Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bookmobile Celebration

I learned through a Twitter message from the American Library Association's Library that there is going to be a National Bookmobile Day on April 14 during National Library Week. This is a very interesting development and I'm curious about how this was accomplished. As someone who has advocated a Library Heritage Day I'm impressed that it was possible to create a special day sponsored by the American Library Association focusing on one fairly small segment of American public library service. Hey Library History Round Table you've been outdone. Now don't get me wrong. I'm a fan of bookmobiles as evidenced by my bookmobile tribute on the Library History Buff website. At the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center website I have also created a bookmobile page. National Bookmobile Day provides an opportunity for any library that has had bookmobile service in the past to communicate that legacy to the public. There are some wonderful photographs to incorporate into an exhibit about the heritage and contribution of the bookmobile to the expansion of public library service in the United States. The image of the Washington County (Maryland) Free Library's first motorized bookmobile shown above is from the Wisconsin Historical Society's International Harvester Company digital collection.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Presidential Libraries Exhibit

I usually participate in a couple of national level philatelic exhibits featuring parts of my collection of postal librariana each year. On Friday my philatelic exhibit on Presidential Libraries and Museums will go on display at the American Philatelic Society's AmeriStamp Expo 2010 in Riverside, California. The show runs February 19-21 at the Riverside Convention Center. The exhibit consists of six frames of 16 pages each featuring the presidential libraries and museums administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. It is entered in the Display Division which allows some non-philatelic material to be included in the exhibit. In addition to many special event and first day covers related to the libraries and museums in the exhibit, there are library dedication programs and invitations to special events. Signatures of Presidents Truman, Ford, Carter, and Clinton on items in the exhibit are included. I first showed the exhibit on a non-competitive basis as a three frame exhibit at the American Philatelic Society's show in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2005 where one of the first day of issues ceremonies for the presidential libraries stamp took place. The Riverside show will be the first time the exhibit has been shown competitively at the national level. I also have a three frame non-competitive exhibit at the Riverside show featuring America's Philatelic Libraries and Museums. If you live in the area stop by. Admission is free. There are many other exceptional philatelic exhibits on display as well as a large number of stamp dealers.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oldest Overdue Notice?

Any library that lends its books or other materials for use outside of the library must have a system for insuring the safe return of those materials. The Library Company of Philadelphia, America's oldest lending library, had an early system under which a member of the library signed a loan slip promising to pay five pounds if the book borrowed wasn't returned to the librarian undefaced. I'm not sure which library mailed out the first overdue notice, but high on the list of things most ephemeral must be overdue notices. In my quest for postal librariana one of the kinds of items I appreciate most are government issued postage pre-paid postal cards. The United States Post Office Department began issuing these cards in 1873 and they were an instant success with the public, with the business community, and with libraries. For one cent which paid for the card and the postage, a library could transact a variety of library related tasks including the mailing of overdue notices. The postal card shown here was used by the Memorial Hall Library in Andover, Massachusetts to mail an overdue notice to Mr. E. L. Barnard of Andover on December 27, 1873. I will make the claim that this is the oldest mailed overdue notice still in existence for a United States library until I am proven wrong. The card is signed by Ballard Holt, the first librarian of the Memorial Hall Library. Holt did double duty as both the librarian and the janitor of the library. The amount of the overdue fine was two cents per day. The overdue book is numbered 633.13, an apparent Dewey Decimal Classification number. However, although Dewey had submitted his classification scheme for consideration by the Amherst College Library where he worked in May of 1873, it was not until 1876 that it was published. The Memorial Hall Library is still in existence and its history can be found HERE. Evidently the library doesn't charge overdue fees now except for DVDs.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lincoln and A Nation of Readers

John Hotchner, a nationally prominent philatelist and columnist for Linn's Stamp News, recently attacked the historical integrity of one my favorite postage stamps of all time. It is the 1984 "A Nation of Readers" stamp which depicts Abraham Lincoln appearing to be reading a book to his son Tad. The image on the stamp is based on an actual photograph. In reality Lincoln and his son are viewing an album of photographs. Hotchner who just completed a term on the Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee of the United States Postal Service indicates that if he had been involved, the stamp would have never been issued. Basically, his argument is that the stamp implies a lie and therefore is historically inaccurate. Although this bothers me somewhat, it doesn't diminish my appreciation for the stamp or the message it communicates. The stamp was created to support the efforts of the Library of Congress' Center for the Book to help build a nation of readers. In addition to its use by the Library of Congress, the "A Nation of Readers" slogan was also used as the National Library Week slogan in 1985. The image of Lincoln and his son was selected to communicate the slogan and it does so very well. There is also, of course, the beauty of the stamp itself. It was designed by Bradbury Thompson, one of America's greatest graphic artists. Thompson also designed the 1982 "America's Libraries" stamp and the 1982 "Library of Congress" stamp. As part of my interest in postal librariana I have collected and exhibited illustrated envelopes and other items related to the "A Nation of Readers" stamp. In my explanations about the stamp I have, of course, accurately pointed out that Lincoln and his son are viewing an album and not reading a book. More information about the stamp and the Library of Congress connection is located HERE.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Membership Law Libraries

After my post on "Surviving Membership Libraries" , David McFadden of the Leigh H. Taylor Law Library of the Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles contacted me in regard to surviving membership law libraries. He noted in specific that the Social Law Library of Boston was founded in 1803 as a membership library and continues as a dues-supported library. I had been aware that there had been a number of these libraries at one time but not that any had survived. I recalled that I had a receipt from the Law Library Company of Philadelphia that was dated March 14, 1825 (see above). After a Google search for the Law Library Company of Philadelphia I found out that the library, founded in 1802, continues in existence under the current name of Theodore F. Jenkins Memorial Law Library and that it considers itself to be America's first law library. I was delighted to find out from the library's web site that the history of the library has been well documented in a variety of formats by library director Regina Smith. Thanks David for providing me with the incentive to check out another kind of membership library.

Friday, February 12, 2010

ALA's Book-buying Committee

The American Library Association appointed a Committee on Book-buying in 1903 (it's initial name was Committee on Relations with the Book Trade and later Committee on Book Prices). From 1903 through 1906 the Committee consisted of three prominent public library administrators. They were Arthur E. Bostwick of the New York Public Library, John Cotton Dana of the Newark (NJ) Public Library, and Bernard C. Steiner of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, MD. The Committee provided advice on the purchase of books primarily to small public libraries. In its first three years it issued 29 "bulletins" on postal cards like Bulletin No. 5 which is shown above. These cards went out to 3,000 librarians either personally or through institutions such as state library commissions. The bulletins were also published in all major library periodicals. In the instance of Bulletin No. 5 it was distributed to the the New York State Library School in Albany which was established by Melvil Dewey. Note that the postal card was classified according to the Dewey Decimal System (025.2) by the library school. Bulletin No. 5 provides advice on purchasing used books through auctions and recommends the use of several prominent book lists and publications to assist in building a good library collection. The Committee continued in existence for several decades. The postal card is from my collection of postal librariana and the information about the Committee came from Vol. 1, No. 1 (January, 1907) of the Bulletin of the American Library Association (now American Libraries).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Carnegie Corporation Centennial

The Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911. It will be celebrating its centennial next year, and has already begun the celebration process by creating the Carnegie Blog and a new logo. Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation, has a video message about Carnegie tied to the centennial on the Corporation's home page. A history of the Carnegie Corporation is located HERE. Coincidentally, the 175th anniversary of Andrew Carnegie's birth is this year. His actual birthday is November 25. Both of these important Carnegie anniversaries combine to present a wonderful opportunity for the Carnegie Corporation and the library community to honor and celebrate Carnegie's library legacy. Carnegie's legacy to the American library community is impressive. The hundred's of grants to communities and colleges for library buildings are the most visible and tangible legacy. A lesser known contribution was a $320,000 grant to the American Library Association from the Carnegie Corporation on September 14, 1917 for the purpose of building camp libraries to serve our armed forces during World War I. The Carnegie Corporation provided several million dollars in financial support to the American Library Association in the 1920s and 30s. In 1926 it made a grant of $1,350,000 to the University of Chicago for the establishment of an advanced library school. It has funded a variety of library related studies including a major study of library education that was published under the title Training in Library Service in 1923. The Corporation also made a two year $25,000 grant to the American Library in Paris in 1923. In 1999 the Corporation distributed $15 million to libraries to help celebrate the centennial of the Carnegie grant to New York City for branch libraries. Most recently the Corporation has funded "I Love My Librarian" awards. A history of the Carnegie Corporation's Library Program can be found HERE.
Here's an idea for celebrating the Carnegie legacy - how about creating a Carnegie Libraries in America Project based on the model of the
Carnegie Libraries in Iowa Project. A major contribution to this concept would the digital conversion of the microfilm records relating to the Carnegie grants for public and academic library buildings which are located at Columbia University. Unfortunately all the printed records were purposefully destroyed, something which makes a collector of postal librariana cringe.
Click HERE to see my personal tribute to Carnegie for his 175th birthday.
To help celebrate the 100th anniversary of Andrew Carnegie's birth, the Carnegie Corporation distributed Carnegie's framed portrait to all Carnegie libraries in America in 1935. One of those portraits is shown above.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Orphans' Nine Commandments

I have just completed reading The Orphans' Nine Commandments by William Roger Holman and I highly recommend this memoir of a retired librarian's formative years. I became aware of Bill Holman and his memoir from Chuck Whiting's excellent blog Bibliophemera. I won't attempt to improve on Whiting's review of the book which ends with the following statement: "The reward in the reading is the triumph of the spirit with threads of hope for love and understanding woven into an achievement of family and success, against overwhelming adversity in the formative years." Whiting has several recent posts about Holman but his introduction to Holman came in a blog post about the Austin Book, Paper & Postcard Show which sounds like its something I would love to attend. Holman after "overwhelming adversity in the formative years" went on to become a public library administrator (Galveston, San Antonio, San Francisco) and completed his library career in 1993 at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. Holman and his wife Barbara are now publishers under the imprint Roger Beacham, Publisher.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dr. Richardson and Princeton

Each year I peruse the Dictionary of American Library Biography (DALB) and its two supplements to identify those librarians (and others) who are celebrating a significant birth anniversary in that year (100, 125, 150, etc.). Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ernest Cushing Richardson (1860-1939), noted Princeton University librarian and scholar. The entries in the DALB are consistently well written, and this is certainly the case for the Richardson entry which was written by Lewis C. Branscomb. Branscomb has also published a book length biography of Richardson entitled Ernest Cushing Richardson Research Librarian, Scholar, Theologian 1860-1939 (Scarecrow Press, 1993). Richardson began his relationship with Princeton in 1890 when it was named the College of New Jersey and left in unhappy circumstances in 1925, some 35 years later. Richardson was an authority of library classification, cataloging and bibliography. He implemented his own (Richardson) classification system at Princeton which moved the library from the "fixed location" to the "relative location" system of shelving books. Richardson was very active in the American Library Association and served as its president in 1904-1905. As chairman of ALA's Committee on Cooperation he was an advocate of cooperative use of printed catalog cards. Princeton was one of the first libraries to subscribe to Library of Congress printed cards when they became available in 1901. He was a strong supporter of brief catalog entries and implemented a "title-bar" printed catalog at Princeton. In reading Branscomb's DALB entry it is clear that Richardson was ahead of his time in many respects and his views and approach to library administration led to his departure from Princeton. He joined the Library of Congress at age 65 and began work on "Project B" which was essentially the improvement and expansion of the union catalog of the Library of Congress. When Project B started the catalog contained 1,500,000 titles. At the end of the project it contained 7,000,000 titles representing 15,000,000 volumes. Branscomb considers this Richardson's greatest contribution to librarianship. There is an extensive entry about Richardson on the Rare Book Collections @ Princeton Blog. The postal card above which was signed by Richardson and mailed to the Library of Congress in 1909 is part of my collection of postal librariana.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Surviving Membership Libraries

Benjamin Franklin referred to the Library Company of Philadelphia which he helped found in 1731 as “the mother of all North American subscription libraries”. Although the mother has survived for 279 years, most of her many children have long since disappeared. There are a few survivors, however, and they deserve recognition for their tenacity and longevity. The libraries have been referred to by a variety of names but the term "membership library" is the umbrella that they have most recently been grouped under. In the 250 year club are the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Redwood Library and Athenaeum which is pictured on the postcard and postal card above, the New York Society Library, and the Charleston Library Society. A good list of other surviving membership libraries is located on the website of the New York Society Library. For the most part, these libraries have had to adjust their mission in order to survive. A good example of this is the Mercantile Library in New York City. It is now The Center For Fiction with the additional explanation "Founded in 1820 as the Mercantile Library". The membership libraries are independent cultural institutions and with the exception of the Redwood Library and Athenaeum have been overlooked by the United States Postal Service. The Redwood Library was honored for its 250th anniversary in 1999 (2 years late) with a pre-paid postal card. The Library Company of Philadelphia was overlooked on both its 250th anniversary and its 275th anniversary. Colleges and universities are routinely honored on postal cards on their 200th anniversary by the United States Postal Service. So it seems only fitting that these few membership libraries receive similar treatment. I have previously advocated for a postage stamp honoring public libraries. The postcard of the Redwood Library shown above is also a Tuck postcard which I discussed in a previous post.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

When the American Library Association established its website, I thought it was a great idea. A national website aimed at the general public that promotes advocacy for and interest in libraries. I also like the use of the word "love" in connection with libraries. Some think this is a little corny, but I think it describes a level of feeling toward libraries that is shared by many. Those who share this feeling are those most likely to go to bat for libraries. I have pointed out the connection between a love of libraries and a love of library history in a previous post. A few years ago, the Wisconsin Library Association initiated an effort to harness library lovers in the political process with its I Love Libraries & I Vote campaign. With all of this in mind, I was delighted when I was asked to do an article about Carnegie libraries for the website. That article is now linked to the the site's home page.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Library deltiology

Deltiology is the hobby of collecting and studying postcards. I have discussed library postcards before on this blog and often use postcards to illustrate posts. As I have mentioned before there are tens of thousands of library postcards so I have limited my personal collecting to certain specific categories of postcards. However, I am always on the lookout for the more unusual library postcards regardless of the category. Sometimes I find these cards on eBay but it is more fun to find them by searching through the offerings of postcard dealers at postcard shows. I am fortunate that the Madison, Wisconsin area has two great postcard shows each year sponsored by the local postcard club. I attended one of those shows this past weekend, a great activity on a cold winter day. One of the things that I noticed at the show was that there are more and more dealers who have a "library" category designated in their offerings. This tells me that there must be a growing number of people who are interested in library postcards. I found the postcard shown in this post at the postcard show that I attended this weekend. It is a Tuck's postcard which was published by the British publisher Raphael Tuck & Sons which was founded in 1866, but didn't start publishing postcards in a big way until the start of the "Golden Age" of postcards in 1899. The postcard shown is an "Oilette", a category of Tuck postcards that was based on original oil paintings. This painting is by a Prof. M. Schaeffer and it depicts a scholar in a German library. It is a used postcard mailed within Germany on June 22, 1916. The Tuck company facilities were destroyed in a bombing attack during World War II which included its archives and original art work. More about the collecting of library postcards can be found HERE.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Library Black History

February is Black History Month. African Americans have made a significant contribution to the development of libraries in America. American Libraries has developed a timeline of that contribution. "A Chronology of Events in Black Librarianship" can be found HERE. My path crossed that of Arna Bontemps, a notable African American writer who served as Librarian of the Fisk University Library in Nashville, Tennessee from 1943-1966,while I was working part-time at my first library job at the public library in Nashville, Tennessee. Bontemps who is pictured here was serving as a trustee of the public library. His son was also a part-time employee of the library. There is an Arna Bontemps Museum in Alexandria, Louisiana. I am hopeful that at some point Bontemps will be featured on a postage stamp in the Literary Arts series of the United States Postal Service. Other possibilities for a librarian or librarians to appear on a postage stamp including Augusta Baker are located HERE. In 1965 I met with Jesse Carney Smith, another notable African American librarian, for an interview related to my application to the University of Illinois library school. Smith was the first African American to receive her doctorate from the library school at Illinois. When I met with Dr. Smith she was librarian of what is now Tennessee State University but replaced Bontemps at Fisk University when he retired in 1966. Smith wrote Notable Black American Women which was published in 1992. The period 1961-1965 when I was attending George Peabody College in Nashville was a turbulent period in race relations in that city. The Nashville sit-ins and related protests which began on February 15, 1960 (fifty years ago this month) continued during this period. For a native Tennessean, it was a period of personal growth and understanding. The image of Arna Bontemps is from the Library of Congress Memory collection.