Friday, April 26, 2013

Two NY Public Library Postcards

The Central Library of the New York Public Library (NYPL) on 5th Ave. appears on many postcards as I have written in a previous blog post. I recently acquired two postcards depicting interior views of the library. They were of particular interest to me because they both show people using the library, a postcard subject of special appeal. The address sides of the postcards also contain interesting information, another postcard aspect of special appeal. The first postcard shows the adult circulation room of the Central Library. It was mailed to the Circulation Dept. of the Kansas City (MO) Public Library (KCPL) by "three travelers" who were probably staff members of the KCPL. Perhaps they were visiting other libraries or were attending a library meeting. The postcard was at one time in the Art File of the Reference Dept. of the KCPL. The second postcard shows the famous main reading room of the NYPL's Central Library. The postcard was mailed to Hiawatha, KS and the message reads: "This is some library and reading room. Thought you might want one to add to your collection." Perhaps the recipient was a collector of library postcards, like me.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Chicago's Libraries, A Postcard Montage

My favorite "linen era" library postcard (shown above) was produced by the Curt Teich Company and depicts four Chicago libraries. The Curt Teich Company of Chicago was founded in 1898 and ceased producing postcards in 1978. This postcard was first published in 1937 and was mailed in 1942. The four libraries on the postcard are the Chicago Public Library, the Newberry Library, the John Crerar Library, and the Harper Memorial Library of the University of Chicago. The postcard is addressed to Miss Betty Frances Bryant and the message on the card reads: "How would you like to work in one of these? There is a chance. Dad". The Chicago Public Library building on the postcard is now the home of the Chicago Cultural Center. The Newberry Library continues to occupy the same building that is depicted on the postcard. That is also true for the Harper Memorial Library. The John Crerar Library is now affiliated with the University of Chicago and occupies a building on the university campus. The John Crerar Library occupied the multistory building on the postcard, located on Randolph Street, from 1921 until 1962. The building was demolished in 1981. The American Library Association was located for a period in both the Chicago Public Library building and the John Crerar Library building (see my digital history of ALA). The Chicago Cultural Center, the Newberry Library, and the Harper Memorial Library are all worth a visit if you have time while attending the American Library Association conference in Chicago in June.

Another Presidential Library is Being Dedicated

I'm a big fan of presidential libraries and museums so I'm excited that the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum is being dedicated on Thursday. It will open to the public on May 1st. This will make the 13th library and museum that falls under the purview of the Office of Presidential Libraries of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). I've been able to visit eight of these and I'm looking forward to visiting the rest. Although these libraries have been described by some as presidential temples or pyramids, I think they provide valuable looks at important segments of our history. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, dedicated in 1939, was the first of the NARA presidential libraries. The Herbert Hoover Library and Museum was created retroactively. Up until 1978 the archives and artifacts of a president were actually considered to be the personal property of the president. So the papers of early presidents were often dispersed widely and inconsistently. Fortunately the Library of Congress has managed to acquire extensive archival materials for the first 23 presidents. The presidential libraries and museums are well represented in my collection of librariana and I even have a philatelic exhibit about them. Many postal artifacts were created as a result of the 2005 presidential libraries postage stamp which added significantly to my collection. Click HERE to see a previous blog post about presidential libraries.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Library History Philatelic Exhibit 2013

Each year since 2003 I have participated in the competitive exhibiting component of several national level stamp shows. All of my philatelic exhibits are related to the history of libraries in the United States. The content of the exhibits varies from year to year. In 2012 I had a very successful exhibit titled "America's Public Libraries and Their Forerunners 1731-1956". This year I significantly revised that exhibit and it is now titled "Libraries in 19th Century America". The new exhibit includes only 19th century material and includes artifacts for all types of libraries, not just public libraries and their predecessors. The first showing of the revised exhibit took place at the stamp show in Plymouth, MI (just west of Detroit) this past weekend. I was pleased to receive a gold medal for the exhibit and a special creativity award. I will also be showing the exhibit at stamp shows in Denver, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee this year. For a summary of the evolution of this exhibit, click HERE. For information on some of my other library history related philatelic exhibits, click HERE.

Friday, April 12, 2013

More On ALA's 1893 Model Library

In response to my previous post about ALA and the 1893 World's Fair, Tom Ray, Collections Management Coordinator of The Library of Virginia, informed me that The Library of Virginia had recently acquired one of the actual books from ALA's model library collection at the Fair. The book that they have is The Colonel's Daughter by Charles King. The really neat thing about the book is that it has an example of the bookplate used for the model collection (shown above). All 5,000 books in the model collection were donated by book publishers. Originally, the U.S. Bureau of Education was going to pay for the collection, but at the last minute couldn't do it. A successful appeal to publishers of the books saved the day. The bookplate in The Colonel's Daughter indicates that it was donated by the J. B. Lippincott Company.  The collection of books was arranged half by the Dewey decimal classification system and half by the Cutter classification system. The bookplate shows that The Colonel's Daughter was classified by the Cutter system with the call number K58c based on the author's last name (King). I wonder what happened to the other 4,999 volumes in the collection. Any thoughts or insights out there?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

ALA and the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago

Postcard showing building where ALA exhibit was located
When the members of the American Library Association gather in Chicago on June 27th it will mark the 120th anniversary of ALA's meeting in conjunction with the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. It was one of the most significant annual conferences in ALA's history, and it was the first of many ALA conferences in Chicago. It marked a high point in the prominence of Melvil Dewey in ALA and the library profession. Dewey was serving as President of ALA during the conference and played a major role in the Association's active involvement in the Exposition.  For the Exposition, ALA sponsored an exhibit of a model library with a collection of 5,000 of the "best" books available to libraries. A catalog of this collection was later published by the U.S. Bureau of Education as the Catalog of the A.L.A. Library [Hathi Trust link]. The model library and published catalog were the fulfillment of a Dewey idea that had been proposed in 1876. The U.S. Bureau of Education also published a book of the papers presented for what was described as the "World's Library Congress" [Hathi Trust link]. Although Dewey was a major force behind ALA's involvement in the Exposition of 1893, it was largely due to the efforts of Mary S. Cutler, one of Dewey's subordinates at the New York State Library School, that the model library exhibit was successfully implemented. For more on ALA's model library collection click HERE. Of the 250 people who registered for the ALA conference, 150 were women. Also on display at the conference were examples of all manner of library equipment and supplies. One item was of special interest. It was the "Rudolph Continuous Indexer" a machine that housed an alternative version of a card catalog. See my post on this unusual machine. Check it out yourself at the Newberry Library while in Chicago. The World's Columbian Exposition marked the beginning of the golden age of souvenirs. The "pioneer" picture postcard on the back of a government issued postal card shown above includes an image of the Government Building at the Exposition which housed ALA's exhibit. Another significant exhibit at the Exposition was the Woman's Building Library. For my online exhibit on the history of ALA click HERE. My sources: "Best Foot Forward: Representation of American Librarianship at World's Fairs 1853-1904" by Budd L. Gambee in Library History Seminar No. 3, Proceedings, 1968 (The Journal of Library History, 1968) and Irrepressible Reformer by Wayne A. Wiegand (ALA, 1996). 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Library of Congress Exhibit

April is the month that we celebrate National Library Week. This year it is April 14 -20. I'm helping to celebrate this event with an exhibit about the Library of Congress at my local library, the Middleton (WI) Public Library. It features various items from my collection related to the Library of Congress. It will be on display for the entire month of April. Some images of the exhibit are shown below.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Evolution of Metal Bookstacks

Metal bookstacks are in the news in New York. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City has an exhibit on display featuring the works of French architect Henri Labrouste (1801-1875) through June 14th. Labrouste was the first designer of library buildings to use iron columns (Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve, 1843) and metal bookstacks (Bibliotheque Nationale, 1850s). The other New York metal bookstack news story relates to the controversy over the New York Public Library's plans to remove its famous bookstacks as part of a major renovation of its building at 5th Ave. and 42nd Street. In my previous post about the renovated Central Library of the St. Louis Public Library I failed to note that a major aspect of that renovation was the removal of its metal bookstacks to accommodate the modernization of some of its public spaces. Unlike the flagship building of the New York Public Library which is and has always been a research library, the St. Louis Public Library has always been a circulating library (as well as a reference library) accommodating all age groups. An 1877 addition to Gore Hall, the Harvard College Library, made the first use of metal bookstacks in the United States and has been described as the "prototype of the modern bookstack".  The Library of Congress building now know as the Thomas Jefferson Building, completed in 1897, utilized a metal bookstack system designed by Bernard Richardson Green and built by the Snead & Co. Iron Works. The Library of Congress stack or the Green (Snead) standard "was so great an improvement over all forms of book storage that had preceded it that the library profession accepted it forthwith as not only a better book storage, but as a definitively perfect one." [Quote in Henry Petroski's The Book on the Bookshelf (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999)]. I have a section of the Green (Snead) shelving in my garage. The illustration of the "standard" steel bookstack below is from a 1901 catalog for the Art Metal Construction Co. in Jamestown, NY which is in my collection.