The Library and the Law

Schenectady Public LibrarySince we recently featured the old Schenectady Public Library, which sat at the corner of Union Street and Seward Place for nearly 66 years, thanks largely to the beneficence of Andrew Carnegie and Union College. A 1930 article in the Schenectady Gazette proclaimed that “Book Thieves Here Are Rare,” and went on to offer that the police were quick to help.

“The library is protected by educational and penal laws. Police justices have always been a great aid to members of the Schenectady library staff in cases of this nature. Book stores have agreed not to purchase volumes without examining them. Perforating stamps giving the name of the library are used. The thief noticing one on the title page usually tears that out. He does not notice, however, that certain pages of each book are also stamped. Pages 50,125 and 175 are favorites in the punching process . . .

The public is honest, however. Librarians are firm believers in that. Out of the half million loans from the city library each year, not more than five books are lost. That ratio is meager compared to the number of dishes broken annually by a housewife.”

Sick burn, library beat writer. The author went on to note that overdue books were, in fact, a problem, and that people could be forgetful. He indicated that western stories and detective mysteries were “preferred by people who are tired and don’t want to think. On the other hand, an unusually large call for the works of Thackeray, Cooper and Dickens is noted.” He also said that the library’s requests for books on useful arts was notably high, and that books on electrical and civil engineering, painting, carpentry, etc, were always in demand.

“Circulation figures at the library have been enormous this year but waiting lists on the new books are not as long . . . During the past week, between 1,000 and 1,500 books have been passed out daily by the assistants on duty. One of the five branch libraries in the city gave out 700 books in one day last week. The branch libraries are located at: Bellevue, Mont Pleasant, Woodlawn, Brandywine avenue at Becker, and, in the Pleasant Valley section, Craig street at Lincoln avenue.

“No person is refused permission to take books, no matter where he or she is from, the librarians stated. If people residing near one of the branches want a book not on hand there, the main library is called and the book delivered.”

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