THE ASHBURTON LIBRARY.
The meeting of the Library subscribers on Thursday was, frorn|one point of view at least, successful: it has given the institution a staff of officers and a Committee,— machinery it has not possessed for two years,—and their election encourages the hope that there is a better future before the Library than its condition and conduct for a long time past were calculated to the inspire. It is difficult to understand why Library’s affairs should have been allowed, both by its subscribers and its Committee, to run so far down ; but having reached, let us hope, their lowest ebb, surely there was no reason why those who had at least the name of being at the head of its affairs should have been so tardy in acceding to the wish, so often expressed, that the members should be called together and steps taken towards the resuscitation of the concern, That-the Library’s business has not been looked after is evident, not only from the iqeagreness qf the supply of books, and tfie poor table qf newspapers, but a}so from the unready appearance the Committee presented on Thursday. The report submitted was a hurriedly got up affair, and the information it supplied was meagre in the extreme, whi’e even the balancesheet, which is the kernel of every society’s financial condition, was not forthcoming. In justice, however, to Mr. Ward, he explained that his time that day had been so fully occupied that he had not been able to draw the statement up, but that it would be forth-coming by noon of the day following. Still, as no balance sheet had been submitted, no one was able to say anything about the accounts, and the verbal statement by Mr. Ward that LlO lay to the Library’s credit at the bank, while he held accounts that would absorb that sum and leave L 4 of a debtor balance, was all the financial information available. From the supineness of the subscribers and the inertness of the last, Committee, the whole management of the concern has been allowed to fall personally on Mr. Ward’s shoulders, and it must certainly be said of him that, considering his position was honorary and not the most thankful, he has prevented the institution from falling altogether to pieces. Still, it is at the same time not in accordance with Mir. Ward’s charac-
ter for promptness and precision that, with .a two years’ lapse of time, repeated jogs by discontented subscribers, common talk about the unsatisfactory state of the Library's affairs, and the need for a general meeting, he should have been unready with his balance sheet, even , at the last moment. Had it not been the many personal friends that rallied’* round him at the meeting, and the firm ‘ faith that is reposed in him by every resident, almost without exception, there might have been some more adverse criticism than that indulged in by Mr. Purnell. Mr. Purnell stated that ho himself had never ceased agitating for a general meeting to be held, and, that ho had had great difficulty in bringing it about. We are sorry that the Committee should have had any hesitancy in calling the meeting, as there was after all, as it turned out, nothing to fear, and-their holding back only strengthened a suspicion that was gaining ground in some quarters that they did fear some evil,' and had something to conceal. Evidently some evil was feared, else why contend that only paid-up subscribers should vote, and thus debar many from having a voice in the meeting, who really, but for not very deadly arrears, had more real interest in the institution than many who that night purchased for the first time, and for a few coppers, a say in the meeting, that we fear they are not likely to retain much longer than the time their two and ninepence covers. It was all very well to contend, when it so suited, for the paying up of arrears before voting ; but those contending for that payment should have remembered that the rules of the Library had • been constantly broken by every one, the committee included, and to still the voice of any member at such a time, was to use an expression made use of during the meeting “ bad taste,” especially when the committee themselves were in fault in not having called any meetings for two years, in not being prepared even then with a balance-sheet, and in having allowed the privileges of the institute to have become common property, free toevery Tom, Dicky and Harry who chose to enter. The meeting is over, and, let us hope, all bad feeling that may have been engendered is buried ; and that upon the attenuated framework to which the institution has been reduced there will be built up a library and reading-room worthy of the town and a credit to the subscribers. The Library and Heading-room is a pub* lie institution, but only in the sense that membership is public—it is not free, : and the sooner the people who have hitherto haunted the reading tables without paying any subscription are made aware that they have no right to do anything of the kind, and are not to be permitted longer to do so, the sooner will the finance of the concern reach a proper footing. The revenue of the future will be almost wholly derived from the subscriptions of members. A small sum may be given by the County Council, but it is to the members the Committee must look for 'supplies. With ibis fact in view need we urge upon the residents to place their names upon the membership list, and thus help the Committee? Just in proportion to the number of members will the Committee’s funds be strong or weak, and the strength or weakness of the funds will tell in like manner upon the book shelves and upon the reading table. Before dismissing the subject, let us add one final word regarding Mr, Ward. W« confess, and he confesses, that he and the Committee are to blame to . a considerable extent for not calling the subscribers together at an earlier for permitting the Library to becomeleas active than it might have been. But Mr. Ward has done much for the Library notwithstanding, and done it out of purely disinterested motives. By no possible means could he gain any pecuniary benefit, nor, in fact, any benefit whatever, from the position he held as Secretaryand- *■ Librarian, and he has no right whatever, to be saddled with “culpable neglect.” What he did was done gratuitously, and if the subscribers fell away and left the Library so crippled for funds as barely to be able to pay its way, the Committee, aS ! - a consequence, getting disheartened and apathetic, the blame did not lie with Mr. Ward, who was in no way called upon to make his special business what had pal-, pably become nobody’s concern. efficiency of the Library is the result of 5 the apathy of the subscribers and of the public. Re-awaken public interest, and there is no fear of the Library’s future.
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