Monday, October 6, 2014

Happy Birthday ALA!

Today marks the 138th anniversary of the founding of the American Library Association. The founding took place on October 6, 1876 at a conference of librarians at the Pennsylvania Historical Society in Philadelphia. The events leading up to the conference are documented in the book Raking The Historic Coals, The A.L.A. Scrapbook of 1876 by Edward G. Holley (Beta Phi Mu, 1967). Although Melvil Dewey received much of the credit for the call for the conference, others including Richard Rodgers Bowker and Frederick Leypoldt played important roles. Of the 103 people who attended the conference 90 were men and 13 were women. At the end of the conference attendees who wanted to form the new association signed a register. Melvil Dewey signed as "Number one". By the end of 1876, 43 individuals had joined the association. On the evening of October 6 there was a social reception. A replica of the invitation to that affair is shown above. This anniversary of the founding of ALA highlights the fact that in two years, it will celebrate its 140th anniversary, an occasion worthy of celebration. In 2026, only twelve years away, ALA will celebrate its 150th anniversary, a major milestone for any organization.  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fundraising for the Free for All Inside the Public Library Film Project

I published a previous post about the "Free for All: Inside the Public Library film project which will feature public libraries across America today and provide historical background about the public library movement in the United States. The project is now at a critical filming stage and a fundraising effort has been launched to pay for this phase. They have more information and a nice video about the project on their home page. It also includes information about donating to the project which I highly endorse. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Guthrie, Oklahoma's Carnegie Library

When Andrew Carnegie gave a grant of $26,000 to Guthrie, Oklahoma on October 17, 1901 for a public library building it was the capital of the Oklahoma Territory. The library building was completed in 1902 and in 1906 it served as the backdrop for the inauguration of Frank Frantz, Oklahoma's last territorial governor. That event is depicted on the postcard above. Guthrie lost out to Oklahoma City as the permanent State Capital. The Carnegie building ceased to house the public library in 1972 when a new public library building was completed. According to the website of the Oklahoma Territorial Museum, the Carnegie building barely escaped destruction due to the generosity of a benefactor who also donated a museum building to the City. The very elaborate building which was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1971 is now part of the museum complex. Information about Oklahoma's other Carnegie libraries can be found HERE

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Equalizing Library Opportunities 1927

In 1927 the Committee on Library Extension of the American Library Association published a small brochure (see above) that described the inequality of access to public library service in the nation and advanced the goal of "Adequate public library service within easy reach of every one". It then offered some strategies for achieving that goal. A chart in the brochure (at left) showed that more than 50 million Americans were without library service, mostly in rural areas. Elsewhere in the brochure it was pointed out that out of 3,065 counties the United States 1,235 had no public libraries within their boundaries. Strategies included leadership from state library agencies and county libraries. It was not until the passage of the Federal Library Services Act in 1956 that that the extension of public library service became a national priority. As a result of federal and state library funding programs enormous progress has been made toward achieving the goal of adequate public library service within easy reach of everyone. However, there are still millions of Americans without public library service or without adequate public library service. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Autographs of Famous Librarians

One of the categories of librariana that Norman D. Stevens discusses in his book A Guide to Collecting Librariana (Scarecrow Press, 1986) is autographs of librarians. He highlights the James I. Wyer (1869-1955) Autograph Collection which is housed in the American Library Association Archives. Wyer served as President of ALA in 1910-1911. His autograph collection includes letters from 46 ALA presidents as well as correspondence from other librarians. Stevens notes that autograph collecting was once a popular hobby, but has gone out of favor. He provides tips on autograph collecting. Although, I don't specifically seek autographs of librarians, famous or not, I have managed to accumulate a nice selection. Some of those are shown below.

Melvil Dewey (1851-1931), ALA Leader & President Lake Placid Club

Herbert Putnam (1861-1955), 8th Librarian of Congress
Susan Grey Akers (1889-1984), Library School Dean

Ainsworth Spofford (1835-1908), 6th Librarian of Congress
Justin Winsor (1831-1897), ALA's First President
Norman D. Stevens, Molesworth Institute Director Emeritus
George M. Eberhart, American Libraries Direct Editor
Betty Stone & Rogert Wedgeworth, Former ALA President & ALA Executive Director

Saturday, August 16, 2014

75th Alexandria (VA) Library Sit-In of 1939 Anniversary Event

On August 21, 2014 the Alexandria (VA) Library will commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the historic civil rights sit-in which took place at the Library. The commemoration will take place at the Kate Waller Barrett Branch, where the sit-in originally took place on August 21, 1939. I published a previous post about the sit-in in 2010.The following is from a library press release:

"On August 21, 1939, five African American men individually entered the segregated building and requested library cards. When denied, each man calmly took a book off of a shelf to read. After two hours, library authorities had the men arrested for their act of 'civil disobedience'.

'Due to the bravery of these men, 75 years later our library is a community hub that supports all individuals by providing equal access to books, technology, culture, and so much more', says Director of Libraries, Rose T. Dawson. Dawson also happens to be Alexandria’s first African American Library Director. 

The Alexandria Library was founded first as a subscription library in 1794 and became Alexandria’s public library in 1937. Two years later, Attorney Samuel Tucker organized and defended sit-in protesters, William (Buddy) Evans, Otto L. Tucker, Edward Gaddis, Morris Murray, and Clarence Strange. Though the men were charged with disorderly conduct, the city delayed the case and no ruling was ever issued. 

The public is invited to join Alexandria Library in recognizing this significant local event. The program will feature keynote speakers Frank Smith, Ph.D., Director, African American Civil War Museum and Patricia Timmons-Goodson, North Carolina Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) and who is a newly appointed Commissioner, United States Commission on Civil Rights. Visitors can also enjoy music, children’s activities, food and refreshments, gift bags, and more on Thursday, August 21, 2014, from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at the Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library, 717 Queen Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314!"

Best Books for One Room Schools 1922

During the 1920s one room school houses for multiple elementary grades in rural America were common. So it wasn't unusual that the members of the American Library Association (ALA) and the National Education Association (NEA) were interested in identifying the best books for these schools. In 1922 ALA published a small brochure (at left) titled "A Shelf of Books For A One Room School" which identified 25 of the best books for a one room school. The books had been selected by ballot by librarians and teachers at the conferences of ALA and NEA. The brochure lists the books in order of their popularity with the voters. Number 1 on the list was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Other high ranking books were: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Carroll); Life of Robinson Crusoe (Defoe); Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Twain); Treasure Island (Stevenson); Boys' Life of Abraham Lincoln (Nicolay); Jungle Book (Kipling); Fairy Tales (Andersen); Aesop's Fables; Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (Pyle); and Child's Garden of Verses (Stevenson). Short descriptions and prices were provided for the books, and at the end there is a note that any book dealer should be able to supply the books. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Umbrellas on Library Postcards

Librariana collector and library humorist Norman D. Stevens published "The Umbrella Paper" as part of a humor collection in The Librarian's Record, Vol. 5, No. 5 (March 1980). The Librarian's Record was a publication of the Molesworth Institute. In Stevens' paper on the umbrella he laments that research has become more and more difficult, but notes that one area that has not yet been adequately explored is umbrellas in libraries. He goes on to indicate that the Molesworth Institute has undertaken some initial investigations on that topic. As part of its investigations, according to Stevens, the Institute used its computerized file of the information contained on some 5,000 picture postcards of libraries. The analysis of these postcards found that 17.3% of the people shown on the exterior views of libraries were carrying umbrellas, and that 2.3% of the people shown on interior views of libraries were carrying umbrellas. Finally, 329 of the 973 interior views of libraries showed unattended umbrellas. Although Stevens personally accumulated a collection of more than 25,000 library postcards and thus is probably one of the foremost authorities on library postcards, I believe he was pulling our leg with that information (you think). It did prompt me, however, to go through my collection of library postcards and I actually did find a couple with umbrellas (more accurately parasols). The one above shows the exterior of the Sioux City, IA Public Library and the one below shows the Redwood Library in Newport, RI. I'm a proud Fellow of the Molesworth Institute.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Another MN Carnegie Library for Sale

You can buy a Carnegie Library in Alexandria, MN, but you need to act quickly. The owner is accepting sealed bids for this restored Carnegie building on August 26, 2014. From the photos on the website advertising the building it looks in really great shape. According to the website: "The building was built in 1903, designed by Henry A. Foeller and fashioned as a public library.  In 1997, the building was sold to the current owner who substantially remodeled the interior". It was previously used to house law offices. I have a vintage Real Photo Postcard (see above) of the library. I did blog posts on the Duluth (MN) Carnegie Library on May 24, 2010 and on July 30, 2013 which was also for sale at one point. Other Carnegie library buildings that have been up for sale include the Rockport (MA) Carnegie Library and the Sterling (CO) Carnegie Library. Both of those buildings are being used as private residences now. The Carnegie Library building in Superior, WI may also still be up for sale. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mr. Jefferson's Library

This is a follow-up to the previous post about the bicentennial of the burning of the Library of Congress. As I mentioned in the post, the destruction of the collection of the Library of Congress led to the eventual purchase of the library of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson first offered to sell his library as a replacement for the destroyed collection in a letter to Samuel H. Smith on September 21, 1814.  In the letter Jefferson asks Smith to submit his offer to the library committee of Congress. A copy of the letter was published in the Niles' Weekly Register of October 20, 1814. I have a copy of that issue of the Niles' Weekly Register for that date in my collection and Jefferson's letter is shown above. Jefferson's library which was eventually sold to Congress for $23,950 consisted of 6,487 volumes, more than double the number of volumes lost in the fire. A more complete account of Jefferson's library and its conveyance to Congress is contained on the Library of Congress website. There is also a link on the site to the original hand written letter from Jefferson. Also check out the Thomas Jefferson page on LibraryThing.