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.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Newburyport (MA) Public Library

The library cover story for October on The Library History Buff website involves a letter and envelope relating to the formation of the Newburyport Public Library in Massachusetts. Josiah Little founded the library in 1854. This cover was mailed to him from Boston by Samuel Swett on June 27, 1854. The cover is an example of a folded letter where the letter is folded in such a way that it also serves as an envelope. In the letter, Swett, an author who was born in Newburyport, provides Little with advice on the formation of the library. Little's original intent was evidently to form a subscription library, but Swett points out the advantages of establishing a public library supported by the City of Newburyport and the adjacent towns. Massachusetts passed a a general law providing for the establishment of free public libraries in 1851. Newburyport was one of the first ten public libraries established under the new law. The library was opened to the public in 1855, one year after the Boston Public Library opened to the public. A history of the library can be found here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Archives and Stamp Collecting

October is American Archives Month and National Stamp Collecting Month. One of the areas of postal librariana that I have been collecting for a number of years is archives and archivists on postage stamps. Hans Krol, a fellow collector, has assisted me in developing a list of these stamps. I also collect postage stamps that depict libraries and librarians. There is a much more extensive list of these stamps that I hope to eventually place on the Library History Buff website. Hans is a major contributor to this list also. I would like to see more archives, archivists, libraries, and librarians depicted on postage stamps. I am particularly frustrated that although some individuals with a library connection have been depicted on United States stamps that no person has been depicted on a stamp because of their role as a librarian. As we go through October, I plan to highlight more examples of postal librariana as a way of celebrating two great enterprises - archives and stamp collecting.