Steve Lawson has a wonderful post on an even more delightful 1883 article by library-pioneer Charles Ammi Cutter, entiled “The Buffalo Public Library in 1983.” He links to the full text from Google Book Search.
Cutter’s piece has much the same feel as Bellamy’s 1888 novel Looking Backward. Futurism is all about the present, and it is hard.
Cutter got a few things right, like the presence of children in the library. His photographic catalogs are about half-right as are the reading desks with a “little key-board at each, connected by a wire with the librarian’s desk.” He was less prescient about gender segregation, smoking rooms and armies of slippered boy pages. His obsession with ventilation is peculiar. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t hear the phrase “great unwashed” enough:
“Every one must be admitted into the delivery-room, but from the reading-rooms the great unwashed are shut out altogether or put in rooms by themselves. Luckily public opinion sustains us thoroughly in their exclusion or seclusion.”