Tuesday, November 30, 2010

American Library in Paris Celebrates 90th Anniversary

The American Library in Paris is celebrating its 90th anniversary with a special display featuring images, books, and archives from its 90 year history.  The display will run from today (Nov. 30) through January 30, 2011. The envelope above is one of two that I have that were mailed by the American Library in Paris. I did a previous post on the other envelope on January 20 of this year. The American Library in Paris is one of the legacies of the American Library Association's Library War Service during World War I. A history of the library is located on its website. The envelope above was mailed on November 20, 1934 to the Card Division of the Library of Congress.  There is a Library of Congress date received stamp showing that it was received on November 30, 1934.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thankful to Carnegie on Thanksgiving

Andrew Carnegie's 175th birthday will fall on Thanksgiving Day. This is an appropriate day for those 1412 communities in the United States that received funding from Carnegie to build 1679 public library buildings to be thankful to Carnegie for the generosity which impacted their communities in such a positive way. Although many of the buildings no longer exist and others have been repurposed, all of the buildings, for a significant period, were a place where lives were changed for the better. Many of the Carnegie library buildings, some after over a hundred years, still function as public libraries. My first library job was in a Carnegie building that served as the central library for Nashville, TN. I also spent many enjoyable and profitable hours in the Carnegie building that housed the George Peabody College Library in Nashville, TN. To help celebrate Carnegie's 175th birthday, I put together a tribute on the Library History Buff website, and also prepared an exhibit on Andrew Carnegie's Wisconsin Library Legacy which is on display this month at the Meade Public Library in Sheboygan, WI.  It was previously on display in September in Middleton, WI. There are also a number of other posts on this blog about Carnegie libraries. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Globe Wernicke Bookcases and Bookplates

I came across this promotional item for the Globe-Wernicke Co. at the CHICAGOPEX stamp show this weekend.  It is not a perfect fit for my postal librariana collection but it was too neat an item to pass up. The top part of the item is a detachable postcard which can be mailed to the Globe-Wernicke Co. in Cincinnati to receive free bookplates and and a booklet "The World's Best Books". The objective of this advertising ephemera is probably to get your name and address so one of their "Bookcase Agents" can try to sell you one or more bookcases. The bookcases are advertised on the bottom of one side of the card which includes the statement, "An Individual Globe-Wenicke Bookcase Encourages Self Culture". News-Antique.com has a lengthy article about the Globe-Wernicke Company and its stackable bookcases. These bookcases originated in the 1890s and were extremely popular for the early half of the 20th century. They continue to be highly desirable to antique collectors.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

British Museum Library Reading Room Ticket

The piece of library ephemera shown above has no overt identification text or markings. In fact, it was miss identified as being from an American library when I purchased it.  The text at the top of the item reads "Permission to use the Reading Room will be withdrawn from any person who shall write or make marks on any part of a printed book, manuscript, or map belonging to the Museum."  The word "Museum" was the clue which pointed to it not being what it was purported to be. A notation at the bottom of the item indicated that 100,000 were printed in 1884 which meant that it had to be a pretty active library/museum. I wondered if it could perhaps be from the British Museum Library, and further investigation proved this to be the case. I have a copy of Gertrude Burford Rawlings' The British Museum Library (H.W. Wilson Co., 1916) which describes the process for obtaining books in the British Museum Library. It reads: "To obtain a book from the general library the reader must transcribe from the catalogue, on one of the tickets provided, the name of the book and its author, its date and its pressmark. to this ticket he adds his signature, the date, the letter of his table, and the number of his desk, and then places it in a box at the centre counter.  He may have to wait for his book from twenty minutes to half-an-hour, or even more ... ."  This description matches up perfectly with the information on the item which is a "ticket" for requesting books. On this ticket, the press mark (location) is 2500-a, the reader is F. H. Stoddard, and the Reader's Seat is C. 1. F. H. Stoddard turns out to be a Professor of English at New York University who was evidently doing research at the British Museum Library. Information on the back of the "ticket" indicates that after the ticket is submitted it is retained by staff until the book is returned at which time the ticket is given back to the reader who in this instance obviously retained the ticket as a record of his research. A more substantial verification of the origin of the ticket can be found in this publication which was found on Google by Ben Abrahamse. The Library of the British Museum was spun off as the British Library in 1973. A brief history of the Museum and its Library can be found HERE. I've had the pleasure of visiting both the old Reading Room of the British Museum and the new building of the British Library. I have a web page on my Library History Buff website which includes library related postal items from the British Isles. Stamps related to both the British Museum and the British Library are included.

Friday, November 19, 2010

William S. Dix, Princeton Librarian

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of William Shepherd Dix (1910-1978), Princeton University Librarian (1953-1975).  Dix was serving as President of the American Library Association when I attended my first ALA Conference in Atlantic City, NJ in 1969.  It was a volatile and exciting time in ALA with lots of calls for change. Dix was credited with calming the troubled waters within ALA during this period. Unlike some of the previous library notables highlighted in this blog, there is a considerable amount of information about Dix on the Internet. His papers are located at the Mudd Manuscript Library at Princeton and they have a nice biographical sketch along with a photograph of Dix which is shown here. Dix is included in the Supplement to the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1990). There is also a nice entry in the World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services (ALA Editions, 1993). All of the information about Dix leads to the conclusion that he was one of the most highly regarded librarians of his generation.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Celebrating Two Years of Blogging

Today marks the end of two years of blogging by me on The Library History Buff Blog. Time flies ... . This is blog post number 260. Highlights of this past year were the selection of LHBB as one of "10 Library Blogs to Read in 2010" by LISNEWS, its selection as second in the Quirky Library Blogs category of Salem Press' best library blogs competition, and its inclusion by George Eberhart on The Librarian's Book of Lists' "Top 10 Library Blogs" list. It's nice to get recognition for the blog, but I'm most grateful for the approximately 1,700 unique visitors who visit the site each month.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Frederick Leypoldt, Founder of Publishers' Weekly and Library Journal

Today is the 175th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Leypoldt (1835-1884). On May 17, 1876, Frederick Leypoldt, Melvil Dewey, and Richard Rodgers Bowker met in the offices of Publishers" Weekly and mutually agreed to pursue a conference of American librarians and a library journal. Both of these objectives were accomplished in that same year. The first issue of Library Journal (under the initial title of American Library Journal) was dated September 30, 1876 and the conference of librarians which resulted in the founding of the American Library Association took place in Philadelphia in October, 1876. Dewey is often given credit for these accomplishments, but both Leypoldt and Bowker also deserve much credit. Leypoldt had successfully established Publishers' Weekly as a major source of information about books and their publishing in America, and although Dewey was the first Managing Editor of Library Journal, Leypoldt was its publisher and source of financial support. Leypoldt also published the American Catalogue and Index Medicus. Leypoldt was a poor businessman and his publishing endeavors, including Library Journal, often resulted in financial loses. His close associate R. R. Bowker was more financially astute and later purchased Publishers' Weekly. The R. R. Bowker Company developed into a major American publishing house with emphasis on the book and library trades. The envelope above was mailed in 1889, five years after Leypoldt's death. The relationships between Leypoldt, Dewey, and Bowker are fascinating. They are dealt with in several publications. These include E. McClung Fleming's R. R. Bowker: Miltant Liberal (Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1952), Edward G. Holley's Raking the Historic Coals: The A.L.A. Scrapbook of 1876 (BETA PHI MU, 1967), and Wayne A. Wiegand's Irrepressible Reformer, A Biography of Melvil Dewey (ALA, 1996).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Membership Law Libraries Revisited

I was recently contacted by Mikhail Koulikov, Reference/Research Librarian at the New York Law Institute, in regard to a post I made last year about membership law libraries. Because of the acquisition of a couple of artifacts related to these kinds of libraries, I had already been planning another post about them. Mikhail informed me that there is still a viable role for legal libraries that are  supported largely by membership fees. He has made a case for their continuing role in an article entitled "The membership library answer to new law firm realities" in the Spring 2010 issue of PLL Perspectives, the newsletter of the American Association of Law Libraries' Private Law Libraries section. In addition to to the New York Law Institute Library, Mikhail notes two other examples of legal membership libraries, the Baltimore Bar Library and San Francisco's Mills Law Library. Previously noted were Boston's Social Law Library and Philadelphia's Jenkins Law Library which receive additional funding from the state. The two artifacts shown above are a 1884 envelope mailed by the New York Law Institute Library and an 1865 certificate for one share in the Social Law Library.  There were many of these libraries in the 19th century that haven't managed to survive. Laureen Adams and Regina Smith have written about the transition from membership law libraries to public law libraries in "The Evolution of Public Law Libraries".  Congratulations to those membership law libraries have found a way to remain relevant in the 21st century. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Addison Van Name, Yale Librarian

Addison Van Name (1835-1922) was born 175 years ago today. Happy birthday Addison. Van Name served as Librarian of Yale University from 1865 to 1905, a forty year period. He built up the library's collection from 44,500 volumes to almost a half a million items.  He played a major role in the construction of two library buildings at Yale. Van Name also attended the meeting of librarians in Philadelphia in 1876 at which the American Library Association was founded. He played an active role in ALA and served on its Council for several years. Van Name is listed in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978). Yale University Library has little about its previous librarians or its heritage on its website which is regretful. There is a mention of the Chittenden Library (now Chittenden Hall) which Van Name helped design on the University's website but there is no indication of Van Name's role in building what was an extraordinary library at the time. An article appeared in Library Journal from the Yale Alumni Weekly about his death in 1922 which recounts his contribution to Yale University and its library. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Texas State Library & Archives - the Good & the Bad

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is celebrating the completion of a $20 million renovation of the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building today. Author and historian H. W. Brands will speak at the ceremony, which will take place on the front steps of the de Zavala building, at 1201 Brazos St., across from the east side of the State Capitol. The de Zavala building was dedicated as a national Literary Landmark last year. The State Library & Archives also celebrated its centennial in 2009. A short history of the State Library & Archives is located on its website. The Texas State Library and Archives, A History 1835-1962 by David B. Gracy II was published in June of this year by the University of Texas Press.

The current issue of Libraries & The Cultural Record includes an article by Pamela R. Bleisch entitiled "Spoilsmen and Daughters of the Republic: Political Interference in the Texas State Library during the Tenure of Elizabeth Howard West, 1911-1925". This is a compelling article which paints a picture of an extremely dedicated librarian who is dealt a terrible hand of cards. Paid almost nothing, West promoted county library service, library service to the blind, and accommodated use of the state library by African Americans. Almost destitute after paying for extensive travel with her own funds, West resigned when the Texas State Legislature funded a sinecure on the State Library staff for a daughter of Sam Houston. With little public complaint, West accepted a position as Librarian of Texas Tech University. For her article, Bleisch was awarded the Justin Winsor Prize for the best essay in library history in 2009-10 by the Library History Round Table of the American Library Association.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Soldiers' Free Library

A library story for Veterans Day. The Soldiers Free Library was founded on October 15, 1862 in Washington, D.C. by Elida Rumsey (1841-1919) and her future husband John Allen Fowle. The library opened with 1,500 books and 800 magazines. Both Rumsey and Fowle were actively involved in relief work for Union soldiers in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition to their relief work they were accomplished singers and regularly entertained the troops. Because of their popularity with the troops, they were allowed to be married in the Capitol in the Hall of the House of Representatives. The wedding took place on March 1, 1863 in front of an audience of 4,000. A new building for the Soldiers' Free Library was dedicated on the same day they were married. They spent their honeymoon raising money for the library. The library was continued to the end of the war after which the books were turned over to the Y.M.C.A. The envelope shown here has an embossed seal on the flap which says "Soldiers' Free Library - 1862 - Washington, D.C.". The U.S. Sanitary Commission shown in the return address location was a major relief organization that served Union soldiers during the Civil War.

Sources: "Elida Barkley Rumsey Fowle", Notable American Women, 1607-1950 (Harvard University Press, 1971), and The Washington Post, March 2, 1913.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

WI Inducts 5 into Library Hall of Fame

I was pleased to be present when five individuals were inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame during the Awards and Honors Banquet of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) on Thursday evening, November 4, 2010 at the Association’s annual conference in Wisconsin Dells. Former State Senator and Assistant State Superintendent of Public Instruction Calvin (Cal) Potter of Sheboygan Falls was the only living person inducted into the Hall of Fame. Potter was selected for his consistent and effective legislative support for Wisconsin libraries of all types during his 23 year career as a member of the State legislature and for his leadership during his almost five years of service as Assistant State Superintendent, Division for Libraries, Technology, and Community Learning, Department of Public Instruction (Wisconsin's state library agency).

Among the posthumous inductees was Julia Wright Merrill (1881-1961) (See photo). Merrill was a national leader in the extension of public library service. Early in her career she worked for the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. Her national prominence was derived from her work at the American Library Association from 1925 to 1946. At ALA she served in a variety of capacities, and was the first Executive Secretary of the Public Library Association of ALA. Merrill, a native of Ohio, was previously inducted into the Ohio Library Hall of Fame. Other posthumous inductees were Wayne Bassett (1915-1988), H. Vail Deale (1915-2004), and Leah Gruber (1906-1996).

The Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame is a project of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center which is a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Library History Buff's Top 10 Library History Websites

There are a number of top 10 library related lists around. George Eberhart even has a book about them - The Librarian's Book of Lists. I was pleased to be selected as one of the 10 Librarian Blogs to Read in 2010 by LISNEWS. So I thought I would do my bit to promote more good library history websites by identifying what I consider to be the top 10 library history websites. I would be happy to get your nominations for additional sites - just use the "comments" feature below.

The Library History Buff website
What can I say. I have to toot my own horn. A comprehensive library history website with special emphasis on United States library history and library memorabilia (librariana). If you Google "library history", it comes up second out of over 600,000 hits.

The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center
A virtual library heritage center, the only one (virtual or otherwise) in the nation. It also includes the only active library hall of fame in the nation. A model for other states. Did I mention that I was the Chair of the Steering Committee for the Center?

Libraries Today - Canadian Library History
This comprehensive Canadian library history website was created in 1996 and is maintained by Lorne Bruce. It greatly influenced the development of my own library history websites.

South Carolina Library History Project
A great site by the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science to showcase the library history of a state.

The Legacy of Public Libraries in North Carolina
A digital project of the North Carolina State Library focusing on public libraries. A model for other states.

The Library Postcard site of Judy Aulik
Started by Judy Aulik in 2003 (about the same time as my first website), this constantly expanding site is a great effort by an individual to introduce the world to library postcards.

Archives of the American Library Association
A good start with the potential to do great things. More digitization of those wonderful archives please.

Libraries & the Cultural Record (Journal) http://sentra.ischool.utexas.edu/~lcr/index.php
The "Archive" tab leads you to lots of interesting stuff about library history.

Glenn A. Walsh’s Carnegie Library History Site
Links to everything you ever wanted to know about Carnegie libraries.

Carnegie Libraries in Iowa Project (CLIP)
An excellent project of the University of Iowa's School of Library and Information Science. Another great model.

For other library history links go to: