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Article
Publication date: 1 March 1980

PENNY COWELL

In our media‐orientated, image‐conscious contemporary society the librarian may very well seem particularly unfortunate, reflected in the imagination of the general public…

Abstract

In our media‐orientated, image‐conscious contemporary society the librarian may very well seem particularly unfortunate, reflected in the imagination of the general public as a fussy old woman of either sex, myopic and repressed, brandishing or perhaps cowering behind a date‐stamp and surrounded by an array of notices which forbid virtually every human activity. The media, for whom the librarian is frustration personified, have reinforced this stereotype, hitherto transmitted solely by superstition and hearsay; its greatest impact has no doubt fallen on the two‐thirds of the population who never use the library. One of its effects will be to ensure that they never do so in the future. As Frank Hatt has pointed out: “The controllers of the new media of communication … have shown a tendency to limit choices by using the considerable power of the media to limit their audience's established attitudes, simply because such limitation is good business.” The popular BBC television series, The last of the summer wine, portrayed a librarian whose vicarious sex‐life through the pages of D. H. Lawrence led to inevitably frustrated attempts to act out his fantasies in occasional under‐the‐counter forays with his similarly repressed female assistant. A Daily mail leader on an appeal against unfair dismissal made by a London Deputy Borough Librarian reiterates this concept:

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Library Review, vol. 29 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0024-2535

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Article
Publication date: 1 January 1981

The Seminar on Library Interior Layout and Design organised by IFLA's Section on Library Buildings and Equipment, and attended by people from over twenty‐two countries…

Abstract

The Seminar on Library Interior Layout and Design organised by IFLA's Section on Library Buildings and Equipment, and attended by people from over twenty‐two countries, was held at Frederiksdal, Denmark, in June 1980. This present article neither reports on the Seminar's proceedings, as it is hoped to publish the papers in due course, nor describes fully the Danish public libraries seen, but rather uses the Seminar's theme and the library visits as a point of departure for considering some aspects of the interior layout—the landscape—of public libraries. Brief details of the new Danish public libraries visited are given in a table at the end of the article.

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Library Review, vol. 30 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0024-2535

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Article
Publication date: 27 April 2012

Stephen Brown and Christopher Hackley

Simon Cowell, the impresario behind The X Factor, a popular television talent show, has often been compared to P.T. Barnum, the legendary nineteenth century showman. This…

Abstract

Purpose

Simon Cowell, the impresario behind The X Factor, a popular television talent show, has often been compared to P.T. Barnum, the legendary nineteenth century showman. This paper aims to examine the alleged parallels in detail and attempts to assess this “Barnum reborn” argument.

Design/methodology/approach

Putative parallels between the impresarios are considered under the aegis of two long‐standing, if contentious, historical “theories”: time's cycle and the great man thesis.

Findings

Seven broad similarities between the showmen are identified: vulgarity, hyperbole, rivalry, publicity, duplicity, liminality and history. In each case, the arguments pro and con are explored, as is humanity's propensity to personify.

Originality/value

In accordance with the iconic literary critic Harold Bloom, who “strikes texts together to seek if they spark”, this paper strikes two celebrated showmen together to generate historical sparks.

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Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, vol. 4 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1755-750X

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Article
Publication date: 1 December 1903

OF all trades or professions, with pretensions to some measure of specialization, if not learning, librarianship is the only one which does not make preliminary technical…

Abstract

OF all trades or professions, with pretensions to some measure of specialization, if not learning, librarianship is the only one which does not make preliminary technical training an absolute condition of entrance to its fellowship. We know, from past experience, that the ranks of the library profession are filled from all sorts of sources and by all kinds of men, very few of whom can show a diploma, or any kind of certificate, beyond their own word and the testimony of interested friends, to prove that they possess any special qualification for the work. In this respect librarianship differs from every other branch of the municipal and public educational services of the country. There is no independent test of fitness applied, even for positions of great responsibility, and librarians hold tenure of their offices by means of credentials which would not be accepted in the case of most town clerks, medical officers, accountants, surveyors, schoolmasters, and even sanitary inspectors. We are assumed to possess qualifications of a profound and immense range, but, beyond the undoubted power to announce this, by means of the voices and tongues with which we are lavishly endowed, our references are, for the most part, testimonies to character and experience, rather than to scientific training and professional capacity. Mr. X. spends fifteen years in the service of the O. Public Library, which was organised by a superannuated railway guard in 1862, on lines which were, no doubt, suggested by his former experience in dealing with parcels, passengers, and other luggage. This system has the merit of being based upon the science of Mathematics, because number is the main factor relied upon in every department, and for every purpose. It may, possess, moreover, an elementary relationship to the science of literature by making some use of the ordinary English alphabet, and so we have a combination of letters and numerals which is satisfactory evidence that the librarian was no fool, although he was only a railway guard. His literary methods are, therefore, of the A, B, C, 1, 2, 3. type, and all his assistants are carefully trained in the art of preserving bibliographical order by observing that 5 comes between 4 and 6, and q after p. Now, the assistant who has been brought up in this kind of library may have 15 years' so‐called experience behind him to which he can proudly refer, when applying for a chief post, and there is nothing on earth to show that he does not know absolutely everything about literature, bibliography and library methods—ancient and modern, retrograde and advanced, childish and scientific, or that he is not, in every sense of the word, a Complete Librarian. Indeed, the possession of such an imposing qualification as Fifteen Years' Experience is enough to intimidate any ordinary committee who have no standards by which to compare such a phenomenon. There is no standard by which we can at present judge the qualifications of any librarian, unless he is ass enough to reveal his shortcomings by writing books and papers, and what is really happening every day is simply that appointments are being made on the successful candidate's own valuation of his fitness. He is not tested as regards his professional ability at all, and library authorities are driven to appoint men who have had a long term of experience, no matter how elementary or antiquated it may be. They cannot do anything else in the absence of proper training schools, and certificates of special knowledge, issued by independent and impartial examining bodies. It is quite common to hear librarians boasting about their ten, twenty, or thirty years of experience, who would be sorely put to it to answer intelligently any ordinary question in English literature, systematic classification, or bibliography. These men have managed to establish a kind of freehold for mere experience, minus every other qualification, and it is their continuance in office which has prevented Public Libraries from being more liberally recognised by both State and local authorities. This absurd substitution of mere experience in feeble and unworthy methods, for systematic training in the higher departments of librarianship, has produced a race of self‐sufficient librarians—inferior in general intelligence to commercial clerks and shopmen—who have succeeded, by their narrow‐minded mal‐administration and absence of culture, to thoroughly eradicate any little scrap of confidence in the Public Library idea originally cherished by the people. It is fashionable among those gentlemen to blame parliamentary and municipal stinginess and indifference, as the sole causes of the inadequate financial provision to be squeezed out of a 1d. rate. They can account for everything on this theory—small salaries, invisible book‐funds, poor buildings equipped with inferior furniture, and so on—forgetting, in their inflated self‐sufficiency, how much of this neglect and indifference is due to their own ignorance and failure to interest either people or governors. The argument that everything must wait till the penny rate is abolished is the refuge of everyone who has failed to realize the important fact that, if recognition is wanted, it must be worked for. It may be taken as pretty conclusive that the failure of Public Libraries to obtain greater support from the people and Parliament is due largely to an all‐round failure to meet public needs in a thoroughly efficient manner. It matters not if some twenty or thirty places are managed on business‐like and scientific lines. They cannot influence other places at a distance, scattered all over the Kingdom to the number of 450, and inaccessible in other respects to the reformative effect of a good example. There are plenty of superior, cock‐sure librarians going about, with all the authority conferred by twenty years' experience—and nothing else—telling the people that the utmost degree of accomplishment to be had for a penny has been reached. This alone is enough to counteract the good work of fifty well‐managed libraries. The people say to themselves, “If our library represents all we can get for a penny, and our librarian is the sort of man we may expect in the future, what's the good of paying more for a double dose of the same kind of outfit?”

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New Library World, vol. 6 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0307-4803

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Article
Publication date: 1 September 1931

THE year that is ending has not been a dramatic one from the library point of view, but it has been full of interest and activity. No outstanding library has been built or…

Abstract

THE year that is ending has not been a dramatic one from the library point of view, but it has been full of interest and activity. No outstanding library has been built or re‐modelled, but many quite interesting and effective ones have been added to the service; and there is a growing tendency for the library to enlarge its functions and to become a social centre as well as a place for reading and for the lending of books. The new plan leans towards the library on simple lines, with fewer divisions into apartments; indeed, the library in one room, the smallest models of which are the attractive new libraries at Halifax, forms a norm to which in a greater or less degree the new buildings approximate. Lectures, debating classes, listening groups and exhibitions increase. In respect of listening groups it may be said that the number of libraries now trying them is very large, but they cannot be said to be successful everywhere from the point of view of the mere numbers attending them. We hope this experiment will continue. Children's work increases in almost geometrical ratio to every other kind, and the time has come, as a writer remarks in a contemporary, that the children's librarians were organized.

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New Library World, vol. 34 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0307-4803

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Article
Publication date: 1 March 1955

E.A. SAVAGE

Other than libraries I have held office in. Why draw on memories of libraries used (with one exception) long ago? To recall methods of service then found perfect; which…

Abstract

Other than libraries I have held office in. Why draw on memories of libraries used (with one exception) long ago? To recall methods of service then found perfect; which, to me, would be perfect today. Any library giving the required knowledge quickly is modern, of this very day that is, even were it founded centuries ago. A library's power is in its stock, the modernity of that: “something evermore about to be”: and in its exposition and handling of that stock. I have known quite new libraries decrepit with age.

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Library Review, vol. 15 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0024-2535

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Article
Publication date: 1 August 1950

THE centenary celebration is that of the apparently prosaic public library acts ; it is not the centenary of libraries which are as old as civilization. That is a…

Abstract

THE centenary celebration is that of the apparently prosaic public library acts ; it is not the centenary of libraries which are as old as civilization. That is a circumstance which some may have overlooked in their pride and enthusiasm for the public library. But no real librarian of any type will fail to rejoice in the progress to which the celebration is witness. For that has been immense. We are to have a centenary history of the Public Library Movement—that is not its title—from the Library Association. We do not know if it will be available in London this month; we fear it will not. We do know its author, Mr. W. A. Munford, has spent many months in research for it and that he is a writer with a lucid and individual Style. We contemplate his task with a certain nervousness. Could anyone less than a Carlyle impart into the dry bones of municipal library history that Strew these hundred years, the bones by the wayside that mark out the way, the breath of the spirit that will make them live ? For even Edward Edwards, whose name should be much in the minds and perhaps on the lips of library lovers this month, could scarcely have foreseen the contemporary position ; nor perhaps could Carlyle who asked before our genesis why there should not be in every county town a county library as well as a county gaol. How remote the days when such a question was cogent seem to be now! It behoves us, indeed it honours us, to recall the work of Edwards, of Ewart, Brotherton, Thomas Greenwood, Nicholson, Peter Cowell, Crestadoro, Francis Barrett, Thomas Lyster, J. Y. M. MacAlister, James Duff Brown and, in a later day without mentioning the living, John Ballinger, Ernest A. Baker, L. Stanley Jast, and Potter Briscoe—the list is long. All served the movement we celebrate and all faced a community which had to be convinced. It still has, of course, but our people do now allow libraries a place, more or less respected, in the life of the people. Librarians no longer face the corpse‐cold incredulity of the so‐called educated classes, the indifference of the masses and the actively vicious hostility of local legislators. Except the illuminated few that existed. These were the men who had the faith that an informed people was a happier, more efficient one and that books in widest commonalty spread were the best means of producing such a people. These, with a succession of believing, enduring librarians, persisted in their Struggle with cynic and opponent and brought about the system and the technique we use, modified of course and extended to meet a changing world, but essentially the same. Three names we may especially honour this September, Edward Edwards, who was the sower of the seed; MacAlister, who gained us our Royal Charter ; and John Ballinger, who was the person who most influenced the introduction of the liberating Libraries Act of 1919.

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New Library World, vol. 53 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0307-4803

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Article
Publication date: 1 April 1935

IN this number we make some commemoration of the twenty‐five years so happily achieved by the King‐Emperor. As our contributors show, the cardinal event of the whole of…

Abstract

IN this number we make some commemoration of the twenty‐five years so happily achieved by the King‐Emperor. As our contributors show, the cardinal event of the whole of the Reign, so far as libraries were concerned, was the passing of the Public Libraries Act of 1919. The generations change rapidly, and there are few to‐day who remember acutely the penury and struggle which were involved in the fact that all public library expenditure had to be kept within “the limit of the penny rate.” It is possibly true that the average community has taken no very intelligent advantage of the breaking of its financial fetters; in no town in the British Empire can it be said that there is anything approaching generosity, let alone extravagance, towards libraries. Even in the greatest cities, where they have built fine buildings and opened them with much ceremony, the rate allocation for their maintenance is not nearly of the scale that finds acceptance, or did find acceptance, in the United States. That is because we are young people in an old country. The tradition dies hard that education is a luxury and that libraries, which in the eyes of many are only remotely related to education, are an even greater luxury. We heard it said recently that many local authorities regarded the libraries as a sort of joke, and delighted to cut down their expenditure upon them. This lugubrious way of opening our remarks upon the Jubilee is only by way of pointing out that to‐day, at any rate, we have the power to go ahead if we convince our authorities that it is desirable to do so.

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New Library World, vol. 37 no. 9
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0307-4803

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Article
Publication date: 1 December 1902

THE recently concluded Annual Meeting of the Library Association at Birmingham, brought into prominence the fact that a great change has come over the spirit in which all…

Abstract

THE recently concluded Annual Meeting of the Library Association at Birmingham, brought into prominence the fact that a great change has come over the spirit in which all that concerns librarianship is approached. Matters of policy which were formerly tabooed, and methods of work which excited only coldness and distrust, are now discussed openly and without rancour, and everything points to a great advance in progressive ideas in the near future. For example, such a paper as that of Mr. Ballinger on the rate limitation would have received but scant attention a few years ago; but it is accepted now with unanimous approval, and the Association deliberately pledges itself to take immediate steps to approach Parliament on the question. The Association without hesitation abandoned its old attitude of unconcern towards this vital matter, and whether or not it succeeds at first in securing the necessary legislation, it has committed itself to a course which, if persevered in, will ultimately lead to the triumph of the municipalities over the antiquated restrictions of the Legislature. All the old arguments about the unwisdom of approaching Parliament, of meddling with local taxation, of interfering with local feeling, of creating a barrier to the future progress of libraries by frightening communities which have not yet adopted the Libraries Acts; all these, and other arguments of a similar sort, have been quietly dropped, and a thoroughly business‐like attitude adopted instead. This would have been impossible even five years ago, and the result obtained is certain evidence of a complete change of opinion in this direction. So in other equally important matters. It was only necessary to go about a little among the librarians at Birmingham to ascertain that the old‐time conservatism which once held the field is rapidly disappearing. While some of the older men cling in a half‐hearted way to their old gods, there is not lacking, even on their part, a disposition to discuss sanely and sympathetically some of the more recent methods which have been proposed for the development and improvement of libraries. With the younger men the ideal is even higher, and their aspirations after perfection stronger and more genuine. There is a general agreement among them that collections of books which are not made available to the public in the most thorough way, by means of analytical and descriptive cataloguing, classification, open access, and liberality of regulations, may as well as not be dispersed. They are agreed that improvement in the status and condition of Public Libraries can only be secured by convincing the people that they are managed on the most scientific and useful lines, and that they are being made a vital part of the national machinery for the general, technical, artistic, and scientific education of the whole of the people. Something of this spirit could be observed in the discussions on cataloguing, but it showed with even greater strength in the conversation of the great majority of the librarians who think, read, observe, and abstain from public talking. But even among some of the older men, who have in their time condemned both catalogue annotations and exact classification, there was noticeable a distinct change of feeling towards these outcomes of the progressive library spirit. The Morning Leader of September 23rd, in an article on “The Free Library,” signed by “Zenodotus,” seems to have completely overlooked this important change and all that it means for the future. It refers to a period in the history of the Library Association somewhat remote from Birmingham in 1902; and however much we agree with the writer as regards the feebleness of the Association in one or two respects in which it compares unfavourably with certain privately subsidised enterprises of the American Library Association, the fact remains that the average member is alert and anxious enough for all‐round improvement. The whole tone of the Birmingham meeting of 1902 was progressive, and there is no doubt that so much activity and interest will ripen into important developments before long. We have seldom seen meetings so fully attended or discussions followed so closely, and these are hopeful signs of an approaching period of advancement along modern progressive lines. There is no reason why the Library Association, once freed from certain reactionary elements which led to stagnation, should not keep abreast with modern developments in library practice in all departments, and be the means of leading its members to an appreciation of higher and more advanced work than has hitherto been possible.

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New Library World, vol. 5 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0307-4803

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Article
Publication date: 1 July 1903

IT is evident from the numerous press cuttings which are reaching us, that we are once more afflicted with one of those periodical visitations of antagonism to Public…

Abstract

IT is evident from the numerous press cuttings which are reaching us, that we are once more afflicted with one of those periodical visitations of antagonism to Public Libraries, which occasionally assume epidemic form as the result of a succession of library opening ceremonies, or a rush of Carnegie gifts. Let a new library building be opened, or an old one celebrate its jubilee, or let Lord Avebury regale us with his statistics of crime‐diminution and Public Libraries, and immediately we have the same old, never‐ending flood of articles, papers and speeches to prove that Public Libraries are not what their original promoters intended, and that they simply exist for the purpose of circulating American “Penny Bloods.” We have had this same chorus, with variations, at regular intervals during the past twenty years, and it is amazing to find old‐established newspapers, and gentlemen of wide reading and knowledge, treating the theme as a novelty. One of the latest gladiators to enter the arena against Public Libraries, is Mr. J. Churton Collins, who contributes a forcible and able article, on “Free Libraries, their Functions and Opportunities,” to the Nineteenth Century for June, 1903. Were we not assured by its benevolent tone that Mr. Collins seeks only the betterment of Public Libraries, we should be very much disposed to resent some of the conclusions at which he has arrived, by accepting erroneous and misleading information. As a matter of fact, we heartily endorse most of Mr. Collins' ideas, though on very different grounds, and feel delighted to find in him an able exponent of what we have striven for five years to establish, namely, that Public Libraries will never be improved till they are better financed and better staffed.

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New Library World, vol. 6 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0307-4803

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