Sunday, October 31, 2010

War Library Bulletin & Books By Mail

Another gift from a Library History Buff blog reader was two issues of the War Library Bulletin of the Library War Service of the American Library Association. Thanks Nancy. The issue featured in this post was Volume I, No. 9, for May, 1919.  The back cover of this issue reprints an advertisement for the Library War Service books-by-mail program that was contained in the Stars and Stripes magazine for May 2, 1919. A note at the bottom of the page indicates that the free mailing service that was in the advertisement was organized in October, 1918, and that one day's mail has brought as many as 2,000 requests for non-fiction to the Paris Headquarters of the Library War Service. General John J. Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.) in Europe had approved the postage free mailing of books through the Army Postal System to make this service possible. The mailing of books by libraries to patrons in the United States had been feasible since 1914 when the Post Office Department first allowed books to be mailed at the parcel post rate. A number of state library agencies implemented such a service. Burton E. Stevenson, ALA's European Representative, was undoubtedly aware of this development in the U.S. when he proposed the service to Pershing.

The photograph on the cover of this issue of the War Library Bulletin shows soldiers using the Chaumont, France Library War Service Regional Library on a March evening. The caption below indicates that more than one hundred men are crowded into the library - "the average attendance between the hours of six and seven of any evening".

Friday, October 29, 2010

ALA WWI Bookmark

One of the benefits of maintaining a blog and a website which feature librariana is that people sometime contact you to find a home for some piece or pieces of librariana that they have collected or retained over the years. Such is the case with the American Library Association Library War Service bookmark featured in this post. Thank you Carol. I was doubly pleased to receive this bookmark since it pertains to both my interest in ALA's role in World War I and my collection of library bookmarks.  The ALA bookmark is basically a plea for books or money to assist ALA in its Library War Service along with a list on the back of the bookmark of all the activities being undertaken by the Library War Service. Two activities related to my postal interests are listed. As indicated on the bookmark, the Library War Service "Distributes the Magazines Given by the Public through the Post-Office Department. More than 5,000,000 copies of periodicals have been placed in the hands of our forces."  Postmaster General Burleson established a program that allowed the public to put a one cent stamp on a magazine and place it in a mailbox. The magazines were then delivered to one of the service organizations including ALA that served the troops. ALA camp libraries were sometimes overwhelmed with the number of magazines they received, and unfortunately many of the magazines were of little interest to the troops. Also on the bookmark is the following: "Has Sent More than a Million Books Overseas and Must Send Millions More. By General Pershing's order books are carried free of postage in the Army Post-Office System of the A.E.F." This last development allowed the Library War Service to implement a books-by-mail program in France and Germany (more on this in a future post).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tormentor of Massachusetts

George H. Moore (1823-1892), the first paid librarian of the New York Historical Society (1849-1876) and later librarian of the Lenox Library in New York City (1877-1892), was also a noted historian in a "new school" of historical study which sought to approach history in a much more non-partisan and objective fashion than had previously occurred. In particular, Moore, in his 1866 book Notes on the History of Slavery in Massachusetts, challenged the prevailing view that Massachusetts had historically opposed slavery. Moore's efforts in revealing "Massachusetts' hypocrisy on the slavery question" resulted in his being referred to as the "tormentor of Massachusetts".  Moore's philosophy of historical analysis is dealt with extensively in the book Slavery, Race, and American History: Historical Conflict, Trends, and Method 1866-1953 (M.E. Sharpe ,1999 ) by John David Smith. As is often the case, I was exposed to this knowledge about an early librarian through my research related to a postal artifact. In this instance the postal artifact was another stampless, folded letter (shown above).  This one was sent to George H. Houghton by George H. Moore in August of 1842.  An unusual aspect of this letter is that it has the "free frank" of a member of Congress. Although the signature used for the free frank is difficult to discern, I'm pretty sure it is for John Randall Reding of New Hampshire who served in Congress from 1841 to 1845.  Moore's home state was New Hampshire.  As he writes this letter, Moore is in Washington, D.C. doing research at the Library of Congress. Houghton and Moore were friends and recent graduates of the University of the City of New York.  Both would be returning for graduate work in the fall. Moore makes reference in his letter to his work at the Library [at the New York Historical Society] where he worked while in school and he wonders if he will be able to "study law" and continue to work at the library at the same time.  George H. Houghton is an interesting figure in his own right and becomes a prominent minister in New York City at "The Little Church Around the Corner". Houghton's church received this designation when an Episcopal priest refused to conduct the funeral service for the comic actor George Holland and suggested they try "the little church around the corner" where Houghton was the minister.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

America's Philatelic Libraries

As I noted in a previous post, libraries devoted to philately, the collecting and study of postage stamps and postal history, constitute a very small group of libraries in the United States. This is also a very diverse group of libraries ranging from small volunteer run libraries to extensive libraries affiliated with larger organizations and institutions. I've been collecting postal items related to these libraries for many years and have a philatelic exhibit devoted to them. In August of 2009 I became a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL) in Bellefonte, PA which has led to an even greater interest and involvement with America's philatelic libraries. I write a column for Philatelic Literature Review, the official journal of the APRL, on philatelic library news. The APRL has recently launched a blog which we are calling Philatelic Literature & Research. I'm one of the co-bloggers for the new blog, along with APRL Director of Information Services/Librarian Tara Murray and David Straight, Contributing Editor of Philatelic Literature Review. The blog will, among other things, provide a vehicle for highlighting the resources and activities of philatelic libraries not only in the United States but around the world.

Today, the Postal History Foundation of Tucson, Arizona and its Slusser Memorial Philatelic Library will be celebrating their 50th anniversary. It is an example of the growing excellence of a philatelic library which started out as purely volunteer effort but now has a trained librarian. I maintain a web page with links to philatelic libraries.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Carnegie Library Birdhouse

As part of my librariana collection, I now have a birdhouse that is designed to look like the Carnegie Library building in Osage, Iowa. The idea for the birdhouse came from noted library historian Wayne Wiegand. As part of the deal with Home Bazaar, the marketer for the birdhouse, part of the proceeds will go to a couple of Wiegand's interests including the Cultural Communities Fund of the American Library Association's Public Programs Office. Wiegand has also negotiated a special price for ALA members of $99 compared to the normal price of $150 (use special code "PLB1" at checkout). The Osage Public Library is one of four Midwest libraries featured in Wiegand’s forthcoming work “Main Street Public Library: Community Places and Reading Spaces in the Rural Heartland, 1876-1956” (University of Iowa Press). The Carnegie building is now used as Osage's City Hall. To get your own Carnegie Library birdhouse go HERE.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Holman's Library Publications

I'm not a serious books arts person although I can see how an interest in this area would grow on you if you didn't exercise restraint. I have, however, been interested throughout my library career in producing good library publications that promote the programs and services of the library. I have previously written about William R. Holman and a book on Bookplates for Libraries that he published under his Roger Beacham imprint. I recently purchased a copy of another Holman book entitled Library Publications which was published in  a limited edition (300 copies) in 1965 when Holman was Director of the San Francisco Public Library. This very large book (15+" by 10+") was designed by Holman's wife Barbara, and has a forward by Lawrence Clark Powell. The book is a work of art in itself but it's primary goal is to provide guidance on how to produce attractive, quality library publications. Examples of good publications are tipped into the book and additional publications are located in a pocket in the back of the book. Powell writes this about the Holmans: "Cultural revolutionaries are mysterious persons. Who they are, from whence they come, and where they will appear, are all unpredictable.  Who would ever have foretold that a young couple out of Oklahoma and Texas would revolutionize the cultural role of the San Francisco Public Library? That is just what William and Barbara Holman have done to this laggard institution, he by his insistence that good books are basic in library service, she by her taste and skill as a designer and printer."  Library Publications is a book with its own collection of printed library ephemera and a nice addition to my librariana collection.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Antebellum Legal Publishing

I recently acquired a folded letter dated January 23, 1843 which was written by John S. Littell, publisher of the  Law Library in Philadelphia. Letters at this time were folded so they could be addressed without the use of an envelope which would require additional postage because of the added weight. In the letter, Littell is apologizing to John W. Andreus of Columbus, Ohio for previously accusing him of not being truthful when Andreus reported that he did not receive the January issue of Law Library. In doing background research on the letter via Google and the Internet, I uncovered several interesting threads to this "library cover story". From an 1834 advertisement for Legal Library, I learned that it was a monthly publication that consisted of reprints of "important British elementary treatises upon Law, in a form which will render them far less expensive than works of this description have hitherto been." Packaging reprinted British monographs as a serial publication allowed them to be sent through the mail (which books could not).  This form of subscription publishing and selling was an innovative practice on the part of Littell. Further digging in regard to Littell led me to a recently published book by Michael H. Hoeflich entitled Legal Publishing in Antebellum America (Cambridge University Press, 2010).  There is enough content from the book available through Google Books and the Cambridge University Press website to more than encourage one to buy or borrow the entire book.  A philatelist will be interested in Hoeflich's assessment of the importance of mail in the development and expansion of legal publishing. Hoeflich writes, "The second great period in the history of the American law book trade really begins in 1851, when postal regulations were changed to permit the secure use of the mails to ship books.  Before this time, books were not explicitly permitted; it was often left to the postmaster in any place whether to accept books or to ban them from the mail.  As a result, the postal service could not be relied upon."  The library historian, book historian, and the printed ephemera collector will be interested in Hoeflich's comments on the difficulty of researching legal publishing during the antebellum period.  He writes, "There are very few remaining business records of antebellum law book sellers and publishers.  These were lost long ago as have most mundane business records.  The printed remains of those businesses, their catalogues, can still be found; but they have, for the most part suffered the fate of most printed ephemera.  They have not been preserved by institutional libraries precisely because they are ephemera."  Hoeflich has established a website in connection to his book, and he has collected some interesting legal ephemera.I'm pleased to have acquired a bit of ephemera that has provided me with the incentive to learn more about antebellum legal publishing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

October is Archives Month

Archives are the life-blood of historians. If the stories of libraries are to be told in the future it is imperative that the archives of libraries be preserved. All too often that is not the case. October is American Archives Month and archives across the nation are taking this opportunity to highlight their collections and their activities. Unlike National Library Week with its well organized and focused national effort, archival institutions take a much more distributed approach with many states and institutions developing their own promotional efforts. The Council of State Archivists has a webpage which highlights some of these efforts. My state of Wisconsin is using the theme "Postcard Wisconsin" to promote Archives Month. The Smithsonian Institution has a particularly aggressive campaign to promote Archives Month this year. That effort includes a 31 day blogathon.

Last year I wrote a post on the American Library Association Archives at the University of Illinois - Champaign-Urbana as part of Archives Month. I consider the ALA Archives to be a major asset in the preservation of America's library heritage and I was somewhat critical of the level of support for this important resource by ALA. As a result of that post, the ALA Archives contacted me to give a more current picture of their activities. Most of the ALA Archives have been relocated to the Archives Research Center (see photo above) at the University of Illinois which ensures that the archives are maintained in a secure climate controlled environment and they are more accessible. They have also opened a dedicated reading room for use by researchers using the ALA archival materials. A map showing the location of the Archives Research Center can be found HERE. I continue my plea for ALA to place a higher priority on maintaining and improving this American library heritage treasure.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mary Eileen Ahern (1860-1938), Public Libraries Editor

Mary Eileen Ahern was born on October 1, 1860, one hundred and fifty years ago today, near Indianapolis, Indiana. So happy birthday Mary Eileen. The primary reason that Ahern is listed in the prestigious Dictionary of American Library Biography (DALB) is that from 1896 to 1931 she was editor of one of the most important library periodicals of that period - Public Libraries, later just Libraries. Public Libraries was started by Library Bureau, Melvil Dewey's library supply company, to provide useful information to "small and new public libraries".  There was a feeling among many small public libraries that Library Journal, the major library magazine of the day didn't do an adequate job of serving small libraries. Melvil Dewey's publication Library Notes which had a similar purpose was incorporated into the new Public Libraries. Mary Eileen Ahern's contribution to the success of the publication was so integral that after her retirement in 1931 Libraries ceased publication making her the first and only editor of the publication.  William Warner Bishop writing in the Library Quarterly in 1944 made these remarks about Ahern: "A warm-hearted Irish girl who had some library experience blossomed into an editor who controlled and made opinion among librarians, particularly of the Middle West.  She was afraid of nothing and of nobody.  Position and reputation meant little to her, and her Irish disposition inclined her to be somewhat impatient of the library "powers" of her day. Her frankness and her independence made a journal of decided influence and value of what was originally intended as a house-organ.  Many people wrote for it who were impatient of the more staid Library Journal.  The history of Public Libraries is a remarkable confirmation of the thesis that character is vastly more important than training or support."  Ahern was selected by American Libraries in December 1999 as one of "100 Most Important Leaders We Had in the 20th Century". The "Prospectus" for the first issue of Public Libraries provides greater detail on its mission.