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.