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our present issue very tersely put it, “ Let us try to eliminate the personal element as much as possible, and couch our language in such a way that people may not mistake our criticism on a system for personal attacks on the individual”.
We have several other schemes in contemplation for rendering our official organ really useful, but we must reserve the description of them for some future issue.
Now, it is obviously impossible for any editor who has other engagements to fulfil, no matter how competent he might be, to conduct a magazine for which such ideals have been shadowed forth without assistance. We need, and must have—if success is to attend our efforts—the co-operation, not alone of the faithful few who have already so greatly encouraged us by their generous and valuable offers of help-most valuable because they were spontaneous—but of each and every member of the Association.
Let each member of the Association recognise his individual responsibility—in other words, let him feel that the journal is his own, and do his part in its editing, and success will follow as a natural consequence.
Before passing away from the subject of Communications, there are a few words of explanation which we should like to offer to our prospective contributors and correspondents. It is obviously our interest to take all we can get, and to make the most and best of everything; we therefore beg correspondents to take for granted that their communications are not only thankfully received, but appreciated, even if the succeeding number has no proof of it. The absence of specific acknowledgment will only be felt by those who have no idea of the labour and difficulty attendant on the hurried management of such a journal, and of the impossibility of giving an explanation when there really is one, which would quite satisfy the writer, for the delay or non-insertion of his communication.
One thing we beg of our correspondents: that they will not consider themselves undervalued or slighted if, through pressure of claims upon our time, we are prevented from personally communicating our thanks.
With a well-organised Association, and a well-sustained journal, it may be confidently expected that not the least important item in the new activity of this year of our majority will be the impetus we shall be able to give to library co-operation. Every practical plan for which will be worked out and entered upon, with the whole of the library world as our field of operation,
PAST AND FUTURE PAPERS OF THE LIBRARY
ASSOCIATION: OUR AIMS AND OBJECTS.
AVING chosen “Past and Future Papers of the
Library Association " as the subject for my paper to-day, I should have liked if possible to have devoted myself to a perusal of the papers contained in the volumes already published, drawing attention to the more remarkable existing contributions, and making such extracts as would sufficiently indicate the result of past studies. But want of time rendered this impossible ; and indeed, in one respect, I do not regret it; for I feel that there is a more important aspect of the question, which should engage our attention to-day, viz., the underlying principles affecting the choice of subjects for consideration at our annual meetings.
Nor do I speak without reason. In recent years the Council and the Hon. Secretary have not unfrequently experienced considerable difficulty in obtaining a sufficient number of offers of suitable papers—both for the annual and the monthly meetings. There are many reasons by which we might account for the fact. Some might suggest that the times were moving slowly; the cynic might suggest that we were moving behind the times. Others may refer us to the fact that librarians have little time in which to read, still less in which to write-and here is without doubt a real cause, and indeed one of the chief causes.
But there are, I am convinced, other reasons, viz., that we have not sufficiently considered the principles affecting the subject ; we do not allow our thoughts to travel sufficiently far afield; we are apt to put off the day when we choose our subjects till it is too late to study them; we do not take the subject seriously enough, and are easily
1 Read at the Annual Meeting of the Library Association, Southport, September, 1898.
inclined at the last moment with charming humility to transfer our responsibilities to our neighbours.
AREA OF STUDY UNNECESSARILY RESTRICTED.
In alluding to the principles of the subject, one of the drawbacks of the past, especially in recent years, has been the almost unconscious tendency to restrict the area of the subject-matter of papers offered to too narrow an horizon.
There has been an inclination to consider that the papers at our meetings must necessarily concern our own libraries, that they must be subjects regarding our own personal experience, and that when once a subject has appeared on our lists, its further discussion must necessarily be stale and unprofitable.
I am sure, however, that directly the question is definitely put, it will be generally agreed that the principles of our Association are not so circumscribed. It is right that the subject should if possible be a practical one, and one worthy of discussion, but it is not necessary that it should always concern our own libraries, nor our own experience, nor even our own country. It is not necessary that the subject should always be a new one, nor that it should always be an entertaining subject for our light amusement. It is right and natural that the work and working of our own libraries should engage our primary consideration. But we have also to remember that the members of this Association are not isolated factors connected with the institution alone of free libraries in the larger towns. We have to do with the great cause of education and culture throughout the whole country, and with the collection and dissemination of all knowledge ; and it is only through the additional study of the broader and the wider issues that we shall understand the narrower issues aright in their due proportion.
If, then, we are agreed as to the principle of a liberal policy in the choice of subjects, we have made a good commencement. We have next to recognise the fact that the subjects for our annual meetings fall into two divisions :
I. Those of permanent Periodical Interest.
SUBJECTS OF PERMANENT INTEREST. There are certain well-defined subjects of permanent interest which should ever engage the mind of the Association ; which we should keep before us at all times; and on which we should have officially appointed reporters.
The Indian Government in the Annual General Administration Reports has certain standard chapters of reference which are re-written up-to-date every ten years. In our case it is necessary to revise our knowledge up-to-date every year.
Firstly, we require An Annual Report on the General Progress of the Free Library Movement, and giving the number of towns or municipal districts as yet unprovided with libraries.
Secondly, remembering that education and culture were two of the fundamental objects of the original library movement, we require an Annual Report Relative to Lectures held (or not held) in connection with libraries throughout the country, with details as to the facilities for lectures and literary gatherings at each library.
Owing to the increased interest and the exertions of the Library Association (and let it be said owing also to the praiseworthy efforts of library - assistants themselves) in the matter of the Training of Librarians, this subject may now be said to have established itself as one on which a very special Annual Report will always be furnished.
Our attention is next attracted by library work beyond the seas, and it is of course of the highest importance that we should keep ourselves acquainted with the doings of our brother librarians in other parts of the world. If they have a new idea of importance we wish to know it. If they have a new library appliance we wish to prove it. If they have issued new works of reference we wish to obtain them. If they are successful we wish to follow their successes; and if they experience failure we wish to avoid it.
And yet at present how little are we able to learn concerning library work in foreign countries. It has been the greatest hindrance to me in my own investigations, not being able to obtain any summary of library work in other countries, and I am sure the same difficulty must often have been felt by others.
We should not, therefore, rest content without obtaining :
An Annual Report on Library Work in America ;
An Annual Report on Library Work in Europe. These, then, are the subjects which it would seem advisable to continue or introduce as matters requiring permanent annual reports at our annual meetings. It is probable that other subjects of similar importance may occur to those present. But at least it will be, I think, agreed that the ones enumerated are second to none in importance.
We turn next to the consideration of subjects of more occasional interest. I have alluded to our difficulties in recent years in regard to the supply of papers. But if we consider for a moment we shall see that this is only natural, for the conditions do not exist which are necessary to facilitate the production of papers.
In the work of our Association there is one fundamental need. We require to know what has already been written before we can adequately write fresh papers. Members naturally shrink from attempting a subject unless they can easily and speedily inform themselves of what has gone before, and while the existing list and classified index has been of considerable service, it is certain that we can never make real progress until we print a classed catalogue of all the papers contributed in the past. Such a catalogue will have a twofold value; for besides showing us what has been done, it will show us what has not been done, and will thus prove of great suggestive value. And I trust also that before our next meeting we shall have initiated the annual issue of a classed catalogue giving titles and summaries of all papers read before the Library Associations of this country, America and Australia.
In order to illustrate this part of my paper and facilitate our work in the future, I have drawn out a preliminary SUBJECT ANALYSIS, which shows what a great variety of subjects have already occupied the attention of this Associa