Billeder på siden

any books, even religious books, is not primarily religious, but literary and educational.

The library can in no way be a partisan. Since religion, to-day, is not a unit, but is manifested under various forms, the library cannot co-operate with the adherents of one form, while discriminating against those of another. Its shelves must fairly represent, in addition to the broad field of religious literature devoid of sectarian bias, many different and often antagonistic beliefs, according to the demand of readers. If some one asks why a certain volume of an anti-Catholic tone is allowed in the library, the answer must be that the library collection is not one-sided; that it represents many differing views. Or, if some opponent of Christian science objects to the presence in the library of Christian science magazines and books, the obvious reply is that Christian scientists are part of the community to which the library ministers, and so must justly be considered.

Pursuing the same general policy with regard to periodicals, the public library may properly be a subscriber to the leading journal of each denomination which possesses any considerable number of adherents in the community. Many denominations are glad to present to the library their leading periodical. Of course, this is done in the spirit of propaganda, and the magazine may then be considered a tract, which some libraries are unwilling to accept. For the sake of consistency, they are therefore inclined to refuse admittance to all such denominational periodicals. If church journals are used and enjoyed by readers, however, as they undoubtedly are, there seems to be as good reason for supplying them as for supplying the various technical and trade journals.

Of religious histories and biographies, the public library should, of course, have a liberal supply. All the standard lives of Christ should be included, regardless of their doctrinal point of view, and new works, as they appear, should be purchased on their merits. The best works on the various ethnic religions would also form part of a well-rounded collection.

There is a large number of books which are thoroughly religious in character without being doctrinal or controversial, such as works on practical Christianity, and general religious thought and life, as well as books of devotion, meditation, and some volumes of sermons. Concerning such books, there is usually little difficulty in deciding, but they should be purchased with discrimination.

Religious books of a decidedly doctrinal and controversial nature form the class regarding which there are likely to be differences of

opinion. Many such books are offered to the library as gifts, just as denominational magazines are offered, by persons who wish to propagate certain doctrines. In general, I should say that all such doctrinal books, which come to the library as gifts should be accepted, provided they do not violate all the canons of good taste, and are not in thought indecent or subversive of morals. Of course, any book which is illiterate or vulgar in expression, coarse, or immoral in thought, according to generally accepted standards of morality, and cheap and tasteless in printing, binding, etc., should be politely declined, always with the true reason, tactfully and perhaps not always fully, explained. But a book should not be declined simply because the librarian or some of his associates, or the trustees of the library, do not agree with the opinions expressed in it; and in declining a gift for any of the reasons already mentioned, the librarian should be careful to make clear to the donor that it is not declined because of its doctrines. It is hardly necessary to say that, to insure fairness, this policy of acceptance of gifts must be carried out in all cases. Some one may object that even if this policy is consistently carried out, still un airness arises, because the gifts to a library will undoubtedly not include books on all doctrines. But a reply to such an objection is, that any member of the community who wishes to insure the presence in the library of a book supporting his especial belief may present such a book to the library, or, if he does not wish to present it, he may request its purchase. The privileges of presenting books to the library and of requesting the purchase of books are, or should be, open to all. As a matter of policy, in order to assure every citizen of the absolute impartiality of the library, it is well to secure for the library a representative collection of the literature, especially on its historical side, of each denomination having a number of adherents in the community.

The selection of doctrinal and controversial books for purchase should be guided by the same standards of taste that prevail in the case of gifts, that is, by demand, and by the condition of the book fund. A library would hardly buy an expensive work on the creed of some small and obscure sect, represented, perhaps, by only three or four persons in the community. Nor would it perhaps be able to purchase many works of such detailed and scholarly criticism as would be of use to only a few theological scholars, though, where the fund is sufficient, even such scholarly works may very properly be purchased. In the children's department of a library, it seems to me that a somewhat different policy should be pursued with regard to religious

books. Adults either have already formed their religious opinions when they come to the library, and know what they wish to read, or they are of sufficient maturity to be entitled to a free selection of material to aid in forming their opinions. It is different with children. They have undeveloped but impressionable minds, and though the public library very appropriately aims to form in them good literary taste, it has nothing to do with forming a religious bias. It is perhaps, also, unfair to parents to furnish their children with material for forming religious beliefs contrary to what they wish, though it may justly be said that parents should themselves supervise the reading of their children. Many parents do not do this, however. Several fathers and mothers have said to me, "I have sent my boy down to your library. Of course, anything he finds there will be all right." Therefore it seems to me that the children's room of a public library is no place for religious literature of a doctrinal or controversial character. Sunday school libraries may, if it is desired, supply denominational reading to the children sent to them.

The religious books that may properly be found in the children's room of the public library are those of a very general religious character, such as Bible stories, told in a simple way, lives of Christ arranged for children, and that great favorite of nearly all children, Pilgrim's Progress. The list of books for boys and girls prepared by the Brooklyn Public Library contains only fourteen titles under Ethics and religion. That prepared for the Iowa Library Commission by Miss Moore, children's librarian of the Pratt Institute Free Library contains only eleven under that heading. A small number of titles of well-selected books, and those few often duplicated, form a better religious collection for a children's room than a more extensive list.




The public library should co-operate with the Sunday school because the public library needs the Sunday school. I suppose it will not be very strenously denied now, in any quarter, that it is the business of the public library to circulate good books, and the more good books it circulates the better public library it is. The public library says to any organization it sees going among the people, “While you are out upon your work will you please take some of my books with you?" The public library uses every team that is harnessed and is going in the right direction to take a bundle of books along. The Sunday school is a team that is harnessed. As nearly as its drivers can see through the fogs and storms that beset all drivers, it is going in the right direction. The public library wants to go in the same direction, but it has no team. So it politely asks the Sunday school for a ride. The good public library, looking for a ride, will find teams enough. Its books can be carried to the people through the agency of the day schools, the fire stations, the car-barns, the police stations, the boys' club, the Y.M.C.A., the city stables, factories, and manufactories of all kinds. The Sundayschool is only one of many teams by which the library gets free rides among the people. The public library has waited for the people to come to it, but has found that the majority of the people never come. On y a small fraction of the men in any community ever enter the public library of that community. We cater to a very small percentage of the population. The majority of men, and a goodly fraction of women, are chronic absentees from public libraries. It has taken a generation to learn the simple lesson that the way to reach men is to go where they are. The Sunday school is one of the places where they are; and the Public Library that really believes in circulating books will willingly accept the co-operation of the Sunday school.

The public library needs the Sunday school. But does the Sundayschool need the public library? If it is one of the objects of the Sundayschool to circulate good books, then many Sunday schools do certainly need the public library, for many of the Sunday schools do not have any good books to circulate. I think it may be laid down as an axiom that the goody-goody book is always a bad book. In all seriousness, its influence is pernicious, and its effect, on the whole, immoral. Though

highly recommended by moral hygienists of an earlier day, such books are bad food for immortal souls. They are resultant in too flabby a tissue for real men. Nearly all Sunday schools see now that they were grievously in error in forcing this kind of diet on growing boys and girls. But the books are still on the shelves, and are not worn out, and there is no money with which to buy more books. Why should it not call on the Public Library for help? It has, perhaps, only a few dollars a year to spend for books. The public library has hundreds, of en thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of dollars for the annual purchase of books, and is in the book-buying business. So the public library is a team harnessed up and going to the bookstore to buy books. It is coming home with large bundles and boxes filled with books. If it is willing to buy a few for the Sunday school, the Sunday school is a little slow, is it not, if it refuses the service? Let both the library and the Sunday school use the team that is harnessed up and is going in the right direction.

Some objections have been brought farward against the co-operation of the Sunday school and the public library. It is said that the church and the state should be kept forever separate and distinct. This is true, and it is a matter in which all patriotic and all religious men agree. If the public library should venture to dictate what manner of books the Sunday school should use, that would be an interference of the state with the church; and such a public library could not abide the thunder of the public wrath that would be hurled against it. On the other hand, if the Sunday school should attempt to dictate the kind of books the public library should buy, such a d ctation would be an interference of the church with the state and would hardly meet with a smiling response from any librarian or any board of trustees. Any librarian who would try to force Presbyterian books upon a Unitarian Sunday school, or Mormon literature upon a Methodist Sunday school, would probably lead an exciting life. But all such difficulties are easily avoided. Let the library throw open its doors to all Sunday schools, and let the Sunday schools select the books they desire. On the whole, I would advise public libraries to buy such books as the Sunday schools recommend. Our library has always done so, and I do not know that any books have as yet been recommended which we have been unwilling to buy. It would not be well for libraries to buy for Sunday schools books of intense ecclesiastical partisanship, books bitterly controversial, or books narrowly sectarian. I would buy even such books as these for individuals; for the intense ecclesiastical partisan, the bitter controversialist, and the narrow sectarian are citizens with rights,

« ForrigeFortsæt »