- Give the poor a chance of reading.
- Provide pleasure and education.
- May spread infectious diseases.
- Discourage the buying of good books.
There are many people who love reading, but who cannot afford to buy books. Books even in this age of cheap literature, cost, money; and the poor have not the money to spare. It was for such people that free libraries were established. Many have been set up in England America by philanthropic people like Mr. Carnegie, the American millionaire. And in England, every town has its free Library, provided and supported by municipal funds and managed by a special committee. They are called Free Libraries because readers have no subscription to pay. Any decent citizen of the town, however poor, can get books from the library without charges.
Who can deny that Free Libraries are a great blessing? When the books are wisely selected, they have a great educational value, and have done much to encourage the habit of reading among the working classes. Of course, most of the books are novels, and most of the readers are novel-readers but there is not much harm in this for the reading of good fiction is not only a source of healthy amusement, but is also a means of broadening the mind and learning more about life and human nature. And there is always a good selection of serious books history, biography, travel, poetry and general literature which are appreciated by many readers. Good books are storehouses of human wisdom and knowledge; and Free Libraries throw open these treasures to the poor, who, without them, would be shut out.
Very few objections can be found against Free Libraries, which on the whole are very useful things; but they are on one or two. One is that much read and well-thumbed copies of books from free Libraries sometimes carry infectious diseases. A popular novel that passes through many hands becomes soiled and dirty; and it may pass on a disease from an infected reader to the next person who takes out the book.
Another disadvantage is that such libraries discourage the buying of books by people who could well afford to have their own. If book is worth reading and reading, it is buying and keeping. A real book-lover never wants to read a borrowed book (that is, other than novels), if he can afford to buy it for himself. Yet there are people who think nothing of spending Rs.10 on a dinner who would think it waste of money to buy a book at the price.