Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Carnegie's Wisconsin Legacy - An Exhibit

"Andrew Carnegie's Wisconsin Library Legacy - An Exhibit of Memorabilia Featuring Wisconsin's Carnegie Libraries" will be on display at the Middleton Public Library (WI) for the month of September. November 25th will be the 175th anniversary of Carnegie's birth. Sixty Wisconsin communities were the recipients of 63 public library grants from Andrew Carnegie. In addition, two academic institutions also received Carnegie library grants. Fourteen of these Carnegie buildings have been razed, 28 are no longer used as libraries, but 23 are still being used as libraries. Most of those being used as libraries have been expanded and in some cases they are the smaller part of the expanded library. A number of Carnegie buildings have been repurposed as historical museums, and others have become office buildings. Wisconsin has the only Carnegie building serving as a bed and breakfast (Ladysmith). One former Carnegie is now a private residence (Superior, East Branch). For public libraries, Wisconsin communities received a total of $1,045,511. For the two academic libraries it received $104,000. Wisconsin ranked seventh among the states in the number of communities receiving grants for public libraries. A total of 7 grants were received in 1901, the first year that communities in Wisconsin received Carnegie grants. The East Branch of the Superior Public Library was the last Carnegie library constructed in Wisconsin (1917). The exhibit at the Middleton Public Library includes postcards depicting 62 of the 65 Wisconsin Carnegie libraries. The exhibit also includes more than 30 souvenir china pieces along with souvenir spoons and paper weights. The exhibit is sponsored by the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center, a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation. The curator for the exhibit is Larry T. Nix. The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center maintains a section on its website devoted to Wisconsin's Carnegie libraries. This post is also being published in Wisconsin Library Heritage Center blog.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Demcourier, Magazine for Librarians

In 2005 DEMCO, the well known library supply company headquartered in Madison, WI, celebrated its centennial. As part of that celebration it published a book entitled Honoring A Century of Service - The Story of Librarians & DEMCO 1905-2005 by Raymond M. Olderman. Far from being a boring corporate history, the book does indeed tell the story of both librarians and DEMCO during this hundred year period. One of the stories in the book is about Norman Bassett who became owner of Demco Library Supplies in 1931 and the free magazine for librarians he created in 1932. The magazine's name Demcourier came from two librarians who won a contest to name the magazine and as a result received $10 each. Initially the focus of the magazine, was on practical information for librarians but it evolved more and more into a literary magazine with each issue devoted to a single literary figure. I recently acquired the Autumn 1939 issue (cover shown above) and it is devoted to Louis Untermeyer. In this issue, Bassett, who edited the magazine, apologetically tells readers that the magazine has become so popular that DEMCO is going to have to limit its distribution to those who purchase at least $10 in library supplies each year from the company and those who pay a subscription fee of 50 cents a year (returned if $10 is spent with the company). Bassett was a model of the best in relationships between library vendors and the library community. He became active in both the Wisconsin Library Association and the American Library Association. In 1932 at the conference of the Wisconsin Library Association he arranged an auction of autographed copies of books to raise funds for scholarships for library school students. As a result a Scholarship Committee (which continues today) was established with Bassett as its chair. During World War II the cost of paper forced the suspension of the magazine in 1943 and its publication was never resumed. This article was published simultaneously in the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Blog.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Library Ephemera

As I've noted in a previous post I compiled a philatelic exhibit on the history of the Library of Congress and its use of the mail for StampShow 2010 of the American Philatelic Society in Richmond, VA earlier this month. I received a silver medal for the exhibit which was somewhat below my expectations, but also in my awards packet was a certificate from the Ephemera Society of America expressing its "heartfelt gratitude" for my use of ephemera in the exhibit. My exhibit was entered in the Display Division of the exhibits at the stamp show. This category of exhibits allows the use of non-philatelic items as well as traditional philatelic items such as postage stamps and envelopes. The use of non-philatelic ephemera in a philatelic exhibit helps enrich the story told in the exhibit and also makes it more interesting to the viewer. Of course both postage stamps and envelopes are ephemeral in nature themselves. Library ephemera like other ephemera consists of items that are primarily intended for short term use. These items often help paint a picture of society and its institutions, including libraries, that is more realistic than more substantial and long lasting artifacts. One of the pages on the blog BiblioBuffet has a nice explanation of ephemera and what it includes. I've developed pages on my Library History Buff website featuring the following types of library ephemera: bookmarks, library cards, envelopes, postcards, postal cards, trade cards, and stock certificates. Bookplates are more long lasting but are somewhat ephemeral. One of my favorite blogs related to ephemera is Bibliophemera.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Library Scripophily

Membership libraries which required the purchase of stock or payment of a subscription fee preceded free public libraries. Library stock certificates for these libraries are very collectible items. Ronald Rayman in an article entitled "Taking Stock: Financing Libraries in the 19th Century in the November 15, 1982 issue of Library Journal discussed these stock certificates. He indicated that library related stock certificates were uncommon, and that a dealer in stock certificates had indicated that only about one certificate in 10,000 might be a library issue. The collecting of stock certificates is part of a hobby called "scripophily". The Mercantile Library Company of Philadelphia was founded in 1821under the name "Philadelphia Library Association".  It started out as a subscription library but started issuing stock in 1826. The Library was quite prominent for a period but faded in the twentieth century. It eventually became part of the Free Library of Philadelphia and operated as a branch library for the business community.  The branch closed in the late 1970s. Many of its former books can be found in the used book and rare book market.  This stock certificate is dated May 21, 1864 and has a revenue stamp affixed. Revenue stamps were introduced during the Civil War to help pay for the war.  More library stock certificates can be seen HERE.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Library of Congress Mail Exhibit

A good chunk of my time for the last several weeks has been putting together a 10 frame (160 page) philatelic exhibit on the Library of Congress and its mail which I call "America's Library - The Library of Congress". The exhibit will be displayed at the American Philatelic Society's StampShow 2010 in Richmond, Virginia on August 12-15. This is the largest stamp show in the United States. I've been exhibiting various aspects of my postal librariana collection at national level stamp shows since 2003. My most recent exhibits have been a ten frame exhibit entitled "America's Public Libraries and Their Forerunners", a six frame exhibit entitled "America's Presidential Libraries and Museums", a four frame exhibit entitled "America's Libraries - The Stamp", and a three frame exhibit entitled "America's Philatelic Libraries and Museums". I've been planning the Library of Congress exhibit for some time and this year I finally got around to doing it. The exhibit begins with a "Historical Overview", continues with "Library Mail", moves on to "Copyright and the Library of Congress", continues with "Library Services", then comes "Library Collections", followed by the "1982 Stamp", and concludes with "Bicentennial Celebration". There are close to 300 postal and other paper artifacts in the exhibit ranging from an 1814 postal wrapper with a notation "particulars of burning of Washington by British" to souvenir first day covers from the Library's bicentennial. From both a library history and postal history perspective the most meaningful aspect of the exhibit are the large number of examples of outgoing and incoming library mail over the history of the Library especially after 1870. One interesting aspect of incoming Library of Congress mail after 1901 is the required date stamping of all mail. A Mail & Delivery Division sorted and delivered all mail. At one point there were as many as five deliveries a day. Some examples of the date received hand stamps are shown above. If you're in the Richmond area later this week, drop in and take a look.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Special Information at LC in WW2

The Division for Special Information was established in the Library of Congress in the summer of 1941 for the purpose of analyzing information and data bearing on national security. This meant obtaining and analyzing documents and publications originating in hostile nations. Neutral nations such as Ireland assisted the Library of Congress in obtaining some of these publications. The Library of Congress worked closely with the Office of Strategic Services, a predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency, in this endeavor. The Division of Special Information grew to include 208 employees. In 1943 the unit moved from the Library of Congress to the Office of Strategic Services. Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish was an active player in the U.S. World War II effort as it related to information and served as Chairman of the Committee on Defense Information. In one of those odd ironies as it relates to freedom and defense, the United States Post Office ruthlessly destroyed tons of books, periodicals, and other documents coming into this country from adversarial nations during World War II. This resulted in libraries in the United States including the Library of Congress losing access to a significant aspect of the information record for that period. This interesting story is discussed at length in the book The Nervous Liberals: Propaganda Anxieties from World War I to the Cold War by Brett Gary (Columbia University Press, 1999). The Library of Congress also has an interesting online exhibit Freedom's Fortress about the Library of Congress during World War II. The envelope above was mailed from Ireland in June of 1942 and includes censor marks from both Ireland (on the reverse) and the U.S.