ePub 版


MAY, 1899.



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N the February issue of The Library Association Record is

a brief notice of the establishment of a public library at Berlin, due to the liberality of a member of the Social Democratic Party. The library is there referred to as “ The First Free Public Library in Berlin ”—a statement which is

. -a not strictly correct, since for some years past there have been three institutions in the town, which, it is true, will not compare favourably with the more perfect form of public libraries in England, and yet which differ so much from the old type of the German “ People's Libraries” (Volks-bibliotheken) as to constitute a distinct step towards improvement.

The first of these institutions is the “Public Readingroom” (Oeffentliche Lesehalle) of the “German Ethical Society” (Deutschen Gesellschaft für ethische Kultur)—a society which has been instrumental in promoting the “reading-room movement" in a large number of German towns, not merely by pointing out the advantages and value of such institutions, but by actually establishing them.

The Berlin Reading-room of the Ethical Society was opened in 1895, and has been supported solely by the members and friends of the society until quite recently, when the Town Council decided to make an annual grant of 8000 marks (£200) towards its maintenance.

For several decenniums the town has been in possession of the so-called “People's Libraries” (Volks-bibliotheken), which have gone on gradually increasing in number, until to-day the goodly total of twenty-seven has been reached, representing in the aggregate upwards of 100,000 volumes,

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with a circulation of 600,000 per year. In considering these figures, it must be borne in mind that these libraries are not open for the exchange of books during the whole of the day as is the case in England, but for two hours only in the middle of the day, three times per week.

Taking into account the shortness of the hours during which the libraries are open, it has to be admitted that the proportion in which the circulation stands in relation to the number of volumes upon the shelves is in the highest degree satisfactory, being the same relatively as that of the circulation in the English public libraries.

These figures alone furnish some idea of the keen appetite for reading displayed by the German public, especially in the larger towns.

How rapidly would the circulation grow if the hours of issue were extended, and more particularly if they were transferred from the middle of the day to the evening ? This question was raised in the columns of the Berlin National Zeitung in the month of February last. In the course of the controversy that ensued the Town Council was charged with not having the proper solicitude for the extension of the library movement. The National Zeitung justly complains of the extraordinary apathy and delay shown in introducing the suggested and promised improvements, which, as every one acquainted with the circumstances of the case admits, must be carried through with much greater activity and energy if Berlin is to be spared the reproach of allowing itself to be left behind to bring up the rearguard.

In the month of October, 1896, the Town Council-after having had the way pointed out by the Ethical Society in the establishment of the public reading-rooms already referred to-opened the first municipal reading-room, consisting of two miserable back rooms in a public building-rooms which are so small as to render the supply of newspapers quite out of the question, so that readers have to be contented with the magazines and reviews.

Some eighteen months later, in the month of April, 1898, the second municipal reading-room was opened, this time with accommodation for the supply of newspapers as well as magazines, being in fact in every way more roomy and more cheerful than the first.


Both of these reading-rooms are connected with people's libraries, which at first were open for the customary two hours in the middle of the day, three times per week ; since, however, the hours have been transferred to the evening the circulation has increased severalfold. The number of books issued by the library connected with the second reading-room is especially noteworthy, for with 5000 volumes upon its shelves it has an average daily issue of 250.

ily issue of 250. Thus, by the end of the first year, these 5000 volumes will have given a circulation of between 80,000 and 90,000—in other words, each volume will have circulated on an average sixteen or eighteen times.

Unfortunately, the Berlin Town Council lacks the proper appreciation for such figures. The municipal librarian (Dr. Buchholtz) would certainly have carried through the necessary reforms had he not been perpetually hampered by the passive opposition of the council. This council seems to have no intention of increasing the sum raised locally for its people's libraries, amounting at the present time to no more than 40,000 marks (£2000) per year, but to be content to wait with the reforms until such time as it is placed in a position to carry them out by the aid of donations and bequests.

One such legacy of 1,000,000 marks (£50,000) was bequeathed to the town last summer, the interest upon which will be devoted ultimately to the maintenance and extension of the libraries. The worthy benefactor was the late town councillor, Professor Leo, a gentleman who made himself acquainted with the English public libraries by means of personal observation, and who, so long ago as the year 1878, translated several chapters of the work by Mr. Mullins, at that time chief librarian of the Birmingham Free Library, for the express purpose of bringing them under the notice of the Berlin Common Council. For the first few years the legacy carries with it certain charges, consisting of life interests in favour of relatives, which, for some time, will prevent the Berlin libraries from benefiting to any appreci

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able extent by Professor Leo's bequest. It depends therefore upon the persistence with which the council's attention is directed to its duty in the matter of the extension of the people's libraries as to when further steps are likely to be taken.

Although the plan of a central library seems yet to be far distant, it is not improbable that the people's libraries will be now much more rapidly developed, by reason of several forces which are working in that direction. The action of the Socialist party, for example, in the establishment of a people's library and reading-room cannot be other than beneficial in its effect; for it must be anything but agreeable to the council to be not only reminded of its duties, but to have the method of carrying them out so effectively demonstrated by a political party like the Socialists.

The largest and most important of Berlin's suburbs, Charlottenburg, has had since the beginning of 1898 its people's library and reading-room, which is very largely used. Here again, however, no newspapers are supplied.

Several other German towns have avowed their intention of establishing similar institutions, or, where people's libraries already exist, of reorganising them on the lines indicated.

One of the most important public libraries in Germany is that founded a short time since at Essen-an-der-Ruhr, by the German Iron King, Friedrich Krupp, as “Krupp's Library and Reading-room ” (Kruppsche Bücher und Lesehalle). Strictly speaking it is not a "public" library, as it is intended by the founder for the exclusive use of his own work-people, numbering between twenty and twenty-five thousand souls. The arrangement and equipment of the library was entrusted to Dr. Paul Sadewig, formerly of the State Library at Carlsruhe, who has carried it out in a most praiseworthy manner. English methods have been adopted in many particulars.

Very great interest has been evoked throughout Germany by the foundation of the “Emperor William's Library” at Posen (Kaiser Wilhelms-Bibliothek). It will be within the knowledge of readers outside Germany that until quite recently the Prussian Government has been conducting a system of petty police measures against the Polish element in the Eastern provinces, with the object of promoting the growth of the German spirit, but without success.


In consequence of the failure of those measures, a change of policy was decided upon about a year ago, and it is now hoped by the employment of intellectual means to secure the desired end. This, then, is the principal object aimed at in the establishment of the library at Posen, for which appeals have been made throughout Germany, with excellent results. Many libraries have given their duplicates, a large number of German publishing houses have presented entire sets of their publications, private individuals have contributed both money and books, while the press with the public in general are taking an active interest in the scheme. One very great mistake has been made in formulating that scheme, to which the Frankfurter Zeitung of the 22nd December, 1898, very properly called attention. The purpose for which this library is being founded will not be served by the formation of a purely scientific collection, and such is the avowed intention of the promoters. The only chance of success is in the formation of a genuine public library, providing for the wants of, and being accessible to all classes alike. Take the case of the Strassburg University and State Library, founded in like manner by national subscription at the close of the Franco-Prussian War, and which since has gone on growing in efficiency in a most gratifying manner; deduct from the total number of persons using the library the number of the university professors and students making use of it, and at once it will be obvious that the number of readers upon which the suggested library at Posen can depend must be very small indeed, considering that the town has no university. It remains to be seen whether the suggestion thrown out by the Frankfurter Zeitung to make the Emperor William's Library at Posen a genuine public library will have the desired effect. There is a possibility of the Government acting upon the suggestion if the Chamber of Deputies assumes the same attitude.

Indeed, it may now be said that the Prussian Government is taking a real interest in the extension of our people's

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