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ST. LOUIS PUBLIC FREE LIBRARY.
PUBLIC FREE LIBRARY.
To the Honorable the Mayor of the City of St. Louis :
SIR — We hereby make our first annual report.
The history of the movement on the part of the tax-payers of St. Louis in taking the necessary steps by which the provisions of the act of the General Assembly of the State, approved in 1885, known as the “Missouri Library Law,” could be made available, are familiar to all. The object to be attained, viz. : the establishment in St. Louis of a Public Library which should be absolutely free to all, was deemed of the utmost importance; and way for its accomplishment was finally provided.
The question whether the property owners would permit the small proportion of their taxes to be set apart for this purpose was submitted to the legal voters at the regular election in April, 1893; and the proposition was carried by a large majority
The mayor in accordance with the law, appointed, with the approval of your honorable body, a board of nine directors. As the proceeds from the tax levy were not available until near the end of 1893, only preliminary work could be done. The board organized, and proceeded, with ihe aid of its secretary, Mr. Crunden, to prepare rules and familiarize itself with the requirements of the situation.
In the inception of this movement the St. Louis Board of Public Schools, under its then president, Mr. Gist Blair, took an active interest in the matter of the Free Library, the demands on the school funds being such that it seemed imperative that some way should be provided to relieve them of the Public Library, supported by annual appropriations.
The Board of Managers of the Public Library, composed of members of the School Board and persons elected by the life members, obtained during 1893 the written contract of the life members for the School Board to transfer the library to the city under the law.
Your board felt that it would be greatly to the advantage of all parties concerned if the existing Public Library could be placed in their hands and opened free to all as the nucleus of their work. We advised the School Board in November, 1893, that is to say, as soon as our income was available, of our willingness to arrange to accept the library and relieve them of the burden of its maintenance. The School Board did not take up the matter until January. There was such a difference in the views of the two boards as to the terms of the contract that much time was consumed in the transaction; and it was not until March 1 that the transfer was finally made upon the following terms:
The deeding to the city of everything pertaining to the library by the School Board, and leasing the sixth and sevenih floors and a room on the second floor of the Board of Education Building to the Free Library board for a term of Alve years at an annual rental of $5,000. On account of the fact that so many differ. ent interests were involved, such as certain bequests made to the School Board on specific conditions and their peculiar relations to the life members, the de. tails furnished many difficult legal problems. In adjusting these technicalities, the Free Public Library Board was fortunate in having the gratuitous service of
of Managers; and it was pot till the end of November, 1893, that an unquestionable majority of over 2,000 was obtained. In November the School Board was notified that your board would be ready to assume control of the Library as soon as it could be turned over. No action was taken by that body till January; and it was not till March 1 that the transfer was finally effected.
Meantime your committee on rules worked faithfully at its task, and prepared a code of by-laws, which after careful examination, was adopted by the Board, October 28, 1893. A body of rules and regulations was compiled and after a very thorough revision was adopted by the Board, March 10, 1894. The rules were already in type and were published at once in a pamphlet of 27 pages, which contains also an ordinance drawn by Mr. F. N. Judson, for the protection of Library property and a “ Reader's Guide."
All preliminaries had been, so far as possible, arranged beforehand, but the active work of making the Library ready for the public use could not begin until it had passed to your control. This preparation included the following work:
First — The walls and ceilings, which were bare plaster blackened with the smoke of two winters, bad to be painted. This, with the preliminary taking of bids, occupied several weeks; and during the progress of the work, the rooms were in such confusion as to cause serious interruption to other operations.
Second — To provide for the expected large increase of readers, various alterations had to be made, which, with certain necessary repairs, required the employment of carpenters, metal workers and electricians.
Third - Additional furniture and appliances of a technical kind had to be ordered from the east.
Fourth – Numerous blanks were required, which took printers in St. Louis and elsewhere weeks to furnish. As soon as the necessary cards arrived, on April 26, the registration of readers was begun.
Fifth - Among these blanks and appliances were 75,000 book pockets and 75,000 book cards. On each pocket had to be written two numbers and a “ catch-word," and the pocket had to be pasted into the book to which it belonged. This was a work of four weeks, all available members of the regular staff being assigned to the writing and three binder's apprentices being employed for the pasting. In doing this every volume in the circulating department had to be carried to the room where the work was done and afterwards replaced in its proper position. When this job was finished every one that could be spared, together with five young women employed temporarily, was set to work writing the book cards and inserting them in the pockets. On each card is written the class number, accession number, author and title. The books by truck-loads were again removed from the shelves of the Library and again replaced in proper order. Meanwhile the old members and the public who came to use the reading-room and reference department were served as usual, requiring the time of a majority of the regular staff. If the Library could have been closed, the preparations to meet the demands of a larger patronage could have been completed sooner — not proportionately, however, since the fulfillment of contracts by various mechanics and manufacturers constituted an es:ential factor that was beyond our control.
Sixth — For each person registering four blanks must be filled, one by the applicant and three by the library assistants, viz.: The “Registration Card," the “ Reader's Card,” the “ Reader's Index” card and the “Guarantor's Index” card. For a registration of 3,000, therefore, 12,000 cards must be written, collated and arranged in proper alphabetical order in four separate series. Though the registration card is filled by the applicant, it takes as much time as any of the others, because it is necessary (in spite of printed directions) to give oral instructions to each individual. The giving out of readers' cards and the free issue of books to those who had previously registered, began June 1. Prior to this date two clerks had been engaged in the work of registration; now six are employed, four being members of the regular staff. Both regular assistants and temporary employes have worked extra time, and all have labored with most commendable zeal and assiduity. I think they may be proud, as I am pleased, with the results. The concentration upon the registration bas drawn from the force previously employed on the book cards; but this work is, nevertheless, nearly completed.
It seems proper to state for the information of the public, that all this work was necessary for the protection of the Library property, for keeping an accu