Friday, December 30, 2011

Sleepy Eye (MN) Public Library Trio

I took advantage of the opportunity to acquire a bookmark for the Dyckman Free Library in Sleepy Eye, MN recently primarily because I already had in my collection of librariana a souvenir china piece and a postcard for the library. I mostly collect library souvenir items for Wisconsin libraries, but a friend had picked up the small china basket which had an illustration of the Sleepy Eye library in an antique store and gave it to me as a gift. I added the postcard from a local postcard show. The bookmark illustration celebrates the 1972 centennial of the City of Sleepy Eye, MN which is named for Chief Sleepy Eye, a Dakota Sioux chief.  The Dyckman Free Library is named for F. H. Dyckman, a local banker, who donated the library building to the city in 1900. The greatly expanded Dyckman Free Library incorporates the original building into its design.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

1956, A Big Year for Public Libraries

As 2011 comes to a close, I wanted to mention a couple of events that occurred in 1956 that had a major impact on the development of public library service in the United States. The first was the publication of Public Library Service: A Guide to Evaluation With Minimum Standards (American Library Association, 1956). This was a landmark publication which basically made the case for larger units of public library service. As stated in the document: "Libraries working together, sharing their services and materials, can meet the full needs of their users. This co-operative approach on the part of libraries is the most important single recommendation of this document. Without joint action, most American libraries probably will never be ale to come up to the standard necessary to meet the needs of their constituencies." In the same year that this blueprint for better public library service was published, the first major federal aid program for public library service, the Library Services Act, was passed by the United States Congress and signed into law. The primary focus of the Library Services Act was to extend and improve library service to rural populations. Statewide plans for accomplishing this were required to receive the federal aid. A number of states including Wisconsin developed state plans that called for the creation of federated public library systems. In Wisconsin, demonstrations of county and regional library service using federal LSA funding led to the eventual passage of of the 1971 (40 years ago) Library Systems Law that has resulted in every citizen of Wisconsin having access to public library service. I have worked in two other states, Tennessee and South Carolina, where statewide public library service was also achieved primarily with the use of LSA and later LSCA funding. Today, the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) under the direction of the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) continues the legacy of LSA started 55 years ago.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Louis Round Wilson, Library Educator

Although he was affiliated directly with only two American library institutions, Louis Round Wilson (1876-1979) had a significant impact on the entire library world. Today is the 135th anniversary of his birth. Wilson became Librarian of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1901 at the age of 25. While at UNC he founded their library school in 1931. His contribution at UNC was significant enough to have the library building at UNC which he helped build named for him. In 1932 he joined the library school at the University of Chicago as Dean. He retired from the University of Chicago in 1942, but returned to the University of North Carolina where he engaged in a variety of post-retirement activities for another 30 years. He died in December, 1979, just days shy of his 103rd birthday. Along the way, he helped found the North Carolina Library Association in which he served as President in 1909, 1920-21, and 1929-30. He was also active in the American Library Association and served as its President in 1935-36. Maurice F. Tauber is author of a biography about Wilson titled Louis Round Wilson, Librarian and Administrator (Columbia Univ. Press, 1967). In his biography Tauber referred to Wilson as the dean of American university librarianship, but indicated that he was concerned with librarianship in all types of institutions. He quoted Robert Burton House who said Wilson was "one of the most constructive persons of his generation in the entire university world."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Library of Congress Ornament

For those who put up and decorate Christmas trees, there are tens of thousands of ornaments to choose from. Libraries on occasion arrange for an ornament to commemorate a special occasion. The one highlighted in this post is from the Library of Congress and it incorporates some of the copper from the original 1897 roof of what is now the Thomas Jefferson Building. A nice keepsake even if you don't put it on a tree. Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

William Frederick Poole, Great American Librarian

There are few American librarians with a more stellar resume than William Frederick Poole (1821-1894), and today is the 190th anniversary of his birth. His professional library career spanned 47 years. He was the head librarian for the Boston Mercantile Library, the Boston Athenaeum, the Cincinnati Public Library, the Chicago Public Library, and the Newberry Library in Chicago. He was recognized for his innovative index to periodicals at the 1853 conference of American librarians, and in 1876 at the library conference in Philadelphia he proposed a plan for making a new edition of that important index even more comprehensive. An active member of ALA, Poole served for ten years as the first Vice-President of ALA and then two terms as President. There is an excellent entry about Poole by William Landram Williamson in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978). Williamson had this to say about Poole: "An imaginative thinker and inspiring leader, William Frederick Poole was one of the great founding librarians of the United States. To his contemporary librarians, one of his outstanding achievements was his contribution in making librarianship a recognized and respected profession. He could make this contribution because he was a man of strength, scholarship, warmth, and dedication." One of the more interesting artifacts in my collection related to Poole is an 1854 membership payment receipt for the Mercantile Library Association of Boston signed by Poole (shown above). I wrote a previous post about another Poole artifact in my collection.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Letter From A Library History Buff

Dan Lester (left) and Larry Nix, The Library History Buff
Holiday letters often receive a bad rap. My wife and I have sent one out for many years and are happy to receive them from others. They sure beat a holiday card with a written or printed signature and nothing else. So here's a holiday letter with some of my library history highlights.

Season's greetings from Middleton, Wisconsin

One of the highlights of my year was a visit with Dan Lester one of the world's great librariana collectors. My wife and I stopped for a visit with Dan on a trip to the Southwest in the Spring. Dan has donated most of his extensive librariana collection for the benefit of two library organizations, but still has one of the largest library postcard collections ever assembled.

A modified version of the philatelic exhibit on the Library of Congress which I showed for the first time last year received a number of awards this year: 4 gold medals, 1 vermeil medal, the American Philatelic Society's Research Award, and the Display Champion Award at the St. Louis Stamp Show. My Presidential Libraries & Museums exhibit received a silver medal and my Library Uses of Melvil Dewey's Postal Card received a silver medal. I made a presentation on my exhibit to the Washington (D.C.) Stamp Collectors Club in conjunction with NAPEX, the D.C. area stamp show in June.

The Wisconsin State Law Library celebrated its 175th anniversary. I was pleased to help out with a presentation on early Wisconsin library leaders and a small exhibit of Wisconsin library memorabilia. My presentation (and that of the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court) was videotaped by the Wisconsin version of C-Span.

Congratulations to the Wisconsin Library Association on its 120th anniversary. I'm Chair of the Steering Committee for the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center. The Center sponsors the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame and we inducted our fourth group of library leaders into the Hall of Fame in November at the WLA's annual conference in Milwaukee.

The Wisconsin Library Memorabilia Exhibit which I curate for the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center was on display at the Hales Corners Public Library to help them celebrate their 35th anniversary and at the T. B. Scott Free Library in Merrill, WI to help them celebrate the 100th anniversary of their Carnegie building.

I put together an online exhibit in honor of the 135th anniversary of the American Library Association.

Melvil Dewey was among many former library leaders with significant anniversaries this year. I have an online exhibit of some of my Dewey librariana to commemorate this occasion.

I served as one of the judges for the 2011 Salem Press Library Blog Awards. I was selected for this task because of the 2nd place finish of The Library History Buff Blog in the Quirky Library Blogs category in the 2010 selections.

The Library History Buff Blog celebrated two milestones this year - its third anniversary and the 400th post to the blog.

I continue to maintain the Library History Buff website although it receives less of my attention new than in the past due to my focus on the blog.

This year was the 60th anniversary of the dedication of the Dag Hammarskjold Library of the United Nations in New York.

Congratulations to the Society of American Archivists on their 75th anniversary. I really like their trading cards project.

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped celebrated its 80th anniversary this year.

This is the centennial year of the New York Public Library's iconic building at 5th Ave. & 42nd St.. I put together an online exhibit of stamps depicting the building for this occasion.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York celebrated its centennial this year.

I'm looking forward to 2012 and the library history celebration opportunities it holds.

Happy holidays to all!

The Library History Buff

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy 125th Birthday Pierce Butler

Another significant December library related birthday. Today is the 125th anniversary of the birth of Lee Pierce Butler (1886-1953), library educator at the University of Chicago and author of An Introduction to Library Science (University of Chicago Press, 1933 & subsequent editions).  Like many library school students of my generation my introduction to Butler's An Introduction to Library Science classic came in my first library science course. I still have my copy of the required text which is  marked up extensively. To get an idea of how long ago this was, it only cost me $1.25. My copy has an introduction by Lester E. Asheim, another well known library educator. Basically, Butler tried to provide a theoretical basis for library science to counter the "simplicity of their [the library profession's] pragmatism". In his introduction Asheim indicates Butler's "little booklet" "seemed dangerously revolutionary to many librarians at the time [1933]".  Hard to believe any library science text could have been considered to be dangerously revolutionary.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy 125th Birthday Althea Warren

Today is the 125th anniversary of the birth of Althea Hester Warren (1886-1958), a former president of the American Library Association (1943-1944) and Los Angeles City Librarian (1933-1947). I learn about significant birth anniversaries of former library leaders from the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978) and its two supplements. The excellent entry in the DALB for Warren was written by Martha Boaz. Warren also served as Head Librarian for the San Diego Public Library (1916-1926). The book Turning the Pages: San Diego Public Library History (1882-1982) by Clara E. Breed (Friends of the San Diego Public Library, 1983) has a nice chapter about Warren and her time at San Diego. For an online biography of Warren by Leeanne Morrow check HERE. Althea Warren's career spanned two world wars and she played a significant role in each. Under Warren's leadership at the San Diego Public Library during World War I, the library provided a wide range of services to the members of the armed forces. These included supporting branch libraries at nearby military bases. During World War II Warren took a leave as Los Angeles City Librarian to head up the national Victory Book Campaign supported by the American Library Association. That effort resulted in the collection of millions of books for men and women in the armed services.  While president of ALA, Boaz indicates that Warren worked hard to get federal aid for libraries and for changes in the ALA organization. One of her major concerns was the discrimination against African Americans in hotels of some cities that hosted ALA meetings. Breed includes several quotes from Warren that reflect her administrative philosophy. I liked this one: "The welcoming attitude of a library staff is fortunately contagious, and once a librarian has rooted out all assistants with drooping mouths and snappy voices, she will find that new employees quickly absorb an equable atmosphere. Never hesitate to discharge the most competent of workers if she is incurably sulky, for one will corrupt a multitude, and only she rightly belongs in our profession who is not only willing, but glad to 'smile off her face and run off her feet for the minimum wage.'"  The postcard above showing the Central Library of the Los Angeles Public Library was mailed in 1942 while Warren was City Librarian.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas in Vladivostok 1918 Revisited

This post is a slightly modified version of a post that I made on Dec. 14, 2008. It's a nice Christmas story about one of our librarian predecessors who went beyond the call of duty.

The caption on the rare postcard above sends Christmas [1918] Greetings from the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia and Library War Service of the American Library Association. In December of 1918, Harry Clemons found himself in Vladivostok, Siberia as the sole representative of the American Library Association Library War Service. His role was to provide library service to the members of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in Siberia. As described in one report of the circumstances on his arrival: "That there were unusual opportunities for library service was apparent. The troops were comfortably housed in winter quarters; the thrill of the war was over and the men wanted to get home." Clemons wrote to ALA War Service Headquarters on December 22,1918, shortly after his arrival: "I hope to be able to send sets [of books] to all the detachments, large and small, of the Expedition during Christmas week. Thus we introduce the short story into the long Siberian night. In my position of 'middleman' I am sure I can send to you and the others who are making the war work possible the grateful Christmas greetings of the Expeditionary Force in Siberia." A report from Clemons about his service in Siberia appeared in the Bulletin of the American Library Association for 1919.  A compilation of Clemons' letters back to the ALA headquarters were distributed to participants of the 1919 ALA Conference in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Greetings of Yule and New Year - Boston Public Library

This bookmark with a seasonal tribute to the Boston Public Library was copyrighted in 1913 by Solatia M. Taylor. I don't know if it was distributed by the Boston Public Library or was sold or given away by Taylor. A neat item for this time of the year, and a welcome addition to both my collection of library bookmarks and my collection of Boston Public Library librariana.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Library of Congress Souvenir Spoon

If you're looking for a last minute Christmas present, I came across one for you to consider on eBay. It is a souvenir spoon for the Library of Congress. It is sterling silver with a colored enamel picture of the Library of Congress. Souvenir spoons are common collectibles and they range from cheesy tourist trap examples to real works of art. Libraries depicted on souvenir spoons are not all that common, but they can be found. I have a small collection with most of them depicting Wisconsin libraries. I have a souvenir spoon for the Library of Congress, but it is not nearly as elaborate as the one on eBay. I think I paid $20 to $30 for mine. The spoon on eBay can be bought for $395. It probably dates from the late 19th century or early 20th century and may be one of the first library souvenir spoons. It's a wonderful piece of librariana, but a little out of my price range.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Happy (belated) 160th Birthday to Melvil Dewey

Love him or hate him, Melvil Dewey (originally Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey) was one of the most fascinating and complex figures in American library history. December 10 was the 160th anniversary of his birth in Adams Center, New York. To commemorate this occasion, I've put together an online exhibit of some of my pieces of Dewey librariana on the Library History Buff website.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Most People on a Library Postcard?

It was the people in front of the combination school and public library building in Hunter, New York that drew my interest in the postcard above. People make any postcard more interesting and that is certainly the case with library postcards. Postcards depicting library buildings without any other features are a little boring. This library postcard has more people depicted (probably the entire school body and faculty and maybe even the library staff) than I have seen outside of a metropolitan area (see this New York Public Library postcard). The Hunter Public Library is a school district public library and is part of the Hunter-Tannersville Central School District. It was established in 1896, and it is unclear how long it was housed in the same building with the school. There is a sign on the right front of building on this postcard which reads "Public Library". 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

10 of My Favorite Library History Books

Over the years I've put together a basic collection of books on library history. I've identified ten of my favorites from this collection. Please note that I'm not saying these books are necessarily the best library history books - just my favorites. Unfortunately several are out of print, although they are usually available via the online used book market. The books are listed in random order.

The Library in America: A Celebration in Words and Pictures by Paul Dickson (Facts On File Publications, 1986. This book is a great introduction to American library history for the non-scholar. Dickson has done a terrific job of putting together a great group of images of library service in America from the founding of the Harvard University Library in 1638 through the publication date of the book. I once proposed to the American Library Association that this book would be a great model for a traveling exhibit on the history of American libraries.

American Library Development 1600-1899 by Elizabeth Stone (H. W. Wilson Co., 1977). This is a fabulous reference book that identifies and describes key events in the history of American libraries and cites good sources for information on these events. It is organized by type of libraries and type of library activities. It has a wonderful bibliography.

Dictionary of American Library Biography edited by Bohdan S. Wynar (Libraries Unlimited, 1978). I am heavily dependent on this book and its two supplements (1990 and 2003) for many of my posts to the Library History Buff Blog. It's a who's who in our library past with entries written by the best of our library history scholars. If you want to be inspired, pick some random entries and they will make you appreciate the legacy that our predecessors have left us. It constitutes the closest thing that we have to a national library hall of fame. The original volume is out of print. It would be great to have a freely accessible digital version of this work placed on the web.

Carnegie Libraries: Their History and Impact on American Public Library Development by George S. Bobinski (American Library Association, 1969). I'm a Carnegie library buff, and this book is the bible of information about Carnegie public libraries in America. Bobinski undoubtedly spent hundreds of hours going through the microfilmed records (the printed records were deliberately destroyed by the Carnegie Corporation) of Carnegie grants to communities to compile this book. I'm thankful for his efforts. I would like to see the microfilmed records (they are in the Columbia University Libraries) digitized and made available on the web for more convenient access.

Irrepressible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey by Wayne A. Wiegand (American Library Association, 1996). The most thorough, best researched, and well written of several Dewey biographies. I came away from reading it with a much better understanding of one of our most innovative and complex former library leaders.

Books for Sammies: The American Library Association and World War I by Arthur P. Young (Beta Phi Mu, 1981). I'm very interested in the Library War Service of the American Library Association during World War I, and this is the basic text on that effort by ALA.

Raking The Historic Coals: The A.L.A. Scrapbook of 1876 by Edward G. Holley (Beta Phi Mu, 1967). There are several factors that make this book one of my favorites. I was privileged to know the author Ed Holley who was a great person and an outstanding library historian. The collection of letters and postal cards transmitted between library leaders prior to the 1876 conference which resulted in the establishment of the American Library Association on which the book is based constitutes one of the most important artifacts in American library history. The preface and introductory chapter are must reads for any library history buff or historian. Incidentally, the actual scrapbook which had been misplaced for several years was recently rediscovered.

For Congress and the Nation: A Chronological History of the Library of Congress by John Y. Cole (Library of Congress 1979). There are a number of good histories of the Library of Congress. I'm partial to this one because I relied on it heavily in developing my philatelic exhibit on the Library of Congress.

The Library Without The Walls: Reprints of Papers and Addresses selected and annotated by Laura M. Janzow (H. W. Wilson Company, 1927). One of several books in a series called Classics of American Librarianship edited by Arthur E. Bostwick. This one includes a wide selection of writings which deal with outreach efforts of public libraries in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It's very interesting to have the perspectives of contemporary librarians during this period.

The Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown: Civil Rights, Censorship, and the American Library by Louise S. Robbins (University of Oklahoma Press, 2000). I like this book because it does an excellent job of telling the story of an unknown public librarian in Bartlesville, OK who became nationally prominent as a result of standing up for what was right even though it went against the prevailing attitudes and beliefs of her community.

Final note: Selecting just ten of my favorite library history books was tougher than I thought. There are many more that I could have included. Thanks to all of our library historians, past and present, who have worked so hard to document our library heritage. Please feel free to add some of your favorites to my list via the "comments" feature of the blog.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

70th Anniversary of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, I thought I would share a couple of items from my collection. The postcard above depicts the Library at Schofield Barracks in Honolulu as it would have looked on December 7, 1941 when the attack occurred. Schofield Barracks which was home to the 25th infantry received only minor damage in the attack. The American Library Association played a much smaller role in providing reading material to our service men and women during World War II than in World War I. This was primarily because the Army and Navy considered the provision of library service one of their ongoing responsibilities (one of the legacies of ALA's World War I Library War Service). That there was (and continues to be) an Army run library at Schofield Barracks is evidence of this.  The envelope below was mailed by the Army Press in Atlanta, GA on December 30, 1941 to the Librarian of the Office of the Adjutant General for Indiana in Indianapolis, IN. The envelope promotes the purchase of Defense Bonds in three ways: the postage stamp, the postmark, and a "Remember !! Pearl Harbor" hand stamp. The postage stamp, one of three stamps in the 1940 National Defense issue, indicates four factors necessary for the defense of our nation: Security, Education, Conservation, and Health. The second and third stamps in the set add: Industry, Agriculture, Army, and Navy. One of the most unfortunate and deplorable aspects of the World War II conflict with Japan was the internment of Japanese Americans by the United States government about which I have written an earlier post.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Envelope Seals for German Libraries

Several years ago I acquired a small collection of envelope seals for German libraries.  Some of the seals are shown above along with an envelope which includes one of the seals. Most of the seals are for German university libraries (universitats bibliotheks), and most of the seals depict a heraldic eagle as the dominate feature. There's an interesting typed message on the envelope. It reads: "Hello, Sam! You may already have these. Eunice." I assume Eunice was referring to the stamps on the envelope and that Sam was a stamp collector which is probably why the envelope has been preserved. "Reichstag" on the seal on the envelope which was mailed in 1925 refers to the parliamentary building in Berlin so the seal was for the parliamentary library (pre Nazi era). I was successful in finding a website with some information on the use of German labels on envelopes. These seals are an example of one the many kinds of librariana that someone interested in libraries can collect.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Another Piece of Bookmobileana

I recently added another item to my collection of bookmobileana. It is a badge worn by the bookmobile driver of the Oshkosh Public Library in Wisconsin.  The bookmobile service for the Oshkosh Public Library was discontinued in 2007 due to budget constraints. Based on the fastener on back of the badge, I think it was probably worn on the driver's hat. The vehicle shown on the badge appears to be a bus. It is likely that the company that made the badge supplied badges to bus drivers and they used the same basic design for the bookmobile badge. Not something you come across everyday.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Happy 150th Birthday Electra Doren, Dayton Librarian

December is a big month for significant birthdays for former library leaders. Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Electra Collins Doren whose claim to fame rests primarily with her leadership of the Dayton (OH) Public Library. She has been inducted into the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame and the Ohio Library Hall of Fame.  She has also been inducted into the Miami Valley Walk of Fame. Doren started her career at the Dayton Public Library in 1879 when she was only 18 years old. She became director of the library in 1897. She left Dayton to help start the library school at Case Western in 1905, but returned to Dayton where she was reappointed head librarian in 1913. Kudos to the Dayton Public Library for naming a branch library in her honor and for noting her contribution to outreach services on its website. There's a nice write up about Doren in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978) by Robert E. Kingery.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Happy 135th Birthday George B. Utley

Today is the 135th anniversary of the birth of George Burwell Utley (1876-1946) who served as administrator of several library organizations including the American Library Association (ALA) from 1911 to 1920. Utley was also elected President of ALA in 1922-23. Prior to his service at ALA he was Director of the Jacksonville (FL) Public Library and after his service at ALA he served as Librarian of the Newberry Library in Chicago. During his tenure at ALA the organization was located in the Chicago Public Library, but it was temporarily relocated to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. from 1917 to 1919. This was done so that Utley could serve simultaneously as Executive Secretary of ALA's Library War Service which was under the overall direction of Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam. He was at the Newberry Library from 1920 until his retirement in 1942. The envelope shown above documents Utley's move back to Chicago after his work at the Library of Congress. As a stamp collector Utley would have appreciated this piece of postal librariana.

Friday, December 2, 2011

ALA's WWI Library Sun Parlor in Coblenz, Germany

One of my library postcard collecting interests is postcards that the American Library Association produced to promote its Library War Service during World War I. Most of my postcards depict camp and hospital libraries in the United States. Postcards showing Library War Service activities in Germany and France are rare. I was pleased to add a postcard of ALA's library in Coblenz, Germany (shown above) to my collection even though its not in great shape. It is unused. The postcard depicts the sun parlor of the library, and one of the captions reads, "For men off duty, the sun parlor in the American Library at Coblenz furnishes a comfortable place to look over the newspapers from home."  Another caption reads, "The American Library Association is maintaining a Library at Coblenz, all service being free to the entire personnel of the Army of Occupation." The postcard shows a large rack of newspapers in the background and three soldiers engaged in reading.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

On the Brink of World War II

When the Yale University Library mailed the envelope above it was only days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which precipitated the entry of the U.S. into World War II. The envelope was mailed on December 3, 1941 to the Library (Bibliotheque) of the Universite Libre in Brussels, Belgium.  U.S. mail to Europe was already being examined by censors and the label on this envelope indicates that this was accomplished by Examiner 5141. Belgium had been invaded by Nazi Germany in 1940 and was an occupied country. According to the website of the Universite Libre de Bruxelles the university closed its doors in 1941 to avoid collaborating with the Nazis. The envelope has what philatelists refer to as an auxiliary marking - "Return to Sender Service Suspended". Postal service was suspended by many countries during World War II. The envelope was returned through New York City and has a date stamp of July 28, 1942, almost eight months after it was first mailed. Since the envelope doesn't include any contents, there is no way of knowing for what purpose it was sent. An interesting piece of postal librariana.      

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

John Cotton Dana and "The Men of Letters"

I'm a great admirer of John Cotton Dana (1856-1919), one of our nation's great early librarians. Although Dana is best known in the library profession for his advocacy of library public relations, one of the things that I admire most about him was his sense of humor. I have in my collection a small, four page  publication titled The Men of Letters (Vol. I No. 1, May 1913, Newark, NJ) published by The Elm Tree Press, Woodstock, Vermont. This publication begins with a letter signed by a John Silver that was supposedly published in the Newark Evening News on May 8, 1913. The letter indicates that an organization called "The Newark Men of Letters" has been formed, and that the organization "has no constitution, by-laws, fees or dues, unless duties are dues. Every member is an office-holder and bears a title."  The organization was instigated by Dana and fellow bibliophiles while he was Director of the Newark Public Library. The official titles of the members included: "Captain of the Pirate Crew"; "Long Rifle"; "Thumb Mark Detective"; and "Galloping Dick, Highwayman". John Cotton Dana's title was "The Devil's Admiral". By unanimous vote Treasure Island was adopted by The Newark Men of Letters as the model of all novels for the organization. The coat of arms for the organization which is included on the cover of The Men of Letters (see above) has the motto "Read What You Like". I think the coat of arms would make a great bookplate. Jane Durnell, in an article titled "The Cardelius Syndrome" in the Spring 1976 issue of Imprint: Oregon (Published by the University of Oregon Library), reviewed several escapades of Dana and associates including The Men of Letters. "Cardelius" in the title of Durnell's article refers to a personage created by Dana as an early printer and the writer of a tribute to printing. Subsequently, several letters about Cardelius were published in The Nation magazine as if he were a real person. Durnell also discusses "The Bibliosmiles" and Charles Lummis which I have written about previously. Wayne Wiegand has written about one of Dana's more elaborate hoaxes, "The Old Librarian's Almanack". Let's hear it for library humor, may we all have more of it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Delivery on Day of 1906 SF Earthquake

Natural disasters obviously impact libraries if they are in the vicinity of the disaster. Libraries certainly have not escaped untouched by the multitude of disasters that have occurred in this country in recent years. The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, more accurately described as the California Earthquake of 1906, was especially disastrous to libraries. Some libraries were completely destroyed and many more were negatively impacted by the earthquake and the related fires. It is always interesting to come across an artifact that places a library in the context of a major historical event. I recently acquired a postal card that documents the receipt of a book by the library of the Chabot Observatory (now the Chabot Space & Science Center) in Oakland, California on the day of the 1906 California earthquake.  The postal card was mailed to Robert Schindler in Lucerne, Switzerland on Charles Burckhalter, Assistant in Charge at the Chabot Observatory, on May 3, 1906. The card acknowledges receipt of Schindler's book The Mechanic of the Moon (Published by the author, 1906). Burckhalter writes, "Your little book came the same day as our earthquake, so I have not had time to read, but only to glance over it. It seems, however to be a work of merit." Although Oakland suffered extensive earthquake damage, it escaped the devastating fire that followed in San Francisco. Ironically, Bruckhalter who later became Director of the Chabot Observatory died in September, 1923 shortly after a fire that destroyed nearby homes and threatened the Observatory.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gerstenslager Bookmobile Postcard Ads

For many years the Gerstenslager Company in Wooster, Ohio was synonymous with bookmobiles for public library extension librarians. Although the roots of the company date back to 1860 it was not until after World War II that the company began designing and building custom bodies for specialty vehicles including bookmobiles. One of my postcard collecting interests is bookmobiles and among my collection is a group of cards which include advertising on the back for the Gerstenslager Co. and its bookmobile business. Each of the postcards, of course, has a bright shinny new bookmobile of the front. The advertising on the back is varied, and sometimes surprising. A 1954 card boasts that in 1954 Gerstenslager built 96 percent of bookmobiles built specifically for that purpose and that 1955 looks like it would break that record. A 1956 card takes advantage of the recent passage of the "Federal Aid Program", the Library Services Act, and indicates that if your qualify for that program, Gerstenslager is ready to assist you in your planning. Another ad features the horse drawn Washington County Free Library (Hagerstown, MD) bookmobile, the first bookmobile in the United States, with the information that it has just delivered Washington County's 12th bookmobile (pictured on the front of the card). One ad is somewhat religious in nature and touts the Golden Rule. At some point, Gerstenslager evidently ceased making bookmobile bodies, although it continues to assist in the manufacture of vehicles.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

LHBB Milestones

Today is the third anniversary of the Library History Buff Blog. This is also my 400th post to the blog. I'm pleased with the modest success of the blog. Although my statistical software doesn't measure all of the activity on the blog, it does show that there were at least 27,000 unique visits to the blog in the last 12 months and 40,000 page loads. The blog post to the site that received the most page loads ever was the "Best Library Cover Story Ever" post on April 4, 2011. That post featured the cover shown above which made its way from Spain to the Los Angeles Public Library with only a picture as an address. I'm grateful for the 128 individuals who have signed up as "followers" of my site. I'm also grateful to American Libraries Direct which periodically links to some of my blog posts. Thanks to the members of the Library History Round Table of ALA who put up with my reminders of recent posts to the blog. Finally, thanks to the other bloggers and webmasters who link to the Library History Buff Blog. Now on to year four and more posts.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Union College (NY) Semi-Centennials

I recently became aware that this year was the semi-centennial of the Schaffer Library at Union College in Schenectady, NY. The last event of their year long celebration was a lecture by Jeremy B. Dibbell, writer of the PhiloBiblos blog. This reminded me of a piece of postal librariana in my collection related to the Philomatheon Society of Union College. The Philomatheon Society was one of the student literary societies at colleges and universities that I have written about previously. The item in my collection is a stampless folded letter written in 1848 by a former member of the Society in regard to a circular that he had received announcing a publication related to the semi-centennial of the Society.  The circular also contained an appeal to the alumni of the Society for funding to enlarge the Society's library. The writer of the letter J. Petrie, who was at that time a student at Auburn Theological Seminary, proposes to donate a book (Rational Psychology by Hickok, to be published in early 1849) to the library. He requests two copies of the semi-centennial publication which is available now in digital form from the Internet Archive. The publication indicates that at the time of the semi-centennial there were 115 members of the Society and about 3,000 volumes in the library.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Newark's Transition to a Free Public Library

America's transition from fee based membership and subscription libraries to free (to the user) public libraries occurred over a number of decades starting in the mid-19th century. Sometimes membership libraries ceased to exist because their support base or governance was inadequate. In some instances they transferred their assets to newly created free public libraries, and in others they continued to coexist with public libraries for variable periods of time. A few survive even today. In Newark, New Jersey, there was a rocky transition from the Newark Library (originally the Newark Library Association), a membership library established in 1847, to the Newark Free Library Association (now the Newark Public Library) established in 1887. In 1889 the Newark Library agreed to lease space in their building to the Free Library and to allow the use of their collection. However, this all broke down when the librarian of the Free Library was discovered stamping the Newark Library's books with the Free Library's ownership stamp. This  resulted in the Newark Library requiring the Free Library to buy its collection. A Library Journal article in the August, 1889 issue (pages 354-355) discusses the controversy, and there is a wonderful reprint of comments of a correspondent to in the Call newspaper about the situation. The correspondent wrote: "The Newark Library Association was chartered by the New Jersey Legislature in 1847 for the purpose of providing a library for the people of our city.  It was never an aggressive institution, and how it has managed to hold together so long is a wonder to me.  It has been moribund for years.  Now the life has left the body and nothing remains except the bare bones of a library, some real estate, and some books, but no vitality. It long ago came under the control of a few very amiable and agreeable gentlemen, who met at the library building occasionally, but for many years they left the management of the institution to another gentleman of most estimable character, who had no fitness for the position and no appreciation of the wants of a great public institution."  I wonder how he really felt. The librarian for the Free Library who started all the commotion was Frank P. Hill who was one of the most prominent librarians of his era and after a very successful stint in Newark went on to direct the Brooklyn Public Library.  I'm not sure when the Newark Library officially ceased to exist, but some of the brief histories of the Newark Public Library that I've seen imply that there was a smooth transition from the membership library to the free public library, which it certainly was not. The advertisement for the Newark Library Association which is shown above is from an 1885 publication.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reading Stand and Revolving Book Case

Postal cards with advertising related to library supplies and equipment are among my favorites. This one is an 1899 advertisement for the Marsh Reading Stand and Revolving Book Case which everyone knows was "Recognized throughout the Civilized World unequalled as an Office or Library article." The postal card offers the $7 stand for only $3 "if you will sign, cut off and return promptly the order below." In the statement which you have to sign as part of the order is an agreement to "write half a dozen of my responsible friends, recommending them to order one of you on same terms."  Quite a piece of marketing. It reminds me of the over the top TV ads that are too good to refuse.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Tribute to a Veteran and to a Library Historian on 11-11-11

As a Veteran myself, I take note when I come across information about another librarian who has served in the Armed Forces. In reading David Kaser's Books and Libraries in Camp and Battle: The Civil War Experience (Greenwood Press, 1984), I was taken with his reminisces about his reading experiences during World War II. Kaser served with a tank battalion in the European theater. He writes in part: "I recalled purchasing forty years ago a copy of Street & Smith's pulp Western Stories magazine in the bus station in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to carry with me on maneuvers at Camp Shelby.  I remember reading the Stars and Stripes by the light of a candle in a stable in Alsace and trying to use my schoolboy German to puzzle out the cartoons in an issue of Simplicissimus that I had 'liberated' from a chalet in the Tyrol.... I remembered the copy of the Pocket Book of English Verse that I carried in the turret of my tank until the volume literally fell apart, but by then it did not matter because I had learned all of the poems by heart anyway."  Kaser would have been in the European theater at the same time as my father who served in a artillery battalion. After his military service Kaser completed his education and became an academic library administrator.  He served as the Director of the Joint University Libraries in Nashville, TN which served Vanderbilt University and George Peabody College from 1960 to 1967. His tenure overlapped my undergraduate years at Peabody where he also taught. He joined the faculty of the School of Library and Information Science at Indiana University-Bloomington in 1973 where he became Distinguished Professor in 1986. He retired in 1991 and was designated Distinguished Professor Emeritus. Kaser is responsible for some excellent library history research and publication including his book A Book For A Sixpence: The Circulating Library in America (Beta Phi Mu, 1980). There have been many tributes to Kaser and his scholarship by those who have known him including this one by Haynes McMullen. He has been honored with an endowed lectureship at Indiana University-Bloomington.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Most Data Collected on a Postal Card

Melvil Dewey was largely responsible for standardizing the catalog card at 7.5 x 12.5 centimeters in 1877. Almost immediately, Dewey began lobbying the U. S. Post Office Department to issue a postal card similar in size. That became a reality in 1898 when a postal card the same size as a catalog card was issued by the USPOD. Postal cards of this size are referred to as "library cards" by the philatelic community. I've been collecting these cards for a number of years, and next week I will have an exhibit of them at the big Chicago stamp show. My exhibit focuses on the various uses that libraries made of this postal card. One use that I found to be intriguing was its use by the California State Library to collect monthly public library data. By my count this report on a postal card that is slightly smaller than a 3 x 5 inch index card contains 36 data elements.  The card above is the monthly report for the Carnegie Library in Redding, California for December, 1906.  One of the more interesting data elements is a request for the three most popular books during the month. For the Redding Carnegie Library they were My Lady from the North, The Conquest of Caanan, and Lena Rivers.  Dewey argued that all USPOD postal cards should be standardized at this size. Of course, this made little sense for most users of postal cards since postal cards only cost one cent regardless of size, and the larger the size the more information that could be communicated. Just think how much more data the California State Library could have asked for if the card had been larger. The postal card above is shown at its actual size.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dartmouth's Book Battle, An Eyewitness Account

One of the most fascinating events in American academic library history occurred on the evening of November 11, 1817 at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. As a result of controversy relating to the governance of the College, the New Hampshire state legislature had created a separate legal entity which it named Dartmouth University in 1816, but the Trustees of Dartmouth College refused to recognize the new entity. It was this situation that led to the attempted take over of the Social Friends' Library, a student literary society library at Dartmouth College, on November 11, 1817 by a group with allegiance to the new Dartmouth University. I recently acquired a stampless folded letter written on November 12, 1817 which contains an eyewitness account of the events of November 11. The letter was written by Thomas Green Fessenden, a Dartmouth student, and mailed to his friend John S. Barrows in Fryeburg, Maine. Some excerpts from the letter read: "about seven o'clock an alarm was given by the College"; "we found 18 university persons in number, who had broken into the Social Friends library with ax and clubs in order to take the books"; "these villains intended to steal the library but they were detected and the victory was completed...within 15 minutes more than 100 were assembled and the demons were kept in the trap"; "we had sentrys set round the College to keep the other riotous mobs which were collecting - we then went to moving the libraries from the College which we did". I wrote previously about the Social Friends' Library and the legal controversy at Dartmouth on April 17, 2010 and April 19, 2010. The legal controversy was resolved with an 1819 Supreme Court ruling in favor of the College. An expanded account of the legal controversy and the attempted takeover of the library is contained in the book A Brief History of the Dartmouth College Library 1769-2002 by Lois A Krieger (Trustees of Dartmouth College, 2002) which is available online in digital form. Images of my new piece of postal librariana are shown above.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Another Sister Under the Eaves

As I indicated in my previous post, on Monday of last week I visited the public library in Merrill, WI designed by the architectural firm of Claude & Starck. It is one of a group of libraries referred to as the "seven sisters" because they share a common style and similar ornamental friezes under their eaves. On a trip to St. Louis on Friday of the same week I passed by the exit for Rochelle, Illinois which is home to another of the "seven sisters", and I stopped to take a look. A postcard of the library (now the Flagg-Rochelle Public Library District) along with a couple of photographs I took are shown above. As with the Merrill library there is a significant expansion which has been tastefully integrated with the original building. A website about the Claude & Starck prairie school libraries cites a publication by library director Barbara Kopplin titled "Sisters" Under the Eaves written in 1989. Kopplin notes that Claude & Starck provided a basic design and offered a variety of option for their prairie school buildings. Options included bay windows, ornamental friezes, fireplaces, and leaded windows among others. The library in Rochelle opted for all of the options.