By WINIFRED CHARLIER
" THE CHANCE TO READ,'
elis the title of an absorbing book on public libraries by Lionel R. McColvin published recently by Phcenix House, Ltd.* . Mr McColvin is the Cit Libra
nan of Westminster and as VicePresident of the International Federation of Library Associations has had ample opportunity of making a careful study of the various public library systems all over the world, From the vast sums of public money that are spent annually by governments of all nations on the provision of reading matter for all classes it is clear that the vital importance of reading is universally It is equally important, I think. if we hope to have an educated Catholic laity, to provide good Catholic reading matter, which by reason of its Catholicity, is outside the scope of the public library service. The hest means of doing this is, surely, by setting up small but well run parish lending libraries throughout the country to serve the particular needs of the district.
It is useless to argue that Catholics do not read when we know that they are among those who make regular usc of the public libraries, unfair to accuse them of not wanting to read Catholic books if we do not provide them with the opportunity. and completely untrue to suggest that there are not sufficient Catholic books to satisfy all tastes.
Advice wanted THE truth is of course that they are comparatively unknown and will remain so unless we do something to remedy this.
When we are advised to do some spiritual reading, for instance, how helpful it would be if a few titles or authors were suggested to guide us in our choice. The power of the pulpit in this matter is enormous and I have known amazing results when this has been done and the books mentioned were available at the parish library.
With the stream of converts flowing into the Church as a result of the Catholic Enquiry Centre's campaign the need for parish libraries Is growing. But they must be efficient and attractive and are most successful when undertaken by groups of keen Catholic Aetionists willing to devote themselves to this apostolate.
Mr. McColvin tells us that the purpose of the public library is to provide everyone with the chance to read and statistics show that 30 per cent. of the population avail themselves of the facilities provided.
Too often we Catholics are content to leave it to the State to do our job for us and hope for the best. It should be obvious, however, that ready as they are to include Catholic books of general interest, public librarians cannot be expected In provide all the specifically Catholic spiritual reading which will he demanded by only a small section of the community.
Yet these arc the very ones which will help us best to live full Catholic lives in a pagan world, uncontaminated by the materialism with which we are surrounded.
Ask for it
rrHE laity can also take an
active part in this important apostolate by making use of the Catholic books provided by the public libraries. thereby keeping them in circulation.
have known of cases where these were stored away in a cupboard owing to the lack of demand. Requests for others to be added are welcomed by most librarians who, I understand, suffer from a lack of suggestions from the public.
What an opportunity this is to get our Catholic) authors better known and more widely read. An up-to-date list of these displayed in the church porch will encourage others to make more use of the public library, to the support of which we contribute as rate-payers. Choosing Christmas and birthday presents is often a real headache. Why not give a Catholic book that besides giving pleasure to the recipients will also improve their minds. Unless we are prepared to feed the mind by reading about our Faith we cannot hope to acquire an adult appreciation of it. Too many are satisfied to go through life with the very meagre knowledge absorbed at school. This is to face life with its many pitfalls inadequately equipped, Eke a soldier without his rifle.
AGAIN, we should have good Catholic reading matter in Our homes. One of the excellent Catholic weeklies, magazines to suit the various age-groups in the family and some inexpensive books on the Faith to read, and to lend when the opportunity occurs. To refute the objection that our books are too expensive I recently made from memory a list of 50 such titles costing 3s. 6d. or less.
Perhaps i have stressed too much the instruction to be gained by reading Catholic books, particularly as Mr. MeColvin tells us that 60 per cent. of the books borrowed from public libraries are fiction.
There are a number cif excellent Catholic novelists well worth reading-Louis de Wohl, John Sheridan, Hush Russ-Williamson, Barbara Montagu-Scott, Stella Morton and Meriol Trevor, to name only a few.
It is to he regretted that many of he novels by Enid Dinnis and Cecily Hallack have been allowed to go out of print, and I cannot recommend too strongly those that arc still available.
NM/di circles SSMALL reading circles might well he a solution where a parish library is impracticable.
In a group of eight people, for example, each member would buy one book and read eight. Another solution would be to become a subscriber to the Farm Street or Brorniston Oratory Lending Library. Those living in the country could make use of the postal services of the Cenacle Convent Library at Grayshott, or the Catholic Central Library at 33, Wilfred Street, S.W.I-at the latter one has access to more than 20,000 books, many of which are no longer in print.
It is in ways such as these that the Catholic community could become much more Catholic book. conscious than they are at present. Travelling around the country giving talks on Catholic books and exhibiting them, I am inspired by the keen interest of my audiences, their eagerness to make notes of those mentioned, and the ease with which they are tempted by an attractive display to buy to the limit of their resourcesand even beyond.
Enthusiasm is undoubtedly infectious and is a bookseller's most valuable asset, yet it is unfortunately comparatively rare. " Take it or leave it," " I couldn't care less" is only too often the impression given by an obviously bored assistant. Good salesmanship in the book trade requires a knowledge of the books we hope to sell and of the people to whom we hope to sell them. Hope is the key word and a defeatist attitude is disastrous.
We should then do all in our power, by whatever means that are to hand, to further the cause of this apostolatc so that Catholic reading matter may become more easily available, and that all and sundry may have the chance to read it.
*THE CHANCE TO READ, by Lionel R. McColvin (Phcenix House, Ltd., 35s.)