Thursday, April 10, 2014

Exhibits for National Library Week

Library of Congress exhibit at Hartford, WI library
Wisconsin library memorabilia exhibit at Suring, WI library
One of the more enjoyable activities in my efforts to promote library history is displaying portions of my collection of librariana at libraries around Wisconsin. I do this under the auspices of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center, a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation. This year the exhibits are being displayed at fourteen different public libraries around the state. To help celebrate National Library Week which runs from April 13 to April 19 exhibits will be on display for the month of April at two very different public libraries - the Jack Russell Memorial Library in Hartford, WI and the Suring Area Public Library in Suring, WI. The Hartford library is located in the southeastern part of the state and serves more than 30,000 people and and occupies a large new facility. The Suring library is located in northeastern Wisconsin and serves about 3,800 people and is housed in a joint use facility with several other village departments. The exhibit at the Hartford library features memorabilia and souvenirs for the Library of Congress.  The exhibit occupies a small display case prominently located in the front of the circulation desk. The exhibit at the Suring library features memorabilia for Wisconsin libraries. The Suring library has four nice display cases located in the lobby of the joint use facility and the cases were large enough to display a significant portion of my Wisconsin library memorabilia collection.  My wife Kathy helps me with the exhibits and we had a wonderful early Spring drive up North to Suring which still had lots of snow and lakes frozen enough to support cars and trucks for ice fishers. Our exhibits are available to libraries on a first come first serve basis regardless of size and we have had exhibits at the metropolitan Milwaukee Public Library and at libraries in communities even smaller than Suring. Every library has a different display case configuration which represents an interesting challenge each time we install the exhibits. The exhibits are always appreciated by the libraries and their users which makes it all worth while. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

New York's School-district Public Libraries

New York's school-district libraries were a forerunner of the free public library. A law passed by New York's state legislature in 1835 authorized the creation of libraries in school districts which were intended to serve the general population and not just school pupils. Education reformer James S. Wadsworth (1768-1844) is considered to be the father of New York's school-district libraries. The initial law enabled school districts to tax themselves $20 the first year and $10 in succeeding years for the purpose of creating a library. New York revised its law in 1838 to provide a greater incentive for school districts to create libraries. I recently acquired a very interesting letter (see above) related to school-district libraries in New York. The letter was written on June 15, 1842 by a school-district library trustee for Moreau, NY complaining about his treatment on the library board. The trustee writes: "As respects the library of this district, I had made up my mind not to do anything about it, as there is time enough to answer the law when new trustees are chosen. I have two reasons: one is I never thought the library but little consequence, and another is I have been blamed very much since I have been a trustee, for doing what I thought was best for the district." He ends with: "My time will be out in about 5 1/2 months and I know that I shall be as glad as anyone in the district." New York was the first of a number of states to create school-district libraries.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Library War Service Library in Paris in WWI

Before the American Library in Paris was founded in 1920 it served as the central library for the American Library Association's Library War Service for France during World War I. I recently added an advertising card (see above) promoting the opening of ALA's library in Paris to my collection of librariana. The card has a map on the back showing the location of the library. The ALA library opened in July, 1918 and was located in the former residence of the Papal Nuncio to the French Republic at No. 10 rue de l'Elysee.  Burton Stevenson head of the Library War Service in Europe later said, "I dare say no public library was ever before installed amid such glittering surroundings." I was really pleased to get the card because it will go well in a philatelic exhibit I'm putting together for the stamp show in Denver, CO which takes place in May. The exhibit is titled appropriately "The American Library Association and World War I" and consists of sixteen 8 1/2 by 11 inch pages on which a variety of philatelic and other paper artifacts are mounted. I've written blog posts about many of the items in the exhibit which can be found HERE. Another post about the American Library in Paris can be found HERE. Arthur P. Young's Books for Sammies, The American Library Association and World War I (Beta Phi Mu, 1981) was a source for some of the information in this post. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The 1894 ALA Conference in Lake Placid

Following its extremely successful annual conference in 1893 at the Chicago World's Fair the American Library Association met in 1894 at Lake Placid, New York. Melvil Dewey had pushed to hold the conference in this resort community located in the lake country of the Adirondack mountains.  He had an ulterior motive for doing so. Dewey and his wife Annie had purchased land in the area with the intent of creating a private retreat for librarians and other professionals.  The ALA conference was a perfect opportunity for showcasing the beauty of the area. The Library Journal for October, 1894 reported that "The meeting of the A.L.A. at Lake Placid will be remembered as one of the best ever held." There were 205 registered attendees with a little more than half being women. Attendees were from 18 states and Canada. The Library Journal report indicated that sessions were divided between the Grand View and Mirror Lake hotels and that the two hotels "vied with each other in making their guests comfortable and more". Melvil and Annie Dewey did succeed in creating their Lake Placid resort for professionals which I wrote about here and here. The ribbon to the left is part of my collection of ALA librariana.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The 1973 ALA Conference in Las Vegas

One of the readers of this blog suggested that I do a post on the 1973 American Library Association Conference in Las Vegas since it will be meeting there again this Summer after a 41 year hiatus. Thanks Elisa. I thought it was a great idea especially since I was one of the 8,539 individuals who attended that conference. The 1973 ALA conference was held June 24-30, and the theme was "People: Their Needs - Our Responsibilities".  A preliminary conference program gushed: "Three and one-half miles of incredibly colorful marquees, flashing, plunging, zooming - luxurious hotels, fascinating casinos that never close, lavish showrooms and superstar entertainment, excellent meeting facilities, and a profusion of good restaurants with offerings to suit every taste at reasonable prices. All of this, and more, is the heady excitement of the Las Vegas Strip - scene of the 92nd ALA conference. It promises to be an unforgettable and memorable experience!". It was definitely an unforgettable experience for many who attended the conference during the hottest period in Las Vegas in 1973. The temperature on June 28 was 113 degrees F. It was the heat that brought about such heavy criticism from attendees that ALA hasn't gone back in 41 years. Back then, many of the conference hotels were long distances from each other and some librarians made the mistake of trying to hoof it between them ending up with scorched feet. Personally, I enjoyed the conference. At that time I was active in the Junior Members Round Table and helped organize and staff JMRT's booth in the exhibits. I was rather proud of a home made roulette wheel that I put together. The famous public relations guru Fred Glazer was the incoming chair of JMRT and also helped with the booth. Of course, with the unbelievable development in Las Vegas since 1973, the 2014 conference should be unforgettable for many reasons other than the heat. I will hate to miss it. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Library Service to African Americans in the South

There was a recent discussion on the ALA Library History Round Table (LHRT) listserv about the Alexandria Library in Virginia honoring the 75th anniversary of the 1939 Civil Rights sit-in at the library. I have written a previous post about the sit-in. In the listserv discussion it was noted that the most definitive study about library service to African Americans in the South prior to 1941 was conducted by Eliza Atkins Gleason. Gleason was the first African American to receive a PhD in Library Science and the study was the basis for her dissertation at the University of Chicago. Her study also resulted in the publication of the book The Southern Negro and the Public Library (Univ. of Chicago, 1941). I have a copy of the book in my personal library and Gleason's description of library service to African Americans in the South during this period is appalling to say the least. Gleason found that in 1939 only 99 out of 774 public libraries in the 13 southern states provided library service to African Americans, and that only 21 percent of the total African American population had access to such service. That service was substantially inferior to the service provided to the white population in those states. Eliza Atkins Gleason (1909-2009) was an exceptional librarian and her contributions to the library profession have been documented in the blog Little Known Black Librarian Facts. Two other interesting items came out in the LHRT listserv discussion. The doctoral dissertation of Brenda Mitchell-Powell, a  student at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College, will address the 1939 sit-in at the Alexandria Library. Also Wayne Wiegand and his wife Shirl are in the process of finishing research on a book about the desegregation of public libraries in the American South which should get published in 2015. I will look forward to the publication of both of these efforts. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Oldest Public Library in the Americas?

There are several libraries that make claim to being the oldest public library in the United States of America, but one library claims to be the oldest public library in the Americas. That library is the Biblioteca Palafoxiana in Puebla, Mexico. The Biblioteca Palafoxiana was founded in 1646 and was added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in 2005. In 1996 Mexico issued a postage stamp (at the left) to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the library. According to Mexico's submission to the Memory of the World Register, the Biblioteca Palafoxiana "is noted for its authenticity and bibliographical wealth, building and bookcases, with more than 41,000 volumes among those that the library preserves as well as world unique manuscripts, there are 9 incunabula." The library was founded by Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, a Catholic priest who served as bishop of Puebla from 1640 to 1655. The blog "All About Puebla" indicates that the library is noteworthy for its sheer beauty and includes finely carved bookshelves. Was the library truly a public library as we know it in the United States? Probably not. However, Juan de Palafox y Mendoza did establish the library by donating 5,000 of his own books to the Colegio de San Juan on the condition that they be made available to the general public. Currently it is more of a rare book and research library. Information about visiting the library can be found HERE.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Exhibiting in Little Rock

I've written several posts about America's presidential libraries including one on my philatelic exhibit about these libraries. My philatelic exhibit is on display this weekend at the American Philatelic Society's Winter stamp show that is taking place in Little Rock, Arkansas. The exhibit is being shown as a non-competitive exhibit at the invitation of the American Philatelic Society. The exhibit is primarily about the presidential libraries that are administered by the National Libraries and Archives Administration (NARA). It is an appropriate exhibit since the Clinton Presidential Library is located in Little Rock. I mailed the exhibit to Little Rock and won't be attending the show myself.  The First Day Cover (FDC) shown above is for the Presidential Libraries stamp that was issued on August 4, 2005. This FDC has a postmark for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, NY, and shows a picture of Roosevelt assisting with the mortaring of the wall of the library on Nov. 19, 1939.  A unique postmark was created for the stamp for each of the  the presidential library sites. The Presidential Libraries stamp commemorated the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 which authorized the National Archives to take custody of the papers of U.S. presidents.

A Library Postcard for Valentines Day

The caption on this postcard reads:

"Thy kisses! they as honey are;
Thy teasing lips, so near, so far!"

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Merchant Marine and ALA in WWI

The Merchant Marine is the fleet of American ships which carries a wide variety of cargo around the world during peacetime and becomes a naval auxiliary during wartime. The Merchant Marine played an essential role in World War I by delivering U.S. troops and war material to the European theater. During World War I the Library War Service of the American Library Association provided books to the men who served on the ships of the Merchant Marine. As part of its promotion of this service ALA published a series of eight postcards depicting Merchant Marine mariners/sailors using the service. I've managed to collect seven of the eight postcards, two of which are depicted above. The rest are located HERE. The postcards indicate that: "The A.L.A. furnishes free crew's libraries to American merchant ships and through representatives at principal ports provides a free library service to American seamen." One postcard states that: "Boxed crew's libraries, each containing about eighty books of fiction, travel, books on seamanship and others, are exchangeable at principal ports." After the war the books from this service were transferred to the American Merchant Marine Library Association which was created in 1921. It was one of the legacies of the ALA Library War Service.