The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Library Laws and Legislation in the United States

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Library Laws and Legislation in the United States
Edition of 1920. See also Library on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

LIBRARY LAWS AND LEGISLATION IN THE UNITED STATES. As in the case of education, each State has complete control of the library situation within its boundaries. In many States the libraries have received great assistance and encouragement from the State administration; in many others, on the contrary, they have been neglected and sometimes discouraged. State library legislation has concerned itself mainly with the following topics: (1) Founding of libraries; (2) their administration and supervision by library commissions, etc.; (3) development of school libraries; (4) of country and rural libraries; (5) of traveling libraries. Legislative reference bureaus and provision for popular lectures and for educational extension by means of the library are more or less liberally provided for by certain States.

1. The laws regarding the foundation of libraries are universally permissive and not mandatory. That is, a community is empowered to vote an appropriation for the establishment and support of a public library. The method of obtaining the endowment differs in different States, the usual one, however, being the addition of a small percentage (one-half to five mills on the dollar) to the tax rate. In other cases a popular subscription up to a certain amount is authorized, which, in a very few cases, is supplemented by an additional fund from the State treasury. Virtually all of the States have library enabling or foundation acts in some form or other.

2. Less unanimity is discoverable regarding the laws for administration and supervision, 11 of the States having no legislation on that subject. It is not surprising furthermore to find that these States are the ones in which library facilities are least developed. In those States which have enacted laws on this subject there is considerable difference of method in obtaining the desired end. In general, however, a State library commission is provided for, which has oversight and direction of the libraries. In the case of California and of Virginia, the State library has the functions of a library commission, while in New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Utah, the State Board of Education has control, acting through special commissions or representatives. In Alabama the State Department of Archives and History has the function of a library commission. Colorado provides for two library commissions, one of which has direction of the traveling libraries.

The following States have laws providing for a library commission or some other form of direction and control: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin (37).

3. The following States make provision in their laws for school libraries: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming (43).

4. The following States have laws providing for the extension of library facilities to counties and rural districts: California, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming (17).

5. Traveling libraries are provided for in Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin (11); and legislative reference bureaus in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin (13). Pensions for library employees are provided for in Illinois and Nebraska (2) and Kansas provides for libraries in penitentiaries.

Edwin Wiley,
Librarian, United States Naval War College.