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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/133

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

THE LIBRARY AS A LABORATORY.

What the old proverb says of fire—that it is "a good servant but a bad master"—might with truth be applied to books. It was the great defect of the old-fashioned education that books were allowed to get the mastery over the pupil. But now, that the immediate study of things has gained the ascendency in the modern mode of teaching many subjects, care must be taken not to run into the opposite extreme, and disregard books altogether. How much aid a well-managed collection of books can give to the student in any field is clearly pointed out by Mr. George lies in an article on The Library in Education, published in The Week, of Toronto. He says that, "although deposed from the supreme station they once held, they now occupy a place but little lower, and a place broadened.by the scope of ideas new in education. Every important observation, experiment, experience in any of the unnumbered fields of science, or of teaching, soon gets itself printed in a book. Thus printed, it is in no sense a substitute for individual use of eyes, hands, and brain, but gives all these information, guidance, suggestion, of worth incalculable. . . . While in the study of architecture, geology, or engineering, the library is of increasing worth as an aid to work and practice, there are fields of research where it becomes the workshop itself. Research in law, history, philosophy, economics, literature generally, can only be pursued where books are gathered together and rightly ordered." The phrase "rightly ordered" is an allusion to the immense increase of value that librarians are now giving to the collections in their charge through improved organization. Formerly the librarian deemed his duty done if he faithfully guarded the books in his care from loss or injury, and the less they were used the less apprehensions he had for their safety. The librarian that is now coming to the front is a being of a different kind. He is trained for his profession, and he has a much broader conception of the work that belongs to him. "The new idea is," says Mr. lies, "that he shall so vitalize his library, that to make his books attractive and useful shall be his chiefest care. To that end he must know how to order them and indicate their contents, so that the whole capital intrusted to him shall be instantly available for any inquirer's purpose. He must be able to give seekers guidance, have the tact and sympathy to stimulate research, the kindly enthusiasm which promotes study by inviting it to helpful stepping-stones." A library under such management rises to the plane of efficiency occupied by the laboratory. A modern laboratory designed for students in one of the sciences, with its convenient desks, drawers, and lockers, its rows of bottles containing reagents, its apparatus especially devised for the work to be done, its arrangements for water, gas, and steam, its compartments set off to secure special conditions of light, air, or temperature, and its collections systematically arranged for the comparison of specimens, is a most satisfactory place to work in To say that the modern library is approaching this character is the highest praise that we can give it.

Mr. lies devotes the rest of his article to paying a well-deserved tribute to Mr. Melvil Dewey, now Secretary to the Board of Regents of the University of New York, and Librarian of the State Library at Albany, as being one of the leading spirits in bringing about modern reforms in library administration. Before going to Albany, Mr. Dewey was for five years Chief Librarian at Columbia College, during which time he produced there one of the finest examples of a modern working library. The Columbia College Library is open all day and in the evening throughout the year, except Sundays and Good Friday; it has a card-catalogue, which is the only kind that can be kept constantly up to date; in this catalogue the titles are arranged