A. S. Steenberg: Recent progress in the popular libraries of Denmark and their present conditions. 1904.

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• A. S. Steenberg.

Recent progress in the popular libraries of Denmark and their present conditions


BY ANDR. Sca. STEENBERG, Horsens, Denmark.

FOR understanding the place of the Danish popular libraries, "Folkebogsamlinger" (people's libraries), it is necessary to keep in mind that until now there has not been anything in Denmark which can be compared with the free public libraries of the English, speaking nations. The difference between these free libraries and the Danish libraries - for the sake of brevity "libraries" in this article means popular libraries ? will easily be understood from the fact that nearly all the Danish libraries are without a reading room. They give out books for home?reading and these books for the most part (75 per cent and more) are fiction. They are open only a few hours every week and have no trained librarians.
In 1885 an inquiry was made of the conditions of the popular libraries. The results were published in 1889. Of the 1697 parishes in Denmark 1068 had libraries; some extensive parishes had more than one. 318 of them were the property of the municipality, the other of reading associations; out of these, 105 received a small grant from the municipality. A further inquiry into the materials on which this report was founded, shows that the larger part of those libraries was very small; they contained only a few hundred volumes, some of them less, and had often not more than 8?10 borrowers. They depended for their existence on the interest taken by a single person (generally the teacher.) Such libraries had of course but little vitality and resisting power.
For several reasons ? among them the vehement political struggle in the eighties and nineties ?the interest in the libraries was diminishing more and more. And when about the beginning of this century a new effort was made for bringing the libraries more forward in the public mind and giving them a more advanced position in the educational work, it turned out that a great part of the libraries had perished. So heavy had the mortality been that even now, after eager work for the promotion of the libraries, the number of libraries cannot be more than half of the number recorded in 1885. The present situation, it must be understood, is for the most part the result of only a few years' work.
What has been said here will apply mainly to the country. In the towns it was in earlier times the social clubs which had small libraries (very often only fiction) for the use of their members.
The last few years have seen the libraries advancing, though at a very slow pace. New libraries have been founded in the country, old ones have risen from the dead and the municipalities have begun to understand that the libraries ought to be supported. In the towns there has been progress also; 47 of the 77 towns have now got public libraries possessed or supported by the municipality. The government works for supporting and organizing the libraries. And one of the most important advances is the fact that teachers and others have begun to ponder whether the schools teach their pupils in the proper way the difficult art of reading, and they begin to understand that the lack of good and well used libraries tells of a standard of education that has several defects in comparison with the education of some other nations.
The popular libraries in Denmark can be grouped in three divisions - the libraries in Copenhagen and the town Frederiksberg (lying close to Copenhagen), the libraries of the towns, and the village libraries.
The largest of the popular libraries in Copenhagen ( c, 400,000 inhabitants) is "The People's Libraries of the Municipality of Copenhagen" (Kóbenhavns Kommunes Folkebiblioteker), founded in 1885. They contain seven libraries. The budget is c. $11,000, of which $5400 are spent by the municipality. They have a total of 45,000 volumes. In 1903 they received 3094 new books, of which 2191 were duplicates or books replacing worn out ones. The libraries are open five week days from 7-9 p. m. They are intended for the use of people only fairly well off. 70 per cent. of the borrowers belonged to this class; 24 per cent. were women. The borrowers pay 4 c. every month. Their number was 6000 on an average every month. 366,096 volumes were given out (on an average 60 volumes to every borrower, every book given out 8 times, every loan costs c. 2  .) Three of the libraries had reading rooms, opened week days from 7?10 p. m. and Sundays from 5?10 p. m.; they have been visited about 11,000 times.
In these libraries has been incorporated the People's Library of the suburb Valby, which had l00 borrowers every month and gave out 12,000 volumes.
"The People's Libraries of the Municipality of Frederiksberg" (Frederiksberg Kommunes Folkebiblioteker. ? Frederiksberg has c. 80,000 inhabitants) were founded in 1887. There are three libraries. Their budget is $2000, of which the municipality pays $1100. The libraries contain 10,800 volumes. They are open 9 months of the year, 1  hours 4-5 times every week. The borrowers pay as in Copenhagen; they numbered in 1902?3 1152 on an average every month. They come from the same classes as in Copenhagen; 71 per cent. were men. 73,000 volumes were given out (on an average 63 volumes to every borrower, every book given out 7 times; every loan costs 2 c.) There are no reading rooms.
Besides these municipal libraries there are in Copenhagen many libraries founded by societies. Some of the most important are mentioned here.
The Women's Reading Society (Kvindelig Lęseforening) was founded in 1872. Five ladies form the governing committee. The budget is $6000 ($540 grant from the government). The staff has 11 persons, all ladies. The subscription is $2.70 a year. There were in 1902?3 12,700 members. The lending library contains 25,000 volumes; it is open 11-4 and 6-8 p. m.; the classification is a modified form of the Dewey classification" the charging system is by book cards. 109,190 volumes were given out (every borrower 40 volumes, every volume lent out 4 times). There are much frequented reading rooms, with a reference library (500 volumes), newspapers and magazines, open 9 a.m.- 10 p.m. The society arranges lectures for its members.
The Workingmen's Reading Society (Arbejdernes Lęseforening) is founded by workingmen and is governed by 12 members and a president (he has a salary of $60). The budget is $2500 (herein $150 from the government). The staff has 5 persons. There were 2100 borrowers, who pay 10 c. monthly. The lending library has 9554 volumes; it is open 7-10 p.m.; 75,000 volumes were given out (every borrower 35 volumes, every book given out 9 times). There are reading rooms open 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., with a reference library (280 volumes), newspapers and magazines, where also new books are placed and given out; no account is given of these loans. The society arranges lectures and visits to the museums for its members.
The Workingmen's Union of 1860 (Arbejderforeningen of 1860) is founded by well-to-do people for helping the workingmen. Besides other purposes it lends books to its members. The budget (for the library only) was $750. The lending library has 20,000 volumes ; 1300 borowers got 50,491 books (every borrower has got 70 books, every book was given out 2  times). Reading rooms with 600 volumes, newspapers and magazines are open from 9 a.m: to 11 p.m.
Smaller libraries are The Library of the Young Men's Christian Association (Kristelig Ynglingeforenings Bibliotek), 2800 volumes, with 3000 volumes given out, and The Library of the Supply Association of Eastend (Osterbro Husholdningsforenings Bibliotek), 3000 volumes, with 7000 volumes given out.
The libraries of the towns, 47 in number, are founded in different ways, some by an association, some by a committee, a few by the municipality. But they are all supported with small sums by the municipality, for the most part also by lending of premises (in a school or in the town hall). Some of them are lodged in technical schools; a few of them have their own building. Sometimes they get support from savings banks. They are opened a few hours every week. The borrowers get the books gratis, or generally by paying a small sum (c. 5-9 c.) every month. They have for the most part class divided, printed catalogs; a few have a dictionary catalog. The charging system is very often a card system. The 36 libraries, which are subsidized by the government in 1904?5, have in all 100,000 volumes, 10,000 borrowers (the population of these towns is together 300,000 persons) and gave out 226,000 volumes. On an average each library had 2500 volumes, 250 borrowers and 6000 loans (every borrower got 23 books, every book was given out twice). Nine of the libraries had reading rooms.
In four towns the library gives out books to the surrrounding country also. The borrowers out in the country, who participate in the management of the library, are organized in reading circles and get boxes containing ro books or more, sent to them; the boxes can be changed as often as the borrowers wish. The largest is the Library of Vardi (on the west side of Jutland) ; it has 250 borrowers in the town and 550 in the country; it gives out 12,000 and 30,000 volumes to them. Two libraries have other arrangements for co?operation between town and country.
Different from the common form of the town libraries is The Reading Society of the Diocese of Funen (Fyens Stifts lęseforening), founded 1838. It owns a large property in Odense (on the island Funen), with a large garden, where concerts are given. The staff consists of 5 persons. There are 2055 members, who pay $3 (town people) and $2 (other members) in the year. The lending library, open 10-1 and 3-7, contains 29,000 volumes and was used by 1689 borrowers. There are several reading rooms, with newspapers, magazines, and reference library (1260 volumes), open 8 a.m.-11 p.m.
The village libraries are often called parish libraries (Sognebogsamlinger) or reading societies (Ięseforeninger). They are mostly founded by private means and are possessed by a society; a few are the property of the municipality; some of them get support from the municipality. In the last year the grants from the municipalities have been much more common because the government now, when subsidizing the libraries, takes into account whether the library has got local support. The libraries contain only a few hundred of volumes. The librarian is generally the teacher, who works for the library without getting any fee. In many parishes the library is closed during the summer months. A few of the libraries have a reading room. The borrowers pay a small sum (20?60 c,) every year. Of these libraries there exist c. 450 In 1904-5 the government subsidizes 366 libraries; they had together 140,000 volumes, 16,000 borrowers and 300,000 loans; do an average every library had 400 volumes, 44 borrowers and 800 loans (every borrower got 18 books, every book was given out twice in a year).
Some of the village libraries have tried to help the smallness of their book stock by co-operation. On the island Samsó, the libraries have formed a central library (with a reading room), from which the district libraries every fall get a box containing c. 50 volumes for use during the winter. In some parishes (with more than one school) the library is divided in parts, which are placed in the different schools and changed from school to school every year. Sometimes Several parish libraries co?operate by mutual changing of their books or a part of them Co?operation between town and the surrounding country has been mentioned above.
The Danish state subsidizes popular libraries in two ways ? through the State Library Commission, and through the Committee for the Promotion of the People's Enlightenment.
The State Library Commission (Statens Komité til Understottelse af Folkebogsamlinger) in 1899 succeeded a former committee, whose only aim was to distribute grants from the government to the libraries. The commission spends yearly c. $4000. It distributes grants to the libraries, works for arousing the interest in public libraries and helps in organizing them. In 1904?5 it subsidizes 366 village libraries and 36 town libraries (besides 6 in Copenhagen), with sums of from $2 to $54.
A member of the commission gives lectures on libraries, followed by lantern slide pictures, or gives opening addresses to discussions of libraries and reading. He works for getting the teachers interested in the library question by lecturing at school meetings and on the normal schools. More recently the commission has taken up the question of the use of books in the schools and will soon publish a little book about it, which will be distributed to all Danish schools.
For teaching the libraries how to manage a library the commission presents to every library a library handbook, bound in a model binding, for helping them in choosing their books, the commission. presents to them a catalog in two volumes, containing the titles and prices of the best books for popular libraries. The catalog has been published by the Royal Danish Agricultural Society; this society has through many years worked for agricultural and parish libraries; it published its first catalog in 1807.
In order to help the libraries in the arrangement of the libraries, a member of the commission visits the libraries and gives advice about their management.
As it often is very difficult for small village libraries, when founded, to get enough books to be able to begin to lend out, the commission lends to such libraries gratis, for six months, boxes containing 40-50 volumes. Every box has a printed catalog and a handy charging system.
The commission sometimes receives books from private persons or public institutions for distribution to the libraries.
The Committee for the Promotion of the People's Enlightenment (Udvalget for Folkeoplysnings Fremme) was founded in 1866. It is the aim of the committee to publish books treating in an intelligent form subjects which enlarge and make clear the apprehension of the world and the human life. By support from the government the committee is able to sell its books very cheap or give them away. To people's libraries and libraries in the public schools it has, since its foundation, presented books to the value of $13,000 (the last two years $900). But besides that it sends books to the soldiers' libraries, sailors' libraries, to teetotal societies, young . men's Christian associations, workingmen's clubs and to private persons (pupils in the common schools, "high schools," evening schools, normal school, etc.). For this purpose it has spent $65,000 (the last two years $8000).
In this article the libraries, founded by associations, whose principal object is something else than reading and enlightenment are not mentioned. There are, and especially have been, many of them, but they are for the most part very small. The Teetotallers' Asociation has formed a system of travelling libraries, sending books to the local associations from a central library.
From this account of the Danish popular; libraries it may be seen that they do not play a prominent part in the educational work in Denmark. But upon the whole there are good conditions for their advancement. Danish literature, if the smallness of the country is taken into consideration, can very.well stand comparison with. the literature of other countries; more than 1000 new books are published every year. The public school, upon the whole, is well organized and great efforts are made for giving the young people a continued education after they have left the school for children. The nation is not poor, and its democratic institutions are constantly developing. On these facts can be based a firm hope for a further development of popular libraries in Denmark.


The meeting was called to order at 9.45 o'clock by President PUTNAM.
The PRESIDENT: According to the provisional assignment, yesterday morning was to be given to a description of library work on the Continent. As I have at various seasons informed you, the arrangement was provisional and the topics will be more or less shifted. We shall have this morning among other topics the paper from Mr. Jast and the address of Dr. Dewey withheld from yesterday's session.
Yesterday morning we concluded our session with statements with reference to certain of the more popular activities, particularly in Great Britain. The program committee has decided to begin this morning with the statement from Denmark regarding popular libraries there, preceding with that the paper by Mr. Jast.
Miss ISABEL ELY LORD read an abstract of a paper by Dr. A. S. Steenberg on

(See p. 63.)