Full Title: A brief account of the public libraries of the City of Leeds, 1870-1920
Category: Non-Fiction/Libraries/Leeds – Hardback: 40 pages – Publisher: Jowett and Sowry – Source: Independent subscription library
First Published: 1920
I only know of three copies of this book in Leeds and the one I borrowed was from the independent library, the public library have it only for reference rather than borrowing and the third copy is at the British Library. The copy I borrowed probably hasn’t been read since 1920, it took the staff some hunting to find it for me, but it answered so many questions I had about the formation of the Leeds public libraries and why the city seems to have so many (53 branches until last year when 13 closed) and yet care so little about them.
Thomas Hand was the City Librarian in 1920 and wrote this gorgeous little history of the libraries after the war, during a time of great change within the branches. He had access to records and his colleague’s memories and so his testimony is remarkably honest and detailed. He wrote about the difficulties in setting up the libraries (people campaigned against them which is frankly baffling), financial worries and deciding on locations and building the early branches.
It made me realise how hard the libraries in this city have always had to struggle, that funding, support, decent resources etc aren’t just modern issues and that housing and sharing books is never easy in any era.
I am so very glad he wrote this account as almost none of these details were known to me, I only wish someone in the 1970s had filled in the story over the era of cheap Penguins, more branches opening up and the restrictions of WWII! :)