Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Although Andrew Carnegie is most noted for his philanthropy as it relates to public library buildings, he also provided funding for the construction of 108 academic libraries in the United States. I was reminded of this by the postcard shown above and by a recent discussion on the listserv of the Library History Round Table. The postcard depicts the Anderson Memorial Library, and the caption on the back reads in part: "First Carnegie Library built west of Mississippi river and first one built on any college campus." The date given on the postcard for its construction is 1901. Although the postcard doesn't identify the college where the library is located, with some research I was able to place the library in Emporia, Kansas. Andrew Carnegie donated $30,000 on January 3, 1900 to the College of Emporia which is now defunct for the construction of a library building, and it was indeed the first Carnegie grant that was given to an academic institution. The Kansas State Library has a section on its website that is based on the book The Carnegie Legacy In Kansas by Allen Gardiner (Kansas State Library, 1985). Although Gardiner's book didn't include information about the academic Carnegie libraries in Kansas, the State Library website has added this information. The portion on the Anderson Memorial Library provides the very interesting story of how a personal connection between Andrew Carnegie and Colonel John Byars Anderson, for whom the library is named, led to a grant from Carnegie for the library building. At Carnegie's request the following inscription was added to the building: "The John B. Anderson Memorial Library erected A.D. 1901by Andrew Carnegie in grateful remembrance of Mr. Anderson who opened his own private library for the working boys of Allegheny City, of whom Mr. Carnegie was one."
The College of Emporium was closed in 1974, and the campus including the library became part of The Way College of Emporia. The library was restored in 1986 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. After the demise of The Way College of Emporia in 1991, the Anderson Library was given to Emporia State University to house its archives. Since then the ESU archives have been moved to the University Library, and a 2008 news article indicated that the Carnegie building may be for sale.
Friday, March 25, 2011
In looking through my postal librariana collection for my previous post related to New York Public Library branch librarians, I came across a postal card (circa late 1930s) used by NYPL to contact library users who had checked out books and a contagious disease in their home. Not too long ago a friend, knowing my interest in postal artifacts, called my attention to a blog post about disinfected mail. These two occurrences prompted me to take a look at the topic of library books and the potential spread of contagious diseases. As it turns out the discussion of this potential dates back to at least 1879 when W. F. Poole, Librarian of the Chicago Public Library, wrote about this topic in Library Journal. In 1891 at the ALA Conference in San Francisco a paper was presented by Gardner Maynard Jones, Librarian of the Salem Public Library (MA) titled "Contagious Diseases and Public Libraries". In their investigations both Poole and Jones found little evidence that contagious disease could be spread through library books. Jones, however, indicates that it is the responsibility of librarians to take reasonable precaution and to prohibit the circulation of books to houses with contagious disease. And further, that books returned from such houses should be disinfected or destroyed. This approach appears to have been adopted by a number of public libraries including the New York Public Library.
Bob Sink on his NYPL Librarians blog has expanded this story considerably as it relates to the New York Public Library.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
I was recently contacted by Bob Sink about his new blog "NYPL Librarians". As stated in the blog's banner: "This blog focuses on my research on the branch librarians of the New York Public Library during the first 50 years of the Circulation Department, 1901-1950. I am particularly interested in who became a Branch Librarian, how they achieved and then lost autonomy within the institution, their publishing history, and other aspects of their lives." I'm pleased to find out about Bob's blog for a number of reasons. It is nice to see another blog focusing on library history. There should be more. It is also gratifying to see the unearthing of information about ordinary librarians who made a significant contribution to the quality library service but who are not famous. One of my first jobs after library school was serving as a branch librarian, and I know how important their role is in a public library system. In collecting postal librariana I often come across the names of library workers doing their day to day library tasks, and I feel a connection to them even though I know little about them. Today, Bob published a post on his blog about Marion Pastene Watson who was born on this date 122 years ago, and who served as Branch Librarian of the Tompkins Square Branch of NYPL. It just so happens that I have a number of postal items in my collection that relate to Watson and the Tompkins Square Branch. Two of those are shown above. Thanks Bob for starting your new blog, and for enlightening us on a special group of library professionals.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
I don't like to toot my own horn too often, but I was pretty pleased with myself when my philatelic exhibit at the St. Louis Stamp Expo on the history of the Library of Congress won a gold award and the display champion award. My exhibit competes in the Display Division which allows the inclusion of some non-philatelic artifacts in the exhibit. I recently wrote another post about the exhibit. This is only the second time that I have displayed the exhibit, and on the previous occasion it only received a silver award. My revisions to the exhibit evidently paid off. I will be showing the exhibit again at NAPEX, the Washington, D. C. area stamp show which is being held June 3-5 at the Hilton MacLean Tysons Corner. I will also be making a presentation to the Washington Stamp Collectors Club about the exhibit on June 1.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
The Innerpeffray Library in Crieff, Perthshire Scotland is Scotland's first free public lending library. It describes itself as "A literary jewel set deep in the magnificent Strathearn countryside". The library was founded in 1690 by David Drummond. The building which it occupies was completed in 1762. The Borrower's Register for the library goes back to 1747, making it one of the earliest in Europe. A brief history of the library is located on its website. The library doesn't lend books any longer but it is open to the public and visitors are encouraged to look through its collection. The library has published its first book, a historical portrait of the library titled The First Light by George Chamier . The book was published in a limited edition of only 500 numbered copies as a way to raise funds for the library. It is a "hot letter press" book that is hand finished and leather bound and priced at 150 pounds. For information about purchasing the book contact Robert Wallace firstname.lastname@example.org .
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
The first library catalog cards came about as the result of the repurposing of 18th century French playing cards. In 1789 the French revolutionary government confiscated all religious property including library holdings. The books in these libraries were used to set up a system of public libraries. A step toward the creation of these public libraries was to inventory all books. Instructions for doing this led to the creation of the "French Cataloging Code of 1791". The backs of playing cards were used to record bibliographic data for the books. Possible reasons for using playing cards include: paper was in short supply; playing cards were sturdy; and the backs of playing cards had been previously used for other purposes in France including marriage and death certificates. Although paper slips may have previously been used to assist in the creation of book catalogs, this is the first instance when the slips/cards were to serve as the permanent record for bibliographic data. The source for this information is Sandy Brooks' article "A history of the card catalog" in The Whole Library Handbook 3 (ALA, 2000) compiled George M. Eberhart. The reason I'm writing this post is that I have recently acquired an actual example of one of the catalog cards created in France in the 18th century (shown above). In doing so I learned that what are described as "secondary use playing cards" are a category of collectible ephemera. My catalog card references a book that was published in 1624. There is a bibliographic record for a later edition of the same book in WorldCat. How far we've come!
Sunday, March 13, 2011
In an earlier post about my library history promotion activities last year, I noted that I had developed a philatelic exhibit about the Library of Congress which I entered in a national stamp show competition. I have revised the exhibit and it will be on display next weekend at the St. Louis stamp show. Using philatelic and other artifacts, my exhibit includes: an overview of the history of the Library of Congress; an overview of the use of the mail by the Library of Congress; a close look at how the Copyright Office used the mail; a section on the services of the library; a section on the collections of the library; and finally a component on the bicentennial of the library. In the past the Library of Congress itself has developed two major exhibits about the history of the library to help celebrate significant anniversaries. The first of those exhibits occurred in 1950 to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the library. A publication, which I have in my collection, resulted from that exhibit and is appropriately titled Library of Congress Sesquicentennial Exhibit. The logo for the sesquicentennial is shown above. John Y. Cole, LOC historian, looked back at the sesquicentennial in the April, 1999 issue of Information Bulletin. When the library celebrated its bicentennial in 2000 another exhibit focusing on the history of the Thomas Jefferson Building was on display. That exhibit and an accompanying brochure were titled "The Thomas Jefferson Building: 'Book Palace of the American People'". The 1950 exhibit featured print, manuscript, and photographic artifacts. The 2000 exhibit also included souvenir items, some of which were from the collections of LOC staff members. Exhibits are a great way to celebrate significant library anniversaries. If you're in the St. Louis area next weekend, drop by to see my exhibit. It will also be on display in Washington, D. C. in June.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Today is the 160th anniversary of the birth of Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame member Frank Avery Hutchins (1851-1914). Hutchins was a leader in the free public library movement in Wisconsin and the United States. Hutchins' entry in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978) written by Helen Huguenor Lyman has this to say about him: "Frank Hutchins, a brilliant man of rare vision and modesty, a pioneer librarian and active leader in the library world of Wisconsin, was born on March 8, 1851, in Norfolk, Ohio. During his lifetime he was teacher, bookseller, newspaper man, library trustee, and librarian. Again and again his friends described him as a humanitarian, public servant, scholar, and practical idealist. he helped to gain legislative, financial, and professional support for both the educational work of school and public libraries and the extension of library services throughout the state of Wisconsin. An initiator who would take no credit for the events he helped to set in motion, he recognized the abilities of others and encouraged them to carry out new ideas." Hutchins was one of the founders of the Wisconsin Library Association in 1891 and the first paid secretary of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. Hutchins close partner in the development of public library service in Wisconsin was fellow Hall of Fame member Lutie Stearns. The image of Hutchins is from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Historical Image Collection Image ID: 29375.
Monday, March 7, 2011
March is National Women's History Month and the National Women's History Project is using the slogan "Our History is Our Strength" to promote the month this year. What a terrific slogan! It would also be a great slogan to promote library history. The ALA Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship (COSWL) is helping to celebrate National Women's History Month this year. Perhaps that is something the ALA Library History Round Table (LHRT) might consider doing in the future. Women, of course, have played an essential, if not dominant, role in American library history. In recognition of National Women's History Month I thought I would feature Theresa West Elmendorf (1855-1932), the first woman president of the American Library Association (1911-12). In the June 1911 issue of the Public Libraries magazine there was a report on the 1911 conference of the American Library Association at which Elmendorf was elected President of ALA. It said this about Elmendorf: "Mrs. Theresa West Elmendorf, the first woman to be honored by the association with its presidency, comes into the office by right of achievement greater than that of any other woman in the library field and of an equal grade with that of any man. Her wholesome, sympathetic attitude toward library work and workers has been a distinct contribution to the craft and her freedom from personal ambition has made her a valuable aid in developing the power of the A. L. A.. Her election to the presidency is a well-earned, a well-deserved honor, marking an epoch in which the A. L. A. honored itself in honoring her." Although that statement was somewhat sexist, it acknowledged the high esteem in which Elmendorf was held by the library profession. In this photograph of ex-presidents of ALA, Elmendorf's status as the first woman ALA president is glaringly evident. Elmendorf served as Librarian of the Milwaukee Public Library (when she was Theresa West), the first woman director of a large public library, and as Vice-Librarian of the Buffalo Public Library. In 1951 she was one of 40 of America’s most significant library leaders selected by the Library Journal for inclusion in a “ Library Hall of Fame". She was among the first inductees into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame in 2008. The photograph of Elmendorf shown above is from the article "Pioneers of the Library Profession", by Josephine Adams Rathbone, The Wilson Library Bulletin, June 1949.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
I recently received as a gift to my librariana collection a library borrower's card for the Hales Corners Public Library in Hales Corners, Wisconsin. The neat thing about this card is that it was designed by a young person as part of a contest to help celebrate the 35th anniversary of the library. I am also aware of other libraries that have issued special library cards to help celebrate a significant anniversary. I have a limited collection of library cards, some of which I have illustrated on my Library History Buff website. As a library history buff, I am especially interested in vintage library cards. My oldest card which is described as a "ticket" dates back to 1848 and is for the Boston Athenaeum. At least two individuals have much larger collections and have also chosen to display them on the Internet. The Great Library Card Collection of Michael Sauers consists of only valid library cards that have been issued to him. The Great Library Card Collection of Corey Peterson, perhaps the largest such collection in the world, consists of over 3,000 library cards.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Jack Cassius Morris and Mortimer Taube were two brilliant librarians and information science pioneers who were born less than three months apart. Morris was born on this date (March 3) in 1911, and Taube was born on December 6, 1910. Morris died in 1954 and Taube in 1965. Both men were innovators in the indexing and retrieval of information. Taube was an advocate of the computer-based Uniterm system of subject retrieval. Morris was a critic of that system and identified some of its flaws resulting in a harsh response from Taube. Taube is included in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978) and Morris is included in the Supplement to the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1990). It is the entries about Morris and Taube in these two publications that alerted me to their contributions and to their disagreement over the best approach to the retrieval of information. I was particularly taken by the entry about Morris written by Robert V. Williams. Due to his untimely death he was active in the library profession for a relatively short time. He achieved respect from his special library peers as the Chief Librarian for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Research Library from 1947 to 1954. I identify with Morris in several respects. We both attended the University of Illinois Library School; we both married women who were also graduates of that library school; and we both lived in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (me while I was Director of the Clinch-Powell Regional Library System). While in Oak Ridge I became friends with Jack Bobb, Morris' successor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Research Library. Morris and Taube both have entries on the Pioneers of Information Science In North America website. The American Society for Information Science and Technology has a nice webpage on the History of Information Science.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Today is the 107th birthday of Theodor Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss. The postal librariana artifact which I have chosen to highlight this occasion is a first day cover for the March 2, 2004 Theodor Seuss Geisel postage stamp. I have a large collection of first day covers that feature library postage stamps, library cachets (illustrations), or both. This one pays homage to Dr. Seuss and the Geisel Library at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) which is named in honor of Theodor and Audrey Geisel. UCSD is hosting a birthday party today for Geisel and also for the 40th anniversary of the building which houses the Geisel Library. The building was designed by world-renowned architect William Pereira, who was known for his futuristic, unconventional designs. There is a nice history of the UCSD Libraries on the website for the libraries.