Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Seychelles’ Carnegie Library

Most of the communities that benefited from grants from Andrew Carnegie for library buildings were located in the British Isles or North America.  A relatively small number were located in other English speaking countries around the world.  I have in my collection of library postcards one that depicts the Carnegie library building in Victoria, Seychelles.  Victoria received a Carnegie grant of $9,740 on August 6, 1907, but the opening of the library didn’t take place until January 22, 1910.  My postcard shows the visit of the Governor of Seychelles and his wife on the library’s opening day.  The message side of the postcard was written on April 14, 1917.  It is a message from a father who was probably a sailor on a British naval vessel to his daughter.  It reads in part: “This is where Father was this afternoon when he went there from the big ship.”  This date was in the midst of World War I and British ships were in conflict with German vessels around the world.  My postcard doesn’t have a postage stamp and it was probably inserted in another envelope for mailing. At various times the Carnegie building housed the public library and the National library of Seychelles.  The website of the National Library has a brief history of the library (see the link at the bottom of the home page).  There is a nice list of Carnegie library buildings located in Africa, the Caribbean, and Oceania on the Wikipedia site.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

ALA’s Atlanta Conference 1899

Later this week the American Library Association will hold its Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta, GA.  The first ALA conference in Atlanta took place on May 8-12, 1899.  It was also ALA’s first conference in the South.  William C. Lane, Director of the Harvard University Library, was President of ALA.  Attendance at the conference was 215. The conference hotel was the Kimball House (see postcard below).  The rationale for an ALA conference in the South was stated in the conference brochure (see cover illustration above): “It is to be hoped that this southern meeting will be the means of largely increasing the membership [in ALA] from a section hitherto almost entirely without representation.” The brochure included a section touting Andrew Carnegie’s bequest in 1898 for new library buildings in Atlanta. This section which was written by someone with the initials A.W. included the following statement: “The people of the South, perhaps the purest strain of the Anglo-Saxon to be found on this continent, are conservative, intelligent, and need only the educational advantages that wealth can bestow to reach a degree of culture heretofore unrivaled.”  No mention of the African American population of the South. Andrew Carnegie’s bequest, however, did include funds for a separate library for African Americans. The racial climate in the South was reflected in ALA’s planning for the 1899 Atlanta conference. There was an initial proposal for a presentation on “How to Make the Library Do Its Part in Negro Education” by W. E. B. Du Bois.  According to Dennis Thomison in his A History of the American Library Association 1876-1872, a decision was made not to have the presentation “to avoid the risk of angering the association’s southern hosts”. It was not until the 1922 ALA conference in Detroit that an African American gave a speech at an ALA conference. The lineup of featured speakers at this year’s Midwinter meeting shows the dramatic change in ALA’s 21st century outlook on diversity in its programming and membership.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Looking Back at Library History 2016

Notwithstanding a not so great year nationally and internationally, it has been a good year for the promotion and celebration of library history.  An obvious highlight for me personally was my induction into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame at the Wisconsin Library Association Conference in Milwaukee in October (see photo above).

On the national scene it was a landmark year for the American Library Association which celebrated its 140th anniversary. Of particular note was the effort of the American Libraries magazine to call attention to this milestone. Several other major events also occurred in 1876, the founding year for ALA, and were less well noted on their 140th anniversary. They included the establishment of the Library Journal magazine; the publication of Melvil Dewey’s Decimal Classification System; the creation of the library supply company Library Bureau, also a Dewey effort; and the special report of the US Bureau of Education on the status of  Public Libraries in the United States of America (in actuality all libraries in the US other than personal libraries).  

The Wisconsin Library Association celebrated its 125h anniversary. I was privileged to serve on the committee which was charged with planning the celebration. One of my contributions to this effort was adding content to the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center website about WLA’s history and events related to the anniversary celebration.  

I continued my efforts to collect and to exhibit postal artifacts related to libraries in 2016. My major philatelic exhibit for the year was “America’s Library – The Library of Congress”.  At national level stamp shows the exhibit received gold medals in St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Chicago. In St. Louis it was judged to be the “Best Display Exhibit”.  The exhibit was also selected as the best exhibit at the Wisconsin state stamp show.  It was wonderful to conclude the exhibit with a reference to the appointment of Dr. Carla Hayden as the Librarian of Congress.

My collection of Wisconsin Library Memorabilia was on display at the Milwaukee Public Library and the Middleton Public Library this year. 

It was not a great year for writing new blog posts for the Library History Buff Blog. I only published 21 posts for the year, an all time yearly low for me. On the positive side all time page views for the blog exceeded 600,000.  I hope to do much better in 2017. In the very limited world of library history blogging the ALA Archives Blog has set a high standard for quality posts. 

Have a happy 2017 everyone!