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THE first Catalogue of the Public Library was printed in 1854, and contained the titles of about twelve thousand volumes. Of these, less than one half could be regarded as well fitted for general circulation. But the rest, most of which were donations, were often of great value, and all of them were desirable for fulfilling the wide purposes of such an institution.
The present Catalogue, or rather Index, contains the titles of about fifteen thousand volumes, all placed for the convenience of easy use in the lower hall of the Library Building, and all believed to be well fitted for free and general circulation. As a popular circulating Library, therefore, the collection now offered to the public contains probably three times as many desirable books as the one offered four or five years ago.
About fourteen thousand of the volumes embraced in it are in the English language, and the remaining thousand consists of books of general interest and a popular character, in French, German and Italian. It is not, however, even for its especial purpose, supposed to be a perfect collection. Far from it. But it is believed to be a collection begun and well advanced on the true principle of a Free Public Library ; — that of providing, first, by interesting, wholesome and useful reading, for the intellectual, moral, and religious progress of those portions of our community that are not so able as they may desire to be, to provide such reading for themselves and for their families. Time, however, as the Trustees believe, is alone needed to make this part of the Library all that can be desired. A very large proportion of the books contained in it has been purchased by the Trustees with careful reference to the widest and freest circulation. They have been bought, in a large degree, from funds or from the income of funds given by the benefactors of the Library, but also from funds furnished annually by the liberality of the City Government. It has been the desire of the Trustees to make this part of the Library as ample, as attractive and as useful as possible.
The remainder, which is in the large upper hall, consists of above fifty thousand volumes, and has come to us almost entirely by donation, but chiefly from the munificence of our great benefactor, Mr. Bates, who over and above his original gift of fifty thousand dollars, the income of which for the last five years has been devoted, as he required it should be, to the purchase of "books of permanent value and authority," - has more recently given the city between twenty and thirty thousand volumes of other valuable and often very costly books, selected on the same wise principle. Nor does he stop with such beneficence, but from month to month continues to afford us fresh proofs of his desire to promote the welfare of an institution for which he first laid a sure and sufficient foundation, and to which he first gave a guiding and decisive impulse. Many of the books in this large and important portion of the Library are more or less fitted for circulation, and destined to it, like those in the lower hall. The preparation of a catalogue of all of them is far advanced, and the index to it will be published without unnecessary delay. But it has been thought advisable by the Trustees not to postpone the circulation of the books in the lower hall until the catalogue of the books in the upper hall can be completed, and its index carried with the needful care through the press. They are quite aware that the institution has become too important to large masses of our citizens and their families, to permit any of its resources to remain inaccessible for a day after it has become possible to open them for use. It will be observed that the catalogue now published is entitled "An Index.” The larger one, when published, will probably offer a title-page of no higher pretensions. The main catalogue, as the annual reports have heretofore explained, is much more ample and important, and is to be found in manuscript, alphabetically arranged on separate cards, indicating the contents of the Library with as much minuteness of detail, both by subjects and by authors, as the means at the disposition of the Trustees have permitted them to make it. Any person enjoying the privileges of the Library can have access to this catalogue, and, by the aid of the Superintendent or one of his assistants, can readily learn from it whatever the Library contains on any subject concerning which he may desire to make especial researches. Next to the collection of its books, the Trustees look upon this catalogue as the most important part of the Library, for it is the part by which the whole mass of its resources is opened for easy use; the key by which all its treasures are unlocked to the many who, in this community, are now asking for them so often and so earnestly. A large Library without good catalogues has sometimes