« PreviousContinue »
the volume as his right. Admiral Rodgers made a short calculation on his blotting pad and came to the conclusion that, as one of 50,000,000, his visitor's share was less than 5 cents, and thereupon tendered that coin in payment. There are 75,000,000 of us now, and the share of each is small. But each one has a right to be heard at least.
The 75,000,000 people do not all want nor need the same thing. There are 14,000,000 school children, for instance, with special needs. It is vital to our continuance as a nation that they shall be taught to comprehend the fundamental principle of all government-liberty with order-but it is not necessary, nor practicable, nor desirable, that they should all be instructed in the higher walks of literature or science. The gates are open to all; but only a few will enter-can enter.
The school child absorbs. He does not add to knowledge, though he may do so. This chance must be kept in mind and he must be considered as a possible creator. The first duty of some libraries is to reach everybody in the community, beginning with the lowest minds and going as high as may be. This is precisely in keeping with American ideas at present, and the duty is not likely to be forgotten. The scores of libraries (of which the Boston Public Library, with its 575,000 volumes, is perhaps the best known type) that provide every possible convenience for their constituents make it certain that the library will soon be brought to every door. The humblest has only to ask. The college library regards the wants of a different class, and, in general, provides for them admirably. The libraries of Harvard (474,000 volumes), Chicago (280,000), Yale (215,000), Columbia (160,000), are excellent examples. A large and increasing proportion of the men who are to shape the fate of the Republic in the next century will be furnished by the colleges. Fine scholarship, balanced character, originality, open and flexible intelligence, directive power, are fostered in academic shades. Enlightened public opinion is essential in the Republic. This will always be formed by ideas originated by a very small number of thinkers and subsequently adopted by millions of citizens. It is indespensable to educate the whole mass of voters intelligently to select and receive their standards of action, but it is vital to encourage by every practicable means the creation of such standards by the comparatively few.
In every great city-Washington, New York, Chicago, San Francisco-at least one great library should be maintained whose first duty is to meet the wants of the very highest class of students, and to create and foster insight and distinction of character. Just as we maintain the public school as a great conservative force--a reservoir of intelligent citizens-so we should, in a proper proportion, cherish all influences which tend to the production of the very highest type. And a great library is a mighty influence of this sort. It is taken for granted in this place that both ideals can not be perfectly subserved by a single organization; that it is fundamental to determine at the outset what the ideal is to be; whether to begin at the highest and work down, or at the bottom and work upward. If the assumption is doubted, I ask any teacher of experience to say whether it is or is not essential to grade our children in the public schools into classes of like accomplishments; whether it is not advantageous to dissociate the older from the younger students in college; whether a mixture of very different elements is not likely to degrade the higher proportionally more than it will raise the lower; whether learning has not a more intense spirit in the upper levels. The readers in a library are, of course, not brought into close association like the students of a school. But it is of the highest importance which ideal is held up by the fundamental organization. An example will illustrate this. It has been proposed, first, to make the National Library at Washington strictly a library of reference-primarily for scholars; and second, to make it a lending library for Congress and for city readers. Is it indifferent which plan is adopted? Will the library be the same institution a century hence in the two cases? Will it have had the same effect upon the life of the country? It is a matter that can be debated which of the two plans is better. The present point is that they will lead to very different results in the end, and that the right plan must be chosen at the outset.
The main argument of this paper is that there is pressing need for influences which will create and preserve the highest scholarship and culture, and a prospective danger unless our coming leaders are trained; that it is not sufficient to train the followers; and finally, that a few libraries, one in each great city, should be organized in the interest of scholars, primarily, sacrificing whatever must be sacrificed to attain this end. One of the strangest phenomena of our democracy is its rage for uniformity and conformity. Variety, originality, and independence must be deliberately fostered, as well as prized. The effect in this regard of the old Astor Library in New York, with its dignified hospitality to serious students-making their higher interests its own-has been simply incalculable. Taking a single instance, it is impossible for me to remember without gratitude the weeks I spent as a lad, a generation ago, in its alcoves where the whole resources of its magnificent
collections were freely opened. I had been introduced as a student, and no further recommendation was needed. Not long since I had occasion to make a short research in a large library in the East conducted in a different spirit. There were telephones, branches, a microscopic shelf classification, pneumatic deliveries, and everything "modern." The reader was taken charge of, and every part of the "business" was done like the manual of arms, but finally it was business and not scholarship. It was a surprise to escape from the automatic mill without a pink ticket containing an abstract (by the library assistant) of the books I had consulted. In its way it was all admirable, but the high spirit was absent. Of course "business methods" are essential and these were intended to encourage, not to deter. The only just criticism is that the assistant (and the reader) was obsessed by them. This result need not follow, but it points to a danger in the "newest" methods; which is to fail to see the forest by virtue of looking too intently at the trees. The difference in these two libraries arose simply from a difference in ideal-in fundamental plau.
Under its new direction the Astor Library, one of the constituent parts of the New York Public Library (which comprises the Astor, Tiiden, and Lenox foundations), is still to be faithful to its old traditions. Its relations to scholars will remain as before, and it will leave to other departments of the public library the care for the general interest. If the argument of this paper is correct it will be necessary to draw the lines of demarcation sharply. These problems have hardly yet arisen on the Pacific coast, but they will arise, for they are fundamental. The direction of our future development will depend in no unimportant degree on the solution that we adopt in the Sutro Library and other great foundations of the sort.
There is a widespread fallacy with regard to the use of libraries which is "modern," and all the more dangerous because it is partly true. It is assumed that any and every library is doing its best service when its books have the maximum circulation.
Elaborate statistical tables are printed to show how many volumes have been drawn this year as against last year, etc. The more drawn, the more fully is the library performing its function. This is not always so. Take the special case of a public-school library, for example. Is it better for the community that a high-school lad should read a dozen volumes of Jules Verne's in a six-month, or that he should spend the same time over a single volume of Plutarch or Froissart? The statistical tables try to cover such cases by dividing the books issued into classes (history, fiction, philosophy, etc.). But even here the point is missed. The usefulness of the library depends solely on the benefit the readers derive from the books they draw. This may well be greater when few books are drawn than when twice the number are issued. Reading is no virtue in itself; and if it were, the value of reading is certainly not proportional to the number of pages read. The trivial attitude of mind which is fostered by the multitude and cheapness of modern newspapers, magazines, and books has impressed everyone. A trivial-minded child makes a trivialminded citizen. The library must not measure its usefulness by the multitude of its issues. All these points are obvious enough--even trite--but a caution against such fallacies, bolstered by statistics, may not be wasted. Many librarians, and more boards of trustees, are still disposed to accept mere movement for advance.
Another popular fallacy relates to the kind of knowledge which makes a competent librarian. Roughly speaking, he is supposed to know everything. The last man who knew everything was Dante. Since his time all living scholars have had to specialize. They should know at least one thing supremely well, which will insure their power to learn other things for themselves, and their ability to put students in general on any desired track. It is nothing short of absurd to expect a scholar to-day-either in science or literature-to be a master in more than one or two departments. All that can be asked is a thorough knowledge of one part, a thorough acquaintance with its relation to other parts, and a minute familiarity with the bibliographic aids by which books are sifted and compelled to yield what they contain, the whole of this informed with the scholar's enthusiasm, method, and desire to communicate. Living among books gives an astonishing acquaintance with small details which may serve to impress the inquirer or the library trustee; but caring for them and using them gives the spirit of research which is the sole important matter.
It is not a little remarkable that so few of our librarians are themselves authors. It would seem, as the materials for authorship lie all about them, and as their attention is daily called to books which are needed and not yet written, that they would be inwardly compelled to supply the lacks they see. The explanation of this aridity of a learned profession in the United States (it is not so in foreign countries) is that our librarians are overworked. They tend to become, not scholars, but clerks of high degree. If this is a correct explanation of an undoubted fact the matter calls for a remedy.
A library is an immense cyclopedia of all knowledge. The librarians should be specialists, and if they have proper support will become authors. The last edition
of the Encyclopædia Britannica contains contributions from nineteen scholars of the staff of the British Museum on the widest range of subjects. This is precisely as it should be. Our own National Library in Washington should be reorganized with such a staff of specialists, each presiding over his own department. Every important book in each department of knowledge will be recommended for purchase by a competent judge. The bibliography of each special subject can be kept up to date. The whereabouts of rare books which the National Library does not own will be known. No such book can be offered for sale without the knowledge of the Librarian. Questions from any citizen in the whole country on any conceivable subject can be referred to the persons best qualified to reply to them, or at least to set the inquirer on the proper track. Such an organization as this can serve the whole country, not merely a group of citizens, and will make the library veritably national, not simply local.
A great library, to be ideally complete, should contain every book that may be called for by any student. But practically there is no such collection on earth, nor will there ever be. A library must content itself with the possible, and use its resources in seeking after the most useful. This principle has an immediate application and a very striking one in the case of the National Library at Washington, which has just moved into its splendid home. If any collection in the country should be complete this should be. But all around it are the special libraries of the different Government Departments, each one of which has been most carefully supplied with the very best special books, chosen by experts. There are more than a score of such Department libraries in Washington (Light-House Bureau, SurgeonGeneral's Office, Patent Office, etc.), and they contain in the aggregate nearly 400,000 volumes (many duplicates). It seems clear that what is required is not a reduplication of such volumes in the National Library, but rather a complete catalogue of these 400,000 departmental books always on hand in the central library. The making of such a catalogue might well be undertaken by the National Library for its own use, and its buying of new books controlled by the knowledge that such a catalogue would give. Every book that can be obtained should be available in the capital, but of two books not in the National Library that one should be purchased which is not to be found in one of the Departments. This very simple policy can not be carried out until such a catalogue as is described has been made, and the time is ripe to provide it.
One of these Department libraries-that of the Surgeon-General's Office (104,000)— has taken the problem into its own hands and carried it to the extreme limit of perfection. Under the leadership of Dr. Billings the library has been treated as if it were a vast book-a single work-and indexed as such, page by page. The subject index is printed in 16 large quartos. Such an elaborate index is a magnificent contribution to pure science, but it is not needed in most cases. A simple list of the books would be sufficient. We have a right to expect bibliographic contributions of the sort from the staffs of the great libraries of the country. Though much has been done the lacks are very far from being supplied.
Just as special libraries, like those of the Washington Departments, are of immense value when they surround the general collection, so it is important that the general librarian should be himself surrounded by specialists. This necessity is recognized abroad, as has been said. At the British Museum or in the national libraries of Berlin and Paris an inquirer can have, at the shortest notice, an expert opinion on a point in numismatics, Arabian history, art, science, medieval metaphysics, the economics of the Roman Empire, or last year's movement of commerce in the Manchester ship canal. Where can we point in America to such a staff? Our scholars are dispersed throughout the faculties of our colleges. There is no central institution of the sort; nor are our library staffs organized so as to attract specialists. Many scholars are indeed to be found in our libraries, but they are generally overworked and underpaid. Our tendency has been to use the library income in perfecting the details of a system, and to proportionately neglect the one important matter, which is to encourage scholarship.
In the matter of copyright books a small change in our system-one often proposed-would produce a great benefit. At present the Government gives its protection to authors in return for two copies of each work printed. Both of these copies are deposited in the National Library. In England five copies are called for, which are placed in five different libraries (London, Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Dublin). If the United States required three copies instead of two (not a very heavy tax when we consider what is given in return), one of these might be deposited in Washington, one in Chicago, one in San Francisco, with manifest advantage to the author, to learning, and to the public. It would be thereafter certain that the risks of fire and publie enemies would not endanger all three examples of a printed book. The present system makes everything depend on a single repository We shall soon be in a position to defy public enemies at the national capital: but the risk of fire and accident always remains.
Whether, and how far, the great library should extend its scope to include great collections of paintings and the like is a question too large to be considered here. It is not a little remarkable that we have in the country, as yet, no systematic and orderly collection of fine copies of the great paintings of the world. The originals we can not have. The Nevada millionaire found to his surprise that it was impossible to compete in this respect with "those kings." Fine and faithful conies we can have, and at no extravagant expense. Such a collection_intelligently made would be an immense educator and a source of permanent pleasure. The other extremity of policy should be considered also, namely, the direct encouragement of originality in our own artists, rather than the education of their pupils and of the public. The artist-popes of Italy-Raphael's and Angelo's popes-were perpetually seeking new works; and thus perpetually contriving new opportnuities. Room was made for Raphael's frescos by sweeping away those of Perugino and Cortona. Wall space to spare there must be in all great buildings. Let the architect provide suitable light, and perhaps the pictures may be forthcoming, either by private gift or by public appropriation. To pass through a hall of noblo statues is no bad introduction to a working day among great books.
There are many other points of interest and of prime importance which suggest themselves in connection with the era of library reorganization which has now set in all over the country. Perhaps the foregoing are the chief ones. If we are to be blessed with many great libraries in this country let us resolutely devote a few of them to the interest of the scholar and of the specialist, making this our first eoncern, and being willing to sacrifice all lesser interests. It is to them that we must look for the creation of new ideas, of new plans, of new applications of old conceptions. So far as it is practicable to provide for the interests of those who absorb knowledge, and of those who create it, by a single plan, this should be done. The fundamental matter is to realize that both ideals can not be followed in all cases, and to make up our minds that the interests of the scholar shall be safeguarded in at least a few of the greater establishments. We may safely leave to the smaller ones their no less important duty.
CALIFORNIA SCHOOL REPOrt.
Report for 1895 and 1896, Hon. Samuel T. Black, superintendent of public instruction.
The report declares that within the last five years has been a greatly enhanced interest in education throughout the State. A notable impulse was given by the establishment of the Leland Stanford University. The number of students there and in the State University is more than four times that formerly in the latter. To each has been attached a department of pedagogy, to which a far larger number of students than was expected resorts.
The schools enumerated in the public system are primary and grammar schools, evening schools, normal schools, and technical schools as may be established by the legislature, or by municipal or district authority. The report says: "Evening schools have been established in nearly all the cities of the State, and are doing a noble work. While little has been done in the way of technical schools proper, departments of manual training have been established in many of our cities and larger towns. Two of the normal schools are provided with manual training departments and are doing good work."
High schools have been raised to the dignity that their students, having completed the course, are prepared to enter the university.
The normal schools, being designed purely for the education of teachers, are mainly technical. Graduates from grammar schools being admissible therein, the academic studies necessary to be further pursued have led to fixing the course at four years. If the law were such that high-school preparation were required for admission into the normal schools, the course in the latter might safely be reduced to two years. By this means they, as they ought, might be made professional schools, as are those in other professions. To this end thoughtful minds generally are striving. Some quite pointed observations are quoted from the report of the committee of fifteen. One of the paragraphs is here inserted:
"It is a widely prevalent doctrine, to which the customs of our best schools conform, that teachers of elementary schools should have a secondary or high-school education, and that teachers of high schools should have a college education. Your committee believe that these are the minimum acquirements that can generally be accepted; that the scholarship, culture, and power gained by four years of study in advance of the pupils are not too much to be rightfully demanded; and that, as a rule, no one ought to become a teacher who has not the age and attainments presupposed in the possession of a high-school diploma. There are differences in high schools, it is true, and a high-school diploma is not a fixed standard of attainment, but in these United States it is one of the most definite and uniform standards that
we possess, and varies less than college degrees vary or than elementary and local standards of culture vary."
Yet the committee maintain that high-school graduation must be of unexceptionable reputation and completeness, else applicants be subjected to close examination. Considering that the high schools get no aid from the State, it seems surprising the number that have been established by private initiative. At the writing of this report there were as many as 98, with 381 teachers, whose average salary was over $1,000. Their buildings are not far from $2,000,000 in cost. The average of daily attendance is 78 per cent of the number enrolled, thus being in excess of that in the elementary schools, which is 71 per cent. This liberal support voluntarily extended augurs strongly that this secondary system will in good time receive from the State the aid which has been plainly shown to be merited. The university has shown appreciation of their importance, as seen by the following language in this report: "The State University has adopted a system of accrediting high schools, whereby, on account of the high order of work done, their graduates will be admitted to the university, on the recommendation of the principal, without examination. During the last year as many as 67 were thus complimented. In the list, however, were several private academies."
Besides the three normal schools supported by the State, there is one which is fostered by the city of San Francisco. The course is one year, in which only the theory and art of teaching are taught.
Although there was not time to visit the various orphan asylums of the State, those which were visited showed good, humane management.
The normal schools from time to time have raised the standard of admission, and gratifying increase of applications come not only from high schools but even from those holding only primary and grammar graded certificates. These institutions, besides their set curricula, are doing much of what the report styles "seminary work" among teachers, through teachers' circulars and other agencies.
Report for 1895-96, Mrs. A. J. Peavey, superintendent of public instruction.
Mrs. Peavey begins with candidly admitting that the system of public schools suffers from serious defects.
"The laws have been changed from time to time, and lack not only harmony but are confusing and difficult of interpretation, and should be thoroughly revised. The rights of superintendents are circumscribed, and those of the school directors are too unrestricted.”
Yet it is said that improvement has gone along the educational lines, especially in what the superintendent calls "ethical culture." Quite a number of voluntary associations have been formed, including parents, with teachers and other officials. These have resulted in creating considerable inspiration in several localities.
A serious movement has been contemplated for some time to modify the office of directors. It was recommended that the school system have two departments of administration, one for supervising instruction and the other for managing the business. The report says that this change is very much needed in the State.
"With all deference to the faithful and consecrated ones, in many instances the school fund is being wantonly and unrighteously wasted; men and women who have made a failure of their own lives and enterprises are to-day occupying these positions, and they are not only engendering factional differences, but are evading the law in every possible way in order to loot the treasury and rob the children of their rights. Let the directors give our schools the same permanent equipment as is given to all other professions, unvexed by the murky minds of politics, the unrighteousness of favoritism, or the fear of sectionalism. The standard of teaching would be elevated just as soon as it was understood that a man or woman was to be employed, not to pay a political debt, but to serve the public; not to occupy a certain position and draw so much pay a month, but to find it, and earn by honest work the money that is paid out."
In general the superintendents are reported as doing honest work; but there are a few exceptions in those who have been devoted mainly to furthering political schemes.
A notable change has lately taken place in the make-up of superintendents, of whom Women have increased during the present administration from one to twenty-six; and the new appointees, it is declared, have done faithful, efficient work.
There has been considerable improvement in schoolhouses.
It is recommended that all instructors and directors applying to teach in normal institutes, of which there are thirteen in the State, should have testimonials of fitness from the State board of examiners. Ten of these institutes were held during the year 1896, with notably good results.