United States. Bureau of Education / Public libraries in the United States of America; their history, condition, and management. Special report, Department of the Interior, Bureau of Education. Part I
Introduction, pp. [xi]-xxxv ff.
INTRODUCTION. PUBLIC LIBRARIES AND EDUCATION. For forty years the importance of public libraries as auxiliaries to public education has been recognized and dwelt upon by American edu- cators wherever common schools have flourished. Beginning as ad- juncts of the district schools in New York and Massachusetts, free public libraries in some form have been established in nearly twenty States of the Union. It was known that within the last quarter of a century the number of public libraries had greatly multiplied, and that they had assumed a position of commanding importance as an educa- tional force, but there were no data for determining the~extent of their influence. THE LIBRARIAN AN EDUCATOR. The influence of the librarian as an educator is rarely estimated by outside observers, and probably seldom fully realized even by himself. Performing his duties independently of direct control as to their details, usually selecting the books that are to be purchased by the liblrary and read by its patrons, often advising individual readers as to a proper course of reading and placing in their hands the books they are to read, and pursuing his own methods of administration generally without ref- erence to those in use elsewhere, the librarian has silently, almost un- consciously, gained ascendency over the habits of thought and literary tastes of a multitude of readers, who find in the public library their only means of intellectual improvement. That educators should be able to know the direction and gauge the extent and results of this potential influence, and that librarians should not only understand their primary duties as purveyors of literary supplies to the people, but also realize their high privileges and responsibilities as teachers, are matters of great import to the interests of public education. NECES5ITY FOR A SPECIAL REPORT. Recognizing these conditions, the United States Commissioner of EA- ucation began in 1870 to gather and publish the statistics of publiec libraries in this country, a work which has been steadily continued each year since that time. As the statistics became more complete and the number of libraries making reports increased, the awakened interest of all engaged in educational work expressed itself in more frequent calls
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