Thursday, March 5, 2015

Three States and a Hand Book

State Outlines of Iowa, Minnesota & Wisconsin
Iowa, Minnesota & Wisconsin

What do the states of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have in common? A love of fried foods and college football? Well, that’s certainly true. But the answer I was looking for is the 1902 Hand Book of Library Organization compiled by the library commissions of these three states. Thanks to Larry Nix’s February 18th posting on his “Library History Buff Blog” and the link he provides to the document’s full text, I've now had a chance to read the Hand Book.

Yes, it’s dated - there’s mention of wholesome literature, “library hand-writing,” ink wells, and pamphlets. But what a marvelous little tome this is! With its emphasis on library governance and administration, the Hand Book of Library Organization is the great-grandmother of our state’s Trustee Essentials. But this volume also includes what was then cutting edge guidance on the operation of a library, so our state’s Administrative Essentials owes it a debt as well.

One of the great things about the Hand Book of Library Organization is that it doesn’t mince words:
  • “A library is an essential part of a broad system of education, and a community should think it as discreditable to be without a well-conducted free public library as to be without a good school.”
  • “The bane of many [library] boards are the respectable citizens who are reappointed from term to term and constantly neglect their duties.”
  • “A member of a library board who cannot, or will not, attend its meetings and give adequate time to its work should resign, or should not be reappointed when his term expires.”
  •  “Rules should be as simple as possible and not designed to restrict liberty but to prevent encroachment and secure the greatest good to all.”
  • “Volunteer help is only valuable when it is regular.”
  • “The usefulness of the library will depend upon its librarian, and the greatest care should be exercised in selecting that officer.”
Kudos to the cooperative spirit of our early public library pioneers in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin that spawned such an influential document.

Post written by:
Denise Anton Wright, Public Library Development Team