Sir,—The Central Catholic Library has been justly criticised by Mr. Edward Saunders, but without sufficient charity.
It is a fact that the library is " tucked awas in a dingt backstreet and looks most depressing from the outside." One could easily add " inside " too. Truly, it is difficult to believe that Catholics of this country have only " these" dark cellars for their greatest library. We should feel the same shame about this as if we had a prefabricated house or a corrugated-sheet hut instead of the magnificent Westminster Cathedral. After all. in the Catholic books we hold the eternal words of the Old and New Testament, the writings of the Fathers and the heritage of many thousand saints. The Jews carried the sacred books with the holiest of their Church-equipment. A non-Catholic may get a wrong impression of the impot tance we attach to the value of our books if they judge us by the housing of the "Central Catholic Library."
There is a grave responsibility on our part and neither the layfolk nor the clergy can escape their Obligation in this matter. Despite povert■ , we still have decent churches, schools, hospitals. orphanages and even Catholic press, but not without the admonition of the clergy and contributions of the laity. Why should the library be forgotten and why not raise twenty—thirty thousand pounds in the country for the purpose?
As a temporary solution and, not knowing the alternative accommodation in the Westminster diocese, I would like to suggest whether part of the Catholic church round the corner from the library [SS. Peter and Edward. 43. Palace Street] could not be used for the housing of the library? The church is a very old one. I know. but within a few minutes' walk is the huge and often empty Westminster Cathedral ready to satisfy the religious needs of all parishioners. At least the greater part of the nave could he used as a library, separating the altar for a chapel—a noble setting for a Catholic library, as may be seen in Milan. However. this is only a sidelight and. whatever action may he taken. the case of the Central Catholic Library— and in due course other Catholic libraries—must have equal share in our care. directed by the preachers of the pulpit and followed by the silver collections in the nave.
J. Kohari, M.R.C.S. (Eng.), L.R.C.P. (London).
Sir, — Threepence-halfpenny a week is surely not too much to pay for the use of the Catholic Central Library and Reading Room with its 20,000 books!
Those who prefer to purchase their own books will be lucky if they are able to buy more than one book for the price of an annual subscription to the C.C.L., and I doubt if there are many who can afford four guineas for a Catholic Scripture Commentary or six guineas for Fr. Philip Hughes " Reformation in England."
Whilst no serious reader should be put off by external appearances, we are well aware that modern premises in Oxford Street would attract more members and make the Catholic Central Library much more effective. But where is the money for this? It is easier to draw ideas from the Christian Scientists than to draw cheques from the Catholic 'community! With the proceeds from last year's Sherry Party some badly needed internal decorations were done, but contributions, however small, would be welcomed to enable us to complete them. What we need urgently is more members. We have critics in plenty !
Winifred Charlier, Chairman.
Catholic Central Library, 33, Wilfred Street, London, S.W.1.