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LIS-PUB-LIBS  November 2009

LIS-PUB-LIBS November 2009

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Subject:

Quotes on the Value of Libraries

From:

Gareth Osler <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Gareth Osler <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 13 Nov 2009 14:28:58 +0000

Content-Type:

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text/plain (209 lines) , Countryman-1.jpg (209 lines) , Countryman-2.jpg (209 lines) , Countryman-3.jpg (209 lines)

* Library Daylight - Tracings of Modern Librarianship, 1874-1922
* Edited by Rory Litwin

* Hear the Other Side
* 1896 ALA President's Address
* John Cotton Dana

"People wish also in the main, to give their fellows and themselves the
opportunity for self-improvement. This wish is the vital fact at the bottom of
the free, compulsorily supported public library. It is on these vital facts that
we should keep our eyes and our thoughts, not on the feature of compulsion.
Work then, for the extension of the public library from the starting-point of
human sympathy, from the universal desire for an increase of human happiness
by an increase of knowledge of conditions of human happiness"




* Library Daylight - Tracings of Modern Librarianship, 1874-1922
* Edited by Rory Litwin

* The Library: Its Past and Future
* Guido Biagi
* A talk given at the ALA conference, 1904

"The word, the sign of the thought, first took on visible form with the
invention of the alphabet. But other ways of revealing thought were to be
discovered in the future ... the library ... assuming the duty of receiving within
itself any kind of graphical representation of human thought . . . the history of
human thought"




* Library Daylight - Tracings of Modern Librarianship, 1874-1922
* Edited by Rory Litwin

* The Library's Primary Duty
* President's address, ALA annual conference, 1915
* Hiller C. Wellman

... But I should like to plead that however occupied with executive cares, and
whether engaged in supplying with books the practical needs of the
community, or turning to work of wider social application, the librarian should
never forget or slight what seems to me to be a primary duty of the public
library—a service so fundamental that, as I shall try to show, it may be said
without exaggeration to touch the springs of our civilization itself.

For this twentieth century civilization of ours, which the world so easily takes
for granted, is nevertheless regarded with misgiving by many who examine its
evolution and condition. Within the past two or three years alone, not a few
thoughtful writers have questioned its solidity and permanence. The Italian
historian, Ferrero; the brilliant English churchman, J. N. Figgis; A.J. Hubbardin
his "Fate of Empires," S. O. G. Douglas, Guy Theodore Wrench, Mrs. John
Martin—all are impressed with the transitoriness of the phenomenon known as
civilization. Macaulay's famous New Zealander taking his stand on a broken
arch of London bridge to sketh the ruins of St. Paul's, in his "vast solitude"
may count at least on the ghostly fellowship of a goodly number of our
contemporary writers who have been solicitous as to the laws of modem
civilization and its decay.

Perhaps the most interesting of these treatises is the immensely suggestive
little volume which the archaeologist, W. M. Flinders Petrie, has traced the
rise, the flourishing, and the decay of eight successive civilizations in Egypt
during the period of ten thousand years, and five disdinct eras of civilization in
Europe from the early Cretan down through the classical and that of our own
day. It is only in recent years that, owing to the discovery and study of
archaeological remains, it has become possible to take the long view. Hitherto,
students have been confined largely to comparisons between our own
civilization and the classical which immediately preceded it. Professor Petrie
uses as criteria the development of the different arts, especially the period
when each passes from a stage of archaism to a condition of full artistic
freedom; and he finds that in all the civilizations he has presented, so far as
discernible, the arts have reached their highest development in the same
sequence. First comes sculpture, followed by painting, and then literature;
these in turn are succeeded after a somewhat longer interval by the
development of mechanics, of science, and the results of applied science, or
wealth. There appears to be a striking conformity, not only in the sequence,
but roughly, in the relative time, suggesting that the same laws are operative
throughout the entire period. The intervals between the successive waves of
civilization as shown by the point when sculpture, the first of the arts,
reaches the stage when it is fully freed from archaism averages between
thirteen and fourteen hundred years, with an apparent tendency towards
lengthening in the case of the later civilizations. Our modern European
civilization, according to Professor Petrie, reached the turning point of freedom
in sculpture about 1240 A. D.; in painting, about 1400; in literature during the
Elizabethan age, or about 1600; in mechanics possibly in 1890; while the full
development in science and in the production of wealth is still to come.

Of course, I have not cited the interesting and ingenious conclusions of
Professor Petrie, which are bristling with debatable points, nor referred to the
works of the other authors, who differ much among themselves, as proving
any definite theory of civilization. I merely wish to impress on you the well-
recognized fact that civilization is an intermittent phenomenon. Nor can I
personally see that our own civilization, though covering so much wider area
than any which have preceded it, differs essentially from them, except in two
respects. One of them is the possession of a religion so ennobling thai if its
principles were valid in the hearts of men, it would seem in itself to afford a
strong preservative, at least against the corruption and ill living that
accompany a decaying civilization. But one of the phenomena that all
students point out is the weakening in our times of the hold of religion on the
minds and actions of men. The other essential difference, as I see it, between
our civilization and previous ones lies in the remarkable development of the
arts of communication. The facilities far travel by steamship and railroad, and
for the transmission of information by mail and telegraph, have so united the
world and brought into contact differing civilizations as to produce a condition
without parallel in earlier ages.

But incomparably greater in its effect is the ease of communication from mind
to mind resulting from the invention of printing. One would be rash, indeed, to
assume that this new force in the world, powerful though it be, and aptly
termed the art preservative of arts, has yet within itself sufficient virtue to
overbalance the laws which, working through human nature for ages past,
have caused one great civilization after another to rise, reach its zenith, and
decay. Yet, when we consider that not simply in preserving knowledge, but in
diffusing it among the whole people, it has produced a condition of general
enlightenment that has never before been known; and when we remember
also the immense acceleration given to the renascence of the very civilization
we now enjoy through the recovery by scholars of the Greek manuscripts and
classical texts, it may not be immoderate to hope that this great art of
printing will have an incalculable influence in deepening, strengthening,
carrying higher, and prolonging this present wave of our civilization; and
should this likewise be destined to recede, in alleviating man's intervening low
estate and hastening the world's next great advance. And in carrying to the
whole people the solider and more vital product of the printing press, no such
agency has ever before existed as the modern free public library.

This, then, I conceive to be the great fundamental obligation of the public
library—to make accessible to all men the best thought of mankind, whether it
be found in the classic works of the older civilizations that preceded our own,
or in the master intellects of a later day, or in the innumerable derivative
writings of lesser minds. And this function is one that I trust may never be
forgotten, however far it may seem well to extend the province of the library
in other directions. While striving in every wise way to further the material or
ephemeral interests of our communities, above all, we as librarians should prize
and cherish the things of the mind and of the spirit. Only those gifted by God
can hope for the supreme joy of feeding the pure, white flame that lights
man's pathway through the ages. Few they be and blessed. It is privilege
enough for us to strive to hold aloft the light, and carry ourselves staunchly
and worthily as torchbearers.




* Public Library Purpose - a reader
* edited by Barry Toterdell

* The purpose and values of a library service
* The public library system of Great Britain: a report on its present condition
with proposals for post war reorganisation, Library Association, 1942.
* Lionel R McColvin

We may regard this matter [the purposes for which libraries have been
established and maintained] in both general and specific terms—as to
why ‘Wherever there is a civilization there must be books’ and as to how the
public library can assist in the development of civilization by making books
accessible. By ‘books’ we mean all printed, manuscript, graphic and related
records by which knowledge, ideas and imagination can be conserved and
disseminated. This definition is itself a statement of the first aspect. Books are
not action, though they may be dynamic; nor thought, feeling or experience.
They are the record of man’s reaction to his environment in all its phases.
They are not life but the representation of life, and he who would regard
books and reading as good in themselves starts with a fundamental
misapprehension of their function, though this is a fault into which it is easy to
fall. Their values lies in enabling men to do, think, feel and understand better
than they could if they depended solely on their individual experience and that
of those with whom they were in immediate contact. Books can abolish time
and distance. Some matters cannot be embraced in such forms of record;
many skills and understandings can only be acquired by experience and
practice. But a substantial part of the experience, achievement and wisdom of
the past and the present can be made and is made available for all who have
the ability and desire to use them. We cannot easily deny that it is a good
thing that they should be used. Such denial is certainly not part of the policy
of modern democratic society. Indeed, democracy depends on the universal
existence of the ability to participate in democratic government and its
cardinal aim is to give equality of opportunity. No other equalities can avail if
access to so important a means of individual development is not full and
universal.

The maintenance of a sound public library service is therefore as important to
the community at large as it is to each of its members. Failure to provide this
service is wasteful to the community and to civilization—wasteful because
proper use is not made of those results of experience and thought which are
and could be recorded, wasteful because, thereby, those who would find in
books the means to increased prosperity, satisfaction and happiness are
denied this advantage.

Books, staff and service points are the material elements. But they could exist
in plenty and yet the libraries fail to give their full potential benefit to the
community; they could even be harmful instruments. With them must go not
only an appreciation of their purposes but also an acceptance of those tenets
which form the philosophy of librarianship—tenets which are inherent in an
understanding of its objectives.

The first of these is that the library service exists to serve—to give without
question, favour or limitations. It is an instrument for the promotion of all or
any of the activities of its readers. Therefore, secondly, it must be catholic
and all embracing. Whenever, as may often be the case because of financial
and other limitations, it must choose between types of provision, this must
always be in accord with the value of the services to the individuals requiring
them—not because of our own idea or opinion of what the demands should be.
So, the third and all important tenet is that libraries should be ‘free in every
sense’—not only universally available regardless of a man’s resources, but free
also in the sense that they offer sanctuary to all facets of opinion and all
aspects of knowledge. It is just because the library could be, and indeed has
been, used as a powerful propaganda weapon that all who value librarianship
insist that it shall not be so used.

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