THE SELECTION OF BOOKS FOR SUNDAY SCHOOL LIBRARIES AND THEIR INTRODUCTION TO CHILDREN
In the following article taken from the Library Journal of October, 1882, Mr. S. S. Green says that his "principal object is to show how books are selected and how children are interested in books in the Sunday-school in which I am a teacher." It is interesting to know that in a recent letter written to the editor in regard to the use of this article Mr. Green says: "As I read it over, it seems to me that the advice given in it is still much needed." Samuel Swett Green was born in Worcester in 1837, and was graduated from Harvard in 1858. In 1890 he was appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts an original member of the Free Public Library Commission. He was one of the founders of the A. L. A., and also a life member, and was chosen its president in 1891. From 1867 to 1871 he was a trustee of the Worcester Public Library, and he was librarian from 1871 to 1909, when he was made librarian emeritus. Mr. Green has published several books on library subjects.
It is gratifying to notice that the movement started several years ago by certain ladies connected with the religious body known as Unitarian Congregationalists, who organized themselves under the name of the Ladies' Commission for the purpose of reading children's books and preparing lists of them suitable for Sunday-school libraries, has led within two or three years to the formation of a similar organization in the Protestent Episcopal Church, and more recently to that of one among Orthodox Congregationalists.
Individual clergymen and others have also lately shown a great interest in the work of selecting and disseminating good lists of books suitable for Sunday-school libraries.
It is unnecessary to say that it was high time that this work was entered upon earnestly. The officers of the more intelligently administered public libraries had come to reject, almost without examination, books prepared especially for the use of Sunday-schools, and without consideration to refuse works admission to their shelves issued by certain publishers whose business it was to provide for the wants of Sunday-school libraries.
It had become obvious, among other facts, that the same objections that were made to providing sensational stories for boys and girls in public libraries, lay equally against the provision of books usually placed in Sunday-school libraries.
The one class of books was generally moral in tone, but trashy in its representations of real life; the other, religious in tone, but equally trashy in its presentations of pictures of what purported to be the life of boys and girls.
Both classes of books were good in their intention, both similarly unwholesome.
Gratifying, however, as are the results of this movement, there is something more that needs to be done. Libraries must be purified from objectionable literature; new books must be properly selected; but after this kind of work has been done, a very important work remains to be attended to, namely, that of helping children to find out the books in the library that will interest them and pleasantly instruct them. Every child should be aided to get books suited to its age, its immediate interests, and its needs.
The Library Journal, in its number for June gave the title of a catalogue of the books in the Sunday-school library of the Unitarian church in Winchester, Massachusetts. In this catalogue short notes are added to the titles of some of the books to show, when the titles do not give information enough, what subjects are really treated of in the books annotated.
Something beside this is desirable, however. Children need much personal aid in selecting books.
I have been conservant of the work of a minister who, about a year since, after examining carefully all the books in the Sunday-school library of his church, and after taking out such volumes as he considered particularly objectionable and adding others which he knew to be good, set himself the task of talking with the children of his school about their reading. The school has a superintendent, but he, as minister, also takes an interest in it and has spent the time he has given to it, recently, in talking with the children, one at a time, about books, finding out from them their tastes and what they had been reading, and recommending to them wholesome books to read and interesting lines of investigation to pursue.
My principal object in writing this article is to show how books are selected and how children are interested in books in the Sunday-school in which I am a teacher. It seems to me that its methods are wise and worthy of being followed elsewhere. The Sunday-school referred to is that connected with the Second Congregational (1st Unitarian) Church in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Thirteen or fourteen years ago the library of this Sunday- school was carefully examined and weeded. Every book was read by competent persons, and the poorest books were put out of the library. This weeding process has gone on year by year; as new books have been added others not representing a high standard of merit have been removed from the shelves. Great care has been taken to examine conscientiously new books before putting them into the library. The result is that the Sunday- school now has an excellent library. It has found the catalogue of the Ladies' Commission of great aid in making selections, but has not found all the books recommended in it adapted to its purposes. A competent committee has always read the books recommended by the Commission, so as to make sure that such volumes only were selected as would meet the actual needs of the Sunday-school we have to provide for.
Books are now bought as published. A contribution of about a hundred dollars is taken up annually. This money is put into the hands of the Treasurer of the Library Committee, and the sub-committee on purchases get from a book-store such books as it seems probable will answer our purposes, read them carefully, and buy such as prove desirable. The sub-committee consists of two highly cultivated young ladies. When they have selected two or three books they make notes of their contents. The books are then placed on a table in the minister's room, and the superintendent of the school calls attention to them--reading to scholars a short description of each book prepared by the sub-committee, and inviting the scholars to examine the books after the close of the current session of the school or before the opening of the school the following Sunday. After these two opportunities have been given to the children to look at the books and handle them, they are put into the library and are ready to be taken out.
This sub-committee has taken another important step within a year or two. The members have read over again all the books in the library and made notes descriptive of their contents, and the school has elected one of the ladies as consulting librarian. She sits at a little table in the school-room during the sessions of the school, and with her notes before her receives every teacher or scholar who wishes to consult about the selection of a book, and gives whatever assistance is asked for in picking out interesting and suitable books.
She is kept very busy and is doing a work of great value.
It is gratifying to me to find that this work of bringing the librarian into personal contact with readers and of establishing pleasant personal relations between them, which has been so fruitful in good results in the public library under my charge in Worcester, has been extended to Sunday-school work with so much success.