Page:Essays in librarianship and bibliography.djvu/61

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PUBLIC LIBRARIES AND THEIR CATALOGUES

common end, and mutually completing each other. Such a system was supposed to have been inaugurated at Oxford, although we have only heard of two colleges which are actually working it out—Worcester, with its deliberate and most laudable bent towards classical archaeology; and All Souls', whose noble collection of law books might, if law were more scientifically taught in this country, contribute to make Oxford a great school of jurisprudence. Some of the other college libraries, it is to be feared, justify the philippic which Mr. Ernest Thomas, at the Oxford Conference, clenched with this climax of scornful reference to a flagrant case, "The librarian receives only ten pounds a year, and I am sorry to say that even that is too much."

The municipal librarian has his peculiar difficulties. His means are seldom large, and out of them he has frequently to provide for branch libraries, involving numerous duplicates. He has to study not only what his public wants, but what it thinks it wants; not only to make ready for guests, but to "compel them to come in." This raises the difficult question how far the taste for fiction should be condescended to in free libraries. We cannot agree with those who think that public money may be properly expended upon trashy novels, in the chimerical hope that the appetite for reading they will probably create may be devoted to worthier objects. It is far more likely to destroy any latent capacity for serious reading which a more judicious treatment might possibly have