Page:Essays in librarianship and bibliography.djvu/81

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PUBLIC LIBRARIES AND THEIR CATALOGUES

permit us to dwell upon many other points connected with the working of this ingenious scheme, which, if inapplicable to the great old libraries whose catalogues, like the Abbe Vertot's siege, are already done, deserves the most careful consideration on the part of the founders of new institutions. It must, as the inventor admits, receive some modification in practice from the impossibility of accommodating books of all sizes upon the same shelf; it is only to be feared that these and similar necessary condescensions to the prosaic exigencies of space might in process of time throw it out of gear altogether. Space is the librarian's capital enemy, and the more cruel as it turns his own weapons against himself. The more ample the catalogue, the more liberal the expenditure, the more comprehensive the classification, the greater, sooner or later, are the difficulties from lack of space. It is not too early to direct the earnest attention of the public to the question of the accommodation of the national library. The pressure upon its capacity, now merely beginning to be felt, will soon become serious. It cannot from the nature of the case be divided or dispersed; books required by readers must be within reach of the Reading Room, or they might as well be nowhere. If the library does not receive its fair share of the space about to be vacated by the Natural History departments, the consequence will most assuredly be, first some years of confusion and deadlock as regards all new acquisitions, and then a large expenditure, superfluous with better management, upon new