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The Library World Volume 11 Issue 7

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 1 January 1909



THERE has quite recently occurred among professional and other periodicals a sort of epidemic of comparisons between the work of European and American libraries, some of which are more or less misleading and calculated to stir up national annoyance. The Transatlantic journals are particularly condescending in tone, and arrogant in their claims, and some statements in the New York Nation and Chicago Dial are not only written with a most lofty sense of American superiority, but are manifestly based on ignorance of library conditions in Europe. They are indeed typical of the attitude of the average American librarian towards library work outside the borders of the United States. With a few notable exceptions, American librarians are a somewhat narrow‐minded, self‐sufficient and wilfully‐ignorant class of public officials; but more especially the younger generation. They are eternally shutting their eyes to the accomplishments of other nations, and assuming that the last word on all library matters has been spoken in America. They are, for the most part, ignorant of European library literature, as none save the largest libraries ever purchase anything but American professional books. This is further proved by the absence of such works from their catalogues and from among the text‐books prescribed for the various library schools; while in all their select bibliographies or lists of “best” books the most notice‐able feature is this studied omission of European books. In the proceedings of British professional associations the work of American libraries is frequently referred to in the most appreciative and broad‐minded manner; but at similar meetings in America, European library work, if not entirely ignored, is most often casually mentioned as something quite obsolete, and a legitimate target for oblique criticism. It is difficult to understand why American librarians will not study library questions from both the historical and international standpoints, because it is such an obvious and interesting manner of freeing the mind from the fetters of a cock‐sure provincialism. That it is true no such attempt is made by the average American librarian to attain knowledge of foreign conditions, is proved by the universally accepted opinion in the United States, that there is no European library work worth attention, in comparison to the immensity of the American achievement in the same field.


(1909), "The Library World Volume 11 Issue 7", New Library World, Vol. 11 No. 7, pp. 245-284.




Copyright © 1909, MCB UP Limited

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