Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Library Service to African Americans in the South

There was a recent discussion on the ALA Library History Round Table (LHRT) listserv about the Alexandria Library in Virginia honoring the 75th anniversary of the 1939 Civil Rights sit-in at the library. I have written a previous post about the sit-in. In the listserv discussion it was noted that the most definitive study about library service to African Americans in the South prior to 1941 was conducted by Eliza Atkins Gleason. Gleason was the first African American to receive a PhD in Library Science and the study was the basis for her dissertation at the University of Chicago. Her study also resulted in the publication of the book The Southern Negro and the Public Library (Univ. of Chicago, 1941). I have a copy of the book in my personal library and Gleason's description of library service to African Americans in the South during this period is appalling to say the least. Gleason found that in 1939 only 99 out of 774 public libraries in the 13 southern states provided library service to African Americans, and that only 21 percent of the total African American population had access to such service. That service was substantially inferior to the service provided to the white population in those states. Eliza Atkins Gleason (1909-2009) was an exceptional librarian and her contributions to the library profession have been documented in the blog Little Known Black Librarian Facts. Two other interesting items came out in the LHRT listserv discussion. The doctoral dissertation of Brenda Mitchell-Powell, a  student at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College, will address the 1939 sit-in at the Alexandria Library. Also Wayne Wiegand and his wife Shirl are in the process of finishing research on a book about the desegregation of public libraries in the American South which should get published in 2015. I will look forward to the publication of both of these efforts. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Oldest Public Library in the Americas?

There are several libraries that make claim to being the oldest public library in the United States of America, but one library claims to be the oldest public library in the Americas. That library is the Biblioteca Palafoxiana in Puebla, Mexico. The Biblioteca Palafoxiana was founded in 1646 and was added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in 2005. In 1996 Mexico issued a postage stamp (at the left) to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the library. According to Mexico's submission to the Memory of the World Register, the Biblioteca Palafoxiana "is noted for its authenticity and bibliographical wealth, building and bookcases, with more than 41,000 volumes among those that the library preserves as well as world unique manuscripts, there are 9 incunabula." The library was founded by Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, a Catholic priest who served as bishop of Puebla from 1640 to 1655. The blog "All About Puebla" indicates that the library is noteworthy for its sheer beauty and includes finely carved bookshelves. Was the library truly a public library as we know it in the United States? Probably not. However, Juan de Palafox y Mendoza did establish the library by donating 5,000 of his own books to the Colegio de San Juan on the condition that they be made available to the general public. Currently it is more of a rare book and research library. Information about visiting the library can be found HERE.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Exhibiting in Little Rock

I've written several posts about America's presidential libraries including one on my philatelic exhibit about these libraries. My philatelic exhibit is on display this weekend at the American Philatelic Society's Winter stamp show that is taking place in Little Rock, Arkansas. The exhibit is being shown as a non-competitive exhibit at the invitation of the American Philatelic Society. The exhibit is primarily about the presidential libraries that are administered by the National Libraries and Archives Administration (NARA). It is an appropriate exhibit since the Clinton Presidential Library is located in Little Rock. I mailed the exhibit to Little Rock and won't be attending the show myself.  The First Day Cover (FDC) shown above is for the Presidential Libraries stamp that was issued on August 4, 2005. This FDC has a postmark for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, NY, and shows a picture of Roosevelt assisting with the mortaring of the wall of the library on Nov. 19, 1939.  A unique postmark was created for the stamp for each of the  the presidential library sites. The Presidential Libraries stamp commemorated the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 which authorized the National Archives to take custody of the papers of U.S. presidents.

A Library Postcard for Valentines Day

The caption on this postcard reads:

"Thy kisses! they as honey are;
Thy teasing lips, so near, so far!"

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Merchant Marine and ALA in WWI

The Merchant Marine is the fleet of American ships which carries a wide variety of cargo around the world during peacetime and becomes a naval auxiliary during wartime. The Merchant Marine played an essential role in World War I by delivering U.S. troops and war material to the European theater. During World War I the Library War Service of the American Library Association provided books to the men who served on the ships of the Merchant Marine. As part of its promotion of this service ALA published a series of eight postcards depicting Merchant Marine mariners/sailors using the service. I've managed to collect seven of the eight postcards, two of which are depicted above. The rest are located HERE. The postcards indicate that: "The A.L.A. furnishes free crew's libraries to American merchant ships and through representatives at principal ports provides a free library service to American seamen." One postcard states that: "Boxed crew's libraries, each containing about eighty books of fiction, travel, books on seamanship and others, are exchangeable at principal ports." After the war the books from this service were transferred to the American Merchant Marine Library Association which was created in 1921. It was one of the legacies of the ALA Library War Service.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Sign for Libraries

In the era of smart phones, GPS, Google Maps, and library web pages, locating a public library in a community is a snap. However, for more than three decades green and white highway signs with a stylized figure reading a book have been one of the more effective means of finding a library in an unfamiliar location. I was reminded of this on some recent trips around Wisconsin to install library exhibits for the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center. The sign in the picture above is being used to guide the way to the South Milwaukee Public Library. The logo on the sign was adopted as the national symbol for libraries by the Council of the American Library Association at the ALA Conference in Philadelphia in 1982 on the recommendation of the ALA Presidential Task Force on a National Library Symbol which had been appointed by ALA President Betty Stone. The appointment of the Presidential Task Force grew out of a recommendation of the 1979 White House Conference on Libraries for "adopting a library symbol for the Nation". The Presidential Task Force was aided in its work by a sign system for libraries developed by the Western Maryland Public Libraries (now the Western Maryland Regional Library) which included the recommended logo. Mary S. Mallery of Western Maryland Public Libraries was the originator of the idea for a sign system for libraries and Ralph E. DeVore designed the library symbol and other symbols that were included in the sign system. A manual titled A Sign System for Libraries by Mallery and DeVore was published by ALA in 1982 as part of the ALA Conference roll out for the national symbol. Originally the background color for the outdoor signs was to be blue but was changed to green to conform to national standards for informational highway signs. ALA has a fact sheet on the library symbol on its website.