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It would follow, then, that the various departments of knowledge, as distinct from those of amusement or intellectual incitement, are drawn upon in only one case out of every five, in which this lower library is used [see Appendixes VIII and XV].
I dwelt upon this large percentage of the use of fiction in my last Report, and of the conclusions then reached, I refer for confirmation to the full returns from other libraries, as given in the Appendixes, the result of which may be concisely stated as follows: the proportion of the use of fiction in any popular collection will increase in direct relation to the extent with which it is provided, so that one-third to one-half the yearly increase being such, the use will be two thirds to three-quarters; and a constantly growing proportion of the increase being such will in inverse ratio reduce all other classes of reading until they reach the infinitesimal degree. The question of the use or abuse of fiction is not to be dismissed summarily in either direction; and with the conclusions of the Examining Committee I fully agree.
6. CLASSES OF USERS.
I gave last year some results from a partial examination of the record of applicants as to the classes and occupations of people using the Library, an inquiry very necessary to the full understanding of the work we are doing. In Appendix XIX will be found in tabular form the classifications of over 11,000 users, being the applicants of last year, the first under the new registration. It will be seen that women, grown or growing, constitute 46 per cent. of the whole, though among this number there are doubtless some who, as mothers, had become responsible for cards to be used by children under sixteen.
Our classifications do not run sufficiently parallel with those of the users of the English free libraries, the only ones publishing similar tables, to enable us to make any satisfactory comparisons; but while at Manchester the feminine names on
their enrolment list seem to make but 11 per cent. of the whole, with us, as has been before stated, it is 46 per cent. In the reference library at Manchester, the female users seem to be less than 1 per cent. of the whole. At the Blackburn Library, they are reckoned at 16 per cent. As nearly as can be ascertained, what may be called the educated classes form 10 per cent. of our users, including women, and not including any of the 37 per cent. of the whole number, male and female, who gave no occupation. This educated class at Manchester forms 4 per cent. of their total number; with them also the class of artisans, mechanics, working-men and laborers form 38 per cent., and with us 17 per cent. But at best, these comparisons with the data at hand are not very satisfactory; and the list in the Appendix must be taken as indicative of our own experience alone, without comparing it with that of others.
An examination of the tables in the Appendix will show conclusively that the frequenters of general and popular collections are most largely of the younger and even youthful years. Every decade of life seems to decrease the frequency of readers resorting to libraries, in larger ratio, probably, than the diminishing numbers of each successive decade.
7. PERIODICAL READING ROOM.
The table in Appendix XVI shows a gratifying increase of use in this department of the Library. The number of periodicals kept in the room is now nearly 300, those of a scientific and professional character being much the largest class; and nearly one-third of the whole number being in foreign tongues.
The number of readers for the year (91,674) is 65 per cent. more than two years ago; and nearly 20 per cent. more than last year.
There were times in September last when every available seat was occupied, which is, I suspect, an augury of still greater use during the coming winter.
8. LOSSES AND DELINQUENTS.
It is gratifying that the year's record, as given in Appendix XVII, shows a still diminishing loss from the unfaithfulness of borrowers. Of the 200,000 volumes taken from the building, all but twenty were returned, or one in every ten thousand. Over 13,000 were kept by borrowers over the prescribed fortnight; but all but 511 of these brought their books back on notice being given them through the mail, and from these 511, our messengers recovered 491, leaving the twenty before-mentioned as unrecoverable. I do not think any library in the world, running our hazards, can show anything like so good a record.
Our persistent efforts to recover a missing book, irrespective of its pecuniary value, and simply because it is the property of the city in our keeping, has I think taught our frequenters to share in this proper respect for our trusts. What is greatly regarded by the guardians of the property will necessarily secure respect from others; and this I believe to be the true philosophy of library protection, rather than striking a balance between property saved in a money sense and the cost of saving it, which always leads to mutual demoralization, as failing to be a right deed for its own sake. I have gladly received confirmation of this principle from Sir Redmond Barry, one of the trustees of the Public Library of Melbourne, in a letter touching this point of bibliothecal policy. "It has been proved by experience in our library that the books most handsomely bound have lasted and are still in good condition; while others in common cheap covers, subject to a similar amount of handling, have been repaired and three times rebound. The readers have more interest in, pay more respect to, and take more care of a volume somewhat handsomely bound than of a book in a shabby cover. Such a feeling communicates itself to others, and generates a tone of respectful behaviour, which marks in a conspicuous manner those
who habitually resort to the Library." With good judgment, as I think, they have applied at Melbourne the same principle to their furniture, and with equally good results. "Although supposed at first to be of too expensive a kind," says the same communication, "it is now admitted that this description of furniture has, in conjunction with other things, produced a perceptible effect in the general conduct of the visitors. The furniture in constant use for eleven years is in perfectly good order, without a scratch or stain."
I think in our Lower Hall delivery room, we have much to contend with in its dismal light and hard benches, which do not inspire the people who come to it with the same respect that a cheerfuller and more sightly apartment might, and that our books suffer the more for it. They reckon at Melbourne that a hundred thousand visitors (they do not lend their books) will cause on the average about a pound sterling dimage, or that six hundred thousand in six years have caused loss to a less amount than seven pounds sterling. I wish we could show as good a report, although as a circulating library it might not be possible. We do what we can to keep our Lower Hall books presentable with fresh covers of paper, 24,000 of these having been put on during the year. Paper dealers sometimes ask me to adopt their stouter paper, as having better wear. They do not know that the paper we use will hold together as long as it will keep clean, and we do not wish it to last longer.
The number of volumes condemned for this year (261) is very nearly the same as for the last, and will not be found excessive in view of the wear and tear which the books of the Lower Hall (for it is almost wholly there) receive. The last report of the Cincinnati Library says that their loss in this way is "astonishingly small for some reason"; which reason, however, would seem clear enough in the fact that two-thirds of their readers are over age, owing to a rule that requires a minor to bring a request from his parent before a volume of fiction will be delivered
to him! It does seem rather strange that a man of twenty should have to bring his father's permit before he is allowed to read a volume of Ivanhoe !
The guaranty of presumably responsible citizens does not wholly protect the English libraries. Out of a circulation last year at the Birmingham Central Branch of 176,000, fifteen books were lost by default of both borrowers and guarantors.
Press of work on the minor catalogues of the Library has not rendered it possible to begin the printing of the third volume of the Bates Hall catalogue, as I had hoped for; and it is doubtful whether, with increasing demands upon the cataloguing department, much progress can be made during the coming year. When completed, it will contain a large part of the pamphlet collection which we have been binding; and in the cataloguing of these, some departure has been made from previous custom, for the purpose of condensation, and to avoid as much as possible swelling the volume with titles which will have few searchers for them, however valuable to the collection. Instead of treating each pamphlet of a bound volume separately, as if it were a book by itself, the volume has been treated as a whole, the entry being made under the author or subject—just as one or the other was the bond of union between the pamphlets with full cross-references from a table of contents. The gain in compactness more and more necessary as our library increases—was thought to warrant a departure from the principles so well laid down by my predecessor in his manual on catalogue work. Our system, in its general features, and in the mechanical execution of our printed volumes, has seemed to commend itself to other libraries, and has been adopted during the year by the mercantile libraries of Boston and Philadelphia; is deemed worthy of following at the library of the Board of Trade, Whitehall, London; and the conservator of the printed