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.

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