BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY
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City Document. — JVo. 7.
COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC INSTRUCTION
FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY.
NORFOLK COUNTY JOURNAL PRESS.
CITY OF ROXBURY.
In Board of Aldermen, March 16, 1857.
Read, laid upon the table, and ordered to be printed, with the accom-
panying papers, for the use of the City Council.
JOSEPH W. TUCKER, City Clerh.
Citg of llc^ijirj.
In Board of Aldermen, March 16, 1857.
The Joint Standing Committee on Public Instruction, to
whom was referred that portion of the annual Address
of the Mayor, which relates to the establishment of a
Free Public Library, have carefully considered the sub-
ject, and beg leave respectfully to make the following
It appears by an Act adopted by the Legislature in the
year 1851, that any city or town in the Commonwealth is
authorized to appropriate sums, not exceeding an amount
regulated by the number of ratable polls, for the purpose
of establishing and maintaining a Public Library. The
act is as follows :
" Section 1. Any city or town in this Commonwealth is hereby
authorized to establish and maintain a public library, within the same,
with or without branches, for the use of the inhabitants thereof, and to
provide suitable rooms therefor, under such regulations for the govern-
ment of said library as may from time to time be prescribed by the City
Council of such city, or the inhabitants of such town.
Sect. 2. Any city or tovro may appropriate for the foundation and
commencement of such Library, as E^foresaid, a sum not exceeding one
dollar for each of its ratable polls, in the year next preceding that in
which such appropriation shall be made ; and may also appropriate an-
nually, for the maintenance and increase of such library, a sum not
exceeding twenty-five cents for each of its ratable polls, in the year
next preceding that in which such appropriation shall be made.
Sect. 3. Any tovra. or city may receive in its corporate capacity and
hold and manage any devise, bequest, or donation for the establishment,
increase, or maintenance of a public library within the same."
Since the enactment of this statute, cities in this Com-
monwealth have availed themselves of its provisions, and
libraries have been established, which have been supported
by a comparatively moderate annual appropriation, and
have proved of great value to the communities in which
they have been instituted. In some cases, in this State and
in New Hampshire, Free Public Libraries have been es-
tablished on the basis of incorporated Social Libraries, or
Athenseums, comprising choice collections of some thou-
sand of volumes, but whose benefits must necessarily be
confined to few. The proprietors of these incorporated
institutions cheerfully surrendered their rights to the mu-
nicipal governments of the places in which they were lo-
cated, under assurances and guarantees that the libraries
would be well cared for and supported. These libraries
have been accepted by the city authorities ; the conditions
have been faithfully complied with; and every year has
strengthened the permanence of the arrangements, and
added to their value in the estimation of the great body
of the citizens.
With a knowledge of these facts, and in accordance with
the suggestion contained in the Address referred to, and
believing that the inhabitants of Roxbury would derive
much gratification, useful instruction and solid advantage
from a free Public Library in their midst, and would gladly
welcome the establishment of such an institution, provided
it can be effected without unreasonable expense, your Com-
mittee instructed the Chairman to address a communica-
tion to the Trustees or Proprietors of the Roxbury Athe-
naeum, and endeavor to ascertain upon what conditions they
would surrender all their Tight and title to the books,
pamphlets and other property, excepting the invested funds
of the Institution, to the City of Roxbury, for the estab-
lishment of a Free Public Library.
To the communication thus addressed by the Chairman
of the Committee to the President of the Board of Trus-
tees, a reply dated March 12, 1857, has been received, in
which the President states that the subject of transferring
the Library was laid before the Trustees, and by them be-
fore the proprietors of the Athenaeum for their considera-
tion and action : the proposition received the unanimous
approval of the proprietors ; and the Trustees were em-
powered to make the transfer on such terms and conditions
as they might deem proper. A copy of the conditions of
the transfer, as approved by the Board of Trustees, accom-
panied the communication. This document reads as fol-
" Whereas, The Proprietors of the Roxbury Athenaeum, desirous of
aiding in the establishment of a Free Public Library in the City of Rox-
bury, did, at a meeting held at the Library Rooms on the 25th of Feb-
ruary, 1857, authorize the Trustees of the Atheneeum to transfer to
the City Government of Roxbury all the books and other property be-
longing to that institution, excepting the vested funds, upon such terms
and conditions as they the Trustees may deem expedient, Therefore,
The Trustees of the Roxbury Athengeum, acting in the name and be-
half of the Proprietors of that Institution, do hereby transfer to the
said City of Roxbury all their Library, and the furniture and appurte-
nances of their Library Rooms, to be the foundation of a Free City
Library ; but subject to the following conditions, viz. :
1st. The City Council of Roxbury shall pass an ordinance establish-
ing a Free Public Library, the government and general management of
which shall be entrusted to a board of nine Trustees, of which the
Mayor, the President of the Common Council, and the Chairman of the
School Committee shall be, ex officio, members, and the remaining six
members of the board shall be elected by the City Council, in conven-
tion, by ballot, and shall severally hold their offices for the term of one,
two, three, four, five and six years, from the day of
next, and shall determine by lot which of their number shall hold their
office for each of said terms. There shall, afterwards, annually, in the
same manner, and in the same month, be chosen one person, who shall
hold the office of Trustee for six years, and until another shall be chosen
in his place. Any vacancies which may occur by death, resignation or
otherwise of any Trustee so elected, may be filled for the remainder of
the unexpired term of said Trustee, by the City Council, in the same
manner as is already provided for the election of Trustees.
2d. The City Council, acting under the authority of the act of the
Legislature, passed May 24th, 1851, shall make an appropriation of a
sum of money, not less than three thousand dollars, for the purpose of
increasing the Library, binding volumes, and placing the Library in a
3d. The City Council shall, annually, by appropriation or by the
adoption of such other means as they may prefer, furnish to the Trus-
tees such sum or sums as they may ask for in accordance with the Laws
of the Commonwealth, not less than one thousand dollars for each year,
for the purposes of keeping the Library in good condition, paying the
rent of the apartments, the salary of the Librarian, and defraying other
4th. All proprietors who are not now residents of the City of Rox-
bury, shall have the same right to the use of the Library as resident
proprietors of the Athenaeum shall have.
5th. If the City Council of Roxbury shall refuse to perform, on its
part, the first and second of the above conditions, this transfer shall not
be carried into effect ; and if the City Government of Roxbury, or the
government of any more extensive territory of which the City of Rox-
bury may hereafter constitute a part, shall for any one year fail to per-
form the stipulations contained in the third of the above series of con-
ditions, then this conveyance shall be void and of no effect, and the
whole of said Library shall become the property of the said Athenaeum,
and all instruments necessary for that purpose shall be executed by the
This instrument shall be duly signed and sealed, in duplicate, by the
Trustees of the Athenaeum in behalf of the Proprietors, and by a com-
mittee of the City Government duly authorized to affix the seal of the
City to the same, aild shall take effect and be in force whenever the City
Council shall have complied with the first and second of the above con-
Such are the conditions which the Trustees of the Athe-
naeum have thought proper to annex to the transfer of the
property to the City of Roxbury. These conditions your
Committee regard as no more than reasonable. Although
they may not be absolutely 7iecessary in order to ensure
to the proposed institution, the fostering care of the City
Government, and a long and successful career, yet the pro-
prietors of the Roxbury Athengeum cannot feel justified
in surrendering so large an amount of property without a
guaranty that it will be faithfully preserved and continued
in the use for which it was originally designed, or restored
to its former proprietors.
Your Committee find tliat the Library of tlic Athenaeum
now contains between six and seven thousand bound vol-
umes, a considerable portion of which are of a truly ster-
ling character. There are also on its shelves a large
large number of periodicals, and valuable pamphlets, which
when bound will much increase the usefulness of the Libra-
ry. Taken as a whole, it will form a grand nucleus for a
popular Institution, to be thrown open for the free use of
a reading and intelligent people. The value of the books,
many of which are of octavo and quarto size, has been va-
riously estimated at from four to six thousand dollars, —
which may be regarded as a free gift to the City, from 166
individual citizens of Roxbury.
If this munificent gift should be accepted by the City,
in compliance with the conditions, it will be necessary to
make an appropriation of some 3000 dollars for its estab-
lishment, and 1000 for its support during the current year.
It will also involve an annual expenditure hereafter of
from 1500 to 2000 dollars for its support and maintenance.
Whether the expenditure of these sums for giving to the
inhabitants of Roxbury the advantages of a large Public
Library, in an age when the thirst for knowledge can hard-
ly be gratified, and when it is conceded by practical men,
as well as political economists, that the diffusion of intelli-
gence among a people is the cheapest and most effectual
barrier against pauperism and crime, is a question for the
consideration of the City Council. It may not, however,
be improper, briefly to refer to the action of other cities,
similar to Roxbury in many respects, where free Public
Libraries have been established, in order to learn the esti-
mation in which such institutions are held, the alacrity with
which they have been supported by the Municipal authori-
ties, and the elevating effect they have produced on the
character of the people.
The New Bedford City Library, in 1852, was established
on the foundation of an old Social Library. The first re-
port was made when the Library had been only three
weeks in operation, by the President of the Board of Trus-
tees. After giving a brief outline of the character of the
Institution, the Report says :
" The evidence that the Institution has met a great public want, and
that its establishment is, in a high degree, satisfactory to the people,
is ample and gratifying. ' '
The Report enumerates various facts illustrating the
acknowledged value of the Library, and adds :
" These are gratifying and encouraging statements. They justify the
action of the past, and excite hopes for the future. They demonstrate
the wisdom of that legislative and municipal action, which recognizes
and seeks to correct the imperfect character of that idea of education,
which does not extend beyond the preparatory work of a public school."
In the Report of the Trustees for 1853-4, the anticipa-
tions indulged in at the establishment of the Institution,
seem to have been fully realised : and the apprehension
that the rules for the preservation of the books, and their
prompt return when taken from the Library, would not be
observed, proved to have been unfounded. The Report
" The records of our Librarian sustain in the fullest manner the
truth of the idea, upon which the action of the Legislature and of the
City was founded, that a Library could be so managed as to admit all
the people to a participation in its benefits. So few in number are the
books missing from our shelves, and so careful, in general, have they
been used while in the hands of the takers, that it is not deemed neces-
sary, in this report, to give in detail the very few instances in which
the regulations of the Library have been violated.
Again the Report says :
«' Our Library has become one of the Institutions of the City. It
has become a valuable, and will soon be considered an indispensable
auxiliary in the great werk of popular education. It has become in-
corporated, both in idea and in fact, into the catalogue of subjects
demanding the fostering care and annual support of the municipal gov-
ernment. Its claim for such attention and support are founded on
principles which lie at the foundation of our Republican Institutions."
In the third Annual Report, the Mayor, Rodney French,
reiterates the sentiments contained in the Report of the
preceding year, and adds :
" The almost unhoped for, and certainly unlocked for success which
has attended its operations from the opening of its doors to the present
moment, has given to the principle the support of experience, and
caused it to stand firm in the position in which it has been placed by
the wise liberality of the City Council."
A letter from the Secretary of the Trustees, Mr. Abner
J. Phipps, who is also President of the Common Council
of New Bedford, after detailing the expenses of the Libra-
ry, — which are about 2000 dollars annually, 700 of which
are for the "increase of the Library," — says:
"I have no doubt that double our present appropriation would be
responded to cheerfully by all our tax-payers, for the Library has been
a very popular institution from the start, and the appropriation for it
forms but an inconsiderable addition to the sum yearly appropriated to
meet the expenses of our City."
A free Public Library was established in Manchester, N.
H., in 1854, a city containing some 20,000 inhabitants, on
the basis of the Manchester Athenaeum, and on conditions
very similar to those proposed by the Trustees of the
Roxbury Athengeum. It appears to have taken a strong
hold on the confidence of the people, and to have been
eminently successful. It now contains nearly five thousand
volumes. In the last Annual Report of the Trustees, ap-
pears the following language :
" It is perhaps needless, at this time, to argue the utility of this Tn-
Btitution, but the Trustees confidently believe that no equal sum of the
City expenditure has been so well applied, or produced so useful a re-
turn. Its influence on the young, and its facilities for afibrding infor-
mation and instruction to all classes, is unsurpassed by any agency of
The Librarian, in his Report for 1855, furnishes the fol-
lowing additional testimony in support of the fact that the
property of a free Public Library, in a large and populous
city, will be respected and well cared for by those who are
benefitted by the establishment of such an institution :
" In two hundred and fifty-four days of the past year, seventeen
thousand six hundred and forty (17,640) volumes were delivered from
the Librarian's desk — an average of sixty-five per day. Out of this
number, seven only, of less than four dollars in value, are found mis-
sing, without indications of the persons by whom they are held."
The Mayor of Manchester, in his late annual Address,
" The City Library I commend to your fostering care. It seems to be
fulfilling the good purposes of its establishment, and is one of the most
valuable institutions we have, and is deserving its full share of your
consideration and regard."
Such is the character of the testimony from other cities
in favor of the establishment of a Free Public Library.
To this, much might be added, all going to show that
wherever these institutions have been established and
properly regulated, they have been appreciated by the peo-
ple, and productive of immense good. It is believed that
the citizens of Roxbury are as intelligent as a class, as de-
sirous of literary privileges, and would as highly prize the
advantages of a well-chosen Library, and a well-regulated
Reading Room, as the citizens of any city in New England,
Indeed, they are becoming every day more aware of the
importance of such an Institution, from constantly witness-
ing its beneficial effects and happy influences upon the
large population in our immediate vicinity, but in which
they are not allowed to participate.
The establishment of a Free Public Library in Roxbury,
may be regarded as a noble source of gratification to the
intelligent family ; and of valuable instruction to the in-
quirer after mechanical or scientific knowledge : to the am-
bitious youth, who, destitute of means, is still eager to
glean intelligence from books, and prepare himself, by men-
tal culture, to fulfil his mission as a useful citizen of a great
and growing nation, it would be a treasure without price.
Such a Library would add another to the many valuable
institutions and attractions of our city ; and so far as mere
dollars and cents are concerned, would cause annually an
increase of taxable property more than equal to any appro-
priations which would probably be made for its support.
An opportunity is now offered for the establishment of
such an Institution on most favorable terms. It is the be-
lief of the Committee that such an opportunity should not
be neglected. And they would, therefore, respectfully re-
commend the adoption by the City Council of an Ordinance
for the Establishment and Government of a Free Public
Library, — of an Order appropriating for its foundation
and commencement the sum of three thousand dollars, and
one thousand dollars for its maintenance and increase dur-
ing the first current year, — and an Order authorising the
Mayor, on behalf of the City, to ratify the conditions pro-
posed by the Trustees of the Roxbury Athenaeumi
JOHN S. SLEEPER, Chairmmu
FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT AND GOVERNMENT OF A FREE
Be it ordained ly the City Council of the City of Roocbury, as follows :
Section 1. There shall be chosen by the City Council, in convention,
by ballot, in the month of April, 1857, or as soon after as may be
convenient, six persons, neither of whom shall at the time of election
be members of the City Council, who, together with the Mayor, Presi-
dent of the Common Council, and Chairman of the Board of School
Committee, for the time being, shall constitute a Board of Trustees of
the Free Public Library of Roxbury. The six elective members shall
severally hold their offices for the term of one, two, three, four, five,
and six years from the first day of May, 1857, and shall determine
by lot which of their number shall hold the office for each of said terms.
There shall afterwards annually, and in the same month, be chosen one
person, not a member of the City Council, who shall hold the office of
Trustee for six years, and until another shall be chosen in his place.
Any vacancy which may occur, by death or resignation, or otherwise,
of any Trustee so elected, may be filled for the remainder of the unex-
pired term of said Trustee, by the City Council, in the same manner as
is already provided for the election of Trustees.
Sect. 2. All moneys now or hereafter appropriated for said Library,
shall be expended under the direction of said Board of Trustees, who
shall have full power to expend the same in the purchase of such books
as they may select, and in meeting all the expenditures for the estab-
lishment, support, and efficiency of said Institution.
Sect. 3. Said Board of Trustees shall have full power to select apart-
ments for the Library, appoint a Librarian, and all subordinate officers
that may be deemed by them expedient — to fix the salary or compen-
sation of the same, to be paid out of any appropriation for the Library,
and the same to remove at pleasure.
Sect. 4. The Board of Trustees shall also have full power to make
any and all needful and suitable regulations concerning said Libra-
ry, and the use thereof, subject to the approval, or alteration at any
time, by vote of the City Council.
Said Trustees shall annually, in the month of April, lay before the
City Council, a detailed Report of their doings, and of the condition of
Cits ^f "^Q^hn^.
In Board op Aldermen, March 16, 1857.
Ordered, That the sum of three thousand dollars be appropriated
for the establishment and fitting up of a Free City Library and Reading
Room. Also that the sum of one thousand dollars be appropriated for
keeping said Library in good condition, paying the rent of the apart-
ments, the salary of the Librarian, and other incidental expenses for
the current year commencing May 1, 1857.
€xt^ d |l0^kr2.
In Board of Aldermen, March 16, 1857.
Ordered, That the Mayor be and he hereby is authorized to approve
the conditions, and sign, in behalf of the City of Roxbury, the instru-
ment, a copy of which accompanies the Report of the Committee on
Public Instruction, by which the Trustees of the Roxbury Athenaeum,
in behalf of the Proprietors of that Institution, agree to transfer and
convey to the City of Roxbury all their right and title to the books,
pamphlets, furniture, and other property, excepting the invested funds,
belonging to the Roxbury Athenaeum.