How the American Library Association Is Educating the Nation by Furnishing Out-of-the-way Villages and Isolated Farming Districts with Worth-While Literature
By Charled Aubrey Eaton,
Associate Editor of Leslie’s
ON a bleak and blustery day in February I was journeying down the Hudson River from Albany. The weather was bad, so bad that it furnished the chief topic of conversation throughout the car. Our train was hours late, every one seemed weary, and the dreary chill outside found reflection in the minds of the travelers. I fell to thinking of the affairs of the nation and the world as illustrated by conditions which seemed to depress the minds of my fellow travelers Everywhere it was stormy weather. Life had become strangely difficult and uncertain. Progress was slowing down. The minds of the people were distressed and dissatisfied. I began to wonder if there were any ameliorating circumstances, any light to relieve the dismal shadows. As my mind turned in this direction, I was almost surprised to find many hopeful things to think about, and, yielding to a journalistic instinct, I began to map out a series of what might be called “Cheer-up Articles.”
My cogitations at that point were interrupted pleasantly. A sweet-faced little woman came down the car aisle and, after a moment’s hesitation, stopped and spoke to me. She had listened the night before to an address which I had delivered in Albany and she wished to express her appreciation. It was certainly a welcome relief from the universal chorus of disapproval as to the weather and other human ills which had been sounding in my ears during our journey. Besides, the lady with her sweet, intellectual face, crowned by a wealth of white hair, looked like the fine old-fashioned New England women whom I had learned to reverence in my youth. And I was glad for the privilege of speaking with one of her type.
Soon we were deep in talk and I found that I had been fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of one of the nation builders, Miss Mary L. Titcomb, Librarian of the Washington County Free Library at Hagerstown, Maryland.
What One Community Is Doing
Here was my first “cheer-up” article, for from Miss Titcomb I learned of the great constructive work being done by the American Library Association and of its plans for still greater things in the near future. I was almost ashamed to admit that I knew nothing of the County Library work until Miss Titcomb placed in my hands the facts.
In 1900 the Washington County Library was organized at Hagerstown, the county seat, in western Maryland. The original Board of Trustees were a German Reformed minister, two lawyers, a banker, a paper-maker, a farmer and a merchant. They had in mind the diffusion of information and culture by cultivation of the reading habit, especially among the rural sections of Washington County which has a population, including the county seat, of some fifty thousand people, almost exclusively engaged in agriculture.