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Standards in Fiction

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 July 1950



A reader refers to the Editorial in our Summer number in which it is said that the circulation of standard works as compared with the circulation of ephemeral material is too low, and naively asks the Editor to read the following:—“There should not be too much idealism as to the selection; certain popular authors will require to be represented even though their literary merit is small. The important matter is to ‘get the people reading.’ It will in due course be a chief duty of the county librarian and his helpers to endeavour to raise the standard of taste and encourage a demand for the best books. From a material point of view the supply of ‘utility’ books may seem the most valuable function these schemes may be expected to serve; but the idea is an erroneous one, as real progress is a matter not only of knowledge but also of ideas. Books are valuable in spreading sweetness as well as light, and their importance and power in both aspects should be considered. The real need in the rural localities is for stimulating reading matter of a mixed character. The only wise policy of book selection for any library scheme is that of providing the best books the potential readers will read. This policy cuts every way.” What was written by the Editor in his book published in the early days of the county library movement was quite sound then, and was based on an intimate knowledge of many schemes in different parts of the country. These schemes were providing books for people in small towns and villages who until then had had no library opportunities: some of them were not even book readers. Conditions have now changed, the reading public has widened enormously, and the service generally is in a position to impose standards. We know, of course, that, as regards school education, standards have gone: the bright lad must march in time with the dull‐witted; but there seems no good reason why libraries should not make it their prime endeavour to serve the needs of the best and most aspiring readers … In this connection it may be observed that this subject of the provision of whodunits, thrillers, and detective stories was recently under discussion at a library meeting at Los Angeles, at which it was pointed out that in the large towns there were many rental libraries lending such books; but the librarians of smaller centres said that in their areas the only resources for readers were at the local public libraries. No agreement on the subject was reached, though the meeting agreed that libraries should be regarded as educational institutions.


(1950), "Standards in Fiction", Library Review, Vol. 12 No. 7, pp. 434-434.




Copyright © 1950, MCB UP Limited

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