Imagens das páginas

dren, because their old clothes are worn out, or to furnish more food when the first supply is exhausted ? The teacher, too, passes away when his term is ended, and a new one must be obtained in his place at a new and expensive outlay of means. With a proper care to purchase books in strong binding, and to guard them, by sufficient penalties, from willful abuse, they will last for many years, and make ample returns for their cost before they finally disappear.

The value of the district library to the adult citizens of the district is not taken into account in the foregoing argument, though that value would abundantly justify all necessary expenditures for the support of such libraries. No community can well afford to be without an agency so refining and enlightening as a public library; and every city abounds in public libraries, though there, if anywhere, the people may be supposed to have books enough at home. The library is the lecture room of the great and wise of all ages, and in its silent but speaking volumes, each auditor may choose his own hour and theme, and listen to what mind he will for instruction or recreation.

The law having been amended so as to allow the distribution of the township libraries into district libraries, on an application from a majority of the districts in the township, the question of the relative value of these two systems of school libra. ries has again arisen into importance. The opinion which was expressed in the report for 1859, and which is here quoted, I have seen no reason to change:

“The township library is ordinarily too remote from the great mass of the children. Those living in the remote districts can scarcely be expected to go three or four, and often five or six miles, to get books. None but inveterate readers, those who have formed their taste for reading, will do this. And if the township library be distributed in parcels, quarterly, to the districts, as under the old system, the advantages claimed for a large collection of books in the township library, are mostly sacrificed: we have simple district libraries, with the disadvantages that they are imperfect in character, since no large library, without duplicates, can be so divided as to make sev. eral good small libraries; they are temporary in tenure, the books not remaining to be read throughout the district, and re-read till known and mastered; and the district feeling only a divided and partial ownership in the books, they are more liable to be lost or destroyed. The 42 volumes of the district library, will be of far higher utility in the district, than any district can gain from its interest in the 318 volumes of the township library, except it be the central district where the township library is located. The testimony, as far as received from the districts, goes to prove that the library books are much more abundantly read under the district system than they were when drawn from the township libraries. It is not expected that any system will work well without diligence and steady efforts, on the part of those who have the management of it. No machinery can be made so perfect that it will run alone, without a constant application of power to impel, and without a constant supervision to control it. Doubtless some district libraries will fail of their mission, and get quickly scattered, through the neglect of those whose duty it is to attend to them, just as many township libraries were wasted from the same cause; yet in very many districts they will be wisely managed; good librarians-men who love books and know their value—will be appointed, and the district library will stand side by side with the district school, lending to the school no slight or unimportant aid in stimulating the love of learning, and carrying forward the influence of the school into all the after lives of its scholars."

It may seem singular that while we are changing our township libraries into district libraries, our neighboring State, Wisconsin, is seeking to replace the district libraries with township. The explanation of this disagreement is not difficult. It is evident that no system of libraries can be made efficient without due and regular support and good management, and it is not at all uncommon to find men heaping upon a system the

blame of a failure which resulted only from a niggardly support or an inefficient administration of it. More than once have I heard that our own district libraries were proving failures, and doubtless this is true in many cases; not, however, because they are district libraries, but because the law does not supply any sufficient and stated support for them. The great preponderance of the testimony, from our most active and intelligent school officers, elicited in response to a circular on the subject, is that the district libraries are far more valuable for all the main purposes of school libraries, than were the township libraries.

A close consideration of the arguments of our Wisconsin neighbors, for township libraries, narrows them down to this, viz: the district libraries will be small, and the annual addi. tions to them meagre and insignificant; while the township library may be large and imposing, and the annual additions considerable and attractive. But if this argument is valid in favor of a township library, it is equally valid, and with a greatly multiplied force, in favor of a county library. What a noble library might each county possess, and what splendid additions to its loaded shelves might be made each year, if all the library fund of the county could be used for its support.

But the fundamental assumption on which the argument rests is not valid. It is taken for granted that the annual appropriations for the support of district libraries must necessarily be small and insufficient, so that while they would procure but few books for each district, they would, if united, procure a large increase of the township library. But an appropriation clearly within the means of any district, will amply maintain the district library, and keep it growing. A sum, ranging from ten dollars a year, for the smaller districts, to twenty-five dollars for the larger, will be ample for the purpose; and this sum will be cheerfully given when our districts comprehend more fully the uses and value of these libraries to both old and young. The vision of a large and well selected township library is certainly attractive; but when the books of this splendid library come to be scattered broadcast over a towoship six miles square, the beautiful dream disappears, and

" Like the baseless fabric of a vision,
Leaves not a wreck behind."

In addition to the evils of an uncertain and stinted support our libraries also suffer a needless disadvantage from the neg. ligence of school boards to purchase books after the money reaches their hands. There is reason to believe that large amounts of library moneys are now held by school officers who are not in haste to expend it for books. I have known some cases in which the money was retained in this way

for several years, and the library, in the meantime, was allowed to fall into decay and disuse.

Reference is made to the accompanying annual report of the State Board of Education, for the particulars concerning the new contract made by that Board with E. Burnham Smith, bookseller, Detroit, to supply books for the libraries for the next two years. Circulars containing the lists of selected books and the contract prices therefor, will be sent to the die tricts and townships before the first day of January, 1862, a. required by the library law.


The annual report of the Board of Control of the State Reform School will be communicated herewith, and to it I would refer for a detailed statement of the condition and necessities of this interesting State Institution The year has witnessed several important changes in the progress of the school. On the resignation of Mr. D. B. Nichols, the former Superintendent, Mr. C. B. Robinson, whose efficiency as Assistant Superintendent, has amply proved his fitness for the place, was appointed temporarily to fill the vacancy, and still continues in charge. The loss of all the shops by fire, has deprived the boys of the regular employment heretofore furnished, and greatly increased the difficulties and expense of their manage ment.

The whole number of children received into the school since its first opening, Sept. 2d, 1856, is 263. The number belonging to the school at the date of the last report was 137, of whom 126 were white boys, and 11 colored. During the year 63 have been received, and 55 have left the Institution, leaving in the School Nov. 16, 1861, 131 white boys, and 14 colored; total, 145. This nearly equals the full capacity of the building, even with the new wing recently added.

This large and constantly increasing group of neglected and sicious boys--vicious mostly because neglected—may well awaken the solicitude of every philanthropic citizen. Standing on the threshhold of life, their little feet having already taken the first steps in crime-deprived, in most cases, of all guardianship of parents, and all sweet influences of home, thrown out as waifs on the wide shores of life, it will depend upon the wisdom and efficiency of the efforts made by the State for their reform, whether they shall be redeemed from the disadvantages of their neglected childhood, and raised to the rank of virtuous members of society, or shall go ultimately downward to in. famy and ruin, scattering destruction along their path and dragging others to a similar fate.

In the several visits I have made to the institution, I have been painfully impressed with the inadequacy of the school provisions for so many pupils. The instruction which they shall here receive must be one of the main agencies in their reformation; but what can one man do with a school of 145 boys, and boys whose early training has been so grossly neg. lected! Mr. Johnson, the teacher, is laboring with a consciencious zeal for bis mass of pupils, but the good of the school demands that be shall at once be reinforced with one or two assistants. As a large number of the boys are of tender age it would be well if some female teacher, of the requisite niental and moral qualifications for the work, could le obtained and the younger boys be placed under her charge. Destitute of a muther's care, the presence of some gentle female teacher would

« AnteriorContinuar »