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Regional Bureaux Policy: A Symposium

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 February 1933



With reference to comment in our last number on the subject of regional library schemes, we have received interesting observations from various sources, of which we can only publish a few. The first is from a high officer of the Library Association who writes:—“It is suggested that the pooling of non‐fictional resources by the new Regional Library Bureaux would discourage publishers from undertaking scholarly works of an expensive nature. This apprehension is based on the hypothesis that a large number of the smaller libraries, instead of buying such books, will borrow copies from the stronger libraries. To this I would reply:—(a) It is common knowledge that these small libraries have always bought very few scholarly works of an expensive nature. (b) These libraries for the past ten years or so have borrowed such books habitually from the National Central Library. The difference created by the spread of regional schemes is therefore probably negligible, and it is probably true that, except in the case of a small number of established writers, authors of this type of book have for a very long time had to publish largely at their own risk.” Colonel Newcombe of the National Central Library writes:—“In very many cases the fact that a book can be borrowed from, or through, the N.C.L. leads to a copy being purchased by the library to which it is lent, because the attention of the librarian is thus called to the importance of adding the book to his own stock. In considering regional library systems it must be borne in mind that regional co‐operation is intended primarily for the inter‐loan of such items as out‐of‐print books, foreign books, and back volumes of periodicals—though in practice it is also used for the inter‐loan of books which are in print—and that one of the ‘Rules of Procedure for Borrowing Books’ reads as follows: ‘Purchase of books in frequent demand: When a library has to borrow the same book frequently, it is expected that an endeavour will be made by the borrowing library to purchase a copy for its own stock.’ The limited experience at present available tends to show that many such books are purchased. It must also be remembered that any library which attempted to take advantage of its regional system to economise in book expenditure would at once be excluded from the system by the regional committee.” Mr. Basil Anderton of Newcastle‐upon‐Tyne says:—“In 1927, when the Departmental Committee's Report on Public Libraries urged that co‐operation was vital to the progress of library service, some 76 urban library authorities had an arrangement for the inter‐loan of books. Since then, owing to the approval of that report by the Library Association and to the subsequent development of regional schemes in association with the National Central Library and with the backing of the Carnegie Trust, that number has greatly increased. The note in question indicated a fear that such schemes might limit the demand for scholarly works of an expensive nature, and it stated that publishers were becoming less prepared to issue such recondite studies. It should be remembered, however, in the first place, that the process of pooling sets free money which at once becomes available for purchasing important works which would otherwise not have been within one's reach. Treatises on subjects which previously one would have had to ignore can now be got; and they should be got, if members of regional schemes do not shirk their plain duty. Thus a more varied field is opened to libraries, and consequently to publishers also. In the second place it should be borne in mind that publishers, like other folk, are bound to feel the effects of the present world‐wide depression; and that schemes of publication which normally they might gladly undertake have to be criticised searchingly and perhaps temporarily abandoned. But the wide‐spread development of the reading habit, and the growing interest of the public in all kinds of serious reading, should give publishers heart of grace for the future.” Mr. George H. Bushnell, University Library, St. Andrews, writes:—“The most eminent professors and scholars have frequently experienced great difficulty in finding a publisher willing to produce at his own risk a large and important work of scholarship for which only a limited sale is probable. Moreover, such sale as there is for such works is always largely confined to libraries. It is almost certain that the adoption of regional schemes will still further limit the sales and thus it may well be that in a very few years time we shall have excellent arrangements for inter‐loans of books which no publisher will publish! An absurd position, of course, but not by any means unlikely to obtain. Unless it has already been done it would be well to take the views of the Publishers' Association on this point. In my opinion this is important, because (although existing resources can be and will be pooled, at least to a great extent) I am confident that nothing is farther from the aims of those interested in regional schemes than the future limitation of Britain's output of works of scholarship. As all of us know, the necessary purchase of works published abroad is a thorn in the side of library accountants to‐day. Surely we, as librarians, should do nothing which will tend in the least to drive our own scholars into a corner? It is our business to increase the usefulness of the works in our keeping by all means in our power except by the hampering of British scholarship. It is far from my intention to throw cold water upon regional schemes, but it is my intention to draw attention to the possibility, I would almost say probability, of their adverse effect upon the publication of recondite works in this country. Is not the matter of sufficient importance to justify the setting up of a joint committee of the Library Association and the Publishers' Association, before serious harm is done? Such a committee might find that the views I have expressed,—views shared by many, I believe,—are without adequate foundation. I should be glad, indeed, to hear of such a finding, for all praise is due to the promoters and adopters of schemes which already in many ways have proved their worth.”


(1933), "Regional Bureaux Policy: A Symposium", Library Review, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 60-62.




Copyright © 1933, MCB UP Limited

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