WHAT Manchester thinks today, London will think tomorrow, was a current saying a century or less ago. It may be current today in political matters it may be so even in library matters. Before his lamented death, Charles Nowell drew up a long, careful memorandum for his committee on the desirability of Government grants in aid for libraries such as his own which acted in a very definite way as national libraries, in that their services were drawn upon by thousands outside Manchester who contributed nothing to the rates. In smaller measure the case could be made for every library authority which maintains a reference library, because there are no qualifications or introductions or fees required of any reader whencesoever he may come. To that quite substantial degree every good public library does national service. It could of course be contended that libraries receive services of a like kind for their own readers from all other towns and counties. In any case, the burden on Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Bristolto name only a few important examplesis perhaps unfairly heavy. The case seems a good one. Opposition to the suggestion of taxaid which is by no means new, came formerly from the Authority associations, not because of their concern for the taxpayer's pocket, although we do not accuse them of lack of such concern, but because such grants imply a possible, indeed a likely, further interference with local autonomy. It is quite understandable little by little local authorities have been shorn of their most productive enterprises. School and police in some towns, transport in others, and in all the gas and electricity industries have been appropriated by Government. On terms, it is true, but on capital payments which meant the loss of the recurrent income and, what was worse, loosened the local influence over the services concerned. Perhaps the local authorities can be persuaded that grants, without unreasonable interference and without loss of local control, are desirable. Librarians will watch with practical interest the progress of this proposal which, it should have been mentioned, has been approved by the Manchester City Council.
New Library World – Emerald Publishing
Published: Feb 1, 1955