William Frederick Yust.

Library legislation online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online LibraryWilliam Frederick YustLibrary legislation → online text (page 1 of 2)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


3 ^3T Ifll







9lmeruan Librarp iSeeodation |)ablielitns fioarH







Chapters and Authors
"American Librarj' History," Mr. Bolton. Printed.

"Library of Congress," Mh, Bishop. Print-ed.
"The State Library," Mr. Wyer. Printed.
"The College and University Library," Mr. Wyer,
V. " Proprietarj'^ and Subscription Libraries," Mr. Bolton.

VI. "The Free Pulilic Librarj-," Miss Lord. Printed.
VII. "The High-School Library," Mr. Ward. Printed,
VIII. "Special Libraries," Mr. Johnston. Printed.


and Administration

IX. "Library Legislation," Mr. Yust. Printed.

X. "Librarj' Building," Mr. E.\stman. Printed.

XI, "Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment," Miss Eastaun.


XII. "Administration," Dr. BosTWTCK. Printed.

XIII. "Training for Librarianship," Miss Plummer. Printed.

XIV. " Library Service," Miss Baldwin. Printed,

XV. "Branch Libraries and Other Distributing Agencies,"

Miss Eastman. Printed.
XVI. "Book Selection," Miss Ba.scom. Printed.
XVII. "Order and Accession Department," Mr. Hopper,

XVIII. "Classification," Miss Bacon. Printed.
XIX. "The Catalog." Miss Howe. In preparation.
XX. "Shelf Department," Miss Rathbone. Printed.
XXI. " Loan Work," Mr. Vir/. Printed.
XXII. "Reference Department," Dr. Richardson. Printed.

XXIII. "Government Documents," Mr. Wyer. Printed.

XXIV. " Bibliography," Miss Mudge. Printed.

XXV. "Pamphlets and Mmor Librarj' Material," Me. Wyer.


XXVI. "Bookbinding," Mb. Bailey. Printed.

XXVII. "Library Co.im'inaiom'and State Library Extension, or
. State Aid and State Agencies," Mk. Wynkoop.
',■ Pi.ii?t'ed. ; : : ,".
XXVIIl. "The' Library and tne School," Miss Wood. In
XXIX. "Library Work with Cliildren," Miss Olcott. Printed.
XXX. "Library Work with the Blind," Miss Chamberlain
XXXI. "Publicity." In preparation.
XXXII. " Library "Printing," Mr. Walter. Printed.





Rochester Public Library

Stages in the development of legis-
Tax rate and method of government
The A.L.A. and library legislation

Outline of a good library law
Outline of a county library law

Library legislation in the United States is of three kinds,
national, state, and municipal. National legislation, which is
not treated in this paper, relates mainly to such subjects as book
postage, the importation of books, the distribution of govern-
ment documents, and to libraries which are under federal
control. Federal aid to small city and rural libraries is under
consideration. Municipal legislation is the local appUcation
of state law and will therefore be considered only as a part of
the general subject.

State legislation in regard to libraries began with the South
CaroUna act of 1700. Numerous parochial libraries "for
publicke use" had been estabUshed in the cities of the colonies
from Boston to Charleston by the Rev. Thomas Bray. South
Carolina had one of these lending libraries and was the first to
provide for its protection and regulation. In 171 2 a supple-
mental act was passed because "the unrestrained hberty
hath already proved very prejudicial to the said library, several
of the books being lost and others damnified."

Stages in the development of legislation. — Legislation on
Ubraries as on other well-estabUshed institutions of society
exhibits an evolutionary progress. Writers like Dr. H. A.
Homes, W. I. Fletcher, and W. R. Eastman have noted certain



iM<t5i3<f Stages inlthJs.eyolikion. These are illustrated by (i)
special society libraries, (2) school-district libraries, (3) town
libraries, (4) state-aid, and (5) county Ubraries.

The first stage appears in the incorporation of joint stock
companies, which were known under different names, such as
proprietary, social, subscription, and even public libraries.
The earliest of these was the Philadelphia Library Company
incorporated in 1742. Benjamin Franklin, who had founded
it eleven years earUer, called it "the mother of all the North
American subscription libraries." Then came the enactment
of general laws for incorporating these co-operative associations,
which sprang up in great numbers. With the rise and spread
of the free public library idea their pri\'ileges were extended
farther and farther until many of them became free Ubraries
with a legal standing as part of the Ubrary system of the state.
In this way numerous modern libraries are the direct outgrowth
of these subscription Ubraries.

The second stage of development came nearly a century
after the first with the estabUshment of the school-district
Ubraries. These were founded and conducted under state
school laws. They were, however, not for the benefit of school
children only, but for aU the inhabitants within the boundaries
of the school district. They benefited largely from the surplus
money distributed from the United States Treasury. This plan
began in New York state in 1835 and continued in force there
for fifty-five years. For many years the state appropriated
$S5,ooo annually for them and an equal amount.was raised
locaUy. They were so successful at first that up to 1877
similar laws had been passed in twenty-one states, including
many in the East and in the Middle West, and some as far
west as California. The plan, however, had serious weaknesses:
(i) the amount of money obtainable for any one district was
too small to pro\ade suitable additions of books; (2) there was
no adequate state supervision and no proper local management


to insure the preservation and usefulness of the books. Hence
interest declined, the books gradually disappeared, and the
plan was abandoned. In the rural sections the school district
was too small a unit while in the towns and cities a different
method of organization was developing.

Although these school libraries were acknowledged failures,
they nevertheless performed a useful function in preparing-
public sentiment for another step in advance. Their value
was twofold: they embodied the theory strongly advocated
by so eminent an educator as Horace Mann that public libraries
are an essential part of a complete system of public education.
In this way they were instrumental in educating the people to
the need and value of reading. At the same time they served
as an important object-lesson in the proper method of hbrary
support, namely, through public taxation. The New York
law creating them is "the first known law of a state allowing the
people to tax themselves to maintain genuine public Ubraries."
They are therefore properly "acknowledged to have been the tran-
sition link between the subscription library and the town library."

Some large modern libraries organized and are still operating
under this type of law with modifications. Notable examples
are the public libraries of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis,
and Kansas City.

In 1848 a special law was passed by Massachusetts authoriz-
ing the city of Boston to levy a tax of $5,000 for the support of
a free public library. In 1849 New Hampshire passed a similar
law, but made it apply to the entire state, as Massachusetts
did two years later on the appUcation of other cities and towns.
This extension of the provisions of the Boston law from one
city to all the cities and towns in the state marks the third
stage of legislative development. New Hampshire therefore
has the honor of having enacted the first general law for estab-
lishing and maintaining free public libraries by towns through
municipal taxation.


The principle embodied in this law spread gradually to
other states as did the school-district idea. Within twenty-five
years it was written in the statutes of twelve states — New
Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Ohio, Colorado,
Illinois, New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, and Texas, in
the order named; in fifty years, 1898, it had extended to
thirty-eight states; at present it is in operation in every state
of the union.

The fourth stage of legislation began in i8go, when Massa-
chusetts created a state commission to promote the estabUsh-
ment and efficiency of hbraries throughout the state. This
commission of five members was appointed by the governor
and was authorized to give advice and assistance to any free
public library and as much as $100 worth of books to any town
establishing such a library.

This principle of state aid inaugurated a new era in library
development. While the state had hitherto been passive and
its laws permissive, it now became active and aggressive.
Heretofore all the initiative had to be taken by the municipality;
now through this state body an outside stimulus and support
was given to local effort.

The new example set by Massachusetts was rapidly followed
by other states. In ten years similar commissions had been
created in sixteen states and today there are thirty-seven.

The enabhng acts in most states provide for an agency
similar to that of the pioneer commonwealth, though the form
and the name vary in many states. In Alabama the work is
done by the Department of Archives and History, in New York
by the Extension Division of the Education Department, in
Washington by the State Library. There is a tendency toward
consoUdating the state library agencies with the state education
department. The objects however are similar in each, the
functions performed varying chiefly in extent, according to the
status of pubUc opinion and the size of the appropriation.


Their fullest extension has been reached in such states as
New York, Wisconsin, and California. Their functions are
outlined by Asa Wynkoop in chapter^xvii of this manual as
follows: (i) The establishing of local libraries; (2) aiding and
improving local libraries; (3) promoting helpful co-operation
between libraries; (4) raising the standard and quality of
library service; (5) providing aid to school hbraries; (6) aid
to libraries in state institutions; (7) providing library facilities
where no local library exists; (8) selecting and distributing
pubHc documents; (9) library for the blind; (10) legislative
reference work; (11) establishing standards of library service;
(12) issuing certificates of qualifications to librarians.

The size of the political unit used as a basis for library
establishment has gradually enlarged from the school district
to the city, the town or township, and to the county.

Many of the early western states in copying the New Eng-
land town-library laws made provision for township libraries.
Not many of these were estabUshed except in a few states like
Michigan, where they were made obligatory in the state con-
stitution of 1835. This compulsory feature has been twice
placed on the statute books of that state and twice repealed,
the last repeal in 1909. The libraries established under these
acts, although free to all residents of the township, were prac-
tically school libraries with a history like the school-district
libraries of other states. They have finally swung back to the
district system because they are controlled by the school
organization, which is based on the district unit. Scattered
examples of successful township free public libraries may
however be found in a number of states.

A fifth stage of evolution brought the county library into
prominence. The county has from the first been recognized
as a strong poHtical unit for public-school organization. Like-
wise it has long presented possibilities for furnishing library
advantages to people in large and sparsely settled areas.


County libraries were provided for as early as 1816 in the
state constitution of Indiana and a number of laws were passed
to carry out this provision. But little was accomplished there
or in the other states having similar laws until the subject was
revived by the Ohio legislature in 1898. This led to its con-
sideration in other states and in 1909 California passed its
comprehensive law. There are now twenty-five states having
some kind of legislation regarding county libraries and a number
of other states are preparing to take action. Some permit the
county to establish a library, others allow it to adopt an existing
library, and some permit either method. County Ubraries
have been most extensively developed in California. The
chief features of its law are given on page 13.

The tax rate and the method of government. — Two impor-
tant questions have commanded attention from the beginning.
The first is whether the tax rate for library purposes should be
restricted. A maximum limit suggests a Uberal rate which is
regarded as proper, and yet assures the timid taxpayer that
the fixed rate will not be exceeded. On the contrary this
restriction in small towns may not permit sufficient support,
while towns able and willing are prevented by law from giving
more Uberal support. A minimum rate assures at least a
certain amount of income, although there is danger that this
may be wrongly regarded as sufiicient for all purposes.

These differences of opinion have never entirely disap-
peared. In some states, especially those of New England,
no restrictions have ever been made, while in the newer and
western states either a minimum or a ma.ximum rate or both
have always existed. In some, as in Missouri, the rate is
graduated according to the need of the municipality and its
size and financial ability.

It has been pointed out that there are three forms of tax
support: (i) The appropriation of specific sums from the
municipal treasury as may be determined from year to year.


(2) The levying of a regular tax, the rate to be determined
annually by the general tax-leyying authority. This rate
may be fixed by law as to its minimum or maximum or both.
In either of these cases the latitude allowed the appropriating
body makes an inadequate income always a possibility and
frequently a fact. (3) The levying of a regular tax, the rate of
which is determined by the Ubrary authority, as is the case in
Indiana. This follows the school plan of the newer states and
intrusts those best qualified to judge with the power to provide
an adequate income.

The second question relates to government and control —
whether the law should define in detail the method of organiza-
tion and management or whether these matters should be left
entirely to the local authorities. This gave rise to two types,
the short law and the long law.

The short law prevailed almost exclusively in the New
England states but found its briefest expression in the Texas
law of 1874, which read, "Any incorporated city may estabUsh
a free public library and may make such regulations and grant
such part of its revenue for the management and increase
thereof as the municipal government may determine." Such
a law allows the fullest freedom to the citizens in each locality
to organize and operate the library according to their own
views. It is therefore calculated to enlist a large measure of
popular interest and its success presupposes a high intellectual-
and civic standard.

The long law on the other hand aimed to insure the estab-
lishment of the library according to approved methods and to
safeguard it against too frequent change and political inter-
ference in its management. The best early illustration of this
type of law is the Illinois act of 1872. It consists of twelve long
sections, which iLx a maximum tax rate, define the number,
mode of election, powers and duties of the trustees, and prescribe
various regulations for the management of the library. The


main features of this act have been widely copied and the long
law has become the established method in the great majority
of states.

Under the commission form of government a select board of
five is retained in Iowa, its members appointed by the city com-
missioners, serving without pay and having all the powers given
to library trustees under the general library law of the state.

A form of government frequently found is that of the "free
library," which though free to the pubhc is controlled by an
incorporated association. Many of the early subscription
hbraries developed into this type by becoming enthely free.
In return they have been permitted by statute to receive
money aid from the municipality and even from the state.
This aid is given on evidence officially certified that their
service is up to the standard estabhshed by law.

As this form of control places the library entirely in the
hands of its friends it is frequently adopted for endowed libraries
or in starting small libraries before asking for a public tax.
Many state laws authorize a municipality to contract with such
an association for free library privileges, the hbrary to receive
public tax support based on the nature and extent of the service
rendered. Such libraries exist in many parts of the country,
especially in the East.

The A.L.A. and library legislation. — For a quarter of a
century the American Library Association took no definite
action on this matter of fundamental importance. In June,
1877, Melvil Dewey proposed a summary of legislation in the
eleven states having laws with a view to the preparation of a
model law by a committee of the association. In September
of the same year Dr. WilUam F. Poole sketched the existing
laws noting some of their merits and their defects. He
characterized the legislation of forty years as "crude and
ill-digested," but thought it more judicious not to draft a


model statute in order that the association might not commit
itself at the time to any specific form of legislation and thus
divide its forces on methods.

The policy thus laid down prevailed for a quarter of a
century. Meanwhile one state copied from another, incorporat-
ing the bad as well as the good features of its laws, with the
result that legislation developed in a much more unsystematic
way than if there had been a model to follow. Reviews covering
the acts of a given year or more were written from time to
time, which brought out certain tendencies, but which never
resulted in any action.

In 1897 Frank C. Patten for the first time presented in a
concise form the essentials and an outline of a good law. The
subject was again treated a few years later by W. R. Eastman
and in 1909 a committee of the American Library Association
prepared and published a model commission law. The chief
features of these several papers with additions and modifications
are embodied in the following:

Outline of a good library law. — Three essentials which a
good law provides are:

1. Careful and consecutive management.

2. A sure and steady revenue.

3. A central agency for supervision and promotion.

Most states have separate laws for local libraries, for the
state library, and for the library commission, as well as for
other Ubrary purposes. These should all be codified in the
interest of brevity, simplicity, and comprehensiveness. The
following outline is designed to accomplish these ends and to
bring all the free public libraries of the state into a co-operative
working system. It may be desirable to modify the plan to
meet conditions in a given state. But by bearing the essentials
in mind and securing the best legal assistance no mistake need
be made in the preparation of a good law.



a) State the purpose of a public library broadly and

place its claim to support on the same basis as
that of the public school.

b) Make possible the maintenance of loan, reference,

and reading-room branches, and other agencies
for book distribution, museum, lecture, and allied
educational features.

a) Authorize the governing body of any city, town,

county, school district, or other political body that
has power to levy and collect ta.xes to establish
and maintain a pubhc library for the free use
of all the people. Require it to do so on favorable
vote of a majority of those voting on the question
at any election.

b) Provide that on petition of 25 or 50 ta.xpayers

the question of establishment, rate of tax and
bonds shall be decided by vote of the people
at a general or special election, to be changed
only by another vote.

c) Provide for joint establishment and maintenance

by neighboring political bodies.

d) Prescribe the mode for changing the form of

organization of an existing library to conform
to the new law.

e) Authorize a special tax or bonds to provide rooms,

land, or buildings.
/) Provide for keeping as a separate fund the moneys
appropriated and received for library purposes
and for placing them entirely under the control
of the library board.


3. Maintenance

Provide for permanent maintenance by a regular
annual tax, the rate to be fixed by the library authority
within the limits, if any, set by law.

4. Management

a) Establish an independent board of trustees con-

sisting of representative citizens of recognized
fitness, of either sex, to serve without salary, and
place the management wholly in its hands.

b) Secure a permanent board with gradual change of

membership, the number of members to be five
to seven, appointed by the mayor or other
executive officer for a term of five years, not
more than two to go out of office in any given
year; or divide the appointing power between
several officers or bodies.

c) Constitute the library a public corporation with

power to acquire, hold, transfer, and lease
property' and to receive donations and bequests.

d) Outline the powers and duties of trustees, such

as to buy sites, erect buildings, purchase books
and supplies, engage the necessary employees,
fijc salaries, etc.

e) Require state certificates based on special training

or experience for certain positions and provide
that all assistants shall be appointed by the
board on recommendation of the librarian.

5. Contract

Permit aiding a free library with public money and
making a contract with some existing library to
furnish general or special library privileges to the


Documents and exchanges

Provide for distributing all publications of the state
free to public libraries and for exchange of books and
duplicates by public libraries among themselves and
with the state central agency.


Impose penalties for theft, mutilation, over-detention,
and disturbance.


Provide that a pubHc Ubrary may be aboUshed in the
same manner that it has been estabUshed.

Central library agency

a) Name and place. Provide a comprehensive name

and suitable quarters. Preferably (name of

state) library commission with quarters in the
state house.

b) Commissioners. Five members to be appointed

by the governor, one each year for a term of
five years; to serve without salary.

c) Organization. Mention officers and employees and

their duties. Secretary not a member of the
commission and trained in library work.

d) Appropriation. Provide for an appropriation com-

mensurate with the needs and resources of the

e) Scope of work. To furnish information, give

advice and assistance to existing libraries of a
public nature, and to assist communities to
establish them; manage the state library and
make it the center of the library activities of the
state; receive gifts; maintain traveling libraries;
publish lists of books; establish standards of
organization and of service; conduct institutes
and schools for hbrarians and issue certificates


of qualifications; manage state grants of money
to libraries for. the purchase of books; conduct
clearing-house for duplicates and gifts to libraries
of the state; co-operate with state institutions
and with other states, and perform such other
service in behalf of public libraries as may be
for the best interests of the state.
/) Reports. Receive annual reports from Ubraries in
the state; make regular reports to the governor
to be presented to the general assembly on
library conditions and progress in the state.
Outline of county library law (as originally exemplified in
California and modified in other states). — ■

1. The supervisors may establish a free library for that


Online LibraryWilliam Frederick YustLibrary legislation → online text (page 1 of 2)