By Alistair Black
Books, constructions and Social Engineering a tremendous effect at the cultural and academic lifetime of the rustic, British public libraries started to be supported by means of neighborhood taxation in 1850 yet their structures now characterize a tricky architectural challenge for plenty of groups. This publication provides socio-architectural historical past of public library constructions from 1850 to 1939.
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Extra resources for Books, Buildings and Social Engineering: Early Public Libraries in Britain from Past to Present
Courtesy of Leeds Library and Information Service. N~W DUILDitWS The ceremonies that were staged to open libraries were momentous and ritualistic, reflecting the centrality of the instih1tion as civic entity (Fig. 1). 5 The civicness of the early public library was underscored by the contribution of its librarians to local culture. Contrary to the stereotype, librarians were anxious to engage in society and often became leading figures in the civic and cultural life- for example, John Potter Briscoe, Nottingham's Librarian from 1869 to 1916, has been described as having 'had a finger in every conceivable pie of the town'.
The Act allowed (crucially it did not compel) municipal boroughs to establish a public library funded from local taxation (the rates), but only if its population exceeded 10,000. Ratepayers were not to be over-burdened, and were to be charged no more than one half-penny in the pound for the purpose. The resulting funds could only be spent on facilities and staffing; purchases of books and other printed materials from the funds were disallowed. Finally, permission to establish a library needed to be obtained via a poll of ratepayers on the matter; two-thirds, or more, of ratepayers voting were required to support any proposal for a library.
No man and no body of men can arrest the onward progress of humanity ... The gates of wisdom cannot be closed- let us throw them open boldly, and invite the world to enter in. 38 The national stah1s of the post-First World War public library was embodied in the Public Libraries Act (1919), the most important library legislation since the inaugural statute of 1850. The Act arose directly from the war and in particular the reconstruction movement - aimed at plam1ing a better post-war world, improving wartime morale and undercutting disaffection -that accompanied it.
Books, Buildings and Social Engineering: Early Public Libraries in Britain from Past to Present by Alistair Black