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The author of the Memoir, however, is not so chimerical as to expect that circumstances will soon be propitious to the adoption and realization of this universal scheme; and therefore makes use of this much more limited suggestion, viz., that if a Society, such as he has supposed, were established for Great Britain and Ireland, there might in twenty years be instituted a library for every 524 persons, taking the population at 20,000,000; and in twenty-five years, for every 294 persons. The latter, he says, would be a complete supply for the wants of the whole population; and since the principal object of these Itinerating libraries is to promote the knowledge and influence of religion, they would possess much of the nature of a Home Missionary Institution; while in our colonies and in new settlements the system would be of prodigious advantage. So much for the Self-Productive principle, according to Mr. Brown. But even this is not all.
There is in the system "a principle of Permanency." This results from the same cause as that which produces their self-extension, viz. the contribution from each library of 25s. or 30s. a year. If the machinery were once fairly set in motion, it would by this means, it is argued, perpetuate itself. If the system be self-productive, it must be self-perpetuating. "Both are the results of a principle similar to that by which the great Creator has provided for the extension and perpetuation of the different races of animals and vegetables in the world."
Having for some considerable space allowed Mr. Brown to have all the talk to himself, let us now turn to the suggestions and arguments of the author of the Plan for local libraries.
I cannot perceive, says the American writer, that the term selfproduction is applicable to the system of Itinerating libraries more than to any branch of trade, where the income is sufficient to pay the interest and make good the capital, by the time of its exhaustion. It is a term, at any rate, that cannot be applied to Itinerating more than to Local libraries, the income of which would be equivalent to the reimbursement of the capital. Nor is the principle of permanency of a more peculiar nature. Any system of libraries will be permanent where there is an annual expenditure for books sufficient to support the system. Libraries will probably command an income equivalent to their value; but a system of libraries must be attended with labour and expense. The self-extension and the self-production of the itinerating system are no more similar to the self-extension and the self-production of different races of the animal and the vegetable kingdoms, than the extension and production of the fence which encloses the plantations of the farmer are similar to the spontaneous growth of trees from their own germinating
As to the comparative cheapness of the Itinerating and the Local systems, this point receives a particular examination.
That the comparative advantages of both systems, at the same expense, may appear in the strongest light, the American writer confines his remarks on their relative value by an application to a single parish. On the system of Itinerating libraries, as they are removed once in two years, and as they are stated to last 20 years, there would be ten removals. While, therefore, not more than 50 volumes remain in a station, in 20 years 500 volumes are circulated through each station; the expense of which to each station may be only 25s. or 30s. per annum. Whether the cost of books would be greater or less in America than in Scotland, the relative value of the two systems will be sustained, by supposing the expense to be the same. It is stated by Mr. Brown that £10 will purchase 50 volumes; therefore 25s. would purchase something more than 6 volumes; therefore a Local library in 20 years, at the expense of 25s. per annum would amount to 125 volumes. At first view, a Local library appears to disadvantage. But the advantages of an Itinerating library will grow less when it is considered that the majority of subscribers will not, probably, read more than two thirds or three fourths of the volumes before they are removed to another station; perhaps not more than one half of the 50 volumes would be read by a large proportion of the subscribers in two years. According to the results described of the system in Haddington, only about one ninth of the volumes were read by the subscribers in two years. A pressure of business, of sickness, as well as absence from home, may deprive subscribers of an opportunity to read; or the books may be in the hands of other subscribers, a circumstance which may very frequently happen among a dense population, where there are only 50 volumes in a library. As those books only which subscribers have an opportunity to read are of any value to them, one third or one fourth of an Itinerating library, in estimating the comparative value, must be deducted. If one third of 500 volumes be deducted, which would be circulated in a station, in twenty years there will remain about 333 volumes; and if one-fourth, there will remain 375 volumes.
But the books of a Local library could be perused at leisure; if circumstances prevented the reading of them at one time, they could be read at another. The books might be lent to subscribers for a longer time than the books of an Itinerating library. The majority of volumes would deserve to be read twice or thrice. Other comparative advantages for people in sickness, or requiring a particular book, are stated as belonging to a Local library.
The author of the Local plan goes on to reduce the odds as to the number of volumes read between the two systems, and also as to the cheapness of the schemes, until he thinks he has clearly
proved the one he proposes to be superior. We pass over not a few of his drier calculations, in order to give an abstract of some curious and obviously sensible suggestions.
There are works, he observes, such as commentaries on the Bible, to which people wish to have constant access. Itinerating libraries could never regularly supply such standard books; and it is doubtful whether by Local libraries the desideratum could be satisfactorily contrived. Still, suppose that in one parish ten families expended 12 dollars each for the purchase of Scott's Bible, this would amount to 120 dollars for the ten families. If each Bible consisted of six volumes, there would be sixty volumes; which, if deposited in a library, would furnish sixty families with one volume each, and thirty families with two volumes. Each family, at the expense of two dollars, could keep one volume on hand, and the ten families would be at the expense of only 20 dollars instead of 120. If one volume should not be adequate to the demands of a family, perhaps three volumes would; and then the expense would be lessened one half. On the Local system, the agent could consult the wishes of the subscribers, and supply them with such volumes and books as they required.
The population of America is migratory, and increasing with almost unexampled rapidity. If Itinerating libraries should be preferable among the more dense and stationary communities of Europe, yet they may not be adapted to the New World.
A prominent advantage in any country in favour of Local libraries, is, that a larger edition of the same work could be published or purchased on this system, than on that of Itinerating libraries. Mr. Brown speaks of the advantages which would accrue to the system he recommends, from publishing a large edition of the same work, saying," he should not wonder though the price of the books should be gradually reduced to a half or a fourth of what they cost at the commencement of the scheme." But whatever great advantages might attend the Itinerating system from the publication of books, the advantages of a similar kind resulting from the Local plan, it is asserted, would be ten times greater. If Itinerating libraries should be commenced in 1000 stations, they could command the publication or purchase of only 100 copies of the same work, because every station must have different books. But Local libraries could publish as many copies of a work as there were stations; and one thousand stations could command an edition of one thousand copies at the least.
The value of works is often increased by-it often principally depends on the earliness of the information which they communicate. This is especially the case with periodicals. They give information chiefly of the events that are transpiring at the time of their publication. Most of what has occurred a considerable length
of time back ceases to interest. Although many of the books selected for a library ought never to lose their interest, yet there are others which awaken the greatest curiosity immediately on their publication. Such are travels, memoirs, &c. At different times, public attention is occupied by different subjects. Doctrines have their eras. Now, on the plan of Local libraries, books could be speedily circulated; while on the other system one half of the stations could not receive the books, till from ten to twenty years had elapsed after their publication.
Of two projected models for improvement in machinery, that one would be preferable, ceteris paribus, which should be most susceptible of still further improvement. In many inventions important alterations and modifications are suggested after they are carried into operation. Apply this principle to libraries. There is a stiffness in the Itinerating system; if you bend it you break it. The other plan would be more pliant and plastic, especially in America, the proper soil for the growth and development of individuality, of talent, and new enterprize.
In forming some estimate of the expense which a parish would incur in establishing a library, there ought to be taken into account its influence with whatever is calculated to improve the mind and Let it therefore receive that consideration and patronage which, among other objects of utility, its relative importance demands.
Would the expense of a library be extravagant and disproportioned, if a parish, which paid a salary to their minister of five or six hundred dollars per annum, and some ten or fifteen hundred for the education of their children, should subscribe one or two hundred per annum for the support of a library? Certainly an expense of 258. yearly would bear but a very small proportion to the relative importance of libraries.
It would add greatly to the influence of the Local system, the author of the Plan thinks, were the librarians to become agents to obtain subscribers; and a part of the income might be paid to them for their labour. On the system of Itinerating libraries, it is proposed for the librarians to act gratuitously. But there seems to be no good reason why such functionaries should labour without remuneration, while the subscribers were deriving important benefits from their labours. A librarian might be as unable to devote his time gratuitously as the subscribers to pay. But if he should be able, it is doubtful whether he would be sufficiently interested in the prosperity of the library, without a remuneration for his toil and trouble.
With regard to donations or contributions, and also the furnishing the poor with the privileges of Local libraries, it is supposed that enough might be obtained to defray the expenses of the com
mittee and agent, if not likewise to pay a part of the expenses of the books; while with respect to supplying the poor, it is urged that this ought to be a primary consideration. Parishes could furnish their own needy portion of the people with the privileges of the libraries; they could adopt such regulations as would suit their particular condition, and carry into practical effect a fine yet simple scheme of charity.
The success of a Local system of libraries would depend, in a great measure, on its adaptation to answer the wishes of the community, and to attract general patronage. But differences of opinion, and the various prejudices of different religious societies, must be taken into the calculation; and which would probably prevent in many instances agreement with regard to the choice of particular books, unless some wise and obviously fair arrangements were devised. At the same time it is not likely that a community would be generally opposed to a scheme so far as its object was to promote education in human knowledge. Then, with respect to religious instruction, different societies might be supplied with such books as they may desire. Leading men of different sects, it is suggested by our author, should belong to the committee, and such books as they might approve of would be acceptable to persons of their own persuasion.
One thing more respecting the accommodation of the principles of the Local system to the wishes of all. Some persons have a taste for reading works of the imagination; others prefer philosophical works. Some incline to one department of study, and others to another. The inquiry is, could not the books which compose a library be arranged in different classes, so that people might subscribe for the privilege of taking out of one class or more, as they might be disposed, and without subscribing for a share in the whole library? Books may be arranged in different classes; and such a distribution, although involving a more complex manner of conducting a library, yet there is nothing unintelligible or necessarily confused in the principle of it. Quite the contrary. One reason why books belonging to a collection remain on the shelves uncalled for is, that the subscribers have no inclination to read them. But if they subscribed only for the class which was to their taste, there would be no room for the complaint referred to.
Having now given an account and an abstract both of the Itinerating and of the Local schemes,-of that described by Mr. Brown, and the other by an American propounder, we shall add a few sentences upon the character and importance of libraries.
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