Saturday, April 4, 2015

St. Louis Mercantile Library

Last week while in St. Louis for a stamp show and a family visit I had the opportunity to visit the St. Louis Mercantile Library, one of our nation’s most unusual libraries. Because of my interest in membership libraries, I was already aware of the history of the Mercantile Library (click HERE to see previous post). I just had not had the opportunity to see it firsthand. I was very impressed. Fee based membership libraries in America had their heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries, and all but a few did not survive after the first couple of decades in the 20th century. Those that did survive did so by substantially revising their missions. In regard to its current mission this statement appears on the website of the St. Louis Mercantile Library: “The task of the Mercantile Library as a research library is to make its collections, which have come to concentrate on Western Expansion and the history, development, and growth of the St. Louis region and of the American rail and river transportation experiences, available to the widest number of local and national users.” The Mercantile Library has also entered into an arrangement with another institution to ensure its survival well into the future. The Mercantile Library is now part of the Libraries of the University of Missouri – St. Louis and shares a building with the Thomas Jefferson Library of the University. In addition to its extensive general historical collection the Mercantile Library is home to the Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library, the John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library, and an extensive art collection. I had the privilege of participating in one of the excellent docent led tours of the Mercantile Library which take place on Saturday and Sunday each week. If you are ever in St. Louis I highly recommend a visit to the St. Louis Mercantile Library. A few pictures from my visit appear below.

A memorial for Clarence E. Miller who worked at the library for 67 years and was Librarian from 1941-1958.
One of the locked rare book cases.

A vintage card catalog no longer in use which contained the "Harvard size" catalog cards.

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