Monday, May 31, 2010

Library of Congress War Memorial Tree

The Library Journal of January 1, 1921 reported on the planting of a memorial tree at the Library of Congress on December 7, 1920 to honor four Library of Congress employees who lost their lives in World War I. The ceremony was presided over by Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam. There were 89 Library of Congress male employees out of a total of 215 that enlisted during the war. The memorial tree still survives on the grounds of the Library of Congress Jefferson Building. The photographs above are from takomabibelot's Flickr photostream. There have, of course, been other library employees who have lost their lives in war while away from their library jobs during wartime. I am aware that both the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library have acknowledged such sacrifices of their employees during World War II. I am interested in finding more information about war memorials for library employees.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Two Librarians and the Internment of Japanese Americans

"On the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941 a way of life ended for all persons of Japanese ancestry residing in California. Their communities and the very existence they had known were abruptly, and with a grim finality, terminated by the mass uprooting and exile of all men, women, and children of Japanese descent." "The attack on Pearl Harbor not only drew the United States into war, but within six months resulted in the detention of over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry by the United States government. Of this number, 70,000 were citizens of the United States by virtue of jus soli, a status they had acquired by being born in the United States of America." The quotations above are taken from an extensive online article in the Journal of San Diego History about the experiences of Japanese American residents of San Diego in the Poston Camps of the Colorado River Relocation Project in Arizona. The envelope above was the stimulus for my exploration of one of the more shameful episodes in American history. As a result I learned about the roles of two librarians in this regretful episode. The first librarian is identified on the envelope above. She is Ethel M. Manning and she was in charge of the Central School Library located at Poston Camp 2. Manning, a former employee of the California State Library, was employed by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) which was established to administer the relocation camps. The Central School Library served all three of the Poston camps. The second librarian is Clara E. Breed who at the time of the relocation was the Children's Librarian at the San Diego Public Library. Breed went on to become Director of the San Diego Public Library, and in 1983 wrote Turning the Pages: San Diego Public Library History 1882-1982. In her book Breed writes the following about the impact on the young Japanese users of the San Diego public Library: " Most of the Japanese children had been good readers and regular borrowers from the main library Children's Room. When they came to the library to return their last books and surrender their cards, they were given stamped postal cards and told, 'Write to us. We'll want to know where you are and how you are getting along, and we'll send you some books to read.' 'OK,' they answered, with a brief brightening of sober faces. As long as the war lasted, packages of new books, publisher's review copies, were mailed regularly to Santa Anita or Poston. Letters and occasional gifts -a carved wooden pendant or a corsage of crepe paper - came back in gratitude." A book Dear Miss Breed (Scholastic, 2006) has been written by Joanne Oppenheim about the role Clara Breed played in this period. A collection of over 300 letters received by Clara Breed can be viewed online at the Japanese American National Museum. The Smithsonian Institution has developed an online lesson plan for school children around the Clara Breed letters. The inscription signed by Clara Breed which is shown above came from my copy of Turning the Pages.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Maryland Bookmobiles 1952

This clever brochure in the shape of a bookmobile promotes bookmobile service in Maryland in 1952. Maryland was the birthplace of mobile library service in America. I have a tribute to the bookmobile located on my Library History Buff website.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fremont Rider, Editor-Publisher-Academic Librarian-Dewey Biographer

Yesterday was the 125th anniversary of the birth of Arthur Fremont Rider (1885-1962). I didn't want to let this anniversary pass without some acknowledgement of Rider's contribution to librarianship. Although Rider is often linked to his well known mentor Melvil Dewey, his own achievements are exceptional. They are well recorded in the Dictionary of American Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978) by Wyman W. Parker. Rider attended the New York State Library School (1907) founded by Dewey and then worked with Dewey at the Lake Placid Club on a Revision of Dewey's Decimal System. There followed a very successful career in publishing. He didn't actually start his library career until 1933 when he became Librarian of Wesleyan University Library in Middletown, Connecticut. Although a history of the Olin Memorial Library at Wesleyan omits any mention of Rider, he was responsible for expanding the size of the library's collection from 174,000 volumes to 389,000 volumes during his 20 year career at the library. To help deal with this growth in the collection, Rider implemented a somewhat controversial compact book storage system which sometimes involved shaving off parts of books. Rider was the inventor of the microcard, another device created to deal with the growth of academic libraries. This article in the Association of Research Libraries Newsletter goes into more detail in regard to Rider's contribution to academic libraries. Rider was the founder of the Godfrey Memorial Library, a genealogical research library. He was also the creator of the American Genealogical-Biographical Index. Back to Melvil Dewey. In 1944 Rider's highly favorable biography of Melvil Dewey was published by the American Library Association.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Alexandria Library Civil Rights Sit-In, 1939

On August 21, 1939 five young black men between the ages of 18 and 22 walked individually into the Alexandria, Virginia "whites only" public library and asked for a library card. When they were refused they walked to the stacks selected a book and sat down quietly at a table and began to read. The police were called and they were arrested for disorderly conduct. This was the first civil rights sit-in in a public facility in America. It was organized by Samuel Tucker, a mostly unheralded civil rights activist. This story reminds us of one of the darker sides of library history. This situation didn't just exist in Alexandria, Virginia. It was prevalent throughout the Southern states. By the time I started my first professional library job at the public library in Charlotte, NC in 1967, the situation, fortunately, had changed drastically. At the Charlotte library facilities were open to all and there was an aggressive outreach campaign to reach all parts of the community with library services. I was in Alexandria recently and admired their impressive main library building which I'm sure can now be used by anyone. Extensive coverage of the Alexandria Library sit-in can be found on the Alexandria Black History Museum web site. A nice article about Samuel Tucker can be found HERE. Interestingly, very little about this historic event can be found on the Alexandria Library web site. I became aware of this story through the special event envelope produced by Pushin' the Envelope Limited Edition Cachets which is shown above. I have information on how a library can go about producing souvenir envelopes such as this one HERE.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Carnegie Library for Sale in Duluth

For less than the cost of a small condo in a big city you can buy a restored Carnegie Library building in Duluth, Minnesota. The Duluth News Tribune reports in an article that the owners of the Carnegie Library building are offering it for sale for $862,000. The building generates revenue by renting office space. This sounds like a pretty good deal. All of the hard lifting has already been done. A listing for the property can be found HERE. A previous web article about the restoration of the building along with photographs can be found HERE. The former Carnegie Library building in Superior, Wisconsin just across the bridge from Duluth hasn't been so fortunate. It's a vacant building in search of a purpose. Thanks to Paul Nelson for a heads up on this story. Paul has an excellent blog which he calls Retiring Guy's Digest. Paul scours the Internet for stories on "libraries, publishing, technology, politics, social issues, and more". Click HERE for some of Paul's posts on Carnegie libraries. The postcard of the Duluth Carnegie Library which is shown above is from my collection.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Manchester's Historic Public Library Building

I find postcards depicting the interiors of libraries particularly appealing, especially when library users are shown. This postcard shows the interior of the Carpenter Memorial Library in Manchester, New Hampshire. It is unusual to see this many library users depicted on a postcard. The building still serves as the Main Library of the Manchester City Library. The building was dedicated as the Elenora Blood Carpenter Building in 1914 in memory of the wife of Frank Pierce Carpenter who funded its construction. A nice history of the library is located HERE. The history's location on the library's web site meets my "two click" criteria for online library histories. After reaching the library's web page, one click on "About" or "About Our Library" and one more click on "Library History". Every library should have a short history of the library on its web site.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lester K. Born and the Library of Congress

The envelope (cover) above was mailed to Dr. Lester K. Born in Berlin on November 30, 1948 while he was working with the Reparations and Restitution Branch of the Office of the Military Government, U.S. Zone. The return address on the back of the envelope indicates that it was mailed by Dr. Ulrich Wendland. Wendland served as the director of the Gdansk Archive in Danzig from 1941-1945 and is credited with helping to save parts of the archive in the last days of World War II. After his post-war work in Berlin, Born joined the staff of the Library of Congress where he held several important positions. Interestingly, however, an action which Born took while working for the Military Government in Berlin was responsible for an investigation of the Library of Congress in 1997 for possible acquisition of books and manuscripts that should have been restituted to the victims of the Holocaust. Born allegedly wrote a memorandum in the late 1940s while at the Offenbach Archival Depot in Germany which suggested that members of the Library of Congress Mission in Germany had inappropriately removed items from the Archives for the Library's collection. The result of the investigation was that the Library of Congress Mission had acted appropriately and that "the restitution of books to their proper owners was handled with diligence, care, and respect, and characterized by close attention to existing regulation". The investigation took place long after Born's career at the Library of Congress had ended. More on the investigation and the Library of Congress Mission in Germany can be found HERE. Born's positions at the Library of Congress included serving as Special Assistant on the Microfilm Program, Coordinator of Microreproduction Projects, and Head of the Manuscript Section of the Descriptive Cataloging Division. Born played an important role in the development of the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections at the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Spofford's Book Palace

On a recent trip to Washington, D. C. I was able to make a quick visit to the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, one of many visits I have made over the years. The building never fails to be awe inspiring. The person most responsible for bringing about the construction of this magnificent building was Ainsworth Rand Spofford, the sixth Librarian of Congress. Spofford referred to the building as the "Book Palace of the American People". I scanned the first image shown above from the Harper's Weekly issue of February 27, 1897. It shows the crowded conditions in the old Congressional Reading Room in the Capitol just before the move to the new building. Spofford actually appears in the illustration. He is the tall bearded man walking from the right. The second image is the cover of a folder of postcards of the library. It calls the building "The World's Most Beautiful Building". The final image is a picture of the Great Hall which I took on my recent visit. It's a shame that at least one of the major buildings of the Library of Congress couldn't have been named for Spofford. After all, Spofford had more to do with making the Library of Congress the world's greatest library than did Jefferson, Adams, or Madison. More about the buildings of the Library of Congress can be found HERE.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

British Isles Bibliophilately

For philatelists, London is the place to be in 2010. The London 2010 Festival of Stamps is well underway, and a major stamp show began there on May 8th. As noted in my post on April 26, the world's first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, went on sale in London 170 years ago this month. I have put together a web page featuring postage stamps related to libraries of the British Isles as a salute to this important philatelic anniversary. The postage stamp above was issued in 1966 by Ajman. It features Winston Churchill in front of the British Museum at a time when the museum included what is now the British Library. The Museum still contains one of the most elaborate library reading rooms in the world. The British Library which is home to one of the world's most extensive collections of postage stamps is an active participant in the London 2010 Festival of Stamps and has scheduled a number of activities for this occasion.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Marketing Library History in Sheboygan

For me attending a conference of the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries (WAPL), a division of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) is like walking into a bar called Cheers. There are lots of longtime friends and "everybody knows your name". These days my name is mostly associated with library history, and that was why I was in Sheboygan, Wisconsin on Thursday and Friday of this week. At a conference with the theme “Anchoring the Past, Setting Sail for the Future”, I was there to help anchor the past with a program which I called “Turning Your Library’s History into a Public Relations Asset”. The conference was held at the Blue Harbor Resort, the anchor to a major harbor development, right on beautiful Lake Michigan. Dick Nelson, the conference program chair, had to twist my arm a little to get me to do the program. Not that I would actually pass up on an opportunity to promote library history, but when competing with five other programs in the same time slot I wasn't optimistic about the size of the audience I would be talking to. With past programs about library history I have sometimes ended up talking to a very small choir of like minded individuals. In this instance, that turned out not to be the case. The size of my audience was a respectable percentage of the 300 plus conference attendees.
In any case to hedge my bets and to ensure that the preparation for my presentation was not wasted, I had taken this opportunity to enhance the
website of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center (WLHC) by creating three new web pages. One of my responsibilities as Chair of the Steering Committee for the WLHC is maintaining the website. This also enabled me to avoid using technology onsite in my presentation (something I hate), and enabled the audience to avoid taking copious notes on my words of wisdom. This approach also allows those of you reading this post to benefit from the presentation without being there. Since a library has to have researched and compiled some form of a library history in order to turn it into a public relations asset, the first web page supporting my presentation deals with Researching and Writing a Library History. I want to acknowledge ALA's Library History Round Table, Bernadette Lear, and other members of the WLHC Steering Committee for much of the content on this web page. The second web page is about the core message of the program "Marketing Library History", and the final web page is focused on "Celebrating Anniversaries".
Attending the WAPL Conference was a great opportunity to talk to old and new friends. The reception on Thursday night at the Mead Public Library was a wonderful event. The library's outstanding facility includes many interesting spaces and artifacts. Among them is a portrait of Andrew Carnegie from their old Carnegie facility (shown on the postcard above). I'm hoping to take advantage of some of their display cases for an exhibit later in the year. While in Sheboygan I also picked up a vintage public library book box which WAPL Conference Chair David Weinhold had assisted me in obtaining via Craigslist. On the way home I swung up to Menasha to pick up a library history exhibit featuring the Tabard Inn Library, the Booklovers Library, and Wisconsin Library Memorabilia. All in all a great couple of days for a library history buff.
Note: This entry was also posted on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center website.