Monday, December 30, 2013

Greene County (OH) Bookmobile 1948

One of  the kinds of library postcards that I collect is postcards depicting bookmobiles. This postcard showing a 1948 Gerstenslager bookmobile for the Greene County (OH) Public Library is a Real Photo Postcard (RPPC). RPPCs showing bookmobiles are unusual so I was happy to add this one to my collection. It is also unusual in that it was used as a promotional piece for the Gerstenslager Company's bookmobiles. I've written a previous post about these Gerstenslager postcard advertisements. The Greene County Public Library continues to operate a bookmobile. There are lots of images of bookmobiles on the Web. One of the best sites for these images is the Pinterest bookmobile site of the American Libraries magazine. I have a tribute to bookmobiles on the Library History Buff website. I also compiled a list of the best bookmobile websites.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Cincinnati Library Ticket (Card) 1868

I recently added another library ticket (shown here) to my collection of vintage library cards. It is for the Young Men's Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati and it was issued to D. J. Fallis in January, 1868. I've written a previous post about the Cincinnati Mercantile Library which continues to exist today. There is a very interesting story about its facility which is provided rent free in a multi-story building in downtown Cincinnati. Library cards were called library tickets in some early libraries.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

1906 Library of Congress Christmas Postcard

I recently acquired the postcard shown above which has another library winter scene (see other library winter scenes). It is a scene from the steps of the Library of Congress, and it was mailed on December 25, 1906. The message reads: "Your gift is received. May your Merry Christmas be followed by a Happy New Year." My sentiments exactly.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Library Lion in Winter

The two lions that grace the entrance to the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue are world famous. In 2000 the United Postal Service was set to issue a stamp to pay the pre-sorted first class postage rate that featured one of the lions without reference to the NYPL. However, the lion image is trademarked by the NYPL, and the USPS was required to identify the New York Public Library on the stamp. Among the postal librariana items that I collect are first day covers and postal uses of the NYPL lion stamp. One of the first day covers (shown above) has a cachet (illustration) by Tom's Cachet Designs which features one of the lions with a Christmas wreath around its neck. I thought this would be an appropriate item to feature on the blog at this time of the year. Season's greetings to all!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Libraries in Winter on Postcards

Today is the first day of Winter, and we're expecting a big snow storm later today here in Wisconsin. Postcards depicting libraries in the Winter are unusual. Below are four from my collection. To see others click HERE.
Library of the American Library Association's Library War Service in WWI at Camp Perry, Great Lakes, Illinois
Public Library, Park Rapids, Minnesota
Antigo Public Library, Antigo, WI

Erwin Library, Boonville, NY

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Happy birthday Melvil Dewey (1851-1931)!

Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey (known more widely as Melvil Dewey) was born on December 10, 1851in Adams Center, New York. He is considered by many to be the father of modern American librarianship. He is most widely known as the author of the Dewey Decimal Classification System used in libraries around the world. Dewey had his personal flaws and has been strongly criticized for those by some. In any case he left many important legacies to the American library community. Several books have been written about Dewey. By far the best is Irrepressible Reformer by Wayne A. Wiegand (American Library Association, 1996). I have put together an online exhibit of some items in my librariana collection related to Dewey. Previous posts on this blog related to Dewey can be found HERE.

Monday, December 9, 2013

ALA WWI Bookmark to Bookplate Promotion

The American Library Association went to great lengths to promote its Library War Service during World War I. A primary goal of these promotions was to solicit gifts of books and magazines that could be distributed to servicement through ALA's camp libraries, hospital libraries, and deposit collections. ALA used postcards, posters, and other media for this purpose. I recently acquired a bookmark (shown here) that was evidently placed in books in bookstores. The bookmark is perforated in the middle so the top half could be used as a bookplate. The buyer of the book was encouraged to donate the book after reading it for use by men in uniform by taking the book to any public library or bookstore. The back of the bookmark has information about the scope of ALA's Library War Service. To see my other posts about ALA's Library War Service click HERE.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

John Edmands (1820-1915), Philadelphia Librarian

The Mercantile Library Company of Philadelphia which was the topic of my previous post was led by its Librarian John Edmands from 1856 to 1901, a total of 45 years. He was made Librarian Emeritus in 1901 and continued to be active in the affairs of the library until his death in 1915. I have in my collection the 1915 annual report of the Mercantile Library which includes a tribute to the contributions of Edmands. The photograph of Edmands in the reading room of the Mercantile Library shown above is from that report. When Edmands became Librarian the collection totaled 13,000 volumes. At his retirement the collection totaled 185,000 volumes. Edmands was a founding member of the American Library Association in 1876 and served as its Vice President at one point. He developed a system for classifying books for the Mercantile Library in 1882 which grouped books by subject.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Philadelphia's Mercantile Library

The free public library in America was preceded by for-fee libraries that can be described broadly as membership libraries. The first of these was the Library Company of Philadelphia founded by Benjamin Franklin and friends in 1731. In the 1820s a sub-group of membership libraries called mercantile libraries were established by and for merchants and merchants' clerks. The first of these libraries were founded in Boston and New York City in 1820. The third was founded in 1821in Philadelphia, The Mercantile Library Company of Philadelphia started as a subscription library but began issuing stock in 1826 (see stock certificate below). Mercantile libraries quickly broadened their mission and became popular cultural organizations serving the general public for a modest subscription fee. In the case of the Philadelphia Mercantile Library anyone could use the library without charge but had to pay a fee to borrow books. Collections of mercantile libraries were much like future public libraries with multiple copies of popular books and large numbers of magazines, and newspapers. In 1875 the New York Mercantile Library was the fourth largest library in the U.S. and the Philadelphia Mercantile Library the sixth largest. In 1869 the Philadelphia Mercantile Library moved into a spacious building purchased from the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. Harper's Weekly for August 14, 1869 included an illustration of the interior of the new facility (see above). An unusual feature of the library in its new location was open stacks, something that was extremely unusual for libraries of that period. With the growth and expansion of free public libraries in the second half of the 19th century and the 20th century, membership libraries including mercantile libraries gradually ceased to exist with a few exceptions. The collection of the Philadelphia Mercantile Library was absorbed into the Free Library of Philadelphia or dispersed to book dealers and others. I have a number of books in my personal library that were formerly in the collection of the Philadelphia Mercantile Library. See more items from my collection related to the library HERE.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Rise and Fall of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum

Unlike the American Library Association members who celebrated ALA's jubilee in Philadelphia in 1926, members attending the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia in January 2014 will be unable to visit one of America's most influential commercial museums and libraries. According to a history of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum on the website of the Independence Seaport Museum, "Opened in 1897 at 34th and South Streets, the Commercial Museum was the turn of the century United States' greatest resource for international trade information, essentially serving the role of the not-yet-existent federal International Trade Administration." The website history indicates that when the Commercial Museum finally closed on July 1, 1994, "it was a shadow of its former self". I became aware of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum after acquiring a 1919 postal card (shown above) mailed by the museum's library to the Swiss Information Office for the Purchase and Marketing of Goods in Zurich, Switzerland in which it acknowledges the receipt of a publication. The Annual Report of the Mayor of Philadelphia for 1913 describes the museum's library as follows: "This is a public reference library comprising the principal commercial publications of all governments, and a great variety of trade literature, consular reports, books, magazines and periodicals bearing on geography and commerce. In its special line it is recognized to be the best equipped library in the United States." As the Commercial Museum scaled down and finally closed its collections were dispersed to other museums and libraries in the Philadelphia area including the Independence Seaport Museum. It is a sad thing when a once great institution is no more.

Friday, November 22, 2013

50th Anniversary of Kennedy's Assassination

Today is the 50 anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and like many people I know exactly where I was when I heard the news. I was a part-time employee of the Metropolitan Library of Nashville and Davidson County (TN), and I was operating the library's telephone switchboard. I was a junior in college and had just turned 20 years old. I collect postal and other memorabilia related to the presidential libraries and have a number of items for Kennedy and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston. Shown above is a first day cover for the 1984 National Archives stamp which features the collection of archival material related to the assassination of Kennedy. Almost immediately after Kennedy's death planning and fundraising for his presidential library was initiated. A thank you card from Jacqueline Kennedy for a donation to the library is shown below. Also shown below is a special event cover (envelope) for the dedication of the library. In a previous post about the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of Kennedy I included an image of a first day cover for the 1964 Kennedy commemorative stamp.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Congratulations on 40 Years COSLA!

The Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) organization is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.  COSLA is an exclusive club consisting of the top official in each of the state and territorial library agencies. According to its website the purpose of COSLA is: "to provide leadership on issues of common concern and national interest; to further state library agency relationships with federal government and national organizations; and to initiate cooperative action for the improvement of library services to the people of the United States." For a brief period I was the chief officer for Wisconsin and was able to participate in this august group. In October the group celebrated this significant anniversary in Savanah, GA by inviting former and retired chief officers to join the current group. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend. It would certainly have been a treat. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Libraries and Water Features on Postcards

Waterways and water features make very interesting settings for libraries. Sometimes the settings are spectacular, and sometimes they pose a great risk to the library and its contents. I'm always on the lookout for postcards which depict libraries in more interesting ways than the typical front facade view. Below are some postcards from my collection that depict libraries and nearby water features.

The Reno (NV) Public Library shown on this postcard was a Carnegie financed library and opened in 1904 on the bank of the Truckee River. The public library moved to another location in 1930 and became part of the Washoe County Library.

The Rockford (IL) Public Library building on this postcard was a Carnegie financed library ($70,000) and was designed to face the Rock River. This postcard was mailed in 1909. More postcard views of the building can be found on Judy Aulik's library postcard website.

The Galena (IL) Public Library building on this postcard was still another library that received financial support from Andrew Carnegie. It has a prominent location overlooking the Galena River. The land in front of the building became Library Park and was purchased to enhance the view of the library. More about the selection of the site can be found HERE.

The prominent grey stone building on this postcard in Menomonie, WI is now the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts. The building was constructed in 1889 and until 1896 it housed the Menomonie Public Library. It is located in close proximity to Lake Menomin which is pictured in the background of the postcard. More about its history can be found HERE.

This postcard shows the Menasha (WI) Public Library on the banks of the Fox River canal which was created to facilitate the transport of logs down the river (also shown on the postcard). The building on the postcard was made possible by Elisha D. Smith and the library was named for him. The library is home to one of the elaborate Tabard Inn Library bookcases. More about the history of the library can be found HERE.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Spirit of ALA's Library War Service in WWI on Canvas

In 1919 after the end of World War I the American Library Association published a small book titled Books At Work In The War During The Armistice and After in which ALA tells the story in words and pictures of its role in providing library service during and after the War. One of the more dramatic illustrations in this publications is an image of a painting by Denman Fink of one soldier reading to another soldier who is in a wheel chair and whose eyes are covered with bandages. Nearby is a box of books with the ALA logo. A scan of that image from a copy of the books in my personal library is shown above. In trying to find out more about the painting I came across an article about Fink's painting in the January, 1919 issue of Library Journal by Frank Parker Stockbridge titled "The Spirit of Library War Service on Canvas". Fink's painting was one of seven paintings executed by well known artists on the steps of the New York Public Library during the 1919 United War Work Campaign. The painting was on a huge canvas that measured 9 x 17 feet. Stockbridge's article indicates that after being exhibited at the New York Public Library the painting was also to be exhibited in several large cities as part of ALA's efforts to appeal for books for wounded soldiers in hospitals and convalescent camps. The final resting place for the painting was to be the ALA Headquarters in Chicago. The ALA Archives at the University of Illinois has a glass slide related to the Fink painting. What eventually happened to the painting is unknown to me.

The blog for the New York Historical Society Museum & Library has a very nice post about the Library War Service of the American Library Association.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Nix, Altsheler, Powell Connection

I was introduced to the joy of reading by the books of Joseph A. Altsheler while in the sixth grade. These were historical fiction books in which the protagonist was always a young boy. I discovered the books in the school library. My love of reading has continued throughout my life and was a large part of why I became a librarian. While in the twelfth grade (also in a school library) I came across two books by Lawrence Clark Powell. They were A Passion for Books and Books in My Baggage. These books were instrumental in my decision to go to college instead of going into the construction trades as had my father. These books also played a role in my decision to become a librarian. In the book Books in My Baggage there is an essay titled "The Time, The Place, and The Book". In this essay Powell recounts an incident in which he took his son to a nearby branch public library and came across the book The Rock of Chickamauga by Joseph A. Altsheler. The book according to Powell immediately prompted him to recall his love of Altsheler's books as a boy. Powell writes, "I devoured Altsheler's scores of books - the Civil War, the Texan, the Border series - and hungered for more. After dinner I would bicycle to the library with a string bag hanging from the handle bars, and tarry only long enough to fill it with books I had not yet read. What a shock of pleasure it was to discover an Altsheler new to me, and then swiftly pedal home ...." It was a pleasurable surprise to discover that I shared a passion for the books of the same author as one of America's great librarians and lovers of books at a similar point in our lives. One of the prized books in my personal library is the book Islands of Books by Powell which is signed by Powell. This books which was published in 1951 (nine years before Books in My Baggage) also contains the essay "The Time, The Place, and The Book".

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Letter Returns to Newburyport (MA) after 159 Years

My collection of postal librariana includes a folded letter sent to Josiah Little in Newburyport, MA by Samuel Swett from Boston on June 27, 1854 in regard to establishing a public library in Newburyport. I have written a previous post about the letter. Last month I was contacted by Neil Foley, President of the Newburyport Stamp Club who had come across the blog post. Neil wanted to borrow the letter for a program the stamp club would be conducting on October 10th at the Newburyport Public Library. I agreed to loan the letter for the program and mailed it to Neil. Thus the letter made a second trip to Newburyport 159 years after it was first mailed to Josiah Little. Little was the major subscriber to the proposed library with a contribution of $5,000. Swett was also one of the original subscribers to the library and in his letter to Little he submits a draft of a possible agreement between the subscribers (see scan above), the City of Newburyport, and adjacent town to form a public library. The letter is an important document in the history of the Newburyport Public Library. Currently it is included in my philatelic exhibit titled "Libraries in 19th Century America". At some point in the future there is a strong possibility that it will make a final trip back to Newburyport.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Children's Library for Adults Celebrates 50 Years

For fifty years the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) in Madison, WI has been assisting librarians, teachers, and parents with the selection of the best books for children. The CCBC has been celebrating this milestone with a number of activities this year including a gala dinner on October 17th and a special display (see above) at the Center. The CCBC opened on the fourth floor of the State Capitol on June 23, 1963. The "Cooperative" in its name is based on its original establishment as a cooperative project of the Division of Library Services in the Department of Public Instruction, the School of Library & Information Studies (SLIS) of the University of Wisconsin, and the UW School of Education. Currently it is administered solely by the UW School of Education. It  is now located at UW-SLIS. The CCBC was established for the following purposes: 1) provide a centralized children's book collection; 2) provide a historical collection of children's books; 3) provide training in evaluating children's literature; 4) aid libraries, teachers, parents in making wise and economical book selections; and 5) develop adult interest in children's literature. The CCBC's current vision also includes advocating for the First Amendment rights of children and young adults. The CCBC has been a national leader in promoting quality multi-cultural literature for children. Happy 50th birthday CCBC!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Library Halls of Fame

There are halls of fame to recognize human accomplishment in every conceivable endeavor. There are even a few library halls of fame. Two state library halls of fame have recently announced inductees for 2013. The California Library Hall of Fame will be inducting nine individuals at the Awards Gala at the California Library Association meeting on November 3rd. The inductees are listed on the California Library Hall of Fame website. The Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame will be inducting four individuals at the Awards Reception at the Wisconsin Library Association meeting on October 23rd. The announcement of the Wisconsin inductees is located here. A full listing of current and former inductees is included on the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame website. The Massachusetts Library Association has a Hall of Fame also. Inductees through 2012 are listed on their website. The American Association of Law Libraries also has a Hall of Fame. Inductees including 2013 inductees are listed on their website. The Oklahoma Library Association has a Library Legend Award whose purpose is to expand a list of 100 library legends that were selected in 2007 for the Association's centennial. The Library Journal compiled a list of 40 individuals in 1951 for a Library Hall of Fame. The Dictionary of American Library Biography ((Libraries Unlimited, 1978) and its two supplements (1990 and 2003) constitute for all practical purposes an American Library Hall of Fame.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Libraries on Cinderellas

Stamp collectors refer to pseudo stamps or labels with no postal value as "cinderellas". I have a small collection of library cinderellas which is shown below.

Boston Public Library
Erie (PA) Public Library
New York University Library (now Hall of Fame)
Springfield (VT) Public Library

Columbus (OH) Public Library 
St. Paul (MN) Public Library
New York Public Library
New York Public Library 
Riverside (CA) Public Library


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Gerstenslager's 1953 Trail Blazer Bookmobile

In 1949 the Bookmobile Committee of the Library Extension Division of the American Library Association held seven regional conferences throughout the country to discuss standards for bookmobiles with librarians and manufacturers of bookmobiles. The result was a 1951 report on Bookmobile Standardization. The report provided recommended specifications and equipment for bookmobiles. One of the first bookmobiles to follow these specifications was the Trail Blazer model of the Gerstenslager Company of Wooster, Ohio. I just obtained a 1953 brochure (see above) that was published by the Gerstenslager Company to introduce and promote their Trail Blazer bookmobile. It was touted as the bookmobile conceived by America's librarians and built and distributed by Gerstenslager. One of the major advantages of the Trail Blazer was that it was designed to be adaptable to chassis that were being produced by all major truck manufacturers. This allowed libraries to request bids from multiple manufacturers.  The chassis from the winning bidder was then sent to Wooster, Ohio where the custom body was attached to it by Gerstenslager. A history of the Gerstenslager Company can be found Here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Library Cards for Library Card Sign-up Month

September is Library Card Sign-up Month so I thought I would do a post about library cards. The Matheson Memorial Library in Elkhorn, WI collected library cards from libraries all over Wisconsin and created a special display for Library Card Sign-up Month. An image of the display is shown above. More images can be found HERE. I have a small collection of of vintage library cards and a collection of personal library cards. Shown below from my vintage collection of cards is a library card dated Nov. 14, 1846 for the Pennsylvania Hospital Library, the oldest medical library in the United States. It was founded in 1762.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bookend Art

The new Central Library of the Madison (WI) Public Library that I blogged about in my last post is a super modern facility with few vestiges of the past. One of its more striking features, however, is an art work comprised of old metal bookends of various colors that is located at the top of the staircase on the third floor. I would have liked to have seen more links to the past, but this is great.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A New Building for the Madison (WI) Public Library

Postcard showing 1965 building
The new building
A new library building is a once in a generation event in the history of a library. I was privileged to participate in a gala celebration for the completion of a new Central Library for the Madison (WI) Public Library on Saturday evening, September 7. Although the new building might technically be considered a renovation of an existing building, the renovation was so extensive that it is essentially a new facility. See newspaper article on new building and photographs. The previous building was completed in 1965 and is shown on the postcard above. That building was functional for 46 years without an expansion which is a testimonial to its original design and the soundness of its basic structure. The new building cost $30 million and the Madison Public Library Foundation was charged with raising $9 million of that amount. To date the Foundation has raised $8 million. Madison was the recipient of a grant from Andrew Carnegie for a Central Library that was completed in 1906 and a branch library. The Central Library Carnegie (see postcard below) which also housed Wisconsin's library school for over 30 years was razed to make way for a parking lot. The branch has been repurposed as an office building.

1906 Carnegie building

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Happy 175th Toledo Public Library!

The Toledo-Lucas County (OH) Public Library is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. The library began in 1838 as a membership library under the auspices of the Toledo Young Men's Association. It didn't become a free public library until 1873. The central library building shown on the postcard above was opened in 1890. George S. Bobinski in his book Carnegie Libraries (ALA, 1969) indicates that Toledo received a grant from Andrew Carnegie for $125,000 in 1905 for five branch libraries. For some reason construction of these branches didn't begin until 1916. The current central library building was completed in 1940 and was significantly renovated and expanded in 2001.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

1931 Postal Card to the Library of Congress


One of my favorite categories of postal librariana is pre-stamped government issued postal cards. Libraries made heavy use of these cards to conduct library business, and they provide an interesting look at library procedures of the past. The postal card (see above) featured in this blog post concerns interlibrary loan and was mailed to the Library of Congress by the Cornell University Library on August 14, 1931. The hand written note on the message side of the card indicates that three books borrowed on interlibrary loan are being returned "express prepaid". A notation at the top of the cards indicates that the books were received by the Library of Congress. The front of the card has several special markings. All mailed received by the Library of Congress was stamped with a date received stamp by the Mail & Delivery Division. In addition to that stamp this card has a date received stamp for the Secretary's Office. There are also "Reading Room" stamps and an "Inter-Library Loan" stamp. Interlibrary loan was initiated by Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam in 1900. It was a major factor in establishing the Library as a national library and not just a library for Congress.