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frequent in large numbers Libraries that charge a fee. The spirit of the age and the tendency of liberal communities are entirely in favor of furnishing this means of education and amusement without charge. Certainly towns which can maintain by taxation, paupers, parks, highways and schools have no reasonable ground for denying free reading to their inhabitants.
These towns spend vast sums of money in providing education, and yet omit the small extra expenditure which would enable young men and women to continue their education.
The experience of the Library Commissions of our other States has amply demonstrated that Libraries and literature are sought for and appreciated quite as much by rural communities as by the larger towns, and not unfrequently the appreciation is apparently keener because of the absence of interests and amusements other than those provided by the Library. There is now no real reason why every part of this State may not enjoy the advantages and pleasures of book distribution, for concentration of effort in the small towns elsewhere has provided efficient, attractive and economical Libraries, and could as well do so here.
PERMANENCE OF DELAWARE
An important point to be considered is that Delaware's Public Libraries are to be permanent and growing institutions. A stationary Library is soon exhausted by every active reader, and afterwards fails to offer that novelty which is one of the strongest inducements to reading, but our law has been wisely so drawn by Henry Ridgely, Jr. that those school distric's which once decide in favor of having Free Libraries bind themselves to annually make appropriations to maintain them afterwards, and by this means the law has provided for yearly additions of new books.
The collection of books once formed and steadily enlarged will place these experimental Libraries beyond the reach of change, beyond the doubts and fears of to-day, and will justify the hopes and aspirations of their promoters. If only fifty or one or two hundred books can be added to each small Library annually, it requires little computation to make it plain that-allowing for loss and wear at the end of a decade or two, there must be many large and useful Libraries in Delaware.
To them-as to a visible nucleus-will be attracted gifts and legacies, and with the current of popular attention constantly directed to them, and with the children passing through them on their way to the activities of life, they are certain to become the centers of the intellectual life of the people, for though "Laws die; Books never" said Richelieu.
Libraries are needed to furnish the incentive and the opportunity for wider study to the pupils of the schools, to teach them "the science and art of reading for a purpose,' to give each child with a hidden talent the chance to discover and develop it; to give to each workman and artisan a chance to know what his ambitious fellows are doing; to give to tired men and women-weary and worn from treading a narrow round-excursions in fresh and delightful fields; to give to clubs for study and amusement materials for better work; and last, but by no means least, to give wholesome employment to all classes for those idle hours that wreck more lives than any other cause.
If a Book come from the heart, it will contrive to reach other hearts; all art and author-craft are of small account to that In Books lies the soul of the whole Past Time; the articulate audible voice of the Past, when the body and material substance of it has altogether vanished like a dream All that mankind has done, thought, gained, or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of Books. CARLYLE.
Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider.
EXPLANATION OF THE LIBRARY LAW
HENRY RIDGELY, JR.
Two years and a-half ago the establishment of a Free Library anywhere in the State of Delaware, except Wilmington, was dependent upon individual philanthropy ; to-day nothing more is required than energy and public spirit.
In the past, no community in our State could hope to furnish its inhabitants with free reading material unless through the generosity of a wealthy citizen; in this present, no community need be without such a hope and its speedy consummation.
Before, there were good reasons why there were no more Public Libraries in Delaware; now there is no valid excuse for the lack of them in any section.
In 1901, our incorporated towns generally were given the opportunity of establishing Free Public Libraries; in 1903 it has been made possible to have as many such Libraries in Delaware as there are public school buildings.
As is known, the whole State is apportioned into school districts so that every community may have its free school. By the recent new or amendatory Library Act, these school districts have been made library districts also, so that every community with a free school may have a Free Library as well.
The manner of going about the establishment of a Free Public Library in a school district is simple enough. The first step is to present a petition to the School Board or Committee of the district. All that the petition need State is that the signers are qualified electors of the school
district, that they desire a Free Library established therein, and that they request the Board or Committee to call an election for that purpose on the day following the next regular school election, not being Sunday or a legal holiday. [See p. 6.—Ed.]
The number of signers necessary to such a petition depends upon the class to which the district belongs as fixed by the law. This classifying of the districts will be explained hereafter. At present, it is sufficient to state that if the district be of the first or second class, twenty signers are required; if of the third, fourth or fifth class, ten signers; and in districts of the sixth or seventh class, five signers.
The petition must be presented at least thirty days before the then next succeeding school election.
If at the
After such a petition is presented, the School Board or Committee is bound to call the special election as requested. Everyone qualified to vote at the school election, may legally vote at such special election. This includes, of course, all resident female tax-payers. special election, a majority of the ballots cast is marked "For a Free Library,' "the main object has been accomplished. If, however, a majority is against it, work for it the next time; the law permits you to try each year until you succeed.
In this connection it may not be improper to call your attention to the fact that as our State Constitution makes it imperative that districts for schools for the whites be kept separate and distinct from those for the blacks; this distinction and separation is, of course, continued in the case of Library districts also.
A very pertinent question may suggest itself here, how are the means with which to maintain a Free Library to be secured, even if it be established by vote? The answer is, exactly as are funds for your common schools. And here it becomes necessary to explain the classification
of the school districts into library districts before adverted
The amount of money necessary for the maintenance of a Free Library varies, of course, according to the number of its probable members, etc. Our school law permits or requires certain school districts to raise one sum for current school expenses, others, a different sum, and so on.
The Free Library Law takes this distinction in school districts as the basis for determining how much money may be required for free libraries, and on this, classifies the library districts as follows; that is, the library districts being identical with the school districts, the former are arranged in classes according to the sums of money which the School Boards or Committees are authorized to raise annually for school purposes.
Thus, every district in which the sum authorized to be raised by its School Board or Committee for school expenses is $6,000 or more, is called a library district of the "First Class."
Every district in which the sum so authorized is not less than $4,000, nor as much as $6,000, is called a library district of the "Second Class.’’
Every district in which such sum is not less than $2,000, nor as much as $4,000, is called a library district of the "Third Class."
Every district in which such sum is not less than $1,000, nor as much as $2,000, is called a library district of the "Fourth Class."
Every district in which such sum is not less than $500, nor as much as $1,000, is called a library district of the "Fifth Class."
Every district in which such sum is not less than $200 nor as much as $500, is called a library district of the "Sixth Class."
And every district in which such sum is less than $200 is called a library district of the "Seventh Class."