Monday, May 16, 2016

ALA Washington Office 1982 First Day Cover

On July 13, 1982 the United States Postal Service (USPS) issued a postage stamp honoring Americas’s Libraries. The first day of issue ceremony for the stamp took place in Philadelphia at the Philadelphia Civic Center in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Library Association. Participants in the ceremony included ALA President Betty Stone, Keith Doms, Director of the Free Library of Philadelphia, and Jane F. Kennedy, General Manager of the Library Division of the USPS. It is common practice to create special first day covers (envelopes) for new postage stamps that are cancelled with a “First Day of Issue” postmark. These covers usually include a cachet (illustration) and are created by commercial companies, organizations, and individuals. The American Library Association created its own first day cover (see below) which it sold to ALA members and collectors of first day covers.  The Washington Office of ALA also created a first day cover to celebrate the occasion. I’m a collector of first day covers for the 1982 America’s Libraries postage stamp, and I recently had the good fortune to receive as a gift one of the first day cover issued by the ALA Washington Office. Thank you Gail McGovern! The really neat thing about this cover which is shown above is that it is signed by Betty Stone, ALA President, and Eileen Cook, the Director of the ALA Washington Office. The cover includes an insert “An A B C For Dealing With Your Legislators”. The content of the insert was created by Rep. John E. Fogarty of Rhode Island for an ALA Legislative Workshop in 1965.  I wrote a previous post about Eileen Cooke and the other “Extraordinary Women of ALA’s Washington Office”. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Uncovering a WI Library Postcard Mystery

I recently purchased a postcard on eBay showing the interior of the Jefferson (WI) Public Library, a Carnegie library building.  Wisconsin library postcards is one of the categories of postcards that I collect, and interior views of libraries are not common.  Only the picture side of the postcard was displayed on eBay so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the message side of the postcard had several interesting library connections.  I had to work a little to discover all of those connections.  The postcard was mailed form Jefferson, WI to a public library in Wisconsin. The name of the person to whom the postcard was sent and the name of the city in which the public library was located were obscured.  Under close examination I determined that a likely candidate for the city was Superior.  I had been in recent contact with Teddie Meronek, Area Research Librarian for the Superior Public Library, about another library history question, and I contacted her for the name of the director of the Superior Public Library in 1915, the year the postcard was mailed. She let me know that the director was Blanche L. Unterkircher, and again with close examination it was almost certain that this is who the postcard was sent to.  The message on the postcard reads: “Hello: Am just about settled. Spent a fine week at Milwaukee. Jefferson is a very pretty town and so far we are well pleased with it. Across the road from the house is the river and it surely is a beautiful spot. I’ve discovered a library – thank goodness – and now watch the circulation increase. Love from [crossed out].”  There are two stamped messages on the postcard. One states “From the Picture Collection of the Art Dept. of the Los Angeles Public Library” and the other “Post Card File”. How the postcard got from Wisconsin to the Los Angeles Public Library is still a mystery.  The postcard like many public library postcard collections was probably deaccessioned at some point and went into the hands of a postcard dealer. Now the postcard is back in Wisconsin.  It is a shame that someone felt that it was necessary to obscure the names of the postcard recipient and sender, but regardless I'm glad to add it to my collection. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Monolite Bookmobile Postcards

On National Bookmobile Day I thought I would feature some Monolite bookmobile postcards.  According to its website the Moroney Company in Massachusetts began producing its line of Monolite bookmobiles in 1940 and continues to do so up to the present.  In the 1960s and 1970s Moroney published a series of postcards featuring their bookmobiles.  These postcards were 8 ¼ inches wide instead of the standard 5 ½ inches. Below are five examples of these postcards. 

Calvert County, Prince Frederick, MD
Four County Library, Binghamton, NY
Henderson County, Athens, TX
Mercer County, Trenton, NJ

Bucks County, Doylestown, PA
                   I have written a number of previous posts about bookmobiles.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

National Library Week and Meter Mail

Today is the first day of National Library Week with a national theme of “Libraries Transform”. In 1957 the National Book Committee, a joint committee of the American Library Association and the American Book Publishers Council, recommended the establishment of a National Library Week.  The first National Library Week was observed May 16-22, 1958 with the theme "Wake Up and Read". It has continued every year since 1958.  In 1974, the American Library Association became the sole sponsor of the event. Libraries and other organization that used meter postage machines for their mail were able to add slogans for special events such as National Library Week. Below are some examples of these slogans for previous National Library Week campaigns.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Philatelic Exhibit about the Library of Congress

This past weekend I displayed a major revision of my philatelic exhibit about the Library of Congress at the Saint Louis Stamp Expo. I was rewarded with a gold medal and the Best Display Exhibit award.  Display exhibits are those that include non-philatelic as well as philatelic elements in the exhibit, usually ephemera related to the topic of the exhibit. The items in the exhibit are mounted on ninety-six 8 1/2 by 11 inch pages displayed in special exhibit frames. I’ve been collecting philatelic and other items related to the Library of Congress for more than twenty years. Of particular significance in the exhibit are those items that document the role that mail played in the operations of the Library of Congress.  I will also be displaying the exhibit at the Danepex stamp show in Madison on April 10, the first day of National Library Week, and later in the month at Wiscopex in Fond du Lac, WI. I will also show it in a couple of other national level shows later this year. This is my thirteenth year of displaying library related exhibits at stamp shows. Although my primary impetus for exhibiting at stamp shows has been the promotion and appreciation of library history, I’ve been delighted to have my efforts recognized in a positive way by the philatelic community.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Where are my breeches? Library War Service, 1918

I recently came across a packet of correspondence related to uniform problems of a worker in the WWI ALA Library War Service. The 1918 correspondence involved Alvin W. Clark at the Camp Sevier South Carolina Library, the ALA Library War Service Headquarters in Washington, DC, and the contractor engaged by ALA to provide uniforms.  The gist of the matter relates to the fact that Clark was entitled to two pairs of breeches for his uniform and he only received one pair. Further, the measurements for the first pair were not satisfactory, and finally according to Clark the leggings he received “have now become creased or wrinkled in two or three places and consequently they look bad”.  Poor guy. The letter above from LWS Executive Director George B. Utley, who was simultaneously ALA’s  Executive Director, advises Clark of how he can correct his problems.  Interesting example of the practical logistics involved in the operation  of ALA’s Library War Service.  

Friday, March 11, 2016

Librarian of Congress A.R. Spofford, 1875 Letter

Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford who served from 1864 to 1897 was the first librarian to select and purchase books. Formerly this had been done by the members of the Congressional Joint Committee on the Library. In the letter above dated May 15, 1875 Spofford negotiates the purchase of a book for the library's collection. Spofford writes to M.M. Jones of Utica, NY: " A French gentleman of this city informs me that you have 2 copies of the "New York Balloting Book" folio 1825 which you offer at $5 each. My informant not wishing to purchase asked if this Library world make the purchase for its shelves. If you will send a copy of the work with bill of the same at $5 the amount will be promptly submitted."  It is extraordinary that Spofford with so many demands on his time would engage in a transaction involving a single book. Spofford is writing on stationery of the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. The responsibility for copyright had been transferred to the Library in 1870. This letter which is part of my collection will be included in a philatelic exhibit that I'm working on about the Library of Congress. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Detroit and ALA

The American Library Association has held its annual conference in Detroit, Michigan on four different occasions. The first of these was in 1922 when ALA met from June 26 to July 1. The attendance at the conference totaled 1,839, and those individuals participated in thirty or more associations, sections and round tables which took place at eleven different locations. One of those locations was the newly completed Detroit Public Library’s main building. Conference attendees were also treated to a special day in Ann Arbor, Michigan where they were able to visit the new library building of the University of Michigan. A report on the conference in Library Journal for July, 1922 noted that this was the first conference where none of those who attended ALA’s first meeting in 1876 were not in attendance (although there were still nine survivors of that conference). George B. Utley took office as ALA’s 36th president at the conference. Utley had previously served as ALA’s Executive Secretary from 1911 to 1920. Among those in attendance was Sallie Lou (Mrs. Joseph A.) Thompson whose conference badge is part of my collection of librariana (see below).  On June 27 the first Newbery Medal, for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published in the preceding year, was awarded to Henrick Van Loon for The Story of Mankind.  A publicity committee at the conference recommended the establishment of a National Library Week, something which didn’t take place for another 36 years. At the conference Reverend Thomas Fountain Blue (1866-1935) who served as the first African American to head a branch library (Louisville Free Public Library 1905-1935) also became the first African American to give a speech before the American Library Association. ALA did not meet again in Detroit until 1965. It also met there in 1970 and 1977, two conferences which I personally attended. The 1970 conference was especially memorable for me since it was my second ALA conference and my first as an employed librarian.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Happy 125th Wisconsin Library Association

On this date 125 years ago a group of individuals gathered in the office of the Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction (located in Wisconsin's second Capitol, shown above) for the purpose of establishing a state library association.  The Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) was the sixth state library association established in the United States.  Planning by the 125th Anniversary Task Force, on which I serve, has been underway for months.  A kick-off of the celebration for the library community took place at WLA’s annual conference in November of 2015, and a public kick-off occurred earlier this week in the State Capitol in conjunction with Library Legislative Day.  A culmination of the celebration will take place at WLA’s 2016 annual conference in October in Milwaukee. The entire Wisconsin library community has been invited to participate in the celebration which looks to the future as well as the past. A significant component of the celebration is content that has been and will be added to the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center website about the history of WLA and librarianship in Wisconsin.  More static content can be found under the “WLA’s 125th” menu item on the website. Regular stories about Wisconsin library history will be added to the blog portion of the website. It is possible to subscribe to the blog stories to get regular updates.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The First State Library Associations

The Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. It was one of the first state library associations created in the nation. However, there was a question about the exact order of the creation of these state library associations. I did some research on this topic and came up with the following information. The New Hampshire Library Association claims to be the first state library association, but a case can also be made that the New York Library Association was the first. New Hampshire’s claim rests on the fact that the New Hampshire state legislature passed a law on August 16, 1889 specifically authorizing the creation of a state library association. However, it was not until September 12, 1890, while meeting with the American Library Association in White Mountains, NH, that a group initiated the formation of the New Hampshire Library Association under the new law. Meanwhile under the leadership of Melvil Dewey, New York, with the knowledge of and based on the New Hampshire law, took action to create a state library association on July 11, 1890. Notwithstanding New Hampshire’s claim to be number one, I think from a technical/legal perspective New York has the edge. Iowa claims to be the second state library association created (after New York). It took actions in this regard on September 2, 1890. Based on Iowa's claim and date of establishment, New Hampshire would actually be the third state library association to be legally established. The Massachusetts Library Club was created on October 22, 1890, and the New Jersey Library Association was created on Dec. 29, 1890.  Wisconsin became the sixth state library association to be created on February 11, 1891 followed closely by Connecticut on February 23, 1891, and Maine on March 1, 1891. A flood of state library associations followed in the next decade under the encouragement of Melvil Dewey and the American Library Association.


Adamovich, Shirley Gray, ed. The Road Taken, The New Hampshire Library Association 1889-1989 (The New Hampshire Library Association, 1989).

Wiegand, Wayne A. Irrepressible Reformer, A Biography of Melvil Dewey (Americal Library Association, 1996).

Iowa Library Association website.

Dewey, Melvil. “Notes on American and State Library Associations”, Library Journal (June, 1891) p. 169-170.

Fairchild, S.C. “Outline of Modern Library Movement in America With Most Important Foreign Events”, Library Journal (February, 1901) p. 73-75.