A Library Primer (1899)/Chapter XXXVI
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Chapter XXXVI, The librarian as a host
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Each librarian needs to have an ideal for society; must have before him an end of which his work will be only a part.
It is the peculiar position of the librarian to be so situated that with the consent of his trustees he may, simply by virtue of his office, be able to draw about him more of the elements of usefulness than almost any other person. Even a librarian who is a stranger is not taking matters unduly into his own hands in immediately availing himself of this privilege, for he is placed in the community where he can bring together those who have something to give and those who wish to receive. His invitation is non-partisan, non-sectarian, and without social distinctions.
The object of this article upon the librarian as a host is to suggest methods of usefulness for the community through the forms of entertainment at the disposal of the librarian. A surprising number of people, not having attractive surroundings, and not having unbounded resources within themselves, lead dull lives. The theater is expensive, sometimes not available, often not attractive, and one of the attractions of a library evening will be that it is "some place to go," but does no violence either to their scruples or their ideas of economy. Many who will not identify themselves with clubs, from an aversion to organization, will appreciate the freedom from it here, for there will be no officers, no rules, no fees.
If there is no especial note that the librarian thinks it would be well to sound, he may let it be known that the first of a series of entertainments to be given by the library, at the library, will be, for instance, a talk upon the Child in History, Our American Illustrators, or some attractive subject.
There are always a number of specialists, even in small places, who can contribute liberally to these plans, thus relieving the librarian of any real work beyond that of planning, while it accomplishes the double purpose of engaging the interest of the speaker in the work of the library, and of furnishing the entertainment for others. The following suggestions, which have been prepared for the work of a small library, will give a more definite idea of the plan.
Very often there will be found some one who, having a special fondness for one school of art, has made a collection of reproductions of its famous works in photographs, casts or engravings, who will willingly loan them for the illustration of a talk upon this theme, even if not quite as willingly giving the talk himself.
A beautiful program for a musical evening would consist of the conversation or paper upon a certain musical form, such as the opera, symphony, or perhaps dance music, being illustrated and varied by the performance of examples of those forms. The organized musical clubs could here be of the greatest service in taking charge of the whole entertainment.
An enthusiasm for a work or this kind may be somewhat crushed out by the press of regular duties, but the librarian may be greatly helped by the coöperation of organized clubs. Musical societies, Saengerbunds, the Elks, Daughters of the Revolution, and other societies are constantly preparing excellent entertainments, which it is hoped they will be willing to reproduce for those who have either not the leisure or the inclination to study. Such a movement does not in any way divert the energies of the library from their original aims, but is only another means of enhancing their efficacy. The resources of the library upon each of the subjects presented can be made known in many ways familiar to the librarian, such as posted lists, bulletins, and by the mention of them in the talks.
Upon a night which the librarian might consider of interest to them, special invitations may be sent to the different organized societies of working people, such as the retail clerks, labor unions, etc, who might not include themselves readily in a general published invitation.
It has been generally observed that more people are willing to read than know what to read, and are always glad of help in selection.
The originality of the librarian will develop many themes and schemes, and the work itself will doubtless show new veins which may be followed up. It may be that not many will avail themselves of any one invitation, but with a constant change of topic and manner of presentation, there cannot fail to be a great number, eventually, whose attention will be enlisted.