THE spirit of American librarianship is the admiration of the world. To some extent also the wonder, because the pioneers there were of the same substance in general as those who founded Australia and New Zealand. Yet in the United States the “library idea” developed, slowly at first indeed as everywhere else, but in the nineties and the first decade of this century with a verve and liberality which outpaced us all; while, in our Dominions, it grew relatively much more slowly and always braked by the European idea that a lending library ought not to be free. A divided philosophy it seems. In America the axiom has been accepted that reading is culture and in it is included the culture of the imagination through works of all kinds, even fiction; and that this is to be dispensed, as education is, freely and at public cost. In continental Europe, and through it conveyed in some way to the Dominions, our axiom has been that reading may indeed be culture, but its relation to education is vague and unproven, and at the best the desire to create readers should stop short at offering them books for use in their homes entirely out of public funds.
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