Friday, December 18, 2015

2015 in Review

At the end of 2015 I thought I would reflect on some of my library history related activities this year.  

I completed my seventh year of blogging on the Library History Buff Blog. It was not a great year for blogging, only 34 posts which was an all time low for me. My total posts during the seven years total over 700.  My pageviews during this 7 year period total 425,000, and my official blog followers total 303 (thank you to all of my followers). 

It was a disappointing this year for my Library History Buff website. It is basically a dead site at this point. The site is based on the Microsoft FrontPage software platform which Microsoft no longer supports and my Internet provider also stopped supporting it this year.  The LHB website which I started in March 2005 evolved from a free website offered by my Internet provider which I began in October of 2002.The task of transferring all the content on the site to a new platform is daunting for someone of my limited Web skills. I am currently exploring options for the future of the content on the site.

I continue to be a collector of librariana with a special emphasis on postal librariana and have added many interesting items to my collection in 2015. I do, however, think a lot about the final disposition of my collection which has been assembled over a 20 year period of active collecting. 

I am an exhibitor of postal librariana at national level stamp shows and this year I developed two new exhibits for exhibition. The larger exhibit was titled “America’s Membership Libraries” and it received gold awards at stamp shows in St. Louis, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Omaha. The smaller exhibit was titled “Hiram E. Deats – Philatelist & Collector Extraordinaire”.  Although Deats was a world renowned philatelist, he had many library connections including serving as president of the New Jersey Library Association. It received Vermeil awards (the level just below gold) at several stamp shows, but ended the year with a gold award at the Chicago stamp show. At the Wisconsin state stamp show my exhibit “Libraries and the Mail in America 1900-1960” won the Champion of Champions award. 

This year I stepped down as Chair of the Steering Committee of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center, a position I have held for the last six years. I continue, however, to serve as webmaster for the Center’s website and blog, and to install exhibits of Wisconsin library memorabilia at public libraries around the state. I also help research potential nominees to the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame. 

In a closely related activity I am a member of the Wisconsin Library Association’s 125th Anniversary Task Force.  WLA will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2016.  To help kick of 125th activities, noted library historian Wayne A. Wiegand made a presentation at the annual WLA conference in November about his new book Part of Our Lives – A People’s History of the American Public Library.  

I continued this year with assisting library postcard collector extraordinaire Dan Lester with the disposition of his 10,000 plus library postcard collection. Last year I helped move over 6,000 of his library postcards to the American Library Association Archives at the University of Illinois in Champaign – Urbana. 

I’m looking forward to engaging in a number of library history related activities in 2016.

Happy holidays to all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Book on the History of Bookmobiles in America

I just received my copy of Bookmobiles in America: An Illustrated History by Orty Ortwein, and I would recommend its purchase by library history buffs and especially those, like me, who have a special interest in this aspect of library service. The book was self published by Ortwein earlier this year and can be purchased for $11 from Amazon. Some of the content in the publication has been previously published online in Ortwein's excellent blog Bookmobiles: A History. Ortwein readily admits that his book should not be considered the absolute authority on American bookmobiles. Instead, he says, it should be thought of as "a fun tour of a fun topic". As could be expected from a book with "Illustrated" in its title it includes numerous illustrations of bookmobiles tied to interesting stories about bookmobiles. The book also includes stories about traveling libraries. Included in the book is a chart compiled by Ortwein that shows the rise and fall of bookmobiles in America. The number of bookmobiles peaked in 1965 at 2,000 but had dropped to 696 in 2011. The expansion of bookmobile service correlates to the infusion of Federal aid from the 1956 Library Services Act for rural library service.  Also of great value is the extensive list of sources which Ortwein includes at the end of his publication. Click HERE to see my previous blog posts about bookmobiles. Also don't miss the American Libraries Pinterest bookmobile site.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Red Bird Mission Bookmobile, Beverly, KY

Another bookmobile postcard recently added to my collection. This one is a Real Photo Postcard (RPPC) showing the bookmobile of the Red Bird Mission in Beverly, KY in the 1950s. The Red Bird Mission is affiliated with the Methodist Church and provides a variety of social services to the people of Eastern Kentucky. The bookmobile is a modified Willys Jeep Truck. Bookmobile service for Bell County in which the Red Bird Mission is located is now provided by Bell County Public Libraries. Their current bookmobile is more attracive than the Red Bird Mission bookmobile, but not more interesting. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Bookmobiles of Greenville Co. SC

When I became Director of the Greenville County Library in South Carolina in 1974 the library system had five bookmobiles including one "outreach" bookmobile. The library system had a long history of providing bookmobile service dating back to the 1920s when the Greenville Public Library was established. I recently acquired the first postcard shown above which depicts one of the library's first bookmobiles. Orty Ortwein has written about Greenville's first bookmobile in his "Bookmobiles: A History" blog. In 1949 the library purchased its first bookmobile equipped for inside service. In 1961 the Greenville Public Library became the Greenville County Library with a dedicated tax levy. As a result the library was able to buy four new bookmobiles. One bookmobile served areas inside the city, one served areas in the school district. one served rural areas outside the school district, and one was dedicated to the "Negro service" (the library was fully integrated by 1965). There were now a total of 150 bookmobile stops. The Gerstenslager bookmobile shown on the second postcard above was one of these bookmobiles. While I was a director of the Greenville County Library there was a significant transition away from bookmobiles to branch libraries. However, the Greenville County Library still operates one bookmobile. Some information in this post is from Free Reading for Everybody: The Story of The Greenville Library by Ellen Perry (1973, Greenville County Library).