Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Japanese Postcard from St. Louis 1904

I recently purchased a Japanese postcard on eBay that was mailed from St. Louis, MO on October 20, 1904 to a Mrs. Alice Stevens at the Library of Congress. I have an extensive collection of postal items mailed to and from the Library of Congress and this seemed like an interesting addition to the collection. After all, its not every day that you find a Japanese postcard mailed from a location within the United States. The postcard has significance to a library history buff and collector of postal librariana in that it was mailed by a librarian attending the 1904 American Library Association conference in St. Louis. George Eberhart has done an excellent job of recounting the ambience and significance of this conference which took place in conjunction with the St. Louis World's Fair (Louisiana Purchase Exposition). The conference ran from October 17 to October 22. The personal message on the back of the postcard from someone with the initials S. B. P. reads in part: "If I didn't do the Fair I am sure it will entirely "do" me. But it's fun if one takes it leisurely and the A.L.A. is all right." The postcard came from the Japanese Exhibition at the Fair. The postcard is stamped with one of the stamps which is part of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition postal issue of 1904. It also includes a receivers mark made by the M. & S. Division of the Library of Congress. As Eberhart points out in his article, the American Library Association had a major exhibit at the Fair which was located in the Missouri Building. I have written a previous post about that exhibit. The Library of Congress also had a separate exhibit at the Fair which was located in the U. S. Government Building. That exhibit included a large model of the Library of Congress building of 1897, now known as the Jefferson Building. This was the first direct participation of the Library of Conference in one of the large international expositions.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"@" and the ALA

National Library Week is April April 11-17 and for the 13th straight year the "@" symbol will be a prominent part of the slogan for this annual promotion by the American Library Association (ALA). This year the slogan is "Communities thrive @ your library". In 2001 ALA launched a major multi-year public relations campaign tied to "The Campaign for America's Libraries" using the "@ your library" theme. In 2003 "@ your library" became a registered trademark of ALA with heavily prescribed allowable and un-allowable uses. I'm not terribly enamored of the continued use of the "@" symbol as a public relations device for promoting libraries. I'm more of a "Libraries change lives" kind of guy. I'm not sure if ALA will be allowed to continue to use the "@" symbol in any case. It has just been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. Daniel Soar has written an interesting piece about the "@" symbol in the London Review of Books. For a philatelic tribute to National Library Week along with a list of previous National Library Week slogans click HERE. What's your favorite library slogan?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Charles Everett Rush 1885-1958

Today (March 23) is the 125th anniversary of the birth of Charles Everett Rush. Rush began his library career as a library assistant at Earlham College in 1904 and retired as Director of the Library of the University of North Carolina in 1954. In between he held a number of library administrative posts, both public and academic. He directed the public libraries of Jackson, MI; St. Joseph, MO; Des Moines, IA; Indianapolis, IN; and Cleveland, OH. He served as Associate Librarian of Yale University and Director of Libraries for the Teachers College of Columbia University. Rush took a leave as Director of the Indianapolis Public Library in 1918 to work for the Library War Service of the American Library Association (ALA). Rush was active in ALA and other library associations and served as Vice-President of ALA (1931-32). A biographical entry for Rush by Robert L. Logsdon appears in the Dictionary of American Library Biography. A photograph of Rush is located HERE. The American Library Association Archives contains some of Rush's papers. The envelope above was mailed from the Yale University Library to the Stadtbiliothek in Frankfurt, Germany on January 30, 1935 while Rush was Associate Librarian.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spencer Iowa's Carnegie Window

The Spencer Public Library in Spencer, Iowa has become famous because of a cat named Dewey. But long before there was a cat named Dewey, there was a Carnegie library building in Spencer. Like Dewey, the Carnegie is no longer around to please or inspire. It met the wrecking ball in 1970, but a special architectural detail of the building still survives. That architectural detail is the leaded glass window with the word "Carnegie" which was above the entry to the library. The window is now in the possession of Paul Brenner, a resident of Spencer, IA. Paul is interested in finding our if this is a unique artifact or if something similar was used in another Carnegie library building. The architectural firm that designed the Spencer Carnegie building was Patton & Miller of Chicago, a firm that designed many libraries in the Mid-west. Placing his name on the building was not a condition for receiving a grant for a library building from Andrew Carnegie.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Western Library Association

The American Library Association (ALA) was founded in 1876. In its early years it was primarily oriented to the Northeastern states with its greater concentration of population and libraries. It was not until 1881that ALA ventured out of the East, holding its annual conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. Only forty six people attended that conference. The difficulty of travel was a major reason for the low attendance. A growing interest in library meetings at the local and state levels where travel was less of a factor led F. J. Soldan, librarian of the Peoria (Illinois) Public Library, to issue a call for a convention of librarians in the Western states. That convention took place in Springfield, Illinois on November, 22-23, 1881. It was presided over by William F. Poole, librarian of the Chicago Public Library and President of ALA in 1885-1886. As a result the interest expressed at that convention, the Western Library Association was formed "supplementary to the American Library Association". Arrangements were made to meet again in Indianapolis in October, 1882, but a second meeting was not held until December 3, 1884 in Rock Island, Illinois. Arrangements were again made to meet in Indianapolis, this time in October 1885, but there is no record that another meeting was ever held. In the 1890s state library associations were created at a rapid pace across the nation starting with the New York Library Association in 1890. The Illinois Library Association was founded in 1896. Information about the Western Library Association was found in Katharine L. Sharp's Illinois Libraries first published in 1906. The unused pre-stamped envelope above is for the Co-operative Committee of the Western Library Association with a Peoria, Illinois return address. It is a small reminder of this short-lived association which was evidently the first association of librarians created after the American Library Association.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Princess Grace Irish Library

In recognition of St. Patrick's Day, this post features a Monaco postage stamp which commemorates the twentieth anniversary of the Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco. It was issued on January 29, 2004. The library's website contains the following statement: "The Princess Grace Irish Library was opened in November 1984 by His Serene Highness The Sovereign Prince Rainier III of Monaco — as his tribute to the attachment Princess Grace (1929‑1982) felt for her Irish origins. Operating under the aegis of the Foundation Princess Grace, the Library is situated in the former family home of the late Countess Brame-Gastaldi, a short walk from the Palace on the Rock of Monaco."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Circulating Library Trade Cards

In the late 19th century Americans began collecting a variety of souvenirs and souvenir like artifacts. These collections were stimulated by the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Trade cards which advertised a business and included an attractive illustration were highly collectible. One of the businesses that used trade cards to advertise were circulating libraries. Circulating libraries were for-profit rental libraries that were started in the United States in the second half of the 18th century. They were an alternative to the subscription and membership libraries that preceded free public libraries. I have previously discussed Mudie's Select Library, a circulating library in England. The definitive book on circulating libraries is David Kaser's A Book For A Sixpence: The Circulating Library in America (Beta Phi Mu, 1980). The trade card for the Lewis A. Jillson's Circulating Library and News Depot in South Providence, RI is shown here. The Trade Card Place is a website which contains extensive information about trade cards and the current collecting of those cards. I have assembled a modest collection of circulating library trade cards, some of which are depicted HERE.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Woodworking and Libraries

One of the pleasures of publishing a library history website and blog is being contacted by someone seeking more information about a topic or commenting positively on your efforts. Recently I was contacted by Ray McInnis who indicated that, like me, he is a retired librarian who spends part of his time on the internet writing about his interests. Ray describes himself as an "amateur woodworker and scholar of woodworking history". He maintains a website which reflects his interest in woodworking history and records his efforts to write an online history of woodworking. The connection between Ray's interest in woodworking history and my interest in library history relates to the role played by the Minneapolis Public Library (now merged with the Hennepin County Library) in developing the Index to Handicrafts which began as an in-house index file in the 1920s and was later published as a printed index by Faxon beginning in 1936. McInnis discusses the Index to Handicrafts and other reference sources on woodworking history here. In that section of his website he also highlights a 1922 article in the Vocational Education Magazine which discusses a cooperative effort between the Minneapolis Public Library and the Dunwoody Institute (now the Dunwoody College of Technology) to provide library support for the Institute. This was at a time when the outstanding librarian Gratia Countryman led the Minneapolis Public Library and initiated many outreach efforts. There is also a section on "Woodworkers Manuals in Public Libraries" on the McInnis website.
The first image shown above depicts a traveling library bookcase that was used in Dunn County, Wisconsin in the 1890s. The bookcase is now located in the Russell J. Rassbach Heritage Museum in Menomonie, Wisconsin. The second image is a replica of the bookcase created by an amateur woodworker for an exhibit at the Menomonee Falls Public Library .

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pass it On: America's Library Heritage

I was delighted to learn that the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) of the American Library Association (ALA) is sponsoring the first Preservation Week May 9-15, 2010. That response might be expected from someone who has a website and blog that promotes "the appreciation, enjoyment, and preservation of our library heritage". Preservation of library collections is a worthy goal that is commonly accepted throughout the library community. So it is an ongoing source of personal frustration that the library community appears to have so little regard for the preservation of its own heritage. The theme for the ALCTS Preservation Week is "Pass it On". It is a great theme and can also be considered a plea from library history buffs and library historians everywhere to do your part in passing on your library's history and our collective library heritage. At the bottom of the Preservation Week website is a list of partners and sponsors that include the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), ALA, and the Library of Congress. These three library organizations are the ideal organizations to provide a leadership role in preserving our library heritage. Indeed, IMLS with its Connecting to Collections project has provided one model for how this could be done. The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is providing a state level model for promoting and preserving our library heritage. Our library heritage consists of archives, artifacts, architecture, and the memory of those librarians and library supporters who have handed down the legacy that is today's American library community. There are lots of ideas on the Preservation Week website that can be used to highlight and promote your library's heritage. Why not undertake some of them this year.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Happy Birthday Arthur Bostwick

It is not often that someone with a Ph.D. in Physics from Yale University becomes a public librarian, but that was the case with Arthur E. Bostwick (1860-1942). Bostwick was born on this date (March 8) in 1860 making this the 150th anniversary of his birth. Bostwick's career as a public librarian is described by library historian Donald G. Davis, Jr. in the Dictionary of American Library Biography. After a stint as a high school teacher and as an editor he became chief librarian of the New York Free Circulating Library in 1895. The New York Free Circulating Library was merged with the newly created New York Public Library in the same year. After supervising branch libraries for the New York Public Library, Bostwick served as director of the Brooklyn Public Library from 1899 to 1901. He returned to the New York Public Library in 1901 in the capacity of Chief of the Circulating Department, a post he held when the postal card above was mailed on December 3, 1902. By 1909 Bostwick was overseeing the largest circulating library in the world. In 1909 he became director of the St. Louis Public Library, a post he held for the remainder of his career. Active in the American Library Association, he served as its president in 1907-1908. Bostwick went to China in 1925 as a representative of the American Library Association. His contribution to library development in China as a result of that visit was documented by Priscilla C. Yu and Donald G. Davis, Jr. in a 1998 article for Libraries and Culture. Bostwick was the author of a number of books including The American Public Library which was published in four editions. A photograph which includes Bostwick can be found here in the digital collections of the American Library Association Archives.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Charles Martel's Classification System

Charles Martel (1860-1945) was the architect of the Library of Congress Classification System. He was born on March 5, 1860 making today the 150th anniversary of his birth. Martel began his career at the Library of Congress on December 1, 1897 shortly after the opening of the magnificent new building now known as the Thomas Jefferson Building. Martel worked under J. C. M. Hanson, head of the newly created Catalog Division of LC. The sequence of events leading to the creation of the Library of Congress Classification System is well documented in the Martel entry in the Dictionary of American Library Biography which was written by James Bennett Childs and John Y. Cole. Herbert Putnam was appointed Librarian of Congress in 1899. There was little doubt at that time that the classification system used by LC was inadequate, but Putnam felt that it was desirable to use an existing classification system as its replacement. Melvil Dewey was approached about expanding his decimal system but he was not interested in adapting it for a large library like the Library of Congress. Martel and Hanson convinced Putnam that a new classification system was needed. The system they developed was influenced to a certain extent by the classification system of Charles Ammi Cutter. The LC Classification System is widely used by college and university libraries. Martel later served as chief of LC's Catalog Division and assisted the Vatican in developing its cataloging code. He died on May 1, 1945.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Roosevelt Bears at the Boston Public Library

Seymour Eaton was the founder of the early 19th century Booklovers Library and the Tabard Inn Library. He was also the author of numerous books including The Roosevelt Bears: Their Travels and Adventures, the inspiration for the "teddy bear". I've collected a number of artifacts relating to his two libraries, but recently I came across this postcard which is based on an illustration in The Roosevelt Bears: Their Travels and Adventures. The illustration is by V. Floyd Campbell and it features the two bears sitting in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library. The caption under the illustration reads: "They took the books and down they sat, To read Emerson and the Aristocrat." The postcard was mailed on September 6, 1908 from Boston to Maine.