Thursday, April 30, 2009

YMCA Library Cover Story

The cover story on the Library History Buff website for May lies in the label affixed to the top of the featured cover. The YMCA of San Francisco found a novel method of raising revenue for its free library. They rescued letters from the Dead Letter Office of the Post Office Department in hopes that the recipient of the rescued item would make a contribution for this service. In this case, the envelope contained an invitation to a church ceremony that occurred on October 27, 1870. Since the envelope was postmarked Nov. 20, the recipient may have not been willing to make a contribution to the San Francisco YMCA. The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in the United States was founded in Boston, MA in 1851. By 1876 there were 478 of these associations in cities across the nation. Of these, 180 had libraries with a total of 164,188 volumes. Two hundred and one of the YMCAs had reading rooms with an average of 9,145 readers daily. The purpose of YMCA libraries was “to provide a suitable place for young men and others to spend their evenings in, without resorting to the haunts of vice and dissipation.” Some YMCA libraries were free and some charged a nominal fee, generally $1 a year. The Library of the Young Men’s Christian Association of San Francisco was founded in 1853. By 1876 it had a collection of 5,000 volumes.

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