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When Councillor John I. Fitzgerald assails the great service that would be done for the people of Boston under the terms of the co-operative agreement between the Boston Public Library and the Harvard Business Library, it is a bit difficult to have patience. The whole arrangement is plainly one under which the city of Boston will receive much more than it gives. All the Boston Library does is to make the new Harvard library in Brighton a depository for such scattering books on business as are not required for ordinary current use at the Library in Copley square. In return, the Boston Public Library, and every citizen of Boston, will be given free use of one of the richest and most complete collections of books and files on business now in existence anywhere in the world.
Nor is that all of the story. Anyone who knows anything at all about business libraries knows that the only way by which they can be made of proper service to business men, is to have them expertly catalogued and conducted by a staff of specialists. The business man who wants library service usually wants just one thing; namely, quick, immediate supply of up-to-the-minute facts, comment and statistics upon practical problems that have arisen within his business. In the vast modern outpouring of trade journals, Government reports, research bulletins, and general magazine and newspaper articles, no ordinary library staff can possibly be expected to find its way round. Only expert special librarians can keep the material properly catalogued, filed and ready for quick reference. Some cities of the United States are now spending tens of thousands of dollars annually to maintain such reference service in the "business branch" of their public libraries.
And it is all this large expense, and expert service, which the Harvard Business Library now stands ready to assume, as a matter of sheer helpfulness to the business men of Boston. As for Councillor Fitzgerald's complaint that business men will have to go to Brighton to secure this aid, the truth is, of course, that no such embarrassment is anticipated. Under the agreement the Librarians of the two institutions are to work out plans and regulations providing for the most direct delivery service that can possibly be attained. All any citizen needs to do, in order to secure special assistance, will be to telephone to the business library in Brigaton and his request will receive full attention.
Moreover, the agreement definitely promises to make the full resources of the two institutions directly available to any future business branch of the Boston Public Library which may be established in the downtown district. Time and again the librarian and trustees of the Boston Public Library have labored to secure decent attention from the Boston City Council for such a branch, similar to the business branches which progressive cities elsewhere throughout the Nation have established. And time and again their efforts have been thrown down, because members of the City Council, have called this "mere graft" for the business community and a "scheme" on the part of the Chamber of Commerce to help its own interests. Now Councillor Fitzgerald suddenly grows strangely tender for the convenience of Boston's business men and on this part of his case as aforesaid it is difficult to have patience.
But, and it is an important but, in so far as Mr. Fitzgerald's case involves the question whether the agreement between the two libraries is a violation of the anti-aid amendment the controversial situation is very different. Upon a careful, fresh reading of this section of the State's Constitution, no fair mind can deny that the councillor has been at least well justified in raising this issue. The language of the amendment is surprisingly inclusive, especially in its words restricting even the use of public property by any school or institution not wholly under public control. In this case, of course, the trustees of the Boston Public Library have not voted to give away one cent's worth of the city's property. They have merely agreed to make the Harvard Business Library a depository, just as many other institutions in Boston are made depositories, for books, and the trustees will retain full rights of control of that property. But still honest technical question may be raised whether the language of the agreement, and on this point a judicial determination would be highly desirable. The anti-aid amendment must at all times, and under all circumstances, be scrupulously protected, with complete fairness to every interest, group, or institution concerned. --Boston Transcript.
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