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ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA., SUNDAY M RNING, FEBRUARY 16. 1958
A New Focus
On the Local Library
Here is a close look at some of the
successes and shortcomings of St.
Augustine's Public Library
The 1764 Library Building, Loaned For A Library In 189 4 By The J. L. Wilson Estate
Photos By Charles Olson, Staff Photographer
School Children Are The Library's Best Customers
Head Librarian Mrs. Annie Lou Flesher
Below, Old Stacks Bulge To Capacity. Modern Stacks Could Double Library's Space
How good is St. Augustine's
publie.ibrary'.' Is it getting su[-
ficient public support Who runs
the library and what does the
local government have to do with
With queries like these in
mind, this writer rummaged
through tiers of books and con-
versed at length with the head
librarian during the past week.
Here are some of the findings:
One-half of the 20,000 books
in the library need rebinding-
More local children use the li-
brary than local adults.
More people are using the li-
brary, despite television's hyp-
Only 23 people in every 1,000
checked out a book last year.
But of those who did check out
a book, the average was 51
checkouts for each adult, 30 for
The library's biggest problem,
says Head Librarian Mrs. Annie
Lou Flesher, is getting more
books. In other words, more
contributions of up-to-date books
or more money.
The St. Augustine public li-
brary is owned and operated by
the non-profit St. Augustine
Library Assn. It is completely
outside the thumb of the city and
county governments e x c e p t
for the annual $1,050 contribu-
tion from each of them.
The members of the associa-
tion are the 364 people who last
year paid the $1 adult fee for
using the library. Children use
the library free, but may not be-
Once a year at the annual
meeting (yet to be held this
year) the dues-payers elect the
officers, the 10-man executive
committee and the book commit-
tee. The book group decides
what books, magazines and news-
papers will be bought. Last year
the library subscribed to 16 mag-
azines, three newspapers an d
bought 245 books.
Mrs. Flesher, who has many
years service with the library,
-was asked about the library's
"Our biggest problem is get-
ting more books. Tied with that
is the problem of the rising cost
of books. For instance the novel
Atlas Shrugged, which just came
in, sells for $6.95. And if it is
popular it will need rebinding in
As we talked, the blower to the
automatic circulating oil heater
"Do you have air-condition-
"No, the library really doesn't
need it. We have a big circulat-
ing fan. It pulls the air right
through makes it comfortable
right through summer."
"Have you ever though about
using paperback books to save
money? The University of Flor-
ida Library uses them at times."
"No, we haven't thought about
"The city library in Gaines-
ville has a new program of rent-
ing hi-fi records just as books
are rented. It is so popular that
the library has most of its rec-
ords out all the time. What of
such a program here?"
"We haven't the money for
records. And we wouldn't have
any place to put them or to have
a listening room."
"Well then, what about space ?"
I asked. "What if I were to
come in right now with 2,000 new
books. Where would you put
"I'd just expire right on the
spot! But really, we wouldn't
have the room for them. If we
had modern stacks, we would
have the room though. But, of
course, that's more money."
At that moment a silver-haired
man walked in. He wanted to
know about floods in Missouri in
The librarian gave up after
searching for 15 minutes. She
had found floods in Missouri
back to April 1926 and the Great
Floods of the 1800's, but neither
This points up the three main
duties of a library of this size:
1. Provide pastime reading
such as mysteries and comedies.
. 2. Provide the best of the
3. Provide facilities for light
research, such as encyclopaedias.
1. Pastime reading is the most
popular category, with mysteries
at the top. It is financed chiefly
on a rental basis. For three
cents a day (minimum 10 cents)
you can check out one of about
200 of the latest novels.
2. Classics and modern good
books are free to use for the pay-
ment of $1 annual fee (50 cents
to high school students). To test
the library a list of the "better"
books was compiled. Then the
library was checked to see how
many it had.
The library had:
Biography of Thomas Jeffer-
Hemingway's Farewell to Arms.
Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.
Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
Plato's The Republic.
Hugo's Les Miserables.
Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.
The Plays of Eugene O'Neill.
Biography of Lenin.
Wells' Outline of History.
Hitler's Mein Kampf.
The library didn't have:
Dostoevski's The Idiot.
Marx' Das Capital.
Koran (scriptures of the Mo-
So the library had most of the
list. It seemed strange,' though,
that with half the world under
Communism the library didn't
have Das Capital, the bible of
Communism. But Mrs. Flesher
emphasized that the books on
hand were a reflection of the de-
mand for those books.
And recently the demand for
better books has been on the in-
crease. Biographies and travel
have increased in popularity,
with history also slightly up in
3. Finally, the library should
p r o v i d e material for light re-
search or reference. Light re-
search is the limit. Even the
University of Florida Library
with 750,000 volumes is a poor
graduate research library except
in a few minor fields.
Reference material includes a
1932 copy of Encyclopaedia Brit-
annica and the three-volume Ten
The library was the recipient
of over 600 art books from Miss
Alice Lawton, a former art editor
of The Boston Post. One visit-
ing artist called it the finest col-
lection of art books he had seen
A sore spot is that the card
catalogue is not subject indexed.
This causes unnecessary fumbling
around, spikes a student's ener-
The library subscribes to the
Abridged Reader's Guide to
Periodical Literature. Just one
catch. The library throws away
its periodicals. No room. Most
magazines are kept only six
months; three are kept about two
Speaking of magazines, the
list of magazines seems worth
analyzing. The first nine are of
about equal interest to both men
The Saturday Evening Post
Saturday Review of Literature
Art in America
The second half of the list
shows where the balance of
Ladies Home Journal
When asked about some maza-
zines for the Popular Mechanics-
Sports Illustrated group, Mrs.
Flesher, a member f the bok
"I have had several requests
for Popular Mechanics. But
someone once contributed Sports
Illustrated for two years and it
went almost unopened."
Also lacking in the list were
any challenging, liberal maga-
zines. Pro-Republican, pro-inte-
gration Time Magazine was the
only news magazine on the list.
But the librarian again asserted'
that this was a reflection of local
demand (which may reveal
something about local thinking).
For years someone has coritrib-
uted The New Leader, which has
featured articles by the former
Socialist candidate Max East-
man. But it goes almost un-
Other magazines donated in-
clude Holiday, Look and U.S.
Donations also brought in new
flourescent lights for the adult
library. They were donated by
the Pilot Club in 1955. But the
Junior Room still gets by on two
Another donation included
a valuable oddity: a 12-volume,
leather bound History of- Egypt,
complete with 1200 color plates;
and the edition was limited to
Everything considered, Mrs.
Flesher thinks this library stacks
up pretty well with others in
cities of equivalent size. And
were every day a cold day, the
library would stack up even bet-
ter. For when the mercury
drops, the reading room fills up.
Man, it's warm in there! -
Mrs. Clara Estes
X. L. Pellicer
E. J. Cosgrove
Mrs. Annie Lou Flesher
Mrs. Reginald White
Miss Alice Lawton
Col. J. H. Reynolds
Judge David Dunham
Mrs. Randolph Buck
Miss Constance Train
Mrs. John Morris
Mrs. Robert Curtan
Miss Alamo Clay
Miss Nina Hawkins
Miss Leone Rood
Miss Alamo Clay
Miss Nina Hawkins
Mrs. Annie Lou Flesher
Mrs. Reginald White
By JOHN DILLIN JR.