The important series of mechanical charging systems known generally as Indicators, have never been fully described, either from the historical or structural standpoint. Papers describing one or other of the individual varieties have been published from time to time during the period of thirtysix years they have been in use, but except the partial notices of a select few published by Mr. F. J. Burgoyne and myself, nothing of a comprehensive or accurate nature has ever appeared. Before proceeding to describe each separate invention in its order, it may be well to enquire briefly into the reasons for the origin of a device which has called forth not a little ingenuity and inventive talent. When libraries were first established under the provisions of the various Acts of Parliament, two things happened as a matter of course in every district a building, suitable or otherwise, was provided and, the readers in a town increased in number to an enormous and unprecedented extent. Straitened means generally led to the provision of a cramped and inconvenient building, in which the space set apart for books was often ridiculously inadequate with the result that lofty shelves were the rule, which secured economy of storage at the expense of rapidity of service. Previous experience in mechanics' institutes, or similar libraries, was found by the new librarian a useless criterion for public library needs, and especially as a guide to the multitude of readers and the variety of their demands. Delays in service occurred continually and the poor librarian was often abashed or offended at the freely expressed scepticism with which the public received his reports of books being out. From these factors was evolved the idea of the indicator, which by and by took practical shape as a machine for saving the legs of the librarian and his assistants from frequent and fruitless climbs to high shelves, and enabling readers to satisfy themselves that books were actually in use. The original indicators were intended only for showing, by means of numbers, the novels which were out or in, but since then a considerable number of libraries have applied them to all classes.
New Library World – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jul 1, 1899