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  Annual Report of the Boston Public Library -- 1900-01

Report of the Examining Committee, Section on Books
The Committee on Books suggest the "need of extra assistants in the Children's Reading-room during at least two hours of the afternoon after school hours for the following reasons: (I) This room is then apt to be crowded, especially in bad weather, and (2) guidance in the choice of good reading is here, and here only, possible. The parental function may be exercised and effort may constantly be made to have each child read certain of the best books before going on to elective reading and indiscriminate choice. The children now recommend books to each other and the silliest and least profitable stories are read out of their covers for lack of knowledge of even the names of anything better; there is a natural preference for the easiest reading and the slightest intellectual effort. This can only be counteracted by the affectionate care and interest of instructed older people. The extra assistants might be volunteers or might sometimes be drawn from the waiting lists of those who desire library positions. They would advise the children and befriend them as far as possible.["]  "Sometimes a half-hour can be spent with a single child to the best possible purpose," as the most thoughtful of our special workers in this direction has lately said, "but in the present condition of things, the room crowded only at certain hours and the attendants being few, this personal attention is not often possible." The committee also recommend a still greater increase in the supply of standard books for young people (or children's classics). The best collections of fairy tales, which stimulate the imagination, are just now in astonishing demand, though not long ago it was claimed that children cared for them no more. It appears from the records kept of unsuccessful applications (ranging from one hundred in June last to above three thousand in March), that beside the additions already made, fifty extra copies of these "classics" for the Children's Room and fifty for the stacks would not be too large an increase. This committee also recommend further purchases of French and German books of literary value and rank in their own country.
    They regard as very important the replenishing and careful keeping up of the supply of Baedeker's and other guide books. They do not see the use of any careful rebinding in this department when new editions are obtainable.
    They suggest the reprinting of a very useful Readers Handbook, which can still be found at the desks for reference, but is now out of print.
    The committee are aware of the recent demand for large sums for the multiplication of branch libraries and delivery stations in different parts of the city. At the same time there is cause for regret that so small a proportion of the city's large appropriation has been available for the purchase of books.


The text given here is from the full committee, summarizing, with some quotation, the report Jewett wrote as chair of the Subcommittee on Books (pp. 55-6).  Her report is in the Houghton Library: MS Am 1743.22: [Other stories and articles.] (104) Report of the sub-committee on books. TS.s.; [Boston, n.d.]. 7s.(7p.)  Report of the sub-committee on books of The Examining Committee of the Boston Public Library.

John E. Frost summarizes Jewett's service on the Examining Committee of the Boston Public Library surveying the library's resources in 1900-01:  "This was a great honor for which roughly two score persons of distinction were chosen annually, and during one year Miss Jewett, as chairman, drafted and wrote the report of the sub-committee on books.  Sarah attended many meetings of the committee and observed that the report was one 'of which I am proud.  I hope it will do some good.'" 
    Frost quotes from Jewett's letter of 5 January 1900, to her sister Mary, which is in the collection of Historic New England.  However, this may be somewhat problematic as the letter apparently predates the report.

Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College, 2015.

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