Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922, September 01, 1912, MAGAZINE, Image 11

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VOL. XL1I-XO. 11.
Royal Fellowship of Readers at Omaha Public Library
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O MAKE this library answer tb,e call of
all classes; to make it democratic .
and yet not offensive to the most
. delicate temperament; to establioh
goodfellowship this has been my
aim," said Miss Edith Tobitt, libra-
, rian of Omaha's public library. And
; experts high in authority on euch things have testi
fied to the success of the undertaking and declare
that never have they seen such an "atmosphere" as
that at Omaha's public library.
This atmosphere is a source of special pf'ide to
the librarian. She considers it her greatest asset
and points to it gleefully. More than anyone else
she has created" it and worked to preserve it. A
corps of able assistants in the reference, cata
loguing, children's and bindery departments have
co-operated with her. The realization of their
dream is a cosmopolitan crowd bound together by
one common tie the love of books worshiping
at one shrine and paying tribute to the same power,
bashing their heads against the1 intricate mysteries
of very learned books, rambling together through
reams of printed pages.
Numerous societies embracing widely diverging
fields of study have met and are still meeting at
the library. Among these are the Fine Arts so
ciety, the Story Tellers' league, the Art guild, the
Esperanto society, the French and Persian History
associations and the Daughters of the American -Revolution.
1 Caste One Prevailed .
In the beginning these societies found few traits
to commend them to each other. They at once .as
Burned a clannishness that boded ill for the libra
rian's democratic designs. Daughters of the Amer
ican Revolution didn't fall for the study of Esper
anto, believing plain American, shorn even of its
English frills, was good enough for any descendant
of the Pilgrim fathers.
Readers of Kant, Nietsche, Schopenhauer and
Spencer could find no joy in the lichened rocks and
rills of the young readers of novels and poetry.
Neither did the disciples of the fine arts hanker
after the little ragged regiments of embryonic patri
otism who gathered at the Story Tellers' league.
Divers and sundry strange creeds and nifty no
tions obtained among the patrons. These readers
of the innumerable books displayed no intention of
traveling toward a common goal. There was no
sudden and passionate desire for intellectual democ
racy. Mechanics, art students, dressmakers, law
years, restaurauteurs, musicians and medical men,
the idle and the busy, the tensely earnest and the
indifferent, green old age and gray-haired, care
bowed youth, pride and prejudice, the low and the
high, the poor and the rich, the learned and the
unlettered, the enthusiastic and the blase, each
sought shelter with his own kind and gave no sign
of trespassing nor was any encroachment wel
comed. Democracy Now the Order
This has been changed. The rich rub elbows
with yie poor, the learned seek to convince, their
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unenlightened brethren, philosophers join in Joy
ous combat wRh their finicky, more foolishly in
clined brethren. Youth converses with age, toler
ance hears the bland platitudes of intolerance;
timidity and boldness, love and hate, projeressivlsm
-and standpatism, all find a common ground, if
nothing but the reason for disagreement.
Disciples of the deeper skepticism war earnestly
with the apostles of the lighter philosophy and con
sider it undemocratic to hold themselves aloof.
, Little tots who have forgotten to wash their faces
worry through Mother Goose rhymes or laugh over
the adventures of Jack and Jill and feel that there
is nothing unkind In the glance the bespectacled
gentlemen of the bulging brow deign to bestow
upon them. ,' , '
When literature of any section. or. sect of the
great complex public is received the librarian makes
immediate announcement of the fact and is pleased
to see her patrons come flocking to the feast. A
treatise on languages obsolete or sciences long for
gotten, stories of the dreary, wild stretches of the
Arctic, or of the land where "lanes are bowered
with wan palms," or of some slumbering islands
of the lazy seas, have a horde of ready readers,
eager for the newest effusion. Tales of the city,
with its "somber walls of steel and stone," black
ened with the smoke of factory fires, inhabited by
the sleep-hungry, red-eyed men and women who
love the thunder of its .commerce, its dull white
lights, have a hungry following, no more than do
the tales . of tragedy, echoing with the mournful
cadences of specters of the tombs. For all of them,
for somebody, are shot through with the light of
high purpose or some gratifying mission of en
lightenment or entertainment, often clumsily con
structed and confused, but always more or less ap
pealing' to at least a few of the many.' '
Papers from All the World
There is another attraction that is drawing a
constantly growing company to the library. It is
the newspapers from far quarters of the earth,
printed in strange tongues, but familiar to the
newly arrived, who are still battling with the per
versities of English. It is in these papers they find
tidings of loved ones left behind, while the more
ambitious, seeding solace for shattered hopes in a
new country, have broken the old ties for thu possi-
bilities of the new. These vifiitors at the library
still hold the irreverent youth of their adopted land
in a little awe, but this attitude they are fast
ploughing, for the library has become a place where
neither caste nor any kind of exclusivenesa can
So many books are written that many must
grow musty on the shelves, while others are thumb
worn and frayed, but the majority of all the vol
umes gathered at the library subserve their , own
faithful coterie. Bindings may be flamboyant and
substantial, or inconspicuous and unstable, and
this will influence a casual inspection of the con
tents, but the meat and the style of the writings
indicate how frequently and carefully the book it
self will be read. Without regard to the manner
of their makeup a number of volumes are often
read sever :1 times while the ink is still moist. They
are either devoured rapidly or leisurely, depending '
on whether the reader takes his food hastily at' the
literary lunch counter or masticates it slowly at a
table nearby. However, everything on the menu,
from Socrates, and Plutarch to Robert Chambers
and Mary Roberts Rinehart, is ordered before the
day is over.
Types of Reader
Readers of books represent as many types as
the books that are written. Women smothered in
furbelows and feathers, maidens walking in the
shadow of sorrow, children in ragged clothes, men
and women who pull and fret at life's restrictions,
the money-grubbers all of them find some solace
In the books. -
"This book," said a gray-haired man who
thought his neighbor. was wasting time with the
.magazines, "is a wonderful thing. None of your
sentlmenal slopslop. No, siree. It has pulse- and
will. It is a gleam through mist and rain, a moni
tory 'flame. Nothing sluggish. Syllabled fire, all
of it. It is the child of a rampant soul and you
ought to get acquainted with it. 'Child of the
rampant soul' is what he calls the' purpose-books,
those that yank you out of the rut, and the brawl
and brew of life and set you in some sunny crypt
of song. No monkeying with metaphysical ding
bats, but heat of blood like that which stirred the
ancient scops to songs of the sea-mew, and the wild
.and bloody battle and rang with the ardor "
His neighbor groaned under the deluge of verbi
age, kicked a chair viciously and turned another
page of the autobiography of the man who laid
claim to the greatest expose of corruption ever pei
potrated. And his neighbor smiled at the enthusi
asm and the memory of the old man and 'made
mental note of the stuff that could work such a
wonder with him. He was not as old as the man
across the table, but he might need such a book
some time. For youth flits fast and the blood cools
and the fret and fume Is lost as the years slip
away. A recluse frowned, for he had come here
for quiet, thinking he could find it among the books
and the people who peruse them. A garrulous
young person began to chatter to her neighbor in
a low but unmuffled whisper. A newspaper man
saw a "feature" and proceeded forthwith to culti
vate the acquaintance of the old enthusiast.
What the Sailor Man Wnats
Even the sailor is of the assemblage that gath
ers dally at the library. Tired business men, weary
with the work of the day, enjoy him as they would
a whiff of salt-sea spray. But unconscious that of all
the numbers who come to Omaha's reading room
his kind are fewest In numbers he rolls across the
floor,. bracing himself as if to the heave and lunge
of the sea, and often asks for some book that will
aid him in his correspondence school work applied
mechanics, law, medicine or marine lore, but never
the books that point the way to the ministry.
In this patronage there is an answer, to the ar
gument of our forebears who deemed lttaothlng
but the height of folly to delve into the mysteries
of the papyrus, unless perchance one were ambi
tious to become an efficient court fool. These an
cestors have been a long time dead and the age
in which they lived has grown dim through the
years, but their time was comparatively modern,
unless they lived in the first nest of civilization on
Egypt's dusky plains. There they could have en
tered into the cells of the astronomers and If they
had pledged their manhood and their lives to -the
glory ; of hoodwinking the numberless slaves ; and
common people they might have prospered. There
was even a ch&nce for them to win a mummyshlp
with a Rameses or a Pharaoh in the colossal tombs
built up through decade after decade until the peo
ple were paupered and the purple of royalty be
came flimsy tinsel.
All the Hosts of Great Ones
Following these ancestors came the ' shadowy
host of mighty writers, living and dead, .who' drove
Ignorance before them with the chisel, the. quill,
the blunt-nosed pen and the belligerent typewriter.
And the writers, great and small, medieval and
modern, each commanding a battalion of. the great,
groping army, still direct, still lead, sometimes dis
astrously, more often' with success, in spite of the
too intimate knowledge of .them sometimes pos
sessed by, the, rank and file. .They are, not phantom
leaders, but real men and women,-who have won,
after endless toll and endeavor, immortality, ever
lasting existence among men. From Boewulf to
Chaucer and' from Chaucer., to 'Shakespeare and
from. Shakespeare to . Swinburne, including the
fawning Boswell, each writer' has' wrought some
thing of worth to somebody and to all 'they speak
from the covers of the booksl
There Is a snadowy fellowship: between the
writers of books and those who read what has been
written. - In the mind: of ' the' Imaginative 'student
vague figures of strong men of. the pen hover over
the shelves and flit before the eye as it follows the
trail of titles'. From the first man who had Ideas,
Invented a new language and chippedhis thoughts
ln crude toutlines on stones, . scrawled them on
papyrus or pictured them on the bark, of some as
siduous tree, after the fashion and facilities of the
time, down to the prolific spieler with the modern
"mill," the army has never been without its scribe
leader! "' ; ' .-',"-"-.