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PUBLIC LIBRARY, BOSTON, November 29, 1869. His Honor Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, Mayor of the City of Boston:

SIR: I have the honor to transmit to you, herewith, the Seventeenth Annual Report of the Trustees of the Public Library, prepared in obedience to the fourth section of the Ordinance relative to the Public Library, passed on the 20th of October, 1863.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Secretary of the Board of Trustees.




IN conformity with the requirements of an Ordinance concerning the Public Library, passed 20th October, 1863, the Trustees have the honor to present to the City Council their seventeenth annual


The year just past has witnessed a marked increase of the active usefulness of the institution. It has drawn to itself more visitors of all classes of either sex, and the circulation of its books has been materially enlarged. It has attained a more fully recognized rank among the libraries of the world. For the detail of proofs of these statements, reference must be made to the Reports of the Examining Committee (Appendix A), and of the Superintendent (Appendix B). The Trustees commend both these documents to the special attention of the City Council on account of the interest and importance of the opinions and facts therein contained. In view, also, of their fulness, it is hardly desirable to duplicate here tables and figures so accurately set forth elsewhere.

The Examining Committee for the present year has consisted of Sidney Bartlett, Esq., Rev. Henry Burroughs, Jr., Patrick Donahoe, Esq., B. Joy Jeffries, M. D., and Robert M. Mason, Esq., with Edwin P. Whipple, Esq., of the Board of Trustees, as Chairman. To one point of their well-considered and carefully drawn report, public attention should be particularly directed.

They have strongly expressed the want, so long felt by the Trustees, of an increased permanent endowment of the institution. This would enable it from time to time to purchase libraries offered for sale, and for which special means are unprovided. The Trustees cannot reasonably ask such provision from the city government, already so attentive to the possible needs of administration at the period of its annual appropriations; and the gathering of a larger fund, to be used solely for the purchase of books, can be only obtained by an appeal to the liberality of our citizens. Libraries, however, like our own, and the Liverpool Free Library, based upon private munificence, and " supplemented, encouraged, and supported" by the intelligent action of the city government, afford no ground to their managers of want of confidence in the future. In proportion as a great charity is useful, it is the more likely to receive increase.

In the Report of the Superintendent will be found collected the information needed by the community relative to all the departments of the Library, showing how largely they are employed, and how carefully and minutely they are supervised. It is valuable also to other cities and towns enjoying or preparing to enjoy similar privileges. The friendly relations established with so many kindred institutions at home and abroad have already proved advantageous; and it is a just subject of pride to find the example of this city respected and followed by so many others. Indeed, the Report may be said to be a treatise upon the condition of our own and of other libraries, forming an important contribution to a new department of literature, the science of management of popular libraries. It will render bibliographical and practical aid to a class of young men and women, now much desired in libraries, to whom the special education needed for such positions had been heretofore entirely beyond reach.

The change in administration, whereby the Library should not be closed for the purpose of the annual examination, which was

under consideration at the time of the last annual Report, has since been arranged, and the Trustees have been enabled to keep it open during the whole of the year. So far, the new system has worked successfully, but the condition of the books. at the end of three or four years will more surely indicate the safety of the plan than can be ascertained from our present limited experience. Through successive shelf examinations of both halls, yearly averages will be obtained which will probably be sufficiently minute for all practical purposes. The mode of inspection, as carried out during the present year, affords strong ground for continuance, and the increased accommodation to the public is a sure incentive to our officers to endeavor to secure its unquestioned success. Under the new ordinance, going into effect on the 1st of January next, opportunity will be given before the lapse of a year to make another examination, and there now seems little doubt that the second trial of the system will strengthen the favorable conclusions of the first. It must, however, be borne in mind that the Boston Public Library is the only great library where such a process has ever been attempted.

By the success of this innovation, it will secure a further step towards its full measure of usefulness. There is reason to believe that no public library on either continent is open so many days in the year, and so many hours in the week, with such large powers of use within the walls of the building, and with so few restrictions to borrowers. So long as the losses and injurious treatment of books bear so small a percentage to the whole number circulated or used in the reading halls, it would seem unnecessary either to insist upon a pecuniary deposit or guarantee, or to adopt the English system of one or more respectable householders as sureties. While the community continues to respond in the same measure as at present to the liberality with which books are confided to its hands and homes, the Library can justly continue the free bestowal of its privileges. The present reference system, without pecuniary responsibility,

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