Sunday, May 31, 2009

Katharine Sharp and the Lake Placid Club

The "Library Cover Story" for June on the Library History Buff website involves Katharine Sharp and the Lake Placid Club. A bookplate collector in Oberstdorf, Germany sent this postal card above to Katherine Sharp at the School of Library Science at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana on June 22, 1906. The card arrived in Champaign, Illinois on July 5, 1906. It was then forwarded to the Lake Placid Club in New York. The cover story most pertinent to the library history buff relates to the link between Katharine Sharp and the Lake Placid Club. The Lake Placid Club was established by Melvil Dewey and his wife Annie in the 1890s as a summer community in the Adirondack Mountains for professional people. Katharine Sharp was a protégé of Dewey and a summer resident of Lake Placid. She was director of both the library and library school at the University of Illinois from 1897 to 1907. When she left the University of Illinois in 1907 she moved to Lake Placid and became Vice-President of the Lake Placid Club. The anti-Semitic practices at the Lake Placid Club were a major factor leading to Melvil Dewey's resignation as New York State Librarian in 1905. Lake Placid became a major success as a resort community and was the site of the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980. Sharp was killed in an automobile accident in 1914 at the age of 49.

The other story related to this cover involves the collection and exchange of bookplates. The writer of the postal has learned that Sharp may have bookplates for exchange and offers to exchange some of his various bookplates with her. He also indicates that if she is interested in exchanging bookplates with others he will put her address in the German Ex Libris journal for September. More on bookplate collecting is located here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

International Museum Day

May 18 is International Museum Day. This is an appropriate occasion to raise the topic of library museums once more. This is a topic I have been bringing up for years. It is discussed on the Library History Buff website here. This is also an occasion to pay tribute to the Bibliotheekmuseum (Library Museum) that is located in the Bibliotheek Amsterdam (Amsterdam Library). It is the oldest and most extensive library museum in the world. It was founded by Hans Krol who established the Library Museum Committee in 1969. The museum opened in 1975 in a small room in The Hague. It moved to the new Amsterdam Public Library in 2000. Krol is shown in the accompaning image. Krol is probably the most agressive collector of librariana and library artifacts in the world today. Norman Stevens could have previously made a claim to this designation. He donated the bulk of his extensive collection to the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Wisconsin Library Association Foundation has created the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center which promotes library history but does not have a physical location. The American Library Association Archives at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana offfers the potential for becoming more museum like. There needs to be more done to preserve and display the artifacts of our library heritage, but who will provide the leadership?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

US Libraries on Stamps

Postage stamps are devices for indicating prepayment of a fee for postal services. Great Britain issued the first adhesive postage stamp in the world in 1840. The United States government issued its first postage stamps in 1845. Postage stamps have developed into a method of honoring and commemorating individuals, institutions, and events. Libraries and library people have not been frequent subjects for postage stamps. This is especially true in the United States. When libraries and library people are depicted on postage stamps it is often in recognition of something that has little to do with the role of libraries or library people in our society. I have just completed a page on the Library History Buff website devoted to US Libraries on Stamps. Collecting postage stamps related to libraries and library people is one category of bibliophilately and is also a facet of postal librariana. Other pages on the Library History Buff website provide an introduction to library people on postage stamps, include stamps depicting library people from the United States and library people from the world, and include stamps that depict archives and archivists. I have been a proponent of a stamp honoring America's public libraries. I have an extensive collection of libraries on stamps from other countries and will be adding them to the website as time permits.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

National Postcard Week

This is National Postcard Week. Diana Dretske, collections coordinator for the Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda, Illinois, provides some background information on National Postcard Week on her blog "Illuminating Lake County, Illinois History". I have previously posted about collecting library postcards on this blog. A big part of National Postcard Week is promoting the exchange of postcards. Librarians and library supporters have exchanged library postcards in the past and continue to do so today. The Library History Buff website has links to lists of past and current library postcard collectors and to the websites of library postcard collections. I have a modest collection of between 1,500 and 2,000 library postcards. Probably my most unusual library postcard is the one used by ALA in Siberia in WWI.
The French postcard above was mailed to Ithaca, New York through the Army Post Office near the end of World War II and has a personal message on the reverse. It was mailed "Free" and has been censored by an officer as was required during war time. One wonders what the two monks find so funny in the library book. Feel free to provide your own caption.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy 100th Edwin Castagna!

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Edwin Catagna (1909-1983), a notable 20th century American library leader. I've used the Dictionary of Library Biography (DALB) to help identify key birth anniversaries of some of our more important librarians of the past. The DALB is a good source to use for this purpose since the people listed in that publication have been screened by well qualified library historians. The entries are also written by well qualified individuals. Edwin Castagna is listed in the first Supplement to the DALB and his entry is written by Ronald Blazek and Theresa Griffen Maggio. All Presidents of the American Library Association are included in the DALB, and Castagna was President of ALA in 1964-65. Castagna's accomplishments would have landed him in the DALB even if he had not been president. He served as director of several public libraries including the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore where he served from 1960 to 1975. He was a major voice and champion for intellectual freedom during his library career. Blazek and Maggio use the following quote from Castagna in their DALB entry: "The value of our libraries as democratic institutions will depend on how bold we are as librarians in shouldering the responsibility our fellow citizens place upon us. The degree of courage we display in the face of cowardly tendencies outside and within us will be the measure of our worth as librarians." Castagna knew a little about courage. He had 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. According to Blazek and Maggio, "The most remarkable feature of Edwin Castagna's professional existence is the degree to which he was liked, as well as respected, by those who know him at any level. It is virtually impossible to find an individual who would cast aspersions on his administrative style or effectiveness or even damn him with faint praise. Instead he is warmly remembered by those who knew him and has been described as radiating goodwill and sweetness of spirit." Unlike previous notable librarians I have mentioned in the blog, Castagna's and my library careers overlapped although I didn't know him personally. Also, like Castagna, my library career was also interrupted by service in the Army (although my service wasn't voluntary). I'm proud to be part of a profession which was shared by such worthy individuals as Edwin Castagna.