Melvil Dewey founded the New York Library Club in 1885. It became an influential forum for exchanging ideas and debating methods and principles among practitioners of an emerging profession. Members were inspired by the mission of the public library, by an evangelical zeal to uplift the masses by bringing fine literature into their homes. At the same time, they had to develop methods of gaining intellectual control over the increasing number of titles issued by American publishers each year as well as methods of attracting readers of cheap fiction to more uplifting works. This article explores tensions between mission and methods during the early history of the club.