Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 51.djvu/254
244 POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
familiar theory tliat the state, would it insure its own continn- ance, must see that all its citizens have access to the stores, in books, of knowledge and wisdom. It must be open to its public ; it must invite its public ; it must attract its public ; it must please its public all to the end that it may educate its public.
The old-time library was simply a storehouse of treasures. There were few to read books ; there were few books to be read, and those few were procured at great cost of labor and time. They could be replaced when lost or stolen only with great diffi- culty, if at all, and they were guarded with exceeding care. With the cheapening of book-producing processes the reasons for this extreme safe-guarding of books disappeared. Its spirit, however, is still active. Several causes have combined to keep it alive. Even to this day there are a few books, relatively very few, which are of great value and can be replaced only with extreme difficulty or at great expense. There are also books first editions, fine bindings, last surviving copies, and early specimens of printing which are rightly much prized by the artist, the antiquarian, the curio hunter, or the historian of handicraft. These are all most properly regarded as treasures, and are kept under lock and key. But the fact that there are a few books which should be carefully preserved from loss or injury is not sufficient cause for keeping up in these days a barrier between the public and its library. Set aside these greatly valued books and the few works highly prized for certain special reasons which the average library contains, and there is left the great body of modern books, not expensive, easily replaced, and of far more importance to ninety-nine in a hundred of any public library's constituents than all the book curios the world contains. In any save the very richest and largest libraries in this country the books which can not be dupli- cated at a reasonable cost have no proper place. It is with the modern, inexpensive works that the public library chiefly con- cerns itself. Its art publications and its rarities of every kind can easily be disposed of in safety vaults or private rooms. Its more valuable works of reference can be guarded from any prob- able mutilation by a little special service. Its main collection, sixty to eighty per cent of the average library, is what the public wishes to use. These form any library's real tools in its avowed purpose of aiding in the education of the community in which it is placed.
The readers of books, moreover, are no longer few but many, and have greatly changed their manner of looking at books and the guardianship of them in the past hundred years. The tax- paying citizen to-day has his own daily or weekly paper, if nothing more, and knows well that a printed page is no longer a sacred or an expensive thing. He walks up to the shelves of the bookstore