It is the duty as well as the interest of Lodges to facilitate the efforts of the members in the acquisition of Masonic knowledge, and no method is more appropriate than the formation of Masonic Libraries. The establishment of a Grand Lodge Library is of course not objectionable, but it is in Doctor Mackey's opinion of far less value and importance than a Lodge Library. The original outlay of a few dollars in the beginning for its establishment, and of a few more annually for its maintenance and increase, would secure to every Lodge in the land a rich treasury of Masonic reading for the information and improvement of its members. The very fact that Masonic books were within their reach, showing themselves on the well-filled shelves at every meeting, and ready at their hands for the mere asking or the trouble of taking them down, would induce many Brethren to read who never yet have read a page or even a line upon the subject of Masonic history and science.
Considering the immense number of books that have been published on the subject of Speculative Freemasonry, many of which would be rendered accessible to every one by the establishment of Lodge Libraries, the Freemason who would then be ignorant of the true genius of his art would be worthy of all shame and reproach. As thoughtful municipalities place public fountains in their parks and at the corners of streets, that the famished wayfarer may allay his thirst and receive physical refreshment, 80 should Masonic Lodges place such intellectual fountains in reach of their members, that they might enjoy mental refreshment. Such fountains are libraries; and the Lodge which spends fifty dollars, more or less, upon a banquet, and yet does without a Library, commits a grave Masonic offense; for it refuses, or at least neglects, to diffuse that light among its cXl~nshiD ohligotien requires it to do.
Of two Lodges the one without and the other with a Library the difference is this, that the one will have more ignorance in it than the other. If a Lodge takes delight in an ignorant membership, let it forego a Library. If it thinks there is honor and reputation and pleasure in having its members well informed, it will give them means of instruction.
But let us not mistake the collecting of books for the study of them. Book buying and book reading are not necessarily the same. Many a book of knowledge goes unread by the owners and many a Library is an unworked mine of information. In fact, cases have been known where a Library within reach at the Lodge has been urged as a sufficient excuse for members to possess no books of their own and further inquiry soon determined that the Library was rarely used. A Library is never intended as an idle possession.
The Library of many volumes always has the problem before it to get its treasures known and used. our leading libraries are doing this by circulation of works by mail and providing systematic courses of instruction for classes in profitable Masonic reading. But the Brother who has some reliable, thorough books of his own for reference can take these from the shelves at pleasure, dip deeply or moderately as opportunity may serve, and brouse happily and profitably with the Masonic authorities, settling for himself those queries and problems that his own experience or the questions of his Brethren suggest for investigation. In this way the Library of the individual Brother is a splendid possession fortified and supplemented by the larger institutions appealing to the bibliophite and student with their great collections of books. An uninformed Freemason is a liability that the wise use of books may turn into an asset for the Craft with equal pleasure and profit to himself. The task of becoming proficient is not drudgery, it is but to read as one's advancement requires, not enough to cause indigestion, but sufficient for Masonic health and progress.
Grand Lodges maintain libraries several of which are notable in the scope of their collections and the rarity of many of their treasures. Among these one readily calls to mind the fine Masonic libraries of the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland. In the United States the Grand Lodge of Iowa has a separate building at Cedar Rapids devoted entirely to library purposes, and there are splendid collections housed by the Grand Lodges of Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts, the latter having acquired by gift the library of Brother Samuel R. Lawrence which included that of Brother Enoch T. Carson of Ohio which he had purchased.
The Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, has a Sne library at Washington, District of Columbia, in the House of the Temple, which includes amongst its possessions the books of General Albert Pike. There are many very good local libraries such as for example the useful collections preserved practically by the Masonic Library Association of Cincinnati which holds in trust the Stacker Williams Library, the property of the Grand Lodge of Ohio. Another excellent library of choice works is found in the Masonic Temple at Evanston, Illinois, due to the enterprise of Brother Wm. S. Mason and his associates. The few mentioned are simply given as representative of the interest found in the several States and a complete list of really noteworthy libraries would be too extensive to be dealt with freely here.
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