Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Make Use of an Assistant for Causing Good Books to be Used (Number 5 in a series of Library Service tips from 1876)

Samuel Swett Green graduated from Harvard Divinity School and became a known as "the father of library reference work."  His 1876 work "Personal relations between librarians and Readers" was considered ground-breaking then and still has value today. 

 It is a common practice, as we all know, for users of a library to ask the librarian or his assistants to select stories for them. I would have great use made of this disposition. 

Place in the circulating department one of the most accomplished persons in the corps of your assistants--some cultivated woman, for instance, who heartily enjoys works of the imagination, but whose taste is educated. She must be a person of pleasant manners, and -while of proper dignity, ready to unbend, and of social disposition. It is well if there is a vein of philanthropy in her composition. Instruct this assistant to consult with every person who asks for help in selecting books. 

This should not be her whole work; for work of this kind is best done when it has the appearance of being performed incidentally. Let the assistant, then, have some regular work, but such employment as she can at once lay aside when her aid is asked for in picking out books to read. I am confident that in some such way as this a great influence can be exerted in the direction of causing good books to be used.
The person placed in charge of this work must have tact, and be careful not to attempt too much. If an applicant would cease to consult her unless she gives him a sensational novel, I would have her give him such a book. Only let her aim at providing every person who applies for aid with the best book he is willing to read.
The church librarian's job is not just cataloguing, or filing, or selecting material; your church library doesn't exist because the church has a bunch of books.  You have a life-changing mission; something along the lines of 2 Peter 3, perhaps?

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