There are many people who love reading, but who cannot afford to buy books. Books, even in this age of cheap literature cost money; and the poor have not the money to spare. It was for such people that free libraries were established. Many have been set up in England and America by philanthropic people like Mr. Carnegie, the American millionaire. And in England, every town has its own Free Library, provided and supported by municipal funds and managed by a special committee. They are known as Free Libraries because the readers don’t need to pay any subscription fee. Any decent citizen of the town, however poor, can get books from the Library without charge.
Libraries are very useful:
There is no doubt that Free Libraries are a great blessing. If the books are wisely selected, then they hold great educational values. And they have done much to encourage the habit of reading among the working classes. Of course, most of the books are novels, and most of the readers are novel readers; but there is not much harm in this, for the reading of good fiction is not only a limited source of healthy entertainment. But it is also a means of broadening the mind and learning more about life and human nature. And there is always a good selection of serious books- history, biography, travel, poetry and general literature- which are appreciated by many readers. We can say that good books are storehouses of human knowledge and wisdom. And Free Libraries are responsible for throwing these treasures to the poor, who without them, would be shut out.
Very few disadvantages can be discovered against Free Libraries. As a matter of fact, on the whole, are very useful things; but there are one or two. Firstly, the much-read and well-thumbed copies of books from Free Libraries can become the carriers of infectious diseases. A famous novel that passes through many hands becomes dirty and infected over time. Furthermore, it may even pass on a disease from an infected reader to the next person who takes out the book.
Another problem is that these libraries discourage the purchasing of books by the people who could well afford to have their own copies. If a book is worth reading, it is worth buying and keeping. A real book-lover never desires to read a borrowed book (that is, other than novels), if he can afford to buy it for himself. Yet there are people who think nothing of spending 400 INR on a dinner but would think it is a waste of money to buy a book at that price.