Friday, February 12, 2010

ALA's Book-buying Committee



The American Library Association appointed a Committee on Book-buying in 1903 (it's initial name was Committee on Relations with the Book Trade and later Committee on Book Prices). From 1903 through 1906 the Committee consisted of three prominent public library administrators. They were Arthur E. Bostwick of the New York Public Library, John Cotton Dana of the Newark (NJ) Public Library, and Bernard C. Steiner of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, MD. The Committee provided advice on the purchase of books primarily to small public libraries. In its first three years it issued 29 "bulletins" on postal cards like Bulletin No. 5 which is shown above. These cards went out to 3,000 librarians either personally or through institutions such as state library commissions. The bulletins were also published in all major library periodicals. In the instance of Bulletin No. 5 it was distributed to the the New York State Library School in Albany which was established by Melvil Dewey. Note that the postal card was classified according to the Dewey Decimal System (025.2) by the library school. Bulletin No. 5 provides advice on purchasing used books through auctions and recommends the use of several prominent book lists and publications to assist in building a good library collection. The Committee continued in existence for several decades. The postal card is from my collection of postal librariana and the information about the Committee came from Vol. 1, No. 1 (January, 1907) of the Bulletin of the American Library Association (now American Libraries).

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