On 3 May 1895 the Society of Public Libraries in London was founded with Robert Reid (recently elected chairman of the Free Library Board) acting as its first chair. The members met after hours to discuss library related matters, but largely to promote professional relationships between them. The society lasted 35 years promoting librarian activities but also revealing much about the social and recreational habits of their members.
Michelle Johansen has been using the society’s letters, minutes and ephemera combined with journals, administration records and other sources to get a clear image of the leisure pursuits of librarians at the turn of the century. In this talk she looks at the socio-cultural context – the rise of the free library in the nineteenth-century – before moving on to the shared leisure lives of the chief and deputy librarians.
This is an interesting talk, which connects into the socio-cultural events of the time, as well as leisure activities in general. The librarians are described as curious about the world, eager to learn and to better themselves. They are active in their leisure pursuits which tend to be self-directed and London-focused.