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NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
ASTOR LENOX AND TILDEN FOUNDATIONS
Published monthly by The New York Public Library at 476 Fifth Avenue, New York City. President, George L. Rives, 476 Fifth Avenue; Secretary, Charles Howland Russell, 476 Fifth Avenue; Treasurer, Edward W. Sheldon, 45 Wall Street; Director, Edwin H. Anderson, 476 Fifth Avenue.
Subscription One Dollar a year, current single numbers Ten Cents.
Entered at the Post Office at New York, N. Y., as second-class matter, January 30, 1897, under Act of July 16, 1894.
Printed at The New York Public Library, 476 Fifth Avenue. Edmund L. Pearson, Editor.
THE BACKS OF BOOKS
BY WILLIAM WARNER BISHOP
Superintendent of the Reading Room, Library of Congress
Address delivered at the Commencement Exercises
EW men who are called upon to address graduating classes in colleges and schools can refrain from the temptation to usurp the functions of the preacher. Here is an opportunity too tempting to be missed. The familiar surroundings so soon to be abandoned, the eager students facing their life-work, the parting of teachers and pupils, combine to set the commencement speaker in the way of moralizing on the situation, so well-worn by manifold predecessors, so painfully familiar to every audience of this sort. Try as I may to avoid preaching to you, I too shall probably be found pointing morals, if not adorning tales, for the occasion inevitably lends itself to the giving of gratuitous advice.
There are, however, some differences between the graduation of a class of prospective librarians and the ordinary school or college commencement. There is the obvious fact, which this class shares with all similar classes in professional schools,
that you have been prepared for a specific line of work and are about to enter on the actual practice of your profession. The impending change from theory to practice faces likewise the graduates of schools of law, medicine. theology, and engineering. But your situation differs in at least one respect from theirs. For years they (and you) have been hearing lectures, working in laboratories, studying text-books. From books they have chiefly gathered the theory and training they are about to exercise on a more or less unwilling world. But you are to abandon the formal study of individual books as vehicles of knowledge for the practical handling of books in masses for the benefit of other people. In other words, you are to take what you have learned in a few books and apply it to the marshalling and serving of many books in libraries in aid of readers. What you have gained in theory is to be applied in practice to the very material from which the theory has been