A Library Primer (1899)/Chapter VI
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Chapter VI, The librarian
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If circumstances permit, the librarian should be engaged even before the general character of the library and plan of administration have been determined upon. If properly selected, he or she will be a person of experience in these matters, and will be able to give valuable advice. Politics, social considerations, church sympathies, religious prejudices, family relationship—none of these should be allowed to enter into his selection. Secure an efficient officer, even at what may seem at first a disproportionate expense. Save money in other ways, but never by employing a forceless man or woman in the position of chief librarian.
Recent developments of schools of library economy, and recent rapid growth of public libraries throughout the country, have made it possible for any new library to secure good material for a librarian. If lack of funds or other conditions make it necessary to employ some local applicant, it will be wise to insist that that person, if not already conversant with library economy, shall immediately become informed on the subject. It will not be easy, it may not be possible, for trustees to inform themselves as to library organization and administration. They can, however, with very little difficulty, so far inform themselves as to be able to judge whether the person they select for their chief officer is taking pains to acquaint himself with the literature of the subject, or trying to get in touch with the knowledge and experience of others. They should not submit for a moment to ignorance or indifference on the part of their chosen administrator. Success or failure of a library, as of a business, depends on the ability of the man or woman at its head, and only trained men and women should be in charge. The business of the librarian is a profession, and a practical knowledge of the subject is never so much needed as in starting a new enterprise.
The librarian should have culture, scholarship, and executive ability. He should keep always in advance of his community, and constantly educate it to make greater demands upon him. He should be a leader and a teacher, earnest, enthusiastic, and intelligent. He should be able to win the confidence of children, and wise to lead them by easy steps from good books to the best. He has the greatest opportunity of any teacher in the community. He should be the teacher of teachers. He should make the library a school for the young, a college for adults, and the constant center of such educational activity as will make wholesome and inspiring themes the burden of the common thought. He should be enough of a bookworm to have a decided taste and fondness for books, and at the same time not enough to be such a recluse as loses sight of the point of view of those who know little of books.
As the responsible head of the institution, he should be consulted in all matters relating to its management. The most satisfactory results are obtained in those libraries where the chief librarian is permitted to appoint assistants, select books, buy supplies, make regulations, and decide methods of cataloging, classifying, and lending; all subject to the approval of the trustees. Trustees should impose responsibility, grant freedom, and exact results.
To the librarian himself one may say: Be punctual; be attentive; help develop enthusiasm in your assistants; be neat and consistent in your dress; be dignified but courteous in your manner. Be careful in your contracts; be square with your board; be concise and technical; be accurate; be courageous and self-reliant; be careful about acknowledgments; be not worshipful of your work; be careful of your health. Last of all, be yourself.