Film ID: YFA 1296 Video of YFA 1296 Books in Hand (1956) BOOKS IN HAND 1956 Visitor TabsDescription A promotional film made by Sheffield Photo Finishers for Sheffield City Council Libraries Committee, this film focuses on the library services in Sheffield. It includes footage of the Central Library on Surry Street as well as the Children’s Library. The film opens with a shot of Hillsborough Park where five people sit reading. Their book of choice is shown. The film then takes a closer look behind the scenes of Sheffield’s City Libraries. This begins in the Central Library (Surrey Street) with the Library Committee of the City Council. Various aspects of the library/librarians work are shown including issuing books, acquiring new and old materials, cataloguing, preparation for shelving, and inter-library loans. The film then goes on to highlight other aspects of library system: timetables, maps, business directories, a source for academic research, postal enquiries, the General Reference Library, old newspapers, Patents, and reports from the Atomic Energy Authorities of Britain, Canada and the USA. (The Central Library is one of the few British libraries to keep such reports.) The Central Library is also at the centre of a network for the sharing of technical information in South Yorkshire. A member of staff from the Local History and Archive Department is shown repairing an old manuscript before examining the history of the Surrey Street site. It was formerly the site of the Music Hall, where in 1852 Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and John Tenniel all performed in a play. The library’s Little Theatre continues to provide a venue for amateur dramatics, and there are sets of plays for performance or reading groups. A Children’s Library is shown in the Manor Branch Library. It is a space where children can pursue their own interests, become involved in the running of the library, attend film shows or listen to stories told by their librarian. The provision of books for the elder generation is also highlighted. Some of the other branch libraries around Sheffield are highlighted including those at Woodhouse and ManorPark. The plan for a new library at Woodseats is also shown. Finally, back at the park, the readers realize it is time to head home, and do so with, “books in hand.” Context This film was commissioned by Sheffield City Council Libraries Committee as part of the celebrations to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Sheffield’s Public Library Authority, and the opening of Sheffield’s first public library. It was made by the Sheffield Photo Company, founded by Frank Mottershaw, an important early filmmaker. The film was premiered at the Grand Hotel in Sheffield on 31st May 1956. The following day, June 1st, the Manchester Guardian carried a report of the event that also included a showing of the 1905 film of the notorious Sheffield criminal Charles Peace; although it is unclear whether this is the Frank Mottershaw version, as one might expect, but which is lost, or William Haggar’s. Apart from three professional actors from the local repertory company, being used in the opening and closing scenes, everyone else who appears in the film are either staff or members of the public. The official celebrations of the centenary were held on 23rd July to coincide with the opening of Woodseats Library by the Duke of Devonshire. The Sheffield Libraries Annual Report for 1956/57 carries a full report of the celebrations – including a report that Books in Hand was shown to 30 libraries outside of Sheffield and 11 other institutions, in places as far apart as Orkney, Aberystwyth and Germany, and was shown “on the telly” 236 times. The film was unique at its time and this explains its huge popularity: 29 copies were bought by the British Council and it was sold to Australia, Liberia, Italy, India, Poland, Malaya, Portugal and Yugoslavia; copies were held by the American Library Association and the Lenin State Library in Moscow. It was also shown in the House of Commons and screened on Mexican television (see Howard Phillips, References). Frank Mottershaw started a photography business in West Bar, Sheffield, in 1882 (although one account has this as 1887). Frank Mottershaw’s two sons moved into cinematography; starting out showing cinematograph entertainment, this branched out into producing films using their own home-made cine camera. These were usually of local events, including football matches, which were shown the evening of the same day, and often at fairgrounds. The YFA has a number of films made by Frank Mottershaw and the Sheffield Photo Company, including The Opening of Sheffield University by King Edward VII in 1905, and the comedy Mixed Babies, made in the same year. There is more information on Frank Mottershaw and the Sheffield Photo Company in the Context for Drive with Clare, also on YFA Online. Public Libraries were the product of the reign of Queen Victoria, beginning with the first at Canterbury in 1847. Between then and 1886 they were being formed at the rate of 3 or 4 each year, and from 1887 until 1900 at the rate of 16 to 17 each year. The biggest were in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool, with Sheffield at the top of the second tier of libraries, having 61,000 titles in 1886. The Public libraries Act of 1850 allowed for Local Authorities to charge a ½ pence on the rates towards the costs of public libraries – upped to 1 penny in 1855, when restrictions on spending were also removed. However, a two thirds majority of ratepayers had to approve of this (which disenfranchised many of the poor). Within the establishment of the time there was much conflict over whether public libraries were a good or bad thing. One section held that it would be improving and help to combat the worse results of poverty, such as excessive drinking, whilst others saw it as encouraging the growth of dangerous ideas. Indeed, working class improving organisations were to the fore in promoting reading. Mechanics Institutes played an important role in this, as Moore notes: ‘These had a strong educational and reforming mission—they were intended to improve the minds of the workers as well as keeping them out of the pubs.’ (See References) The first Mechanics Institute was formed in 1823 by George Birkbeck, and in that same year a Mechanics and Apprentice Library was formed in Sheffield, lasting for 30 years. The excellent Sheffield Public Libraries booklet commemorating the anniversary states that this was “pledged to religious and political orthodoxy”, and that there was little conception at this time of their being critical and independent library users outside the already well educated (see References). The social reformer Joseph Chamberlain, who helped finance Birmingham Library, referred to them in 1882 as, ‘a kind of communism’. This is perhaps overstating it, but democracy itself was feared for leading in this direction, as the arguments over electoral reform showed. The year 1867 marked a decisive shift. Together, the Reform Act of that year, which extended the franchise to all adult male householders, and the Parish Exhibition, provided an impetus towards extending and improving literacy. The Parish Exhibition revealed the dangers of falling behind national competitors in the level of education – hence also the Education Act of 1870. Sheffield was one of the pioneers of public libraries, starting with their first library at the Mechanics Hall, and being one of the first cities to have branch libraries: opening up four between 1869 and 1886 – having a grand total of £36 for books for all four libraries! Between 1877 and 1883 the proportion of Sheffield folk reading books increased from 30% to 57%, and by 1884 Sheffield Reference Library had 11,000 books and the Lending Library 30,000. 1877 was the year of the first Conference of Librarians, at which John Dewey advocated his just completed cataloguing system, which remains in use in most public libraries today. Although Sheffield weren’t the first to pick up on this – Ashton-under-Lyme were in 1881 – they were the first to set up a lending catalogue. One Sheffield Librarian, Thomas Greenwood – he was the Librarian of Upperthorpe Branch Library for 18 months in the early 1870s – become a national figure in promoting public libraries, becoming known as the ‘apostle of the library movement’. He published an influential book Free Public Libraries in 1886 (renamed just Public Libraries for the 1894 edition), and later founded the Library Yearbook in 1897. This was the year before the library profession came of age, when the Library Association, formed in 1877, received a Royal Charter allowing it to award professional (Chartered) status to members. This amalgamated with The Institute of Information Scientists, formed in 1958, to become the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) in 2002. The penny rate was finally abolished in the Public Libraries Act of 1919. There have been many developments in libraries since then. A new Central Library was opened in Sheffield in July 1934 by the then Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) – the Sheffield Public Libraries booklet has some excellent photographs of the Library in 1934. Before the Second World War the Lecture Hall at the Central Library hosted celebratory lectures by such luminaries as Julian Huxley and Bertrand Russell. After the Second World War the professional basis of librarianship was taken to a higher level when chartered librarianship was established in 1946. It was also the time in which Sheffield Libraries established itself as an international source for scientific and technical bibliographies. By 1949 the British National Bibliography was set up establishing a central cataloguing service for British publications – although accounts vary as to the success of this. Following the time that this film was made, current public library policy has been broadly governed by the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, which made it the duty of every library authority to provide a “comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof”. From 1998 all library authorities had to submit Annual Library Plans (replaced by Public Library Position Statements in 2002), and in 2001 this was supplemented by a set of 26 Public Library Standards (simplified to 10 in 2004). At the time of writing, August 2009, the Department of The Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is still pursuing its 11 point vision for public libraries, 'Framework for the Future', published in 2003 and due for full implementation by 2013. The current Central Library on Surrey Street, seen in the film, is now a Grade II listed building. It is noticeable how many of the books shown in the library are hard back, something that, with cuts in expenditure, is much rarer now. The film also demonstrates just how versatile libraries were in the 1950s in putting on classes and other events. Public libraries are struggling to reinvent themselves in the digital age; but this film reminds us of the unique characteristics of libraries, and there are many who hope that these are not lost in the process. But in some ways things haven’t changed that much: the top lending book for the year 1956/57 was David Attenborough’s Zoo Quest to Guyana. (with special thanks to Doug Hindmarch, Sheffield Local Studies Librarian) References Thomas Kelly, History of public libraries in Great Britain 1845–1975, Library Association, London, 1977. W. Howard Phillips (Deputy City Librarian), ‘Books in Hand’, in The Hub, December 1959 (a copy of this is held with Sheffield City Local Studies). Sheffield City Libraries, The City Libraries of Sheffield 1856-1956, Sheffield Public Libraries, 1956. Sheffield Libraries Annual Report for 1956/57 (a copy of this is held with Sheffield City Local Studies) Nick Moore, Public library trends. Cultural Trends, Vol. 13, No.1, 2004, pp. 27 – 57. Alistair Black, entry on Thomas Greenwood in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. UNISON, ‘Taking Stock: The Future Of Our Public Library Service’, 2008 CILIP Further Information Alistair Black, A new history of the English public library: social and intellectual contexts, 1859–1914, Leicester University Press, Leicester, 1996. Alistair Black, The public library in Britain, 1914–2000, The British Library, London, 2000. Thomas Greenwood, Free public libraries, Simpkin Marshall, London, 1886. Thomas Greenwood, Public libraries, Cassell, London, 1894. Robert James Prichard, Thomas Greenwood, public library enthusiast, Clover Publications, Biggleswade, Beds., 1981.