A Library Primer (1899)/Chapter X
|←Chapter IX, Things needed in beginning work||A Library Primer by
Chapter X, The Library Bureau
|Chapter XI, Selecting books→|
The consideration of the relations of the Library Bureau to libraries brings us back to the organization of the American Library Association in 1876. At this gathering of the prominent librarians of the country, the discussion of methods brought out the lack of unanimity in, and the need of coöperation for, a uniform system in the various branches of library work. To carry out uniform methods requires uniform material, and this was hard to obtain. The American Library Association as such, of course, could not take up a business venture of this kind, but it was decided to advise an organization for keeping on sale such supplies and library aids as the association might decide were needed.
The Library Bureau was then organized for this purpose, and has continued to keep the same relation toward the library association as was originally intended. Referring to the numbers of the Library Bureau catalogs, one may trace the history of the development not only of the appliances furnished by the Library Bureau, but also of ideas of library economy as they are gathered there from every source. It confined its attention at first to libraries only, the business being divided into four departments: employment, to bring together libraries and librarians; consultation, to give expert advice on any phase of any library question; publication, to publish the various needed helps (from point of usefulness to libraries rather than profit to publishers); supply, to furnish at lower prices all articles recommended by the A. L. A., and to equip any library with best known devices in everything needful. Among the things noticed in these departments are catalog cards, cases, trays, and outfits, book supports, blanks, book pockets, boxes, desks, inks, etc. Some specialties are noted in library devices, and helpful advice as to their economical use is given. The successive catalogs follow the same line, attention being directed toward all improvements in old material, and to all advanced work in library administration wherever found. Not all the material recommended was manufactured by the Library Bureau, but a generous spirit is shown in recommending any device, plan, or publication known to be helpful to the library profession. It has brought to notice many notable contributions to library literature, such as the Author table, by C. A. Cutter, of the Boston athenæum; Decimal classification and relative index and Library notes, by Melvil Dewey; Library journal; Library school rules; Perkins' manual; Linderfelt's rules; Sargent's Reading for the young; Lists of books for different clubs; Subject headings of A. L. A., etc. The Library Bureau catalog itself is one of the best library aids ever published. These catalogs have always been sent free to library workers.
Libraries grew in numbers and size largely because of the enthusiasm of earnest workers, but very frequently with hardly enough financial assistance to warrant more than the purchase of a few books, and frequently with limited knowledge of how to make the small store of use to the waiting public. The management of the Library Bureau at this time was certainly doing a missionary work; but its chief problem was the financial one, or how to make both ends meet, and it was not until library methods were introduced into business houses that this question was solved. The constant and untiring efforts of the management of the Library Bureau toward the assistance and upbuilding of the smaller and younger libraries have had much to do with the growth of library sentiment, which is now so apparent on every hand, and indirectly this knowledge of library work and library methods has done much to enlarge the facilities of the Library Bureau.
From a very unpretentious concern, publishing a few library aids, manufacturing such library devices as could not be obtained elsewhere, and keeping for sale a few articles of library furnishing, the Library Bureau has grown to be a corporation of no small proportions, having numerous branches both in this country and Europe, maintaining a card factory, cabinet works in Boston and Chicago, and facilities for the manufacture of steel stacks unexcelled in this country.
The Library Bureau, however, has never forgotten the cause of its birth or the teachings of its youth, as is clearly evidenced from year to year by the various undertakings and publications which a careful observer can clearly see are not put forward with any presage of success when viewed entirely from a business standpoint. This lesson is constantly taught to the employés of the Library Bureau, and they are positively instructed that, regardless of the promise of success in other directions, the attention to library requirements is the first demand.
The Library Bureau maintains at its various offices persons thoroughly versed in library economy, for the express purpose of furnishing detailed information and aid to those younger members of the profession whom they have the pleasure and opportunity of assisting over the stumbling-blocks in their daily work. With this same idea in view it publishes from the Chicago office a monthly magazine called Public Libraries, of an elementary character, which is entertaining, instructive, and inspiring, and helps to encourage a sentiment favorable to public libraries and to make librarianship a profession of high standing.