Subject Branches

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Publication date: 1 June 1950


Once upon a time an evil spirit made a librarian invent an indicator, blue in, red out. No artist in statistic hyperbole could chart the mischief that jig‐saw did, and only a politician crafty in knotted rigmarole would try to explain it away. In my youth most home‐reading dens and many public library boxes were built round that fetish of primitive librarianship; the staff played run‐rabbit‐run between skyscraper stacks, a tin curtain, and a wash‐and‐brush‐up hole. An old story? … but the bad results are with us yet. We developed den and box mentality. When stock outgrew indicator, many books got out of the printed catalogue into reference or cellar, much the same fate then—and now. The process thinned stock for the few and fattened that for the many; the holy issue was kept from falling, and more of the uneducated were miseducated. Old red‐blue presided over the burial of the founders' ideals, and long after it was thrown to scrap they remained interred. A few have been exhumed lately, just when our bitter war heritage stays their realization or makes it impossible. Den and box are still with us, to astonish the sun. Not many centrals, like those at Manchester and Sheffield, were so bad that even between the wars they had to be replaced. Elsewhere centrals not quite so inimical to good work‐had to be put up with; never worthy of the people's deserts, they should now pass to the housebreakers.


SAVAGE, E. (1950), "Subject Branches", Library Review, Vol. 12 No. 6, pp. 349-357.

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Copyright © 1950, MCB UP Limited

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