HC Deb 10 July 1906 vol 160 cc706-7
MR. THOMASSON (Leicester)

To ask the President of the Board of Education whether in view of the current controversy upon education and the complexity of the whole subject, he will arrange for a printed catalogue of the library of the Board of Education at St. Stephen's House, to be prepared and made available at the earliest possible time for the use of the general public.

(Answered by Mr. Birrell.) The Board of Education have already prepared a comprehensive list of books and pamphlets bearing on the difficulties connected with the organisation of religious instruction in connection with elementary schools in this and other countries of the world, but I regret that pressure in the printing offices has delayed the issue of this list, which would, I had hoped, have been useful in connection with discussions on the Bill. As regards a general catalogue of the library, the Question raises many considerable difficulties. The original education library, when it was transferred to St. Stephen's House from South Kensington some years ago, showed considerable deficiencies in many important departments of educational study; indeed, it was in the highest degree incomplete, and had not been kept up to date. These defects are gradually being made good, and the library now, though not complete, may be considered a fairly comprehensive one in certain departments, at all events, of educational literature During the period of the library's location at St. Stephen's House the card catalogue now in use has been constructed; but this is simply an author catalogue, and it was impossible to make it otherwise. It contains about 36,000 entries, and if printed would fill a volume, royal quarto in size, of at least 1,500 pages. I think so huge a list of unclassified books would be of little value to researchers and students of education. Only a subject catalogue would meet their needs. The preparation of such a catalogue is engaging the attention of the officers of the library, but it is a piece of work which cannot be accomplished within a short space of time; indeed, the period must be measured by years rather than by months. A catalogue of this nature can only be satisfactorily constructed with the help of a specially qualified staff, when the books themselves have been arranged on the shelves on a subject basis. It would not be possible to carry out this rearrangement of the books in the present temporary and most imperfect quarters in Canon Sow; but the new classification has already been applied experimentally to the inspector's lending library, and it is hoped that the experience thus gained will enable the Board to extend the system to the reference library, and to proceed in course of time to the preparation of an efficient subject catalogue of these books when the removal to the new building has been effected.