Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A New Book about the Woman's Building Library

Woman's Building Library

Earlier this week I had the good fortune to attend the Annual Lecture of the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture at the School of Library and Information Studies at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. This year it featured Sarah Wadsworth, Associate Professor of English at Marquette University, and  Wayne Wiegand, Professor Emeritus at Florida State University, talking about their new book Right Here I See My Own Books: A Woman's Building Library at the World's Columbian Exposition (Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 2012). The Woman's Building Library came on my radar screen in 2006 with a special issue (Winter issue) of Libraries & Culture which was devoted to the library and was edited by Sarah Wadsworth. The library consisted of over 8,000 volumes from around the world written, illustrated, edited, or translated in the 400 years leading up to the exposition.  In the "Acknowledgments" section of the new Wadsworth and Wiegand book, the development of the book is chronicled. It began with Wiegand's discovery of a cache of letters between Melvil Dewey and Bertha Honore Palmer, chair of the Board of Lady Managers of the World's Columbian Exposition and the driving force behind a Woman's Building at the Exposition, while doing research on his biography of Dewey at Columbia University in the early 1980s. Wadsworth joined with Wiegand in 2000 to pursue the project because of her interest in nineteenth-century American women's literature. Together they obtained a grant to create a relational database of the contents of the Woman's Building Library. That relational database is now available online at Marquette University. I found the book that Wadsworth and Wiegand produced after years of effort and research to be extremely interesting and I recommend it highly. I found the portion of the book related to Melvil Dewey's involvement with the Woman's Building Library and its staffing  with "Dewey's girls" to be especially interesting. Wadsworth and Wiegand are donating the royalties from their book to the National Women's History Museum. They have been lecturing about the book around the country. An interesting blog post about the kick-off of their lecture tour at the Library of Congress is located HERE. I wrote a previous blog post about the library that featured a postal card in my postal librariana collection in 2009.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Herbert Putnam and ALA's Library War Service

The United States declared war on Germany and entered World War I ninety-five years ago this month. In the same month Herbert Putnam, Librarian of Congress, initiated events that led to the creation of the American Library Association's Library War Service, perhaps ALA's most ambitious and successful undertaking in its history. According to Arthur P. Young in Books for Sammies: The American Library Association and World War I (Beta Phi Mu, 1981), Putnam presented his idea of furnishing books to the American army in a meeting with Secretary of War Newton D. Baker who responded positively to the idea. Following that meeting, the ALA Executive Board established a Committee on Mobilization and War Service Plans and Putnam was appointed chair of the committee on April 30, 1917. Putnam presented the committee's recommendations at ALA's annual conference on June 22 in Louisville, KY. The committee felt that an ALA operation on a "vast scale" was desirable. ALA members responded favorably to the recommendations of the committee, and at the end of the conference ALA President Brown appointed a permanent War Service Committee headed by James I. Wyer. Putnam assumed the leadership for the administration of the ALA Library War Service while continuing as Librarian of Congress. The Library War Service was administered from a conference room in the Library of Congress. Putnam managed the Library War Service until December 13, 1919. Young writes about Putnam's role: "Few individuals are indispensable, but it is difficult to imagine another librarian who could have galvanized the Association's war program as Putnam did. Self-assured, meticulous, and urbane, Putnam was a formidable administrator and an equally good judge of character. He was able to identify and to attract to his staff many of the nation's most promising librarians who were at the threshold of distinguished careers." Jain Aikin Rosenberg in The Nation's Great Library: Herbert Putnam and the Library of Congress, 1899-1938 (Univ. of Illinois Press, 1993) also discusses Putnam's role with the Library War Service. She notes one negative aspect of that role. When selecting camp librarians, Putnam refused to consider applications from African Americans, German Americans, or women. A female librarian was finally hired in May, 1918 shortly before eight "angry female librarians protested the War Service employment policy at the ALA conference that summer."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Peterborough Library's Interior, An Exceptional Postcard Find

My other interior view postcard.

The Peterborough (NH) Town Library holds a special place in public library history. It is the oldest tax supported free public library in the world. It was founded in 1833 and celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2008. Although I already had a postcard showing the interior of the library, I was attracted by the quality of the interior view of a postcard I came across on eBay. It was the message on the back of the postcard, however, that made it an exceptional find.  The message was written by Ruby Tillinghast who served as the Librarian of the Town Library from 1916 to 1921. The postmark on the postcard shows that it was mailed on October 31, 1916 which was during her first year as Librarian. The postcard was mailed to Miss E. Howe at the Worcester (MA) Public Library.  The transcript of the messages reads: "What are you studying now? What did you get on your Simmons exams? You have a better sta(?) than a library seems to me! This the inside [of the library as shown on the postcard], the lamp & owl had departed before I arrived, revolving book-case on other end, nearer(?) one also missing and desk turned around so I look into the reading room as too busy to write this at present. R. Tillinghast don't work too hard."  I've included above an image of my other Town Library postcard interior view which shows the reading room which Ms. Tillinghast looked into. A current picture of the library's reading room is located HERE. I would love to know more about the library careers of Ruby Tillinghast and E. Howe.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Exhibit About Melvil Dewey's Postal Card

In 1898 the United States Post Office Department (now the United States Postal Service) issued a pre-stamped postal card that was the exact size of a catalog card. Melvil Dewey claimed that the issue of the postal card was the result of his lobbying of the Post Office Department for a card of that size. I have written a previous blog post about Dewey's postal card. I've been collecting examples of these postal cards used by libraries for over 15 years. Last year I put together a one frame, 16 page exhibit of these postal cards for the big stamp show in Chicago, and last month the exhibit was displayed at the St. Louis stamp show. In both cases the exhibit received a silver medal which was less than I hoped for, but I received some good feedback on improving the exhibit. Yesterday at the stamp show of the Wisconsin Federation of Stamp Clubs in Madison, the exhibit received a first place award (more than one first place awards are given). I will also be displaying the exhibit at the Denver stamp show next month. The exhibit varies considerably from traditional postal stationery exhibits in that it concentrates on library uses of a postal card instead of the postal uses. Postal cards were important tools in conducting day to day library business. The largest use for the Dewey cards in my collection was for the acknowledgment of gifts. Of course there are examples of overdue book notices and reserve book notices. Libraries also used the cards for requests to magazine publishers for missing issues of periodicals, and for requesting copies of publications. There are a host of miscellaneous uses ranging from meeting notices to the collection of library statistics. I have a previous post about the use of the card to announce a meeting of the New York Library Club, and a post about a card to collect data for the California State Library.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

10th International Library Week, Ryukyus, 1968

In 1968 the Postal Services Agency of the Government of the Ryukyu Islands issued a postage stamp to commemorate the 10th anniversary of International Library Week. The Ryukyu Islands had been occupied by the United States since 1945 following the defeat of Japan in World War II. Okinawa is the largest island in the chain of islands. Ryukyu reverted back to Japan in 1972. The text on the first day cover for the stamp shown above reads: "International Library Week was adopted in 1959 to be observed jointly by Ryukyuan librarians, educators, booksellers, and newspapers and American military librarians on Okinawa. The importance of libraries to the community has become increasingly apparent to the public. The numbers are increasing and even small villages are establishing library rooms in their community centers." National Library Week in the United States was established in 1958. The bookmark on the left includes the same slogan used for National Library Week in 1968 - "Be all you can be ... Read".

Thursday, April 12, 2012

30th Anniversary of America's First Stamp Commemorating a Library

Thirty years ago during National Library Week in April, 1982, the United States Postal Service issued a postage stamp commemorating the Library of Congress. Although there had been previous postage stamps on which library buildings had appeared, those were issued to commemorate academic and other institutions or architects.  Originally, the proposed stamp was to commemorate all of America's libraries collectively and the Library of Congress individually. A publicity photo of that stamp is shown above. Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin wasn't happy with the stamp, however, and the Postmaster General agreed to issue a separate stamp for the Library of Congress. That stamp is shown at the left. The America's Libraries stamp was issued in July of 1982 during the ALA Conference in Philadelphia. Both stamps were designed by noted graphic designer Bradbury Thompson. I wrote an earlier post about Thompson on the 100th anniversary of his birth. I wrote an article about the two 1982 library stamps in the August, 2007 issue of American Libraries for the 25th anniversary of the stamps. Both stamps appear of the First Day Cover for the America's Libraries stamp shown below. It is signed by both Daniel Boorstin and the ALA President Betty Stone. To see other U.S. libraries on stamps click HERE.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Best Bookmobile Websites

Happy National Bookmobile Day! For this occasion I've selected some bookmobile websites for your enjoyment. The image above is of the cover of a large brochure put out by the Gerstenslager company in the 1970s. According to the inside copy, "This book has been written and printed with one basic help the professional librarian and library board member plan and develop a highly effective that completely fills the need, both of basics of body style, size and book-carrying capacity." I picked it up at an ALA conference.

The American Library Association's National Bookmobile Day webpage

American Libraries Magazine's Pinterest Bookmobiles Image Collection

The Library History Buff's Tribute to Bookmobiles

Bookmobiles: A History

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Celebrating National Library Week With Exhibits

For several years I have displayed portions of my librariana collection in Wisconsin libraries during National Library Week. As I mentioned in my previous post I have an exhibit of my ALA Library War Service collection on display at the Hales Corners Public Library for April. During April and parts of May I also have an exhibit of my Wisconsin library memorabilia collection on display at the Waupaca Area Public Library. The exhibit at Waupaca features Andrew Carnegie's Wisconsin Library Legacy but also includes souvenir items for non-Carnegie libraries. Although the Waupaca library is now located in a fairly new facility, for many years it occupied a Carnegie building which now houses the Waupaca Historical Society. My exhibits are under the auspices of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center for which I am chair of the Steering Committee. For 2012, exhibits will be on display in a library for every month except December. Exhibits are a great way to help publicize National Library Week and to encourage people to visit the library. Exhibits which focus on library history are especially appropriate. Why not plan one for your library for next year's National Library Week. The images above are of the Waupaca exhibit.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Books for Soldiers and Sailors in WWI - An Exhibit

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have put together an exhibit on the American Library Association Library War Service for the month of April at the Hales Corners Public Library in Wisconsin. I've included some images of the exhibit below.