THE ASHBURTON LIBRARY.
To the Editor. Sir,— lt is to be regretted that the detailed statement respecting the Library, which was rendered by the genial chairman last Wednesday evening, has not appeared in the papers for public criticism. The views then put forward are assumed to be those of the Library Committee or Trustees, if there are such, and may be reduced to something like the following : We have a Public Library. The public do not appreciate it. Unsupported, it does not pay, and is a burden upon a few persons. The public ought to strive against the evil of ignorance by Joining the institution. Then wo should soon have LIOOO worth of books and a self-support-ing cause. To analyze the above sentences is by no means a pleasant task, as it appears to call in question the sincerity and sympathy of the promoters of the Library as a committee. It is hard to deal with a difficulty which is perhaps intangible; and only the desire to help forward the interests of an institution, so useful as a well conducted public library, nerves one to enter upon the work. Those who know the chairman will be sure that he did not intend, in his remarks upon ignorance, to convey the idea that all non-subscribers to the Library were ignorant people, and that all who joined it were wise ; but did he unwittingly let a cat out of the bag which ought never to have been put in, and it is to be hoped never will again ? Did he unconciously say that those who belong to the Library feel that they are the people, and wisdom pertains only to them ? Please, Sir, to understand that the remarks’ now made are not in any dishonorable or disparaging spirit, but solely on account of what has frequently been heard, read, and observed, and with a view of testing the sincerity of the expressed regrets that the Library is in a poor way. If it is a fact that the public are apathetic in this matter, there must be a cause for it, which those who deplore it might do well to discover. Judging from what has appeared in the papers about tin's and other local institutions, and from what can be observed, the difficulties are at home, and can bo grappled with. Plato is said to have had written over the porch of his school —“ Let none but geometricians enter here” ; and in playing upon words, it might be gathered that Plato was a believer in “caste. 1 ' Some, who have resided in Ashburton long enough, say that with the creation of the town there was somehow an importation of what is known as “social caste,” which has tainted every local institution with its pernicious influence. While its influence is everywhere blighting, it is- especially so in this county. It is said that the fact that a Gas Company assuming the Library to bo a proper place for holding shareholders’ meetings, and the fact that a church vestry, conceiving the Library to be the place for its ecclesiastical business to bo carried on, is proof of the existence of this “ social caste.” And, further, that if the courts of other churches were held there, they would be quickly made to dissolve. Then the sympathy of the Committee, as at present constituted, is felt to be more with a class of residents than with the public interest, otherwise the conditions of that Committee would be such as would approve themselves to a discerning public, and be followed up by a general and speedy participation in the blessings which the Library seeks to confer. As at present managed, the institution seems to say—“ Good to all, but not at the expense of social caste.” As regards the meeting of last Wednesday, how was it that with few exceptions, both the audience and the platform were so unmistakeably of one denominational type? If more varied talent was not sought, why not ? If others were asked to take a part, and could not, why was not their absence accounted for by the chairman ? People are not insensible to even an unspoken discourtesy, though it may not be worth the while to say so. However high one’s self esteem may rise at the thought of being one of the elite of a town, such a thought is a snare and a delusion. “ Caste ” is properly a thing of the past, and has no affinity with the living present, and this may go a long way to explain why so few persons caic to join the Library. Though this letter may bring down
upon the writer a diverse criticism, yet if kindly done, and without any intention, to wound anyone’s feeling, the attempt to put into shape the thoughts that burn in many minds, may be productive of some good results. One Who Was Present at the Entertainment. 9th July, 1880.
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