Marguerite McL Reid.

Aids in library work with foreigners online

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Providence Public Library

Haverhill Public Library












Miss Marguerite Reid, Foreign Department,
Providence Public Library.

In the solution of our great national problem, the gravest before
the American public, the assimilation of the immigrant, the public
library has a responsibility to assume and an important duty to per-
form. Thoughtful citizens are waking up to the feeling that the
problem increases in importance in that it is overstraining our pow-
ers of assimilation. When I visited the Immigrant Section of the
"World in Boston", last year, I, too, was impressed with the im-
mensity of the problem, almost into inactivity. It seemed to me
useless to attempt to Americanize these masses that are entering our
country yearly, over a million in 1911, separated from us, as they are,
by habit, ideas of life, and language. Their ignorance of our lan-
guage, our institutions, and standards of living, seemed to me to con-
stitute a disadvantage both to them and to the community in which
they would settle that was too serious to admit of solution. But
upon reflection I remembered that the public library alone has not to
solve the whole gigantic problem of immigration, but has simply to
concentrate on the particular needs pf its community, the responsi-
bility of which it will share with other existing educational agencies,
the night school, Y. M. C. A., and philanthropic societies, with which
it will co-operate and whose work it will supplement in this attempt
at Americanizing an alien people.

This paper is devoted to an effort toward a better understanding
and finer appreciation of these strangers in our land, for if we en-
lighten public sentiment and arouse sympathetic interest m their
welfare, we have gone far towards solving a difficult problem. Sec-
ondly, some definite suggestions as to ways and means of assisting
these Americans in process are offered.

In approaching this subject of the assimilation of the immigrant
we are too apt to forget, it seems to me, that our foreign-speaking
friend offers his contribution to the melting-pot, that he brings with
him an inheritance of old-world culture. Emil Reich has called Italy,
from which land most of our immigrants arrive, the "most gifted



nation in Europe", one that may contribute to our intellectual eleva-
tion. The literary taste of the Italian, his love for the classics of his
own literature is in marked contrast to the reading tastes of our na-
tive public. A working-man, apparently illiterate, to judge by his
appearance, will be thoroughly conversant with the classics of his
native literature, not by title but by actual working knowledge, as evi-
denced by an experience I had. An ordinary, rather rough appearing
man asked me to help him find the sequel to the "Orlando Furioso"
which I did not readily locate. I asked him if he were sure it wasn't
the "Orlando innamorato", upon which the "Furioso" is based, that
he had in mind, and he scornfully replied "No," that he had read it
all, he wanted to locate the death of Orlando, and merely wished to
know if we owned it. He was thoroughly at home in his subject, in
spite of the fact that these three poems were written as long ago as
the fifteenth century by different men, and yet, judging by his ap-
pearance, were he an English-speaking member of society, we would
have offered him Sherlock Holmes to bait him.

It is well for us to remember that the Italian barber reads Dante
with avidity and is more familiar with Shakespeare than many of us.
The volumes of Carducci, the greatest poet of our day, are in steady
demand, in spite of their rather awesome dress in a classic edition.
The Italian prefers poetry and drama to fiction. Out of 1400 Italian
volumes we have but 125 volumes of fiction. He enjoys the pictur-
esque in literature, too, fairy tales, books of travel, and biographies
of his country's heroes, — Christopher Columbus, Garibaldi, Victor

With the Jew a love of learning is inborn. His interest in mat-
ters educational is most keen. One man, whom I had always pre-
sumed to be a mechanic, surprised me one day by appearing with a
Freshman cap on. One could see pride sticking out all over him in
spite of the fact that his face was rather old for a cap. He had been
in America for two years, working in a jewelry shop, where he had
suffered from the unsympathizing jeers of co-workers who judged
him an inferior. He had succeeded in passing the entrance exami-
nations at Brown University and was registered with advanced
standing in mathematics, leaving our native youth behind him in the
jewelry shop. This is the most noticeable characteristic of the Jew,
that each and every one of them, eager for new knowledge, is gaining
an education. He should be an inspiration to our American boys
who are not handicapped by studying in a strange tongue. In early
youth Jews have formed definite views on political, religious, and
social questions, and have already evolved their philosophy of life.


Even before they can read English, they are familiar with the teach-
ings of our English philosophers and scientists, Spencer and Darwin.
In reading, their interest lies in books of philosophy and socialism
that attempt a solution of the social problems through Zionism or
some other idealistic form of government. They are a serious peo-
ple, (frequently the children ask for sad books for their mothers)
with, as some one has aptly said, "the burden of the Ages on their

The immigrant is no barbarian. In fact, when I first took charge
of the foreign department at our library, what impressed me most
was the unfailing courtesy of my public. He invariably takes time
to say "Good morning", and "Thank you", and "Good bye", for he
has not yet acquired our American spirit of hurry. He has a keen
appreciation of a kindness and a strong desire to reciprocate a kindly
act, as is evidenced by gifts to our department. A few weeks ago
came sixty volumes in Portuguese from the Portuguese consul. A
Yiddish magazine is subscribed for by a Jew for the library. A
young Greek gave us a copy of "Pilgrim's Progress" in Modem
Greek, which, by the way, he said he had read six times. I wonder
how many of us have gone through it once. It is a classic of our
literature. He has been in this country two years, in Providence but
a few months, and is a constant reader in the department and a

I might mention, in passing, the facility of these people in acquir-
ing languages. An Armenian who does not find anything that inter-
ests him in Armenian will almost never turn away without a French
book. I noticed with interest two girls and a young man, who could
read both French and German besides Armenian, finally choose Ana-
tole France's poetry to take home. The other day an Armenian
asked for Emerson's "Conduct of Life" in English, and is at present
coming to the department during his lunch hour to read it. Many of
the better educated Jews will read Russian, Yiddish, and German,
anyway, and sometimes French, Italian, and Spanish, too. A young
Roumanian Jew about sixteen years old, who has been in America
but three months, was reading a simple history of the United States,
stories of famous American statesmen, and a geography of the United
States in English.

In the effort to convert our foreign-speaking population into in-
telligent American citizens, the public library plainly has a duty to
perform, the importance of which should not be undervalued. It is
in a position to be one of the most important factors in this process
of Americanization here in Southern New England, which is reputed


to be the most foreign section of the country, having cities counting
a larger percentage of foreign birth and foreign parentage than New
York, Chicago, or San Francisco. According to the Director of the
Census, New England, once looked upon as the most essentially
American section of the country, now has less than two-fifths of its
population consisting of native born of native parentage. The li-
brary should be prepared to take the initiative in making friendly
advances and in leading these strangers in a strange land, by slow
degrees, to an understanding of our language, laws, and customs.
This interest and sympathy and friendliness make the stranger feel
more at home in his adopted country and establish a new bond of
sympathy between him and America. He feels grateful at the recog-
nition of his needs and always maintains a delightful attitude toward
those who assist him. Those who work with him, who come in con-
tact with him, are always enthusiastic over this attitude.

In the department devoted to this work at our library we have
10,000 volumes in fourteen different languages. Each literature is
arranged in a separate section, where are the classics for those who
will never have time or opportunity to study English and for those
who learn to read English laboriously for business purposes only, but
who seek their mother tongue for pleasure and inspiration.

For those who are trying to learn English we have language
manuals that teach the English language, inter-lingual grammars
that are prepared especially for the adult immigrant with a vocabu-
lary of trade that will help him practically in business English that
he can make immediate use of. Then there are elementary reading
books, for the most part in English, although some are written in
the foreign languages, and books on civics that acquaint the Ameri-
can in process with the fundamental principles of our government.
These books give a short history of America and a few of its heroes,
Christopher Columbus, Washington, Lincoln ; they generally include
the Declaration of Independence ; and then go on to explain the Fire
Department, the Health Department, the Street Cleaning Depart-
ment ; — why rubbish must not be thrown into the streets, facts that
are so well known to us, but are not understood at all by this new-
comer. Such books, that help to interpret the rights of citizenship to
these men who may become voters in five years, are being written in
some of the foreign languages, but are not keeping pace with the
need. As an incentive to the reading of English, we include an illus-
trated book of travel that describes the respective countries in Eng-
lish under each literature, trusting that the attractive pictures of


their own country, because of their familiarity, will induce them to
read the English text that accompanies the pictures.

Leaflets in five different languages that explain what steps are
necessary in order that cards may be obtained and books taken from
the library have been prepared at our library. These leaflets state
the hours of opening and the rules in simple form and have an at-
tractive cut of the library on the front cover. A supply of these is
kept at the Registration Desk and when a new card is made out for
borrowers of these nationalities one is handed to him. We have
used them for advertising the department by distributing them to
night schools and clubs, and have found them especially useful in
reaching the parent through the child. Very little energy need be
expended to attract adults, however, for they come to the library
without much effort on our part and they need little attention after
they do come, for, as I have tried to prove, they know their own
literature better than we do. A small library could take care of
many different languages without expert knowledge. It is interesting
to note in this connection the following statements in the annual re-
ports of two such institutions as the New York Public Library and the
Boston Public Library. From the former we quote "The branches
with the largest use are nearly all on the East Side of the city, where
the foreign born and tenement house population is thickest, indicating
the great popularity of thfe library with this part of the community.
A study of statistics shows, further, that it is just this part of the
population which is making most use of the library for study and
reading of scientific, historical, sociological, and philosophical books."
And the Boston Public Library finds that the "hunger for books is )
keen and universal among those being made into Americans".

This leads me directly to a discussion of the aids in book selec-
tion that have proved useful to us, a list of which is appended. The
great difficulty encountered in making our selection of purchases in
foreign literatures is this dearth of reliable book lists, a lack which is
being remedied. Aside from the excellent articles in the Encyclo-
pedia Britannica under the countries in which one is interested, and
in addition to chapters on the literature of a country that are in-
cluded in modern books of travel, some of which are mentioned in
the list below, an important source of information is the public itself.
Situated as we are in a university town, we are peculiarly able to get
expert assistance from the superior immigrant. The willingness on
the part of readers to assist and be of service in behalf of their fellow-
countrymen has been a noticeable feature of our work. A young
Russian, whom I well remember poring over his first American news-


paper less than six years ago, who in six months was registered as a
sophomore at Brown University, and was graduated with high honors
and now occupies a responsible position with the Boston and Maine
Railroad, has been of invaluable assistance to us in selecting books
and arousing the interest of Russian readers.

Readers find it a pleasure to review a book for us and are eager
to talk about their country and its literature. We have a Portuguese
friend, a member of the Royal Geographical Society of Lisbon, who
has met many of the literary lights of Portugual. She takes pleasure
in talking of them, their personal appearance and literary position,
which helps one place them in one's mind to a remarkable degree.
She has a personal acquaintance with Camillo Castello Branco and
has seen Herculano walk the streets of Lisbon as an old, old man.
A Greek youth told me about the editor of an old magazine, for
which I haven't had very much respect or interest heretofore, prob-
ably on account of its unattractive binding, until he recounted the
man's life work and brilliant intellect and personal appearance
when he met him at the age of 94. After that the uninteresting
old book put on a new face. A young Portuguese working as a
bookkeeper in a business that employed rough men turned out to be
a poet, whose sensitive ear was offended at our greeting "hullo," and
who spoke the English language with a fine sense of its shades of
meaning. Upon acquaintance he produced portraits of the King and
the Queen Mother, autographed, and modestly explained that he had
been one of a committee of university students to greet the King at
the time he ascended the throne. It has been an education to me to
meet these people. I never realized how narrow had been my
knowledge of the literature of the world, until I had read Brandes'
book on Poland, and essays on Russian and Portuguese and Swedish
literatures. My sensations, I think, must have been similar to those
of Keats "On first looking into Chapman's Homer".

The library co-operates with the night schools, sending them lists
of books that will assist both teachers and pupils. But, according to
a little handbook published by the local Y. M. C. A., one-fourth of
those who cannot speak English in Providence are untouched by the
public school. These must be reached by some other means.
Stereopticon lectures, wherever they have been tried, have been suc-
cessful in meeting large numbers of our new Americans, who show
every evidence of interest and appreciation of the various events de-
picted. Providence has recently become a port of entry for immi-
grants, and coincident with this has arisen the Immigrant Educa-
tional Bureau, which is arranging for lectures in foreign languages


ancl in English on such topics as will appeal to the immigrants and
will assist them in becoming useful citizens. The outline submitted
is most comprehensive. Our lecture room at the library is one of the
halls used for these lectures. Here is an opportunity to present by
means of the illustrated lecture the history and government of our
city, state, and country ; to tell of our local industries ; and to explain
our standards of sanitation and hygiene.

These Americans in the making are remarkably susceptible to
the influence of our national life and respond quickly to intelligeat
sympathy. That they are easily Americanized is a remarkable and en-
couraging fact. In 1911 two thousand eight hundred a day came to our
land, desirous of a better opportunity for themselves and their chil-
dren to enjoy life. If we are to assimilate the immigrant, we must
stretch out the helping hand and welcome him. The initiative must
be taken by us. It is our privilege to see that this problem, a prob-
lem of such immense importance to the future of our country, is
solved aright by helping to make these homesick strangers more con-
tented in their new environment, and we can assist in a very definite
way in turning them into intelligent, law-abiding American citizens.


The following lists were compiled by Miss Marguerite Reid of
the Providence Public Library, and some additions were [made by
Mr. John G. Moulton of the Haverhill Public Library. The
aim was not to give complete lists but to suggest material of
recent date accessible to the average library. Under "Aids in
selecting foreign books" the lists issued by book sellers and libra-
ries will in many cases be sent free on application. The list of
books on language as furnished by Miss Reid was enlarged from
lists of the Haverhill, New York, and Springfield public libraries
This list was prepared with the needs of the smaller libraries,
in view, and when practicable books for first purchase were in-
dicated. Prices quoted are approximately the publisher's prices,
and from these usually a discount of 10% may be obtained.

It is recommended that the smaller libraries should not attempt
to import directly through agents in foreign countries but buy
through the foreign booksellers in this country. Some of these book-
sellers are noted under "Aids in selecting foreign books".


It is hoped that these lists are free from serious errors. The
Secretary, Mr. Moulton, will be glad to receive notice of corrections
or additions and will try to answer questions as to selection and pur-
chase. If deemed advisable, a list of grammars and dictionaries for
studying foreign languages will appear in a later Bulletin.


Balch, Emily Q. Our Slavic fellow citizens.

Baring, Maurice. Landmarks in Russian literature.

Brandes, Qeorg M. C. Poland.

Campbell, J. Maud. Public library and the immigrant. New York
Libraries, v. 1, p. 100-105, 132-136.

Crawford, Virginia M. Studies in foreign literature.

Devonshire, H. C. French books for our daughters. National Re-
view, V. 48, p. 1022-1033.

Ellis, Havelock. Soul of Spain.

Encyclopaedia Britannica. Articles under countries— literature.

Fitzmaurice-Kelly, James. Chapters on Spanish literature.

History of Spanish literature.

Francke, Kuno. German ideals of today.

A history of German literature.

Qosse, Edmund. French profiles.
Hale, E. E., Jr. Dramatists of today.
HapgOOd, Hutching. Spirit of the Ghetto.

Harboe, Paul. Silhouettes of Swedish writers. Bookman, v. 24, p.

Heller, Otto. Studies in modern German literature.
Howells, William D. Modern Italian poets.
Huneker, James. Egoists.


James, Henry, French poets and novelists.

Jousselln, Stephane. Some French books that American women

ought to read. Review of Reviews, v.' 32, p. 89.
Kennard, Joseph S. ItaUan romance writers.
Konta, Annie L. History of French literature.
Kropotkin, Frinct. Russian literature. .


Lee, Elizabeth. Recent foreign literature. (Appears in "Library,"

an English quarterly, each number.)
Mulliken, Clara. Reading list on modern dramatists.
Phelp«, William Lyon. Essays on Russian'novelists.
Prestage, Edgar. - English neglect of Portuguese literature. Academy,

V. 43, p. 506.

Ramsden, Hermione. The new myticism in Scandinavia. Nineteenth

Century, v. 47, p. 279-296.
Robertson t John Q. History of German literature.
5aintsbury, George. Later nineteenth century. V. 12 of Periods of

European literature.
Scandinavian novel. Living Age, v. 232, p. 1-19.
Steiner, Edward A. Immigrant tide.

On the trail of the immigrant.

Stephens, Winifred. French novelists of today.
Stories of the nations series.

SymonSt Arthur. Studies in prose and verse.

Symbolist movement in literature.

Thayer, William R. Italica.

Thorold, Alger. Six masters in disillusion.

Van Norman, L. E. Poland.

Villiers- Warden, Afrs. Spain of the Spanish.
Waiiszewski, K. History of Russian literature.
Wells, Benjamin W. Modem French literature.

Modern German literature.

Wiener, Lee. History of Yiddish literature in the nineteenth century.
Zimmern, Helen. Italy of the Italians.

Consult also articles on work with foreigners in Library Journal and
Public Libraries.



(Books for first purchase are indicated with an asterisk.)


Adkins. An English course for evening students. Swan, Sonnen-

schein. 1909. $1 00


Althouse. Business letters. Penn Pub. Co. 1910. .50

* Chancellor. Reading and language lessons for evening schools.

Amer. Book Co. 1904. .30
* Studies in English for evening schools. Amer. Book Co.

1904. .30
Cody. How to do business by letter. School of English, Chicago.

1908. $1 00

Success in letter-writing, business and social. McClurg. 1906.


«Paustine and Wagner. A new reader for evening schools. Adapted

for foreigners. Vocabulary in English, Swedish, Polish, Italian, and

German. Hinds. 1909. .50
♦Field and Coveney. English for new Americans. Vocabulary in

English, Armenian, Modern Greek, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish,

Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Syrian (Arabic;, and Yiddish. Silver,

Burdett. 1911. .60
♦Houghton. First lessons in English for foreigners in evening schools.

Amer. Book Co. 1911. .40
♦Hlilshof. Reading made easy for foreigners. Hinds. 1909. 3v. $1 20
♦MintZ. First reader for new American citizens. Macmillan. 1910. .50

* The new American Citizen. Macmillan. 1909. .50

* A practical speller for evening schools. Macmillan. 1910. .50

New York City, Dept. of Education. Instruction to teachers in

elementary schools.
*0*Brien. English for foreigners. Houghton> MifHin. 1909. .50
♦Prior and Ryan. How to learn Enghsh; a reader for foreigners.

Macmillan. 1911. .55
Roberts. English for coming Americans. Y. M. C. A. Press. 1909.


English for coming Americans; first reader. Y. M. C. A. Press.

1909. .50

5harpe. First reader for foreigners. Amer. Book Co. 1911. .40
Thorley. A Primer of English for foreign students. Macmillan. 1910.

♦Wallach. A first and second book in English for foreigners. Silver,

Burdett. 1910. .50



«Guliail. Elementary English grammar for Armenians. Groos. 1901.
$1 00

Yeran. Armenian-English conversation. Author, 603 Massachusetts


Online LibraryMarguerite McL ReidAids in library work with foreigners → online text (page 1 of 2)