. We contemplate his task with a certain nervousness. Could anyone less than a Carlyle impart into the dry bones of municipal library history that Strew these hundred years, the bones by the wayside that mark out the way, the breath of the spirit that will make them live ? For even Edward Edwards, whose name should be much in the minds and perhaps on the lips of library lovers this month, could scarcely have foreseen the contemporary position ; nor perhaps could Carlyle who asked before our genesis why there should not be in every county town a county library as well as a county gaol. How remote the days when such a question was cogent seem to be now! It behoves us, indeed it honours us, to recall the work of Edwards, of Ewart, Brotherton, Thomas Greenwood, Nicholson, Peter Cowell, Crestadoro, Francis Barrett, Thomas Lyster, J. Y. M. MacAlister, James Duff Brown and, in a later day without mentioning the living, John Ballinger, Ernest A. Baker, L. Stanley Jast, and Potter Briscoe—the list is long. All served the movement we celebrate and all faced a community which had to be convinced. It still has, of course, but our people do now allow libraries a place, more or less respected, in the life of the people. Librarians no longer face the corpse‐cold incredulity of the so‐called educated classes, the indifference of the masses and the actively vicious hostility of local legislators. Except the illuminated few that existed. These were the men who had the faith that an informed people was a happier, more efficient one and that books in widest commonalty spread were the best means of producing such a people. These, with a succession of believing, enduring librarians, persisted in their Struggle with cynic and opponent and brought about the system and the technique we use, modified of course and extended to meet a changing world, but essentially the same. Three names we may especially honour this September, Edward Edwards, who was the sower of the seed; MacAlister, who gained us our Royal Charter ; and John Ballinger, who was the person who most influenced the introduction of the liberating Libraries Act of 1919.


(1950), "The Library World Volume 53 Issue 2", New Library World, Vol. 53 No. 2, pp. 25-60.




Copyright © 1950, MCB UP Limited

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