Monday, December 21, 2009

Library History 2009

There were some library history highlights in 2009 and a few lowlights. If you have others to suggest, let me know. The Special Libraries Association did an exceptional job of celebrating its centennial this year. Nice job on the special postage stamp for this occasion. I highly recommend their celebration as a model for other library groups. A number of other libraries and library organizations also celebrated key anniversaries this year including these. The Library History Round Table of the American Library Association continued its active promotion of library history. I was pleased to meet many of the members of this group at the ALA Conference in Chicago where they sponsored some great programs. If you are interested in library history, this is the group for you. Under the leadership of editor David B. Gracy II, there were excellent quarterly issues of Libraries & The Cultural Record in 2009. We library history buffs are grateful for the dedicated research of those who get published in this journal. The North Carolina State Library put a digital collection commemorating the legacy of North Carolina's public libraries online. It is nice to see a digital project with a primary focus on library history. There aren't many of those. The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center celebrated its one year anniversary in March and inducted its second group of individuals into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame in October. Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibits took place at the Milwaukee Public Library, the South Milwaukee Public Library, and the Door County Library. Although not in a prominent location, the excellent "Art and Architecture in Illinois Libraries" exhibit was on display at the ALA Conference in Chicago in July. On a personal note, I was pleased to receive the Edmund Lester Pearson Library Humor Award for 2009 and to be inducted into the Molesworth Institute. This Library History Buff Blog celebrated its one year anniversary in November. A couple of failed opportunities: The American Library Association failed to take advantage of an opportunity to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of its move to Chicago at its annual conference in Chicago. I did a small part to bring attention to this occasion and to highlight ALA's history. ALA's Public Library Association failed to acknowledge the 160th anniversary of New Hampshire's public library law, the first statewide public library law in America, which occurred one year before the passage of Great Britain's public library law.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rev. Wight and Wayland's Public Library

Reverend John Burt Wight played a major role in the passage of the 1851 Massachusetts Public Library Law and the legal establishment of the Wayland Free Public Library. The story of how this came about is well told by Jesse H. Shera in Foundations of the Public Library: The origins of the Public Library Movement in new England 1629-1855 (Shoe String Press, 1965). The seeds of a free public library in Wayland, Massachusetts began with an offer of a gift for this purpose from Francis Wayland, the President of Brown University in 1847. The Wayland Town Board took action to accept the gift and to initiate the establishment of a public library in 1848. The free public library began operation in August, 1850, almost four years before the Boston Public Library started lending books. A question arose, however, as to whether the Town of Wayland had the legal authority to take this action. As a result, Rev. Wight who was the representative from the Wayland district to the State Legislature was asked to seek a state law enabling the establishment of free public libraries. He carried out this task in an exemplary fashion and the state law was unanimously enacted by the legislature and approved by the governor on May 24, 1851. This was the second statewide law enabling the establishment of free public libraries. It was preceded by the New Hampshire law. Continuing his role as an advocate for free public libraries, Rev. Wight printed 4,000 copies of a circular in support of these libraries and distributed them postage collect. That circular read in part, "Nor is the establishment of public libraries premature. The people are prepared for their introduction by the proprietary and common-school libraries which have preceded them, and by the increasing desire for information which is spreading through all classes; and will approve them, and provide for them, and welcome them everywhere, as soon as they shall be led to consider and understand their nature and importance. The universal establishment of such libraries in this Commonwealth - and may I not say in the New England states, in the United States, and throughout the civilized world -is a question of time." The Wayland Free Public Library makes a good case that it is the first free public library in Massachusetts, not the Boston Public Library.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Books by Mail

The Parcel Post Loan Library distributed this booklet to customers prior to Christmas 1914. The Parcel Post Loan Library was a commercial endeavor that took advantage of the inclusion of book shipments in the parcel post postage rate starting in 1914. There is a previous post about how the Wisconsin Free Library Commission used parcel post to provide books by mail. The Parcel Post Loan Library rented fiction books in their printed catalogs at a rate of 15 cents a week. Non-fiction books in their catalogs were available for purchase.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Azariah's Library

There's an eating place in the Academic Common's of Oberlin College in Ohio called Azariah's Cafe. The cafe is named for Azariah Smith Root (1862-1927), the librarian at Oberlin College from 1887 to 1927. Root was responsible for transforming the library at Oberlin into one of the best college libraries in the nation. Root's original involvement with the Oberlin College Library began before his appointment as librarian with a project to catalog the library's collection in 1885 using the Dewey Decimal Classification System. Root played a major role in acquiring a grant of $150,000 from Andrew Carnegie in 1905 for a new college library building which also served the community of Oberlin as a public library. He developed a detailed description of what should be included in the new library which is considered to be the first library building statement written by a librarian. Root was also heavily involved in librarianship at the national level and served as President of the American Library Association (ALA) in 1922. He was actively involved in promoting quality library education and training. This included work with others that resulted in the certification of library schools by ALA. Root served as director of the American Correspondence School of Librarianship which was established in 1923 until his death in 1927. Azariah's library has evolved into the Seeley G. Mudd Center. The old Carnegie building still survives on campus serving multiple non-library functions. I posted a previous blog entry about Oberlin's card catalog which has an exterior view of the Carnegie building. The history of Oberlin's library is preserved through an outstanding College Archives. Herbert F. Johnson has written a thorough biography of Root in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

3 Years of Library Cover Stories

This month completes three years of library cover stories on my Library History Buff website. "Cover" is a philatelic term for an envelope, postal card, or similar postal artifact that has been sent through the mail (or is intended to be sent through the mail). I collect covers that have a library connection and over a period of almost fifteen years have assembled a collection of several thousand library covers. If picture postcards that don't have a library message are excluded, I probably have the largest collection of library covers in the world. In January of 2007 I started featuring a library cover from my collection on the home page of the Library History Buff website each month. After starting the Library History Buff Blog a little over a year ago, I have usually included the monthly library cover story on the blog also. I also have blog posts that feature other library covers. The rather unimpressive cover above was featured in November, 2007. That cover was the starting point for uncovering a very interesting story connecting a librarian at the Library of Congress, Thomas S. Shaw, with Franklin D. Roosevelt in World War II. That story is located here. The archives for the library cover stories for 2007, 2008, and 2009 can be accessed by clicking on the year. More about library covers can be found by going to the Postal Librariana page on the Library History Buff website. I already have a very interesting library cover story picked out for January, 2010. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dewey and Lake Placid

Melvil Dewey was born on December 10, 1851 in Adams Center, New York. I thought I would acknowledge his birthday today with a post about Dewey and his Lake Placid organizations. Dewey who is considered by many to be the father of American librarianship is most noted for his decimal classification system which is still used by thousands of libraries. Dewey was also controversial because of his complex relationship with women and accusations of anti-Semitism. The stock certificate above is for the Lake Placid Company which was a sister organization to the Lake Placid Club. Dewey was the founder of both entities. The stock certificate is for fourteen shares issued to the Lake Placid Club Education Foundation, another Dewey enterprise established in 1922. After leaving the New York State Library under a cloud in 1905, Dewey devoted all of his energy to the Lake Placid trilogy of organizations. Wayne A. Wiegand has a very interesting chapter in his book Irrepressible Reformer, A Biography of Melvil Dewey (ALA, 1996) about Dewey's Lake Placid years. I have written a previous post about Katharine Sharp, a Dewey protégé, and the Lake Placid Club. It was the admission policies of the Lake Placid Club which excluded Jews which led to the justifiable anti-Semitism charges against Dewey.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Community Advertising Envelopes

One way that communities in the first two decades of the 20th century sought to attract new businesses was through advertising on envelopes. These envelopes typically included pictures on the front of the envelope that depicted significant buildings and attractions in the community. The back of these envelopes included written text which made the case for locating in a particular community. During this same period new public library buildings were being built in communities across the country, many as the result of grants from philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie. So it is not surprising that libraries are often one of the buildings being depicted on the front of the envelope. Although not common, over the years I have acquired a collection of a couple of dozen of these envelopes that include a library in the selection of illustrations. In 1992 the Postal History Foundati0n in Tucson, Arizona received a collection of 1,204 community advertising envelopes. An analysis of the envelopes found that communities from all states except Hawaii were represented in the collection. In terms of geographic representation 43% of the envelopes were from the Midwest, 30% from the East, 20% from the West, and 7% from the South. The state with the most envelopes was Iowa with a total of 77. My collection also includes more Iowa envelopes than any other state. Most of the envelopes were from the time period 1901 to 1910. The Sioux City Public Library is prominently represented on the envelope above which was mailed in 1908. The written text on the back of the envelope indicates that the library had 25,000 volumes. The public library was founded in 1877. Sioux City received Carnegie grants for two libraries totaling $85,000 in 1911. The building shown on the envelope above predates the main Carnegie building and the branch Carnegie building for Sioux City shown at the Carnegie Libraries in Iowa Project website. More community advertising envelopes can be seen here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

ALA Hospital Service WWI

During World War I the American Library Association (ALA), through it's War Library Service, provided books and magazines to soldiers and sailors in military hospitals. It placed over 200 libraries in hospitals. In 1920, after the war, ALA's Hospital Library Service was transferred to the U. S. Public Health Service but ALA continued to staff the hospital libraries for a period. Hospital library service was a major legacy of ALA's involvement in World War I. ALA produced a number of postcards to advertise its library service in hospitals. The postcard above shows soldiers reading in the library located in the Red Cross House at Camp Custer, Michigan. To see more postcards click here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Presidential Libraries

Fundraising and planning for the George W. Bush Presidential Library which will be located on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas is well underway. The way presidential libraries are now established and operated is dictated by federal law. The archives and artifacts of a president belong to the people of the United States and are administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The buildings that house these archives and artifacts are paid for by private funding. This was far from the case for earlier presidents. Up until 1978 the archives and artifacts of a president were considered to be the personal property of the president. As a result, these were often dispersed in many different locations. Fortunately, many of the papers of early presidents have been acquired by the Library of Congress. The first presidential library in which the archives and artifacts of a president were deliberately housed at a single location was what is now referred to as the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio. The story of how this came about is told here. The current presidential library system began in 1939 when Franklin D. Roosevelt donated his personal papers to the U.S. government to create the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. The story of how the presidential libraries under the administration of NARA developed is told here. In 2005 the United States Postal System issued a postage stamp to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 which established a system of privately funded and federally administered presidential libraries.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Alice M. Hughes, Unknown Librarian

The postcard above is one of 25 postcards that are part of the Alice M. Hughes postcard collection which is now part of my library postcard collection. I came across the collection of postcards by chance at a local postcard show. Collectively the 25 postcards tell a story about the library career of Miss Hughes. This particular card was mailed to Miss Hughes on September 19, 1905 at the Public Library in Pierre, South Dakota. The Pierre Public Library opened in a new building funded by Andrew Carnegie on March 10, 1905 so Miss Hughes may have been the library's first director. A history of the South Dakota Library Association indicates that she was an early member of the Association which was established in 1904. The collection of postcards follows Miss Hughes to the Bellefonte Academy Library in Bellefonte, PA (1909-1910) to the Sandusky Library Association Library in Sandusky, OH (1911) to the San Louis Obispo Public Library in California (1915-1916), and finally to the Fremont Public Library in Nebraska (1922). Obviously, the postcards don't tell the whole story of Miss Hughes' library career, but they are artifacts that connect us to a person who shared our profession many decades ago. A Google search provides a few more clues about her career, but not a whole lot. Regretfully, none of the libraries that she worked at have basic library histories that list their former librarians/directors. Alice M. Hughes of Merrill, WI is mentioned in a couple of documents as voluntarily cataloging the collection of the newly established Shawano, WI Public Library in 1900. From the messages on the postcards it is obvious that Miss Hughes collected library postcards and the group of postcards that I have may have only been part of a larger collection. Because of her collection, she is no longer an unknown librarian. The picture side of the postcard shows the Ohio State Library in Columbus, Ohio and includes a message from a friend.
Note: This post was also the Library Cover Story for December, 2009 for the Library History Buff website.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Everett to Panizzi in 1848

A seemingly innocuous letter mailed in 1848 from Edward Everett to A. Panizzi has provided me with an opportunity to do some entertaining historical digging. Here is a transcript of the letter: "Cambridge U.S.A., 14 Nov. 1848. My dear Sir, I beg leave to commend to your good offices my much valued friend Mr. Cogswell of New York. Mr. C. is the librarian of the library founded by the will of the late Mr. Astor of that city, who bequeathed the sum of four hundred thousand dollars for this purpose. Mr. C. goes to Europe on business connected with the formation of the library, and I am desirous that he should enjoy every necessary facility for becoming acquainted with the library of the museum. May I beg you kindly to aid his researches. You must have lamented the death of our admirable & honored old friend of Hamilton Place, though it gave the museum his noble library. What a Providence that it was saved from the catastrophe at Stowe! I beg to assure you, that it would at all times afford me pleasure to be useful to you, in this country & I remain Dear Sir, with great respect, very faithfully Yours, Edward Everett. A. Panizzi, Esq."
Edward Everett served as President of Harvard University from 1846 to 1849. James Green Cogswell (1786-1871), as the letter indicates, was tasked with building the great library bequeathed by John Jacob Astor upon his death in March, 1848. Everett and Cogswell were longtime friends and had studied together at Gottingen University in Germany as young men. I have written a previous post about Cogswell and his work at the Astor Library. Cogswell's trip to Europe in 1848 resulted in the purchase of 20,000 volumes for the Astor Library. The Astor Library which became a part of the New York Public Library did not actually open until 1854. In 1848 Anthony Panizzi was keeper of the Books at the British Museum. In 1856 he became Principal Librarian at the Museum. In the letter, Everett refers to "our admirable & honored old friend of Hamilton Place" and to his noble library. This refers to the Grenville Library of Thomas Grenville who died in 1846 (thanks to those on the LIS-LIBHIST listserv for this clarification). It consisted of over 20,000 books valued at 50,000 pounds which was a very large sum in 1846. The "catastrophe at Stowe" refers to the sale of the outstanding library at Stowe House in Buckinghamshire, England. This sale took place over a period of years starting in 1848. Cogswell, although not overly impressed with the library, purchased a number of volumes from the collection for the Astor Library.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Scott Adams, Health Sciences Librarian

November 20 is the centennial of the birth of Scott Adams (1909-1982), noted health sciences librarian, not the creator of the cartoon character Dilbert. Adams is the subject of the first entry in the Supplement to the Dictionary of American Library Biography. The entry was written by Estelle Brodman, an extraordinary health sciences librarian herself. Among his other positions, Adams worked for the Army Medical Library (now the National Library of Medicine), the Library of the National Institutes of Health, and the National Library of Medicine (NLM). He was a major contributor to the development of the MEDLARS computer system at NLM. He is author of Medical Bibliography in an Age of Discontinuity (Medical Library Association, 1981). Included among an extensive list of accomplishments and positive comments, Brodman wrote the following: "Scott Adams was quick with new and innovative ideas - sometimes pursuing some unworthy ones uselessly. His tendency to procrastinate and leave large quantities of work to be done quickly irritated his assistants and lost him secretaries." Another indication that even our best have their faults. Happy birthday Scott Adams!

One Year Anniversary

Today is the one year anniversary of the first post to the Library History Buff Blog (LHBB). The LHBB is a companion to the Library History Buff website. This is blog post number 137. The LHBB has turned out to be one of my better ideas for promoting library history. I installed a website statistical package last January, and it tells me that 19,000 pages have been loaded from the site since I installed the package and that 12,000 unique visitors have accessed the site. Not very impressive in the scheme of things but I'm still pleased that there are people finding their way to the site. Thanks to George Eberhart for his AL Direct links to many of the blog posts and to the ALA Library for its tweets about my posts. Also thanks to those who have provided a link from their website or blog to the LHBB. And most of all thanks to all the readers of the blog.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

California's Free Public Library Law

This year is the centennial of the free public library law in California. The California law was based around the county unit of government. The law was permissive and counties were not required to establish public libraries. Municipalities with their own public library were also not required to be a part of the the county library. The California State Library under the overall leadership of James Gillis, the state librarian, took on the task of organizing county libraries throughout the state. Harriet Gertrude Eddy (1876-1966) joined the staff of the California State Library in 1909 and was the person responsible for organizing county library service in 40 of California 58 counties in the next nine years. The postcard shown here was used to promote county library service in California. The postcard which was produced in 1915 has been updated by hand to show that 33 county libraries had been established up to that point. There is an interesting article in the California State Library Foundation Bulletin Number 94 (2009) about Eddy which points out that she has received little recognition for her contribution to public library development.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Books for Sailors

Charles Seavey has an impressive website Books for Swabbies: Ship's Libraries in the "New" Steel Navy, 1880s - 1930s. As Seavey points out, books on ships in the United States date back to at least 1820 with the various book collections on the U.S.S. Franklin. This is the same year that the first mechanics libraries and mercantile libraries for young men were established in the United States. I have an interest in libraries that served the military and have a collection of postcards on this topic. The first postcard above shows a group of sailors in the Library of the Brooklyn Branch of the Naval Y.M.C.A. in Brooklyn, NY which was mailed in 1910. The American Library Association (ALA) took an active role in supplying books and magazines to sailors in World War I through its Library War Service. The second postcard shows sailors of a merchant marine vessel enjoying books from the ALA Library War Service. More postcards depicting ALA's service to merchant marine sailors are shown on the Library History Buff website. The third postcard shows a group of sailors in front of an ALA World War I Camp Library at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois. Historical documents relating to US Navy Libraries are located on the Navy Department Library website.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ypsilanti Ladies Library

Women's groups have been a major force in the establishment of public libraries and the forerunners of public libraries in the United States. A good example of a library established by a women's group that developed into a public library is the Ypsilanti Ladies Library in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The Ladies Library was founded in 1868 by the Ladies Library Association. The library began as a subscription library open to all for a small fee. In 1890 Mrs. Mary Ann Starkweather presented the Association her home, an elaborate Italianate-style building, to house the library. An arch over the front door was added to identify the building as the Ladies Library. Although the library started receiving public support and became a free public library around the turn of the century, it did not change its name from "Ladies Library" to "Public Library" until 1948. The Starkweather home continued to house the public library until 1963 when the library moved into the old post office building. The library is now the Ypsilanti District Library.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Abe Martin's Public Library

Abe Martin was a cartoon character created by Kin Hubbard. Cartoons featuring the homespun Abe Martin character and the cartoon's locale of Brown County, Indiana ran in The Indianapolis News from 1905 to 1930. Will Rogers has been quoted as saying Hubbard was "America's greatest humorist". Hubbard was inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame in 1967. The cartoon featured on this postcard shows Abe in front of the local public library and has the following blurb "I wonder if you've got such a thing as a good, interestin' novel, one I won't be afraid to leave layin' around where the children 'il see it?" asked Mrs. Leghorn Tharp at our Public Library today. A collection of postcards featuring the Abe Martin cartoons is located at the Indiana Historical Society. This one is from my personal collection.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Librarian Veterans

When Veterans Day comes around each year and America pays homage to those who serve and have served in the military, I often reflect on my own military experience during the Vietnam Conflict/War. Part of that reflection is my identification with all the others who have shared the experience of serving one's country in the military. As I have written in an earlier post, my own service was involuntary as was the service of many of those in the Vietnam era. My experience was unusual in that I was already a professional librarian when I went into the Army. Librarians have served in the military and have provided service to the military in times of war throughout our library past. Librarian of Congress John G. Stephenson from 1861-1864 spent much of his tenure serving in the Union Army during the Civil War. Librarians both male and female participated in the American Library Association's Library War Service during World War I. During World War II many librarians disrupted their library careers to serve their country in uniform. Edwin Castagna, former Director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, voluntarily joined the Army during World War II and served as a company commander in the 771st Tank Battalion in several key World War II campaigns. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for heroism. A group of female librarians who were in supervisory roles in military libraries during World War II became leaders in state library agencies in the years following the war. They included Estellene Walker, Nettie Taylor, and S. Janice Kee. There aren't many librarians who served in the military during the Vietnam Conflict/war, but there were some. There are also many librarians in military libraries that serve the armed forces on an ongoing basis .

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Working Men's Libraries

Forerunners and early competitors to America's free public libraries came in many varieties. The Working Men's Institute libraries were one of those varieties. The first Working Men's Institute was founded in 1838 in New Harmony, Indiana with a mission to disseminate useful knowledge to those who work with their hands. The Working Men's Institute in New Harmony was the first of 144 such institutions in Indiana and 16 in Illinois. The Institute in New Harmony is the only one remaining. It's library which is Indiana's oldest library still functions as a public library. More background information on the New Harmony Working Men's Institute and its building can be found here. Membership libraries that were based on the occupation of their members included mechanics libraries and mercantile libraries which date back to 1820. The San Francisco Mechanics Institute Library is one example of a mechanics library that still exists. The library of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen in New York City is another. Mercantile libraries served merchants and their clerks. The Mercantile Library of Cincinnati is an existing example of this type of library. The Mercantile Library of New York which began as true mercantile library has transformed itself in recent years into The Center for Fiction.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pearson Library Humor Award

As previously reported, I will be receiving the Edmund Lester Pearson Library Humor Award for 2009. The news release announcing the award is provided below.
News Release from The Molesworth Institute
The Molesworth Institute has awarded the Edmund Lester Pearson Library Humor Award for 2009 to Larry Nix, Library History Buff par excellence. The award carries with it a certificate, appointment as a Fellow of The Molesworth Institute, and a contribution to a charity of the recipient's choice. Mr. Nix has designated the Wisconsin Library History Center as the recipient of the contribution. Dr. Norman D. Stevens, Director of The Molesworth Instutute, announced that the award was made, in general, for Mr. Nix's outstanding website (http://libraryhistorybuff/) and, in particular, for his coverage in his blog of October 6, 2007 of the discovery of an original copy of the infamous Old Librarian's Almanac in the Harvard University Library by one Steven D. Norman a student working on the Google Book Project. Previous recipients of the Edmund Lester Pearson Library Award include Bengt Hjelmqvist, John V. Richardson, Jr., and Jeanette C. Smith.
Norman Stevens, Director, The Molesworth Institute
Storrs, Connecticut

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kentucky Library

The postcard above was mailed by a resident of Elizabethtown, Kentucky on November 1, 1958 (51 years ago today) to a friend in California. The card has been stamped with a message in support of a referendum to establish a free public in an election on November 4. The handwritten message says in part "Our county will vote on this next Tue. Hope we can get it." The printed message in the upper left corner, says in part: "One of Kentucky's 98 bookmobiles which give service to young and old in remote corners of the state." The postcard was produced by the Friends of Kentucky Libraries. Elizabethtown is located in Hardin County. The Hardin County Public Library was founded in 1958 so the referendum must have passed. The public library still operates a bookmobile. I find this postcard interesting for several reasons. As a library postcard collector, I prefer postcards that have been used, and when the message side of the postcard has a message that relates to libraries it is even more desirable. Also, one of my library postcard collecting interests is postcards which feature bookmobiles. This postcard is the library cover of the month for November on the Library History Buff website.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Library Humor

I was recently informed by Norman D. Stevens, Director of the Molesworth Institute, that I would be the recipient of the 2009 Edmund Lester Pearson Library Humor award. The Molesworth Institute started issuing the award in 2000. The bit of levity which triggered the award was a post I made on the Library History Buff Blog about The Old Librarian’s Almanack (1909). Pearson was the author of the almanack which was actually a hoax. I am, however undeserving, deeply honored by the award. Library humor which is generated by librarians is one of those aspects of our library profession that shows that we are not only human but that we are a fun bunch of people. There have been several posts on the Library History Buff Blog that indicate that we can poke fun at ourselves, and indeed have been doing so for many decades. In addition to The Old Librarian’s Almanack, the posts include Charles Lummis and the Bibliosmiles, William Fitch Smyth's Little Lyrics for Librarians, and Sam Walter Foss's Song of the Library Staff. I came across a fun little book recently entitled Library Levity by Nina Napier (Dogwood Press, 1946). In the forward to this book Margaret J. Clay writes: "... reading this little book makes all the " musts" and all the importances including yours and mine seem faintly ridiculous. In a word it is a corrective, renewing our sense of proportion and doing so in the happiest way by laughing with us instead of at us." That's the value of library humor in a nutshell.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Carnegie Library Lists by State

I was recently surprised to find that a category entitled "Lists of Carnegie libraries in the United States by state" has been added to Wikipedia. There is a list for every state that received a grant from Andrew Carnegie or the Carnegie Corporation of New York for a library building. The lists are compiled from George S. Bobinski's Carnegie Libraries (ALA, 1969), Theodore Jones' Carnegie Libraries Across America (John Wiley & Sons, 1997), and publications from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The lists include academic libraries as well as public libraries. Some of the lists such as the one for Alabama include color coding indicating whether the Carnegie building is still in use as a library, is still standing but now serving another purpose, or is no longer standing. The Alabama list and some others also include images of some of the buildings. Some lists such as the one for California include notes that give more information about the building and its current status. Most lists which are in table form just give the basic information about the building which is given in Bobinski's book, the date and amount of the original grant. The tables are set up so all lists can eventually include all elements as information is added. It is unclear who is behind this effort and who is adding information to the lists. This is an excellent idea especially if full information including the current status of the buildings can be added to all the lists. There are other state lists of Carnegie libraries on the Internet including the one maintained by the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center for Wisconsin. The photo above shows the Columbus Public Library in Columbus, Wisconsin. It is a Carnegie building still in use as a library with an addition.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Destruction of the Libraries of Louvain

The Library of the Catholic University of Louvain or Leuven in Belgium was destroyed in both World War I and World War II. The most notorious of the two destructions occurred in 1914 during World War I. A new library designed by Architect Whitney Warren was dedicated in 1928. The new building featured a tall spire and a carillon of 48 bells. The stamp to the left depicts the rebuilt Library of the University of Louvain. It was issued on Dec. 1, 1928. It is a semi-postal with the additional funding going for anti-tuberculosis work. (Scott Catalogue # B83). In 1940 when Germany overran Belgium, the Library of the University of Louvain was again destroyed. The collection had been rebuilt to include almost 700,000 volumes. Phillip A. Metzger has written a good overview of the history of the library including its destruction in 1914 and its rebuilding in 1928. The library was rebuilt after World War II in accordance with the earlier Warren Whitney design. There are also postage stamps which depict the first Library of Louvain and the Library that was rebuilt after World War II. More information about the stamps can be found here. There is a Wikipedia article which includes information about the library's more recent history.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame

Seven individuals were inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame by the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center at the the Wisconsin Library Association Conference in Appleton on October 22. The seven inductees were Charles A. Bunge (1936- ), Matthew Simpson Dudgeon (1871-1949), Sarah Janice Kee (1908 -1998), Henry Eduard Legler (1861-1917), Klas August Linderfelt (1847-1900), Charles R. McCarthy (1873-1921), and Margaret Ellen Monroe (1914-2004). Bunge was the first living individual to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He is shown in the photo above responding to his induction. All seven of the individuals made contributions to library service at the national level as well as the state level in Wisconsin. Bunge was a library educator and a national authority on library reference service. He was twice nominated to run as ALA president. Legler and Linderfelt were both elected as president of the American Library Association. Dudgeon played a leadership role in the ALA Library War Service during World War I. Kee had a varied library career including serving as Executive Director of the Public Library Association prior to coming to Wisconsin as Secretary of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. McCarthy was a leader in the progressive movement and helped create the model for legislative reference libraries around the country and at the Library of Congress. Monroe was a national leader in library adult services and director of the Wisconsin library school. The first ten individuals were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008. The Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame and the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center are programs of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation. To my knowledge this is the only ongoing library hall of fame in the world.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

American Library Association Archives

As previously noted, October is American Archives Month. Archives are an essential component of doing good library history research. We library history buffs are grateful to the library history scholars who have managed to locate and mine these treasures. Unfortunately, many valuable library history related archival documents have been lost forever. One of the most valuable collections of library history archives is the American Library Association Archives located at the University of Illinois - Champaign Urbana. A portion of the ALA Archives are located in the basement of the University of Illinois Library which is shown on the postcard above. The University of Illinois Archives maintains the ALA Archives under a contract with ALA. The website for the ALA Archives serves as a guide to what is in the archives, but an actual visit is required to take advantage of this valuable resource. There are some efforts to digitize photographs and postcards at the archives. Unfortunately, staffing is inadequate and much more could be done to make the archives more widely available. The ALA Archives has the potential for serving as the core of a National Library Heritage Center (library history museum) housing both archival materials and three dimensional artifacts. I've been able to make one visit to the ALA Archives but hope to visit more often. It is only about a 4 1/2 hour drive away. Happy American Archives Month ALA Archives!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Tennessee Library Histories

The Tennessee Library Association has invited libraries around the state to submit articles about the history of their library to Tennessee Libraries. This has resulted in a number of articles for two issues of the magazine and there are more to come. As a Tennessean by birth and having connections to several Tennessee libraries, I was delighted to learn of this effort. The postcard above shows the library of Peabody College which is now a part of Vanderbilt University. I'm a graduate of Peabody College and I also took several courses in library science there as an undergraduate. I spent many hours in the library which was one of the academic libraries that Andrew Carnegie helped fund. Celia Walker, Director of Peabody Library, has written an article about the now defunct library school at Peabody for Tennessee Libraries

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Google Books Project Discovers Rare Librarian's Almanack

A student library assistant working on the Google Books Project at Harvard University Libraries has discovered a rare pamphlet entitled The Old Librarian's Almanack. Steven D. Norman, the student worker, came across the pamphlet while preparing vertical file material for scanning by the University's digital conversion laboratory. The very rare pamphlet was first published in New Haven, Connecticut in 1773. The only other known copy of the pamphlet was discovered in a private library in Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1907 by Edmund Lester Pearson (1880-1937). That copy is now in the possession of the Newburyport Antiquarian Society. In 1909, one hundred years ago, the almanack was reprinted by The Elm Tree Press in Woodstock, Vermont as number one of The Librarian's Series edited by John Cotton Dana and Henry W. Kent. The reprint of the almanack had been previously scanned and is already available through Google Books. Noted library historian Wayne A. Wiegand has expressed doubts about the authenticity of the almanack. Please be advised that this post is a hoax about a hoax.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Burnt Library of Algeria

On June 7, 1962, the Organisation de l'armee secrete (better known as the OAS), a militant underground organization opposed to Algerian independence, burned down the library of the University of Algiers destroying 112,500 books. This was one of the culminating acts of the 1954-1962 Algerian War. On July 1, 1962 Algerians in overwhelming numbers voted in favor of independence from France. The burning of the library was seen as a symbol of the rightness of Algerian independence and resulted in a number of Muslim countries issuing postage stamps commemorating the tragic event. I first learned of these postage stamps from a reprint of a 1982 American Libraries article entitled "Biblio-philately" by George M. Eberhart in the first edition of the Whole Library Handbook. The stamps were among the first additions to my collection of postal librariana. The first day cover shown above depicts the June 7, 1965 Algeria stamp commemorating the burning of the library. The stamp is a semi-postal stamp with the surtax going to the National Solidarity Fund of Algeria. June 7 is celebrated as the official anniversary of Algerian independence. To see the more of the stamps and related postal artifacts click here. The content of this post was originally developed for the September 2008 Library Cover Story on the Library History Buff website. October is National Stamp Collecting Month.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Klas A. Linderfelt, Tragic Librarian

In July, 1886, the American Library Association held its annual conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Klas A. Linderfelt, Librarian of the Milwaukee Public Library, played a prominent role in making the attendees of the conference welcome. Linderfelt arranged for an elaborate excursion after the conference, an ALA tradition. In appreciation for his efforts in arranging the excursion, those who participated gave him a small gold plated book inscribed “From the A.L.A. to K.A. Linderfelt In grateful recognition. Milwaukee, 1886”. Six years later ALA accepted Linderfelt’s resignation in disgrace as President of the ALA. The rise and fall of Klas Linderfelt is an American library tragedy.

Linderfelt served as the Director of the
Milwaukee Public Library from 1880 to 1892. The construction of the new public library and museum building in Milwaukee in 1897 was due largely to Linderfelt’s initial planning efforts. He was one of the founders of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) and was elected its first president in 1891. Linderfelt was an authority on library charging/circulation systems and he implemented an innovative charging system at the Milwaukee Public Library. He was also an authority on library cataloging and was the author of Eclectic Card Catalog Rules which was published in 1890. Linderfelt was active in the American Library Association (ALA) and served as a councilor from 1883 to 1891. In 1890 he was elected vice-president of ALA and in 1891 he was elected president.

In 1892 Linderfelt was arrested in Milwaukee for embezzlement. At his trial he was found guilty, but his sentence was suspended. Under the threat of additional charges, he fled to Europe where he spent the rest of his life. He died in 1900. As a result of Linderfelt’s conviction for embezzlement, ALA expunged his election from their official records. Linderfelt also resigned as President of the Wisconsin Library Association leaving the Association leaderless. The story of Linderfelt's demise and ALA's treatment of that occurrence has been well told by Wayne A. Wiegand in a two part article in American Libraries in March and April, 1977 entitled "The Wayward Bookman: The Decline, Fall, and Historical Obliteration of an ALA President". As Wiegand noted in his article, "It seems only appropriate that the Association acknowledge reality and admit that K. August Linderfelt served as its president from October 16, 1891 to May 22, 1892."
Wiegand also noted that, "Librarians ought to remember Linderfelt, if only to provide some balance against the too-frequent eulogistic treatment accorded the Winsors, Pooles, and Deweys of Library history." In other words, celebrating library history includes acknowledging the bad and the ugly as well as the good.

There is an informal group of the past presidents of the Wisconsin Library Association that holds a breakfast meeting on the Wednesday morning of the Association's annual conference.  An urn with ashes (not human) was created to represent Linderfelt in absentia. The newest past president takes custody of the urn after the meeting and keeps it until the next meeting.

Linderfelt inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 22, 2009 in recognition of his role as a founder of the Wisconsin Library Association and his contributions to librarianship in Wisconsin and the nation prior to his resignation as President of both ALA and WLA. He is also included in the Dictionary of American Library Biography.

Monday, October 5, 2009

World's Greatest Librariana Collectors Meet

Recently, the world's two greatest collectors of librariana met at the Bibliotheekmuseum (Library Museum) in Amsterdam. Hans Krol, founder of the Bibliotheekmuseum which is located in the new Amsterdam Public Library, played host at the meeting. The visitor to the museum was Norman D. Stevens, Director of Libraries Emeritus of the University of Connecticut - Storrs and Director of the Molesworth Insitute. In addition to other kinds of librariana, Stevens collected over 25,000 library picture postcards, the largest collection of library postcards ever assembled. Stevens donated his collection of postcards and most of the rest of his librariana collection to the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. Steven's book, A Guide to Collecting Librariana, is the "bible" of collecting library artifacts and memorabilia. Hans Krol has been and ardent collector of librariana since 1967 when he got out of library school. He is the retired director of the Heemstede Public Library in the Netherlands. Hans and I share an interest in bibliophilately which is a very specialized area of librariana collecting. The Bibliotheekmuseum is one of only a few museums in the world that preserve artifacts related to libraries. A picture of Krol (on the left) and Stevens in the Biblotheekmuseum is shown above.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Iceland's Archives on Stamps

The postal souvenir sheet at the top of this post includes a new (2009) stamp showing the Iceland National Centre for Cultural Heritage. The Culture House which is home to the Centre was completed in 1908 and opened in 1909. It initially housed the National Library and National Archives. It also was home to the National Museum and Natural History Museum for a period. These institutions all have their own buildings now. The Culture House was also depicted on a 1925 stamp. In 2007 a stamp commemorating the 125th anniversary of the National Archives was issued by Iceland. October is National Stamp Collecting Month. For more archives on stamps click here.