Postal librariana is a term which I use to describe postal artifacts related to libraries and librarianship. The "postal librariana" label has been given to more posts on the LHBB than any other category. The postal artifacts which I include in my definition of postal librariana include: postage stamps and items related to the issue of postage stamps; envelopes and the predecessors of envelopes which are commonly called "covers" by philatelists; postal cards (pre-stamped cards issued by the government postal service); selected picture postcards featuring a library which have been sent through the mail; and the contents of envelopes/covers relating to libraries.
Envelopes which have been sent from or to libraries through regular mail channels constitute one of the most interesting areas of postal librariana. Libraries have been using the mail system to conduct their daily business throughout their history. It is impossible to determine how many envelopes have been mailed from or to libraries, but it certainly is in the tens of millions. The vast majority of these envelopes have been routinely discarded as is common business practice. Over the years I have searched through hundreds of thousands of covers at stamp shows and on the Internet looking for these elusive treasures. By aggressively searching for library covers and with the assistance of a number of cooperative stamp dealers and collectors, I have accumulated a collection of several thousand items from all over the world and from many different time periods. Collectors of covers say that every cover has a story. The story they are referring to is often only the story of how the cover got from one place to another through one or more postal systems. I am also interested in that story, but I am equally interested in the story the cover tells about libraries and librarians.
Library covers/envelopes also include souvenir covers.
The U.S. Post Office Department introduced postal cards in the United States in 1873. They came with pre-printed postage and cost only one cent to mail. They were immensely popular with individuals, businesses, and organizations, and they quickly became the email of 19th century America. Libraries were quick to take advantage of postal cards and used them for a multitude of purposes including overdue notices, acknowledging gifts, requesting free material, interlibrary loan requests, and others. In searching for postal librariana at stamp shows I found out early that one of the most likely places to find library related postal artifacts was in the stocks of dealers related to postal stationery. Postal cards contain interesting information about the sender and recipient of the cards. If sent by a library they often include the name of the librarian or other library staff member.
Postal librariana includes postage stamps that have a connection to libraries and library people. These stamps include those that depict the exterior and interior of actual library buildings as well as stamps that show generic library interiors. The library interiors are sometimes shown with generic library users and sometimes they feature a prominent individual in a library or with books as a backdrop. There are many buildings that have a broader use but also include a library. I normally do not include these buildings unless the library which it contains is a prominent library in its own right. An example of this is the U.S. Capitol which contained the Library of Congress for many years. I use the term "library people" because I include stamps of library supporters such as Andrew Carnegie. Also included are postage stamps that were issued to honor or commemorate a library or group of libraries even though they do not depict a library or library person. I include postage stamps that have a connection to archives and archivists. I do not include postage stamps that have books, printing, reading, or writers as their primary focus.