Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Please, sir, may I borrow your books?

The following is a gem found initially in the newspaper cuttings collection at Auckland City Archives. It comes from the NZ Herald, 14 June 1889.


Mr Arthur Desmond wrote from Otorohanga, asking the city to send him up a parcel of books from the Free Library by "parcel post or as a railway package, and to be returned in the same manner." He also asked for a catalogue.

A reply was sent that no such arrangement could be made.

Another letter in answer to this reply was received. It was as follows :— " Your reply to hand. Am very much disappointed thereby. I am unable to buy certain books which I daresay are rotting on your library shelves ; yet you distinctly state that 'no such arrangement could be made' as would enable me to utilise these works. Now, what is a Free Public Library for ? Is it to be a close monopoly for the use of those who reside in the city alone, or are its beneficial influences to be extended as far into the interior as possible? I judge that it is for use, not merely to be looked at, or to be kept in a glass case like Egyptian mummies or moa bones. Hoping that the enlightened gentlemen who guide the destinies of the Auckland City Council, &c., will give the subject further consideration. I am, &c. , Arthur Desmond. "

He concludes his letter with the following reference to the Town Clerk's signature : — " P.S. — I may say that your signature is, to your humble servant, little better than the monograph of Pharaoh on an obelisk. I can't make it out."

It was decided to reply that the Council had no intention at present of allowing books to leave the Library."
Arthur Desmond was certainly an intriguing character in NZ history. More on him at the link.

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