Holyoke Public Library’s Service to the Community

by Laurel | January 30th, 2013

27 Aug 1939

Valuable Work Being Accomplished in Quarters That Are Cramped.

Need of Addition is Pressing Problem.

Built 40 Years Ago Library Work Has Been Constantly Expanding — About 80,000 Volumes in Stacks.

Holyoke Public Library

Holyoke Public Library

In 1900 when the then new public library was opened, it was stated in behalf of the library officials that the building was planned for a term of 20 years; it being the obvious deduction that at the end of that period some further addition or additions might be planned and carried out. In fact the plans of the building, according to memory carried with it the possibility of an addition to the building at the back, to be added crosswise to the Chestnut Street side of the structure making an H-shaped building. But the 20 years have gone by and 20 more; and we still have the old building with no additions; some changes for the better have, indeed, taken place in the interior and even today a very important change for the better is in progress in the addition of a cork compound for the floors giving a much-needed quietness — a treatment that is well-nigh universal in libraries of the best class and many not of the the first class.

Meantime the library content has been expanding in many ways.  One expansion of no small value but always which little is said is the binding of magazines of worth year after year. A large part of the entire basement in the stack section is given up to such bound volumes — a valuable collection and used often for consultation.

Among such magazines and periodicals thus bound are included the following:

General literature: Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s Monthly, Scribner’s, Yale Review, Blackwoods Magazine.

Science and useful arts: Scientific Monthly, Science, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Architectural Record, Bird-Lore, Industrial Arts & Vocational Education.

Politics and World Affairs: Annals of American Academy, Current History, Contemporary Review, Nineteenth Century & After, Bulletin of the Pan American UnionNation, Political Science Quarterly.

Education: Elementary School Journal, English Journal, Progressive Education, Pedigogical Seminary & Journal of Genetic Psychology, Recreation.

The Arts, Arts & Decoration: Antiques, Connoisseur, The Musician, Musical Quarterly, Poetry Magazine, Theater Arts Monthly. The library has 173 bound sets of different magazines covering a wide range of subjects.

Bound Volumes of Newspaper

Speaking of binding periodicals, few people know that there are bound volumes of The Springfield Republican and The Holyoke Daily Transcript on the third floor of the library stack — nearly 40 years of the binding of these two newspapers. The Republican has the Holyoke edition bound only. Some of the bound volumes have decided interest. Thus the now defunct New England Magazine is a storehouse of facts relative to “good old New England.”

The books in the library are placed on three levels in the stacks. The first level off the main floor most generally used by the public, contains some 20,000 volumes; which with the spilling over for lack of room in this stack to the floor above gives something like 25,000 or 30,000 of the up-to-date books. Then there is an additional number of books, perhaps fully as large, that, while not withdrawn from circulation are on the upper floors and seldom, though occasionally asked for by the book borrowers. The remaining number of books, comprising bound volumes, several thousand in the juvenile department and uncounted number of reference books make up the 80,000 in round numbers in the library building.

 Buying of Books

Users of the library may sometimes idly wonder how decisions are made about the purchase of books. For it would take several times the amount of the annual appropriation given to the Holyoke library to even approximate any large share of those put out by the publishers during the year. Limited appropriation has forced the library to buy mostly non-fiction of such as are “requested.” These requests run from a half dozen to 20 a week; and once in so often the library staff meets and decides what it can do toward purchasing the non-fictions books asked for.

In the purchase of fiction a different plan is adopted due to the number of books of fiction, that, if not worthless are nearly so or are objectionable for other reasons. Each book of fiction before acceptance is read by wither a member of the library staff or by some person qualified by education and book knowledge to judge of the merits of a book Sometimes especially, if a book is condemned, it is read by a second party. Often a book is read by two or three people anyway. After reading has been done a slip is affixed in which the outstanding fractures of the book are noted and the reason for disapproval, if made, are submitted.

Books of non-fiction, as a rule, do not wear out very fast. but the popular books of fiction do so. They are rebound when needed sometimes three times or more before being discarded. There is a book binding section (in somewhat cramped quarters) in the basement where a constant succession of books are being rebound and made ready to go into circulation again.  The average work of fiction, after being worn out, is not likely to be replaced unless it is of exceptional merit as there is a pressure, indirect to be sure, by the public to have the newer books than the old.

How many book borrowers are there? Well that is hard to answer directly and the number varies from year to year, and month to month. However, once in every five years every book borrower’s card is re-registered; and figures show that in these five year periods some 20,000 people are on the lists.

The circulation for the city like ours is surprisingly high. It is lower at present on account of the limited appropriation for new books. At its peak a few years ago it was in round numbers,  365,000 a year or 1000 a day. Today it is running in round numbers 230,000 a year or about 35 a day. These figures are not exact, but approximate.

When the library was first opened there was a lecture room on the third floor. As the number of books increased it was found necessary to use it for additional shelves and that now is filled up completely. In addition there is little room in the building for the various processes of labeling, indexing and what not; necessary parts of library operation; and the need for a new addition increases and is becoming almost imperative if the library is to function as it should. Limited appropriation also forbids the establishment of branch libraries that are allotted in other cities; but the furnishing of books to the public schools continues to be  an important part of library activities. The problem facing the library is one that needs the immediate attention of every citizen interested in the community welfare and one that cannot much longer remain unsolved without great deterioration in the service values of the library as an educational institution and increased limitation of its usefulness to the public.

Adapted from The Springfield Republican.




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