Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Merchant Marine Library Postal Card, 1947

As a collector of postal librariana I am interested in both the postal history and library history of artifacts that have been sent through the mail. Of course, as a library history buff, library history takes precedence over postal history for me. Stamp dealers on the other hand mostly could care less about library history. They value their postal artifacts based on postal significance. I recently acquired a postal card mailed by the American Merchant Marine Library Association (AMMLA) in NY,NY in 1947 (shown above). The AMMLA came into being after World War I largely as a result of the work of the American Library Association's Library War Service in providing books on merchant marine ships during the war. I was happy to get a postal artifact related to this organization. The postal card has a great message. The New York AMMLA is notifying representatives of the S.S. George Bancroft that they can't deliver books to the ship because the railroad tracks near the pier "knock hell out of our tires", but the ship's representatives can come over to the (AMMLA) library and pick them up. Unfortunately the front side of the postal card indicates that the message never got through. And there lies the postal significance of the card. The postal card was mailed special delivery to get the card delivered fast, but the address was insufficient and the card was "returned to sender". I like the fact that a U.S. Merchant Marine commemorative stamp was used to help achieve the correct postage rate for special delivery. Too bad it didn't work.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Library Dedication Day, Alexandria, PA, 1900

Alexandria, PA is a small community of a few hundred people, but in 1899 two native sons donated $16,000 for the construction and ongoing support of a public library. The men making the donation were William Woolverton of New York and William Thompson of Philadelphia. The library was dedicated on May 1, 1900. The occasion is documented by the postcard shown above. The library building was substantial with space for 20,000 books, and a second story performance hall with seating for 400 people. Library Journal for January, 1900 reported on the donation and the upcoming dedication. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Biblioteca Carnegie in San Juan, Puerto Rico

I started off the month of January with a cruise in the Caribbean with a stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico. One of the buildings I saw while in San Juan was the Carnegie Library or the Biblioteca Carnegie (shown on the postcard above). In 1914 Andrew Carnegie made a grant of $100,000 for the construction of a public library building in San Juan. The building was completed in 1916. The library building was closed in 1965 due to disrepair but reopened in 1965 after renovation. The building received significant damage in 1989 as a result of Hurricane Hugo. The building underwent extensive renovation and reopened in 1995. More information about the Biblioteca Carnegie can be found HERE

Monday, December 29, 2014

Vintage Library Cards

One of the categories of librariana that I collect is library cards. Below are some recent additions to my collection. More vintage library cards can be found HERE. Early library cards were sometimes called "tickets". 

Baltimore Mercantile Library Association, 1864

Hastings Library Association (NE ?), 1874
Good Fellows Library Association, San Francisco, 1876

Seattle Public Library, 1911
Washington, D.C. Public Library, 1919

Little Rock Public Library, 1946

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Welcome Back to Chicago ALA Midwinter!

The American Library Association will hold its Midwinter Meeting in Chicago in 2015 for the first time since 1991. Many aren't looking forward to a meeting in Chicago in the middle on winter. Prior to 1991 ALA midwinter meetings in Chicago were the rule, not the exception. In fact, prior to 1965, all midwinter meetings dating back to 1908 (with only 7 exceptions) were held in Chicago. Starting in 1965 midwinter meetings were also held in Washington, D.C. every four years. Midwinter meetings were held at only a few locations other than Chicago or D.C. through 1991. But after 1991, ALA said "Goodbye" to Chicago as a midwinter meeting site. The rationale was obvious. Too often terrible winter weather greeted meeting goers in Chicago. Prior to 1980 all my library jobs were in the South, and I certainly complained about the Chicago midwinter location. There are lots of tales of meeting goers arriving late or leaving late because of weather in Chicago. Of course, there were also good times at midwinter meetings in Chicago. One year a group of librarians stranded at the Palmer House in Chicago created a fake organization called the ALA Players. I personally have many fond memories of midwinter meetings in Chicago. I'm sure there will be many complaints about the return to Chicago, but lets face it you take your chances traveling anywhere in the U.S. in the middle of winter. I now live about 150 miles northwest of Chicago, and I'll be weighing the pros and cons of driving down for a day at Midwinter. The button above was distributed at the ALA midwinter meeting in Chicago in 1991.

(Source for Midwinter meeting data: )

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

An Interesting Bookmobile Postcard

The postcard above depicting the bookmobile of the Albuquerque (NM) Public Library was given to me by Norman Stevens, one of the world's greatest library postcard collectors. Norman donated his collection of approximately 25,000 library postcards to the Canadian Centre for Architecture and it is now part of the Norman D. Stevens Collection of Library Architecture. This one got left out of the CCA donation. I'm grateful to have the postcard since it was part of Norman's collection. It also has several other aspects that are of interest to me. I collect bookmobile postcards so obviously that's the first aspect that is of interest. The postcard is larger than the usual postcard of this period (1950s). It is 6 1/4 inches wide instead of the usual 5 1/2 inches, and it is 4 1/2 inches high instead of the usual 3/12 inches. It is an advertising postcard from The Gerstenslager Co. of Wooster, OH, the largest maker of bookmobiles for several decades. The postcard was mailed to Lucille Morsch of the Library of Congress and received by LC on Jan. 26, 1959. Since I am also a collector of postal librariana related to the Library of Congress, this is also of special interest to me. In Norman D. Stevens' book A Guide to Collecting Librariana (Scarecrow Press, 1986) he mentions that Lucille Morsch was a collector of library postcards and that she donated her collection to him before her death. This is probably why the bookmobile postcard was in his collection. It also means that the postcard is now in the hands of the third library postcard collector (me). 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Library Brand Canned Foods - Champaign, IL

Librariana comes in multiple varieties and formats. One of the more unusual examples of librariana is the label from a can of sweet corn which is shown above. Library Brand Canned Foods was a label for the Eisner Grocery Co. of Champaign, Illinois. Eisner Food Stores was a chain of stores headquartered in Champaign, but located throughout central Illinois. The chain was acquired by the Jewel Companies in 1957. The building shown on the label is the library building of the University of Illinois completed in 1897 now known as Altgeld Hall. It now houses the Mathematics Library of the University of Illinois. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Library History Buff Holiday Letter 2014

Exhibit at Hales Corners Public Library, 1 of 10 month long exhibits in 2014
Seasons Greetings from the Library History Buff!

This holiday letter focuses on my library history promotional activities in 2014.

One of the more interesting activities for me this year was facilitating the transfer of the Daniel W. Lester Library Postcard Collection to the American Library Association Archives at the Universisty of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.

A number of my activities revolved aroung the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center (WLHC), a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation. I am completing my sixth and final year as Chair of the Steering Committee for the WLHC. I am particularly proud of my involvement with the selection of inductees into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame which is a project of the WLHC. This year five additional individuals were inducted.

Another project of the WLHC is the sponsorship of an exhibit of Wisconsin library memorabilia. This year my wife and I set up the exhibit at ten different libraries around the state for a one month period at each. To do this we traveled almost 3,000 miles.

The WLHC sponsored a booth in the exhibits area at the WLA Annual Conference in Wisconsin Dells, and I set up and staffed the booth.

I entered exhibits related to postal librariana at stampshows in Denver, St. Louis, and Milwaukee this year. My one frame exhibit on the American Library Association in World War I won gold medals at all three. My ten frame exhibit on libraries and the mail in 20th century American won vermeil medals (the level between gold and silver) at all three stampshows.

Of course, I continued to blog on The Library History Buff Blog by posting more than 50 articles. I also continued to maintain the Library History Buff website.

All in all a good year for promoting library history.

Happy holidays to all!

Monday, December 15, 2014

A New Library for Bellows Falls, VT 1908

Laying the corner stone is a ceremonial highlight in the building process for a new library building. This occasion for the library building in Bellows Falls, VT was captured in a photograph on October 8, 1908. The photograph was printed on the Real Photo Postcard (RPPC) which is shown above, and is part of my library postcard collection. The postcard was mailed on December 29, 1908. The library is named the Rockingham Free Public Library for the Town of Rockingham which it serves along with the Village of Bellows Falls. The library's website has a brief history of the library and includes the same image as the postcard. The building was made possible by a $15,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie. It was dedicated on November 23, 1909.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Season's Greetings from Libraries and Librarians

I've already started receiving this year's cards extending season's greetings from friends and family. I've recently greatly expanded my collection of these cards sent by libraries and librarians to other libraries and librarians in years past. The expansion occurred as a result of a donation from fellow librariana collector Norman D. Stevens. Thanks Norman. Sometimes the cards are sent by a library institution, sometimes by a library's staff collectively, and sometimes by the library director or other library administrator. Some library vendors also routinely send out cards of the season. Below are a few from my collection. 

Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine on a Winter's Eve
Harvard Medical School
Library Staff, 1964
Painting by William Commerford 
Palmer Library, Connecticut College
Director and staff
Bessemer (AL) Public Library
Holiday card and report for years (1945-1946 & 1946-1947)
Library of Congress, Winston Tabb, Assoc. Librarian, 1999
Detail from painting of home of Longfellow, 1904
Entire painting is shown on interior of card
Sent by Director of the National Central Library, Taipei
Republic of China

       And season's greetings from the Library History Buff to all my followers.