Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association

My exhibit of postal librariana titled "America's Public Libraries and Their Forerunners 1731 to 1956" includes a section on membership libraries. It begins with artifacts related to Benjamin Franklin's Library Company of Philadelphia which was established in 1731. The Peterborough Town Library in New Hampshire, the first public library in the U.S. was established in 1833 and the Boston Public Library, the first large municipal public library, was established in 1854. Even as free public libraries began to replace fee based membership and subscription libraries there were still membership libraries that were being established. One of these was the Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association (HLRRA) which was established in 1879 when Hawaii was still a country ruled by a king. Hawaii also had its own postal system, and in my collection of postal librariana I have two postal cards that were issued by Hawaii that were mailed by the HLRRA. One is an 1892 printed notice of the annual membership meeting sent by H. A. Parmelee, the Secretary of the HLRRA and a founding member, and the other is an 1898 hand written second overdue book notice from the librarian.  The library component of the HLRRA became a free public library in 1903 when the Territorial Government appropriated $10,000 annually for its support (Hawaii became a Territory of the U.S. in 1900). The Association component of the HLRRA continued as a fundraising and support organization and eventually became the Friends of the Library of Hawaii. Hawaii received a $100,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie in 1909 for a library building which opened as the Hawaii State Library in 1913. I found two online resources on the history of the HLRRA. One is the website of the Friends of the Library of Hawaii and the other is a library school class paper by Avis Poai at the University of Hawaii Manoa. Incidentally, if you are in the Milwaukee area this weekend you can see my postal librariana exhibit on display at the Milwaukee Stamp Show.

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