The methods of selection and purchase in public libraries are very various. In the
Worcester (Mass.) Public Library, the librarian makes a list of desiderata, has it
manifolded, and sends a copy to each of the thirteen members of the Board of
directors. This list is reported on by the members at the next monthly meeting
of the Board, and generally, in the main, approved. Novels and stories are not
bought until time has shown of what value they may be. The aim is mainly
educational at the Worcester library, very special pains being taken to aid all the
pupils and teachers in the public schools, by careful selection, and providing
duplicate or more copies of important works.
In the Public Library of Cleveland, Ohio, there is appointed out of the governing
Board a book-committee of three. To one of these are referred English books
wanted, to another French, and to the third German books. This sub-committee
approves or amends the Librarian's recommendations, at its discretion; but
expensive works are referred to the whole board for determination.
In the New York Mercantile Library, which must keep continually up to date in its
supply of new books, the announcements in all the morning papers are daily
scanned, and books just out secured by immediate order. Many publishers send
in books on approval, which are frequently bought. An agent in London is
required to send on the day of publication all new books on certain subjects.
The library boards of management meet weekly in New York and Philadelphia, but
monthly in most country libraries. The selection of books made by committees
introduces often an element of chance, not quite favorable to the unity of plan in
developing the resources of the library. But with a librarian of large information,
discretion, and skill, there need seldom be any difficulty in securing approval of
his selections, or of most of them. In some libraries the librarian is authorized to
buy at discretion additions of books in certain lines, to be reported at the next
meeting of the board; and to fill up all deficiencies in periodicals that are taken.
This is an important concession to his judgment, made in the interest of
completeness in the library, saving a delay of days and sometimes weeks in
waiting for the board of directors.
All orders sent out for accessions should previously be compared with the
alphabeted order-card list, as well as with the general catalogue of the library, to
avoid duplication. After this the titles are to be incorporated in the alphabet of all
outstanding orders, to be withdrawn only on receipt of the books.
The library should invite suggestions from all frequenting it, of books
recommended and not found in the collection. A blank record-book for this
purpose, or an equivalent in order-cards, should be always kept on the counter
of the library.