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FREE LIBRARY ACT.I

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FREE LIBRARY ACT. I DISCUSSION AT THE MECHANICS' I INSTITUTE COMMITTEE. THE MOTION IN FAVOUR OF THE MOVEMENT CARRIED. An adjourned meeting of the Governing Body of the Llanelly Mechanics' Institution was held on Friday evening last, to consider a motion by the Rev. Elvet Lewis in favour of the adoption of the Free Library Act in Llanelly. Mr. J. Gilbert Daw presided, and there were also present Messrs. B. Dewsbury, J. Walter Thomas, R. Peregrine, S. H. Bevan, M. R. Richards. R. Stuart, J. Murker, Sydney Stuart, William David, J. Duckworth, B.A., and the Rev. H. Elvet Lewis, together with the secretary (Mr. Evan Evans) and the librarian (Mr Jonathan Boulton). Before Mr. Marker re-opened the discussion, having moved the adjournment at the last meeting, Mr. S. H. Bevan asked, assuming, that the commit- tee passed the motion, if the Borough Council could put the Act in operation without a town's meeting. The Chairman We have first to get the consent of the members of the Institution. Mr. S. H. Bevan: Assuming all those formalities have been gone through. Mr. Dewsbury: No doubt a town's meeting will have to be held. Mr. S. H. Bevan Well, you haven't the ghost of a chance, because I don't think the town will sanc- tion a penny rate. Mr. Peregrine: Don't be too sure. Mr. J. W. Thomas The Council can put the Act in motion if they like without consulting the rate- payers. Mr. Peregrine: No doubt they will appeal to the town. Mr. S. H. Bevan If the ratepayers refuse to spend £ 300 on the incorporation of the town I fail to see that they will spend it on a free library. -Mr. Dewsbury: But it will not mean E300. Mr. Marker said that since the last meeting he had been carefully considering the question and looking up facts in relation to it. This considera- tion had enabled him to come to a decision respect- ing the question, and when the time came for voting he would cast his vote in favour of the motion. Mr. Dewsbury said that personally he had not been much enamoured by the scheme, but he was the last to with-hold anything from the public which the latter desired and if he found the public to be in favour of the scheme, he would sink his personal feelings and go in for i t. Mr. R. Stuart said he was in favour of the scheme in the first place because he thought the finances of the Institution would be placed on a much sounder The Chairman No doubt about it. Mr. R. Stuart (continuing) remarked that he was still more in favour of the scheme by reason of the fact that it would extend and deepen the mental culture of the town. He had been inquiring into the question of finance and was able to submit the following particulars. The total income of the Institution last year amounted to E224 10s. 9d. He had been informed by a member of the Borough Council that a penny rate would bring in 1:270. To this might be added £10 10s. from the sale of second hand papers, catalogues £ 5,fines £ 10, as fines could be much more rigorously enforced in a free library than under the existing system. In many free libraries, there was what was known as a book club, constituted by a number of people who paid a subscription and had the first claim to the new books, say for a year, the books subsequently going into general circula- tion. He estimated that, they wouM c -fc £ 50 from that source. Under the prop iped rog,<hef«- tore, there would be an income of ?43 LtsMad of ?224 as at present. MoreovM-, they would no doubt be able to charge people lidIJg ont"ide the limits of the borough for the use of the library. The sec. said that this was done in other places, a charge of 2s. 6d. being made. Mr. R. Stuart (continuing) estimated that at least they would be able to double their present revenue. Then as to the question of the value of the institution. It was felt by many that a great work was being done by the institution, and he had shared that feeling, and he still thought that much useful work was being done, but upon examination he found that it was not to be com- pared with that done where free libraries existed. The issue of books from the library last year amounted to 14,600 volumes. In contrast with this take the town of Airdree, with a population of 19,000, possessing a free library. The issue of books last year amounted 44,386 volumes. Ayr, with a population of 24,000, issued 90,000 volumes, and had 5,567 borrowers. The borrowers at the Llanelly Institution numbered only a taird of the members, that was to say, only 300 or so made use of the library. Bromley, with a population of 21,000 issued 67,000 volumes; Bur-lem with a population of 32,000, issued 27,000 volumes, with a library smaller than ours; Canterbury, with a population of 23,000, issued 22,000 volumes, the library being the same size as ours; Dewsbury, with a population of 29,000, issued 68,000 volumes; Doncaster with a population of 25,000 issued 73,000 volumes, and had over 2,000 borrowers Ealing with a population of 23,000, issued 132,000 volumes, with only 10,000 volumes in the library, under which conditions the shelves must be nearly empty all the year round. If smaller towns than Llanelly were taken, the contrast would be even greater. Swansea had a population of 90,000, and the penny rate brought in £ 1,350. From the lend- ing library 66,000 volumes were issued, with 2,51)0 borrowers. There was, however, a large and valuable reference library at Swansea, of which the greatest use was made, more even than that of the reference library at Cardiff. It should not be forgotten also that there were private libraries at Swansea. The Royal Institution, indeed, had a very much better lending library than the free library, having about 20,000 volumes .and issuing 23,000 last year. He should say, therefore, that the 66.000 volumes issued from the tree library were issued exclusively to working class people. From the Cardiff free library the books issued last year amounted to 164,781, there being 7,200 borrowers. The Secretary said he had received a letter from Mr. Thompson, of the Swansea Free Library, in which he said that the Swansea Free Library was undoubtedly a great success, and that anyone opposing the Act must belong to the previous half- century, and therefore passed arguing with. He had also received a letter from a friend who was a member of the Royal Institution, and who furnished some interesting particulars shewing the concurrent -progress of the Free Library and the Royal Institu- tion. He (the sec.) had written to Sir Arthur, informing him of what had taken place in connection with this matter, and inviting him to be present at the meeting that evening and Sir Arthur had replied as follows "Allow me to congratulate you on your appoint- ment to the secretaryship. As regards the other matter referred to in your letter of the 28th iust., I must say I regret, iu the first instance, that it will be quite impossible for me to be at Llanelly at so early a time as to-morrow evening, and that I shall, therefore, he unable to attend the meeting of the committee. Hitherto, as you are doubtless aware, it has always been considered that a great objection existed to the estab- lishment of a Free Library at Llanelly inasmuch as the rates, already so high at Llanelly, would be increased, and it wts held to be better to go oil "us we were," with a subscription and subsidized library. I have not the facts and figures before me and cannot, therefore, judge bow far the considerable lowering of the town rates brought about by recent legislation affects the question. I have known free liberies to succeed very well in large and very wealthy towns, such as Boston, Melbourne, and Sydney, and also in smaller places where, owittg to very low rates, or the fact that the free library was founded and in a great measure increased and kept up by some sort of endowment and occasional subsidy by individuals, but not having the exact fignres before me at the moment as they stand at Llanelly, I cannot well say what I consider should be done. Whatever the discussion may be, I should be very glad to hear the result, if you do not mind kindly dropping me a. line. In ease the plan were, after I mature consideration, not to be adopted, it might always, I suppose, be easily feasible to adopt some other mode of making our institution join in the jubil". celebration of tbe year. Cardiff and Swansea must have given you n very pood idea of kew the i aattw aiight stand at Llanelly.^ Mr. J. Walter Thomas said that the free library movement bad in other towns been an undoubted success. In most towns where the Act was in operation there was scarcely a house into which a book from the library did not find its way. The free lecture series under tne auspices of the Swansea Free Library had been a splendid success. Mr. W. David was thoroughly convinced they ought to adopt the motion now before the meeting. At Swansea, the free library had unquestionably been a great success. He believed in converting the institution into a free library because it would improve its local and imperial status. A free library, for instance, would be entitle to a .con- siderable proportion of the Technical Education Rate. This rate was now levied upon Llanelly by I the County Council, but so far not a penny had been returned to the town. He was living in the hope that the Borough Council would decide to levy the rate itself. If we had a free library, it. would be possible to secure the custorlyof a number of valuable books which were atPpresent inaccessible. Moreover, the government treated free libraries in a most generous manner, forwarding to those institutions most of the blue books and specifications of patents. These were particulars which were often asked for, as, no doubt, Mr. Boulton would know. With all its excellencies, lie did not think Llanelly had kept satisfactorily to the front in the matter of libraries. The tendency, moreover, was all in favour of a free library and it was as impossible to arrest this tendency as it had been to retard the introduction of the steam engine and the electric telegraph. The Chairman opposed the motion, remarking that some time ago the West-em Mail had stated that hitherto Llanelly had occupied a proud position, which, however, would be forfeited unless it adopted the Free Library Act. I r, answer to that he would state that Llanelly had attained that position in the absence of the Act, and he did not believe that the position would be f,,r- fdted even if they refrained from adopting the Act. None of the facts mentioned in the discussion proved that free libraries did any real good. A free library introduced a spirit which took away the life-giving spirit of any library. Free libtaries were one of the factors paving the way to a uniform dead level, dwindling the individual into nothing. A free library would provide a rest for the tramp and a refuge for the loafer. He wished it to bo perfectly understood that he did not desire to oppose the wishes of the committee in this matter. He simply deplored the tendency he found exhibited. Mr. Peregrine That trump seems to be troubling you a great deal, Mr. Chairman (laughter). j Mr. Sydney Stuart, Mr. M. R. Richards and Mr, J. Duckworth also supported the motion, and the Rev H. Elvet Lewis briefly replied. Upon a vote being taken the motion was declared unanimously carried. On the motion of the Rev. Elvet Lewis, seconded by Mr. Sydney Stuart, it was resolved that a special meeting of members be held on May 21st to consider the motion and the transference of the property of the Institution to a free library.

LLANELLY BOROUGH COUNCIL.…

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THE ADJOURNED MEETING :1...…