Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Football Postal Librariana, 1892

On Dec. 1, 1892 a person who signed his name as  "THE" sent a postal card designed to acknowledge gifts to the Library of the Leland Stanford Junior University in California to Charles H. Hull, a faculty member at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Instead of a gift acknowledgement, however, the postal card contained a personal message part of which read, "Hurrah for Walter Camp, who arrives from the East today to coach our f. b. team for two years. Leland Stanford Junior University is now just plain Stanford University, and it consistently has one of the highest ranked football teams in the nation. The Walter Camp referred to in the postal card is considered to be the father of American football. The identity of  "THE" who signed the postal card is unknown. I contacted the Stanford Library but there is no record of someone with those initials being affiliated with the library. The postal card itself is unusual in that it is, at 6 1/8 inches by 3 3/4 inches, the largest postal card issued by the United States Post Office Department. It was issued in 1891 the same year that Leland Stanford Junior University was founded.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Charles Williamson and His Report on Training for Library Service

Today is the 135th anniversary of the birth of Charles Clarence Williamson (1877-1965) who conducted a study of the training for library service in the United States for the Carnegie Corporation in in 1919-1921. The "Williamson Report" was completed in 1921 and later published as Training for Library Service in 1923. According to Robert Leigh the Williamson study "became the major program for discussion and action regarding library education for the next quarter century".  Williamson conducted his study after working at the New York Public Library as Head of the Economics and Sociology Division and as Head of the Municipal Reference Library. In 1926 Williamson was given the opportunity to put his ideas about library training into practice (or as he said "Put up or shut up.") when he received a joint appointment as Director of Columbia University Libraries and as the University's School of Library Service. He served in that capacity until his retirement in 1943. Ironically, Williamson himself had no formal training as a librarian. Williamson's life and library career is documented in the book The Greatest of Greatness: The Life and Work of Charles C. Williamson (1877-1965) by Paul A. Winckler (Scarecrow Press, 1992). Winckler also wrote the entry for Williamson in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978) which is the source of the information in this post.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Indelible Rubber Stamps of Libraries

In 1982 the Design and Exhibits staff at the Dallas Public Library put on an exhibit titled "Their Indelible Mark: Rubber Stamps and Libraries". Jonathan Held who served as curator of the exhibit wrote about it in the December 1982 issue of American Libraries. After the idea for the exhibit of library rubber stamps was conceived, the staff of the Dallas Public Library issued a call to the library community to send them rubber stamps no longer in use. As a result they received a phenomenal collection of 5,000 rubber stamps from 37 states, Canada, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. The staff selected 821 for their 6 week exhibit. Held indicated that for the most part the stamps revealed the different tasks library workers perform, patterns of library service, and ways information is categorized and disseminated. Some were more unusual, however. One included the following message:


Another one had this message:


Held ends his article which includes numerous illustrations of stamp messages with this comment: "It appears that rubber stamps may be among the first casualties of the Information Revolution, and that another facet of Americana may vanish. But they have served to remind us of how often clues to the essential nature of things are found in the most commonplace artifacts of daily life." This is why we as a library community should seek to preserve such artifacts. I was the fortunate recipient of a collection of these rubber stamps which were being deaccessioned by a library. A photo of my collection is shown below.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Best Library Postcard Sites on the Internet

Selected postcards from my collection
In my previous post I discussed some of the World's Largest Library Postcard Collections. Of those collections, only a small portion of the Sjoerd Koopman collection has been digitized (by the American Library Association Archives)and made accessible on the Internet. At the same time, realizing the popularity of this medium, a large and growing number of library and archival institutions have digitized non-library focused collections of picture postcards. It has fallen, for the most part, to individual library postcard enthusiasts who are not affiliated with an institution to break ground in this postcard niche. Here are what I consider to be the best library postcard sites on the Internet.

The Library History Buff website "Library Postcards" page. This recently updated webpage serves as a portal to library postcard collections and resources on the Internet. In addition to the postcard sites below it contains links to less robust sites.

Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America, the library postcard site of Judy Aulik. Judy has a personal collection of about 3,000 library postcards and she has digitized many of these for our enjoyment. Judy links her postcard images to information about the library that is available on the web. She is continually updating and expanding her website.

The Library Postcard site of Sharon McQueen and Richard Douglas is a well constructed website that displays a large portion of their library postcard collection. A nice feature of this site is that the non-picture side of the postcard is also shown. Updates are infrequent, however.

The Library Postcards Blog of Mark Jackson has over 1,000 library postcard images. Postcard images are added as blog posts and each card has associated tags or keywords, including the name of the library, city or town, state or country of location. Whenever historical information is available, it is included. Frequently updated.

The Booth Library Postcard Collection (Eastern Illinois University) includes an extensive collection of postcards showing Illinois libraries. In 2010 the Booth Library also acquired 2,811 library postcards of a broader nature which were assembled by a private collector that the library plans to digitize. This site utilizes the highest digitization standards and represents the ideal in the display of library postcards.

The Library Postcard Blog of Joachim Hassel of Halle (Saale), Germany is a very well done personal postcard blog.

The ALA Archives Digital Collections is worthy of mention. As noted above, the ALA Archives has digitized a portion of the Sjoerd Koopman collection. Other postcards have also digitized. Hopefully, the ALA Archives will continue to acquire and digitize more library postcards in the future.

One of the most important developments that could take place in regard to library postcard digitization is the digitization of the 25,000 plus library postcards in the Norman D. Stevens Collection of Library Architecture at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. This is the largest collection in institutional hands.

If you have other nominations for this list, put them in the "comments" section of the blog.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

World's Largest Library Postcard Collections

The collecting of picture postcards sometimes called deltiology has been a popular activity for more than a century. Because of the vast volume of postcards, individuals have often confined their collecting to postcards depicting one or just a few specific subjects. The extensive construction of new library buildings in communities across the United States in the first two decades of the 19th century coincided with the heyday of picture postcards and libraries were a frequent subject of these postcards. So it is not surprising that some individuals collected postcards with libraries as their subject. With the help of veteran library postcard collector and authority Norman D. Stevens I have compiled lists of former and current collectors of library postcards. Some of these collections are significant in scope and I've identified what I think are the world's largest collections of library postcards.
Two collections of library postcards stand by themselves in scope. Both collections exceed 25,000 library postcards. The first was assembled by the aforementioned Norman D. Stevens. The Stevens collection includes a number of smaller collections that were previously assembled by several other individuals. Stevens donated his collection to the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada where it is now located and is part of the Norman D. Stevens Collection of Library Architecture. The second 25,000 plus library postcard collection was assembled by Hans Krol, a retired librarian in The Netherlands and founder of the Bibliotheekmuseum (Library Museum). Krol continues to actively build his collection and it will undoubtedly eventually be the world's largest library postcard collection. Both the Stevens and the Krol collections include postcards of libraries worldwide. I consider Stevens and Krol to be the world's greatest librariana collectors.
There are a few other library postcard collections that are in the 10,000 plus category. Those include the collection of Dan Lester, a retired librarian and former (also one of the greatest) librariana collector, who has a collection of over 13,000 library postcards. His collection is currently inactive. Sjoerd Koopman, a retired librarian in the Netherlands who worked for the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), has a growing collection of 12,700 postcards depicting libraries in more that 80 different countries. A portion of Koopman's collection has been digitized by the American Library Association Archives. Koopman gave the presentation "Libraries on postcards: historical trends, modern applications and potential" at the IFLA Conference in 2008. Michele Farrell of Alexandria, VA, a librarian who works for the Institute of Museum and Library Service, has a current collection of over 10,400 postcards of libraries from around the world. Her collection is still growing.  Marjorie Warmkessel, a professor in the Library Department at Millersville University (PA, has a postcard collection of approximately 25,000 postcards including around 10,000 library postcards. Her collection includes former library postcard collections of several individuals.
I have a relatively modest library postcard collection numbering around 1,700 postcards. Other current library postcard collections are listed HERE. The postcard shown at the beginning of this post includes images of four library postcards. It was created by Sjoerd Koopman to solicit library postcards for his collection.
In my next blog post I intend to highlight some library postcard sites on the Internet.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Libraries of Louvain Revisited

"On the night of 25 August 1914, around one or two o'clock in the morning, several fires broke out in the medieval Belgian city of Louvain, which had been occupied for about a week by invading German troops. The fire lasted three days, during which time the Germans did not allow authorities to combat it. The result was the destruction of much of the city, including the famed library of the Catholic University of Louvain." So begins an overview of the history of the Louvain University Library written by Phillip A. Metzger for Libraries & Culture. Following its destruction in World War I the library was rebuilt in 1928, but sadly it was destroyed again in World War II. I wrote an earlier blog post about the destruction of the libraries in Louvain in 2009. I also created a webpage about the destroyed libraries on the Library History Buff website which includes images of a number of postal artifacts in my collection. I recently added the two postcards shown above to my collection. The first shows the library after its destruction in 1914 and the second shows the interior of the new library built in 1928. I also have a previous related post about "Fire - The Enemy of Books".

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Bibliosmiles Revisited

I wrote an earlier post about Charles Lummis and "The Bibliosmiles", an organization designed by group of librarians who probably had too much time on their hands at the 1906 American Library Association Narragansett Pier (RI) Conference. In doing some research on ALA's centennial I came across "ALA Centennial Vignette No. 9" in American Libraries for February, 1976. The vignette was about the Bibliosmiles and was written by Ed Gleaves, at the time Director of the School of Library Science at George Peabody College in Nashville, TN. Gleaves wrote about the first meeting of the Bibliosmiles at the 1907 ALA Conference in Ashville, NC where the organization was officially founded. The organization's motto was "To keep the Book Dust off our Top Shelves" and its password was, "Cheer Up, ALA". Their official seal is shown to the left. The officers, who included some heavy hitters in ALA, gave themselves some interesting titles: John Cotton Dana was the Grand Ha Ha; Tessa L. Kelso was Minehaha; W. P. Cutter was Sardonic Grin; Adelaide R. Hasse was Big Stick; Samuel S. Green was Supt. of Edification; Joseph F. Daniels was Glad Hand; F. K. W. Drury was Subdued Snicker; E. L. Pearson was Main Guy; and Charles F. Lummis was Grim Reality. Grim Reality spoke first at their meeting at the conference according to Gleaves - "Mr. Chairman: In our profession, even more than in most, we must accept Civilization. In our profession, as much as in any, we need to take it with reservation .. We have to catch, ourselves young, and organize against the Habit of Huddling... The whole tendency of civilization is to run together in an indistinguishable mess. We must Get Together, to Keep ourselves Apart... ." Later in his presentation Grim Reality makes a surprisingly serious point for an organization founded in humor, "I wish to call your attention further to the fact that, while ladies have their full share of library positions, they have never been admitted to those serious and subterranean councils in which the real fate of the ALA is determined. With the highest regard for the generic wisdom of this convention, I respectfully submit that there ARE women fully worthy to share our efforts to retain humanity in the libraries... ." In an essay titled "Adelaide Hasse: The New Woman as Librarian" in the book Reclaiming the American Library Past: Writing the Women In edited by Suzanne Hildenbrand (Ablex Publishing, 1996), Clare Beck wrote the following about the participation of Hasse and Kelso in the Bibliosmiles: "Among librarians, Hasse and Kelso's liveliness stood out to an extent that they were chosen as two of the three women members of the Bibliosmiles, a mildly rowdy organization founded by their old friend from Los Angeles, the flamboyant Charles Lummis, as a refuge from the solemnity of ALA meetings. The Bibliosmiles, 'Librarians who are Nevertheless Human' dedicated to 'keeping the dust off our top shelves,' specialized in comic songs and speeches, but the group was also a meeting place for some of the iconoclasts of the library world, men like Lummis and John Cotton Dana, who thought highly of Hasse and reinforced her belief that libraries could be a vital and innovative part of progressive change." Gleaves notes in his article that by 1911, "The Biblioshmiles, being human, were soon to pass into history, and with them went their dream of laughter, their irresistible protest against undue solemnity in the profession of librarianship. A rally of librarians to be remembered, they are largely forgotten - the final grim reality." And so, lest we forget.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Camp Merritt (NJ) Libraries in WWI

During World War I the American Library Association as part of its Library War Service operated a camp library and a hospital library at Camp Merritt in New Jersey. Reading materials for soldiers were also available at other locations in the camp. I have a collection of postcards produced by ALA that features the libraries of the Library War Service, but I also have postcards of other library venues. The two postcards above show the library in the Enlisted Men's Club of Camp Merritt and the library in the Recreation Room of the Red Cross House at Camp Merritt. Both libraries appear to be well stocked and well used. ALA cooperated fully with other organizations in providing reading materials in camps.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Public Libraries of Providence, RI

Today is the 125th anniversary of the birth of Clarence Edgar Sherman (1887-1974) who was associated with the Providence Public Library for 35 years and served as its Librarian from 1922 to 1957. Sherman helped build up the branch library system of the Providence Public Library and oversaw the  major expansion of the central library which took place in 1954. The occasion of Sherman's birthday prompted me to take a closer look at the Providence Public Library which is a not-for-profit corporation governed by a Board of Trustees. In doing so I discovered that in 2009 the Trustees basically jettisoned the branch libraries because of economic woes and the Providence Community Library was created to save the branch libraries in Providence. I'm pretty sure that Clarence turned over in his grave at this point. It was only last month that an agreement was reached on the transfer of ownership of the branch libraries to the City of Providence to be operated by the Providence Community Library. The Providence Public Library continues to administers what was previously the central library. That library serves as a statewide resource library. The Providence Public Library has a nice history of the library and some historical highlights on its website. I'm impressed with the Providence Public Library's Early Literacy Learning program, and later this month it will dedicate a new Children's Discovery Library. I'm also a fan of "Notes for Bibliophiles", the blog for the Special Collections Department of the library. Back to Clarence Sherman who felt that "The best library is the library in which books are most carefully selected, which is well organized and operated, and which best meets local needs and standards." A sentiment that both Providence libraries should make note of. A couple of my Providence Public Library artifacts are shown above.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Huntington (WV) Public Library Postcard

This vintage library postcard showing the Huntington (WV) Public Library has lots of appeal. The "bird's eye view" shows that the Carnegie library building is located in a desirable, high traffic area. Along with pedestrians, automobiles and a street car are visible. Now part of the Cabell County Public Library, the library in Huntington is no longer located in the Carnegie building which it moved out of in 1980. Fortunately, the Carnegie building which opened in 1902 has been repurposed as the home of the Huntington Junior College. The Carnegie grant to Huntington was a sizeable $25,000. The Carnegie building is on the National Register of Historic Places. There is a brief history of the Cabell County Public Library on its website.

Monday, January 9, 2012

ALA's Montreal Conference of 1900

Librarians in Canada were welcome as members of the American Library Association (ALA) from its inception, and in June, 1900 ALA met for the first of six times in Canada (the last in Toronto in 2003). I have a couple of artifacts in my collection from the Montreal conference - the program and a pamphlet from the Local Committee. Most of the 452 attendees were housed at the Windsor Hotel which billed itself as "the best in all the Dominion". Room and board at the hotel cost only $3-$3.50 per day. The general sessions of the conference were held at the convocation hall of Presbyterian College "amid the pleasant surroundings of the College campus with its freedom from dust and noise". Many of the stars of our early profession were there - Melvil Dewey, Herbert Putnam, Katharine Sharp, Mary Plummer, R. R. Bowker, C. A. Cutter, John Billings, and Electra Doren to name a few. At the turn of the century it was appropriate for ALA President Reuben G. Thwaites of Wisconsin to review "Ten Years of American Library Progress". The conference proceedings can be found HERE. A highlight of all early ALA conferences was the post conference excursion. For the Montreal Conference the Local Committee had arranged a trip by special steamer to the river Saguenay. For the trip "the largest and best boat on the Saguenay route has been secured". The cost of the entire trip was under $20. A quote from Goethe on the cover of the Local Committee pamphlet seems to convey the spirit of the conference: "One should not neglect from time to time to renew friendly relations by personal intercourse." A sentiment to be followed at all ALA conferences including the upcoming one in Dallas.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Latest Article on Bibliophilately

I discussed the first article about the topic of bibliophilately by John Boynton Kaiser in a recent post. I can now report that I am the author of the latest article about bibliophilately. It was published in the Winter 2012 issue of the magazine Fine Books & Collections. It is a very brief introduction to the topic of bibliophilately for the readers of that very attractive magazine for booklovers and collectors. I developed a webpage to supplement the article.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Edmon Low, Library Legislation Advocate

Each year I peruse the Dictionary of American Library Biography and its two supplements to identify significant birth anniversaries of former library leaders. In some cases I already know of the library leader, but in others I am introduced to someone I have no previous knowledge of. Such is the case with Edmon Horton Low (1902-1983) who was born 110 years ago today. The entry for Low in the Supplement to the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1990) was written by David Kaser.  Kaser begins the entry with the sentence: "Edmon Horton Low, known as the library profession's finest lobbyist, was born in Kiowa Indian Territory, on January 4, 1902."  That sentence immediately caught my interest because of a career long interest in library legislation. The largest portion of Low's professional career was spent as Director of the Oklahoma State University Library. One of Low's accomplishment's at OSU was the construction of a new library building (shown above) which was later named for him. Low also had a long association with the University of Michigan Library School where he taught for many years during summer sessions and after retirement at OSU on a full time basis. But back to Low's library legislative contributions.  Low served on the Legislative Committee of the American Library Association from 1958 to 1962 and from 1964 to 1969 and was chair of the committee in 1967-1968. According to Kaser, "Low testified before congressional committees more frequently than any other librarian had ever done" and that "His masterful testimony is scattered throughout many committee prints and hearings on the National Defense Education Act, the Library Services Act, the Higher Education Act, and other bills in Congress ...". While many librarians shun the political process, there are those who embrace it and thrive in it, and Low was one of those who embraced it.  The library community owes those individuals a huge debt of gratitude. On a personal note, I was able to attend college because of a loan through the National Defense Education Act. Thanks Edmon. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bertram Approves Reedsburg's (WI) Carnegie Plans 1911

James Bertram's signature of approval on Reedsburg plans.
Postcard of Carnegie library building in Reedsburg, WI
My wife and I drove up to Reedsburg, WI today to install an exhibit of Wisconsin Carnegie library memorabilia at the Reedsburg Public Library. It will remain there for the month of January. The exhibit is very appropriate since Reedsburg's Carnegie library building was dedicated 100 years ago this month. Although the public library now occupies a new building located across the street from the Carnegie building, the Carnegie is still used to house the library's archival collection. I was delighted to find that the library has preserved and framed the original plans for the Carnegie building which were approved by James Bertram of the Carnegie Corporation on March 11, 1911. Bertram who was Carnegie's personal secretary played an extremely important role in the Carnegie library grant program. Beginning in 1908 Bertram personally approved all plans for buildings built with the help of a Carnegie grant. It's great when a library has preserved such an important historic artifact.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 125th Birthday John Boynton Kaiser, Bibliophilatelist

I'm also a blogger for the Philatelic Literature & Research blog. I published the post below on that blog earlier today.

Today is the 125th anniversary of the birth of John Boynton Kaiser (1887-1973), a librarian and a philatelist. Kaiser is one of many librarians who collect or have collected postage stamps. He was, however, one of the first to collect postage stamps which depict libraries and librarians. Kaiser had a successful career as a librarian which included serving as administrator of the Tacoma (WA) Public Library, the University of Iowa Libraries and Library School, and the Newark (NJ) Public Library. He served as librarian at Camp Knox, Kentucky during World War I. He was also a serious philatelist and received the Walter McCoy Award for Excellence in Philatelic Writing from the American Philatelic Congress in 1953. The award was for his article Bibliography: The Basis for Philatelic Research which was published in the 1953 Congress Book (note: this article was also reprinted as a separate publication by the Philatelic Library Association in 1953). In the July, 1955 issue of Library Journal, Kaiser wrote an article titled "Librarianship and Philately" in which he introduced the library community to the collecting of postage stamps related to libraries and librarians that has since been called "bibliophilately". Kaiser's article in the Library Journal also makes note of many "parallelisms" between librarianship and stamp collecting. As a bibliophilatelist myself, I appreciate Kaiser's early efforts to identify postage stamps related to libraries. A much broader approach to bibliophilately was written about by Leona Rostenberg in a series of articles in 1977 for the American Philatelist. Those articles were later published as a book titled Bibliately in 1978 by the American Philatelic Society (search for "Bibliately" in the APRL online union catalog to find philatelic libraries with this book). I discovered bibliophilately via a 1982 article by George Eberhart titled "Biblio-philately" in the magazine American Libraries.  I have established a webpage on "Bibliophilately Resources" for those who would like to explore this topic further.