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. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Library History 2016

Happy New Year to all of my blog followers and readers!

I’m looking forward to a number of library history events and activities in 2016. The big one for me is the 125th anniversary of the Wisconsin Library Association. WLA was founded on February 11, 1891.  I serve on the 125th Anniversary Task Force, and plan to be involved in several activities related to the celebration of this milestone. A major focus will be the website of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center for which I serve as webmaster and primary contributor. 

The American Library Association will mark its 140th anniversary in 2016.  It was founded on October 6, 1876.  American Libraries will be calling attention to this milestone with a Pinterest Board which will be updated weekly and special posts on their Scoop blog. The ALA Library has put together a great list of opportunities to celebrate libraries in 2016 but no library history events are listed at this point. Kudos to LITA, a Division of ALA, for establishing a committee to help celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016. During 2016 I will make a special effort to make posts about ALA history on this blog.  

Along with Wisconsin, library associations in Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Kansas, Minnesota, and Indiana will be celebrating their 125th anniversaries in 2016. The year 2016 will also be the 60th anniversary of the passage of the Federal Library Services Act.

In regard to my personal library history activities I will be updating my philatelic exhibit on the Library of Congress for display at several national level stamp shows. 

What are you doing to promote library history in 2016? 

Friday, December 18, 2015

2015 in Review

At the end of 2015 I thought I would reflect on some of my library history related activities this year.  

I completed my seventh year of blogging on the Library History Buff Blog. It was not a great year for blogging, only 34 posts which was an all time low for me. My total posts during the seven years total over 700.  My pageviews during this 7 year period total 425,000, and my official blog followers total 303 (thank you to all of my followers). 

It was a disappointing this year for my Library History Buff website. It is basically a dead site at this point. The site is based on the Microsoft FrontPage software platform which Microsoft no longer supports and my Internet provider also stopped supporting it this year.  The LHB website which I started in March 2005 evolved from a free website offered by my Internet provider which I began in October of 2002.The task of transferring all the content on the site to a new platform is daunting for someone of my limited Web skills. I am currently exploring options for the future of the content on the site.

I continue to be a collector of librariana with a special emphasis on postal librariana and have added many interesting items to my collection in 2015. I do, however, think a lot about the final disposition of my collection which has been assembled over a 20 year period of active collecting. 

I am an exhibitor of postal librariana at national level stamp shows and this year I developed two new exhibits for exhibition. The larger exhibit was titled “America’s Membership Libraries” and it received gold awards at stamp shows in St. Louis, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Omaha. The smaller exhibit was titled “Hiram E. Deats – Philatelist & Collector Extraordinaire”.  Although Deats was a world renowned philatelist, he had many library connections including serving as president of the New Jersey Library Association. It received Vermeil awards (the level just below gold) at several stamp shows, but ended the year with a gold award at the Chicago stamp show. At the Wisconsin state stamp show my exhibit “Libraries and the Mail in America 1900-1960” won the Champion of Champions award. 

This year I stepped down as Chair of the Steering Committee of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center, a position I have held for the last six years. I continue, however, to serve as webmaster for the Center’s website and blog, and to install exhibits of Wisconsin library memorabilia at public libraries around the state. I also help research potential nominees to the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame. 

In a closely related activity I am a member of the Wisconsin Library Association’s 125th Anniversary Task Force.  WLA will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2016.  To help kick of 125th activities, noted library historian Wayne A. Wiegand made a presentation at the annual WLA conference in November about his new book Part of Our Lives – A People’s History of the American Public Library.  

I continued this year with assisting library postcard collector extraordinaire Dan Lester with the disposition of his 10,000 plus library postcard collection. Last year I helped move over 6,000 of his library postcards to the American Library Association Archives at the University of Illinois in Champaign – Urbana. 

I’m looking forward to engaging in a number of library history related activities in 2016.

Happy holidays to all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Book on the History of Bookmobiles in America

I just received my copy of Bookmobiles in America: An Illustrated History by Orty Ortwein, and I would recommend its purchase by library history buffs and especially those, like me, who have a special interest in this aspect of library service. The book was self published by Ortwein earlier this year and can be purchased for $11 from Amazon. Some of the content in the publication has been previously published online in Ortwein's excellent blog Bookmobiles: A History. Ortwein readily admits that his book should not be considered the absolute authority on American bookmobiles. Instead, he says, it should be thought of as "a fun tour of a fun topic". As could be expected from a book with "Illustrated" in its title it includes numerous illustrations of bookmobiles tied to interesting stories about bookmobiles. The book also includes stories about traveling libraries. Included in the book is a chart compiled by Ortwein that shows the rise and fall of bookmobiles in America. The number of bookmobiles peaked in 1965 at 2,000 but had dropped to 696 in 2011. The expansion of bookmobile service correlates to the infusion of Federal aid from the 1956 Library Services Act for rural library service.  Also of great value is the extensive list of sources which Ortwein includes at the end of his publication. Click HERE to see my previous blog posts about bookmobiles. Also don't miss the American Libraries Pinterest bookmobile site.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Red Bird Mission Bookmobile, Beverly, KY

Another bookmobile postcard recently added to my collection. This one is a Real Photo Postcard (RPPC) showing the bookmobile of the Red Bird Mission in Beverly, KY in the 1950s. The Red Bird Mission is affiliated with the Methodist Church and provides a variety of social services to the people of Eastern Kentucky. The bookmobile is a modified Willys Jeep Truck. Bookmobile service for Bell County in which the Red Bird Mission is located is now provided by Bell County Public Libraries. Their current bookmobile is more attracive than the Red Bird Mission bookmobile, but not more interesting. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Bookmobiles of Greenville Co. SC

When I became Director of the Greenville County Library in South Carolina in 1974 the library system had five bookmobiles including one "outreach" bookmobile. The library system had a long history of providing bookmobile service dating back to the 1920s when the Greenville Public Library was established. I recently acquired the first postcard shown above which depicts one of the library's first bookmobiles. Orty Ortwein has written about Greenville's first bookmobile in his "Bookmobiles: A History" blog. In 1949 the library purchased its first bookmobile equipped for inside service. In 1961 the Greenville Public Library became the Greenville County Library with a dedicated tax levy. As a result the library was able to buy four new bookmobiles. One bookmobile served areas inside the city, one served areas in the school district. one served rural areas outside the school district, and one was dedicated to the "Negro service" (the library was fully integrated by 1965). There were now a total of 150 bookmobile stops. The Gerstenslager bookmobile shown on the second postcard above was one of these bookmobiles. While I was a director of the Greenville County Library there was a significant transition away from bookmobiles to branch libraries. However, the Greenville County Library still operates one bookmobile. Some information in this post is from Free Reading for Everybody: The Story of The Greenville Library by Ellen Perry (1973, Greenville County Library).

Monday, November 23, 2015

Public Libraries - Part of Our Lives

Looking for a great gift for a library lover? I recommend Part of Our Lives - A People's History of the Public Library by Wayne A. Wiegand which was published recently by Oxford University Press. Well researched and documented by Wiegand, America's foremost library historian, it will appeal to the general reader as well as the serious student of library history. As one who is particularly interested in public libraries and their history, I found it to be especially enjoyable. I was also fortunate to hear two presentations by Wiegand on his new book, and both were well received by the audiences. Wiegand is currently on a 30 plus city book tour to promote the book, and I hope you also have the opportunity to hear him.  

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Inside Inn and ALA’s 1904 Conference Revisited

In 1904 (Oct. 17-22) the American Library Association held its annual conference in conjunction with the World’s Fair (Louisiana Purchase Exposition) in St. Louis, MO.  George Eberhart, Senior Editor of American Libraries’ AL Direct, wrote a wonderful article about the 1904 St. Louis conference for the CentenniAL Blog which celebrated the centennial of American Libraries. Most of the attendees of the conference stayed at the Inside Inn which was the only hotel located inside the fair grounds. I was recently able to obtain a postcard of the Inside Inn (shown above), a postcard which I have coveted for some time. The postcard is special because it is a "hold to light" card. When you hold it up to a light the windows of the hotel glow. The postcard was actually mailed from the Exposition Station of the Post Office during the fair. I previously wrote about the Inside Inn in a blog post on July 7, 2011. Rates for staying at the Inside Inn started at $1.50 per day European plan and $3.00 per day American plan including admission to the fair. According to Eberhart, there were 26 former and future ALA presidents in attendance at the conference including Melvil Dewey, Herbert Putnam, and Gratia A. Countryman. The conference meetings took place at the fair’s Hall of Congresses, a building which exists today as Ridgley Hall of Washington University. Ridgley Hall housed the University Library until the 1960s (see postcard below).

Monday, September 28, 2015

New York’s Library Week 1902

Library week in New York began not as a public celebration of libraries but as a week long retreat and conference for librarians. The week was sponsored by the New York Library Association which was founded in 1890 with the encouragement of Melvil Dewey. Initially the weeklong conference was held annually at Dewey’s Lake Placid Club in the Adirondacks. I have in my collection of postal librariana an envelope and a brochure announcing Library Week for 1902 which was held on September 20-29 of that year (113 years ago this week). They were mailed to Miss Mary Medlicott, Reference Librarian for the Springfield (MA) City Library. The content of the small brochure indicates that: “The meeting is planned to give opportunity not only for help and encouragement in library work, but for renewal of health and strength.” It further states: “The Association specially wishes to gather all New York library folk at this meeting, but all persons interested in library work, whether as trustees, librarians or assistants, whether inside or outside New York, are cordially welcome during Library Week to share its work and pleasure.” After Melvil Dewey and the Lake Placid Club fell out of favor for practices of discrimination, the week was held elsewhere. I have written previously about New York Library Week in another blog post.