Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/115

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
107
A PRACTICAL DUTCH CHARITY.

the reading room pays ten cents a quarter, with the privilege of bringing one friend a week as a guest. Every conceivable device is employed to induce visitors to make use of the books; for example, the lecturers frequently choose a literary topic, and refer to the books in the library, or one of the members of certain manual-training classes read aloud while the others work. Then some of the social evenings are given up to the discussion of a new or popular author, and persons skilled in reading aloud are asked to read or recite choice extracts. To accommodate those who feel that three months' subscription is for too long a period, the regular admission fee of two Dutch cents—equivalent to eight tenths of a cent of our money—gives the right to make use of the library during the visit. It now looks as though the impulse to secure a shortening of the work day would come from this organization in its desire to secure for its beneficiaries a longer time in which to profit by the use of the books and special opportunities for study here placed at the disposal of the workingmen. The reading room is looked after by a committee of twenty, some of whom are always present to give aid and advice to the readers, to answer such questions as may arise, and to keep the books and papers in place.

The lectures conducted in Our House are of a twofold character—individual discourses and a series of discussions of a given topic. Every Wednesday evening between November and April is provided with a speaker by the lecture committee, who treats in a popular manner a subject of his own choice, and allows the auditors at the close of his talk to ask questions regarding the topic in hand. The average number of persons attending these lectures last winter was about three hundred, and the charge for a single admission is two cents, with a considerable reduction when four or six tickets are purchased for one family. In the course lecture the most popular topic so far has been natural science, especially botany, physics, and chemistry. In this connection it is interesting to note that the luxuriant flora of the East Indies, with which the Dutch became acquainted long ago, gave an impetus in Holland to the study of botany. The people of all classes are fond of plants and flowers, and it is not surprising to learn that twenty persons followed a course of instruction in botany. A prominent physician of Amsterdam gave a course of ten lectures upon "The first Aid to the Injured," and eighty men and women profited by the practical discussion of this subject. The cost of these lectures is four cents apiece.

Somewhat related to the above are the concerts, Sunday evening meetings, and performances of various kinds which are given under the auspices of the appropriate committees. Perhaps one of the most profitable evenings of the winter is when manufacturers and em-