Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New York's Library Week

In 1890 the New York Library Association (NYLA) was established as the first statewide library association in the United States making this year its 120th anniversary. Melvil Dewey played a significant role in the establishment of the NYLA. He also was involved in the creation of New York's Library Week in 1899. Library Week in New York was not created to promote libraries, it was an expanded library conference that included recreation as well as library continuing education. Library Week was initially hosted annually at Dewey's Lake Placid Club in the Adirondacks where attendees could take advantage of the offerings of the resort. It was during Library Week in 1903 that NYLA member Henry M. Leipziger by chance came across a publication of the Lake Placid Club that stated "No one shall be received as member or guest, against whom there is physical, moral, social or race objection." The publication further stated "It is found impracticable to make exceptions to Jews or others excluded, even when of unusual personal qualifications." Leipsizer, a Jew, was outraged and initiated events that ultimately led to Dewey's resignation from his various responsibilities at the New York State Board of Regents including serving as State Librarian. Library Week was hosted at the Lake Placid Club again in 1920 but a controversy relating to Dewey's relationship with women caused a rejection of an offer to hold Library Week in Lake Placid in 1924.

The poster stamp or "cinderella" above was created to promote New York Library Week in 1917 which took place at the Lakewood Farm Inn at Roscoe, New York. NYLA President Edward F. Stevens wrote about the meeting: "Notwithstanding the critical times and the engrossing concerns of country and of an abnormal daily life, the spirit manifest in the membership of the association promises a conference comparable in interest, enthusiasm and attendance to the best Library Week the association has known." Controversy involving the NYLA and Lake Placid arose again over a decision to hold the NYLA Conference in 1969 at Lake Placid.

Wayne A. Wiegand's book about Melvil Dewey Irrepressible Reformer (American Library Association, 1996) provides extensive coverage about Dewey and the Lake Placid Club. Previous blog posts about Dewey and Lake Placid are located HERE and HERE.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Travels of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution

On December 26, 1941, America's most important documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, were transported under armed escort from the Library of Congress in special containers to Union Station in Washington, D. C.. They were then loaded onto a west bound Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Pullman sleeper and were escorted on their journey by Secret Service agents and Chief Assistant Librarian of Congress Verner W. Clapp. At 10:30 a.m. on the morning of December 27, the documents and their escorts were met at the train station by more agents and Army troops and were taken in an Army truck to the Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution remained at Fort Knox until the Fall of 1944 when they were returned to the Library of Congress. All of this took place, of course, in the context of World War II. The two documents had taken an earlier trip on September 30, 1921 from the Department of State to the Library of Congress. That trip took place in the Library's Model-T Ford truck which was driven by Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam. On February 28, 1924 after a dedication that included President and Mrs. Coolidge, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution went on display in a specially designed case referred to as a "sort of shrine". The shrine is shown in the postcard above. In a final journey on December 13, 1952, the two documents were transferred to the National Archives, where they reside today, accompanied by tanks, motorcycles, military bands, color guard, and servicemen brandishing submachine guns. This interesting story was found in the Encyclopedia of the Library of Congress (Library of Congress, 2004) edited by John Y. Cole and Jane Aikin.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bookplates for Libraries

Although I specialize in the collection of postal librariana, my overall collection of librariana includes a wide variety of items. One of those items is library bookplates. I don't specifically seek out library bookplates but I have a nice collection which I have acquired through chance and the generosity of other collectors. I have made several posts to this blog related to bookplates which can be found by searching the blog under, what else, "bookplates". I recently acquired a book entitled Bookplates for Libraries by Edward Hampton Shickell (Roger Beacham Publisher, 1968). This book contains an introduction by William R. Holman and is not about the collecting of library bookplates but about the design of bookplates by and for school, public, and academic libraries. The book contains a large number of examples of well designed bookplates, and the book itself is an excellent example of good book design. I have written a previous post about William R. Holman who publishes under the Roger Beacham imprint. It is a real treat to have this book in my collection with its connection to Bill.

I would be remiss in writing about bookplates and not mentioning the excellent blog Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie published by Lewis Jaffe.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Happy 140th Birthday LC Copyright

On July 8, 1870 President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law the bill centralizing all the functions of copyright in the Library of Congress. Since 1870 the Copyright Office has registered over 33 million claims for copyright. As I reported in my previous post centralizing copyright at the Library of Congress was largely due to the efforts of Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford. The requirement that two copyrighted items be deposited with the Library of Congress has been a major factor in the Library becoming the largest library in the world. The U. S. Copyright Office in the Library of Congress has done an excellent job of documenting its history on its website. A brief introduction to the Copyright Office and its history is located HERE. Numerous links to key documents relating to the history of copyright in the United States and at the Library of Congress are located HERE. An interesting bit of trivia at one link notes that the Copyright Card Catalog (no longer active) is the largest card catalog in the world with 45 million cards in 25,675 drawers. "Placed top to bottom, the individual cards would stretch from San Francisco to Detroit and beyond." My show and tell for this post is a postal card mailed by Thorvald Solberg (1852-1940) to a colleague in Germany on October 27, 1887. Solberg began work at the Library of Congress in 1876 in the Law Library, but he also assisted Spofford with copyright. He became an international expert on copyright, and on July 22, 1897 he was appointed the first Register of Copyrights. In the postal card Solberg indicates that he is sending a copy of his "History of International Copyright in Congress" to his colleague in the mail.