Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hammond Typewriter and Card Cataloger

A typewriter story on the 50th anniversary of the IBM Selectric Typewriter.

When the Harvard College Library decided to make its catalog more accessible to students by creating the first public card catalog in a library in 1861, it was necessary to produce the catalog cards in a hand written format. Assistant Librarian Ezra Abbot who was in charge of the project employed one of the female assistants at the library to write cards which she was able to do at a rate of twelve and one quarter an hour. More assistants were hired and in the first year 35,762 cards were written. [Source: "Boston Library Catalogues, 1850-1875" by Barbara A. Mitchell in Institutions of Reading, Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 2007] Fast forward to the March, 1887 issue of Library Notes edited by Melvil Dewey which includes an extensive article on "Library Handwriting". The noteworthy point about that article is its introduction, probably written by Dewey, which states: "The writing of the future in and out of libraries is to be done as largely by machines as sewing is now. The hand, pen, and needle will always have a mission, but the silly prejudice against legible 'writing done on a machine with no individuality' is yielding very rapidly as the machines themselves are so nearly perfected."  Included in that issue of Library Notes is an advertisement for two companies making typewriters.  One of those was for the Hammond Typewriter. In the supplement to Library Bureau's 1886 Classified Illustrated Catalog which I mentioned in my previous post, the Hammond Card Cataloger was being offered by Library Bureau. The description for the typewriter states, "Preeminently the library typewriter, and the only one thus far invented that writes catalog cards perfectly." In support for the need for typewritten catalog cards it states, "The larger the library the more numerous are the employes in the catalog department, and the more confusing to the eye of the reader the eccentricities of their individual handwritings, and the more need of the clear, simple, and uniform characters which the Hammond produces."  More on the Hammond Typewriter can be found HERE. The illustration above is from my copy of the Library Bureau catalog supplement.  As an aside, when I started working at the Greenville County Library in South Carolina, in 1974 we had a programmable IBM Selectric Typewriter that would produce a full set of multipe heading catalog cards automatically after the initial catalog information was entered. When student groups took a tour of the library we called it the "magic typewriter".  By the time I left Greenville in 1980 we had converted to a high speed enclosed microfilm catalog which eliminated catalog cards.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Library Book Trucks

Library Bureau Book Truck

Gaylord Bros. Book Truck

The Library Bureau's Classified Illustrated Catalog of 1886 described the library book truck as, "The most useful single device ever made for an active library."  An image of Library Bureau's book truck, item 21a in the catalog, is shown above. Starting with Library Bureau, book trucks also called book carts were sold and continue to be sold by most library supply companies. Gaylord Brothers included "The Truck Beautiful" in its 1933 catalog of Library Furniture and Supplies. My introduction to book trucks came as a page at the Public Library of Nashville and Davidson County (TN) way back in 1963. I'm sure I shelved tens of thousands of books using these handy devices.  Now days, we also have book cart drill teams and tricked out book cart contests.  There are thousands of images of book trucks/book carts on the Web that can be found by searching Google or Flickr. I particularly like this image of a wood book truck used by the Minneapolis Public Library. If your library has one of the early wood book trucks consider yourself very fortunate.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Gertrude Bascom Darwin, Librarian General

The elected officer in charge of the Library of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, D.C. has the title of Librarian General. In my collection of postal librariana I have an envelope with an enclosed letter mailed by Gertrude Bascom Darwin, DAR Librarian General in 1897 and 1898, on Dec. 22, 1897 to Mrs. Keller Anderson in Memphis, Tennessee.  Basically, the letter is an overdue notice for some issues of the American Magazine loaned to the Tennessee Centennial Exhibition earlier that year. Darwin explains at some length the reasons for why the issues should be returned soon. Including, "It takes some time to get the books nicely bound and catalogued, you know."  She ends on an upbeat note, " What a glorious time you must have had during the exposition! I felt so badly that I could not go." A little Internet sleuthing reveals that Gertrude Bascom Darwin, No. 168 of the Charter members of the DAR, graduated from Vassar College in 1878 and was married to Charles Carlyle Darwin, Librarian of the United States Geological Survey. Darwin was also active in the Aurora, West Virginia Library Association where she served as President in 1896-1898. More about the DAR Library which was founded in 1896 can be found HERE.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Inside Inn and ALA in St. Louis, 1904

On the surface an envelope I purchased at a recent stamp show has no apparent connection to libraries. Philatelist would refer to the envelope as an advertising cover and it promotes the Inside Inn as "The Only Hotel Within The Grounds" of the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904. Thanks to an excellent article by George Eberhart for the Centennial Blog of American Libraries, I knew that this hotel housed most of the attendees of the 1904 conference of the American Library Association which met from October 17-22 in conjunction with the fair.  Rates for staying at the hotel started at $1.50 per day European plan and $3.00 per day American plan including admission to the fair. In his article Eberhart notes that as a fire protection measure each room had been lined with asbestos.  There were 26 former and future ALA presidents in attendance at the conference including Melvil Dewey, Herbert Putnam, and Gratia A. Countryman. In Eberhart's article he includes an illustration of a postcard of the Inside Inn.  The same stamp dealer that I purchased my envelope from also had a wonderful "hold to light" postcard showing the Inside Inn. Unfortunately he wanted $195 for the card, a little out of my price range. I have two other blog posts related to the 1904 ALA conferece in St. Louis located HERE and HERE.