A Library Primer (1899)/Chapter XL
Mentor, Ohio, is a village of but 500 people; therefore we are somewhat limited in our ability to raise funds for carrying on library work. But some six years ago 15 of us got together and began holding a series of meetings every month, something in the nature of the old New England township meeting, for the purpose of stirring up an interest in town affairs, and in doing that we considered it necessary to have some central point of interest around which we could all work, and we chose as that the library. There had never been a library in the village except a small circulating library. We all believed that the use of books and the greater knowledge of books would be a common center of interest around which we could all work and toward which we would be glad to give work. The result of five years' work in this way was that we now have a library of about 1600v., and two years ago, acting under a general law of the state, we became incorporated, and requested the village council to levy a tax for the work of the library. We at that time had about 1000v. The council very readily saw the advantage of this kind of work. They appreciated what was being done for the citizens and schools of the state, and therefore they levied a tax and turned the proceeds of the tax over to the library board. In this way, you will see, the library board is kept entirely aloof from politics. There are no elections by the people, nor is the board appointed by any political officers. It is a self-constituted body, a corporate body under the laws of this state, and as long as we maintain our corporate existence the village may turn over the funds to the library. We settled the difficulty of women's rights by having an equal number of both men and women on the board, and then in order to avoid the question of disruption of families we made the other member of the family who was not on an honorary member of the board. In this way we increased the number of workers and at the same time satisfied the desire of many people to hold office.
But we found that 15, together with the supernumerary and honorary members, were unwieldy, and the work practically devolved upon very few of the members. Therefore, when we incorporated, we made an executive board consisting of five members, and they had absolute management of the library proper. They are elected every year from the members of the association, and have absolute control of the library.
Although our library is supported by the village, we make it absolutely free to anyone who desires to use it. Those outside the village or township are required to put up a nominal deposit, merely for the safe return of the book. We made this the ideal toward which we are working—that the friendship of books is like the friendship of men, it is worth nothing and avails nothing unless it is used constantly and improved constantly.