The ALA and World War II

With the help of the American Red Cross and the United Service organizations, the ALA collected 17 million volumes during its 1942-43 Victory Book Campaign.

U.S. Army Hospital Ward Service
Fort Dix, New Jersey, circa 1945
Record Series 99/1/18, Box 2, Folder 17

Libraries across the county answered the call the ALA Executive Board issued in 1942 to organize “services and expenditures without delay to meet the necessities of a nation at war.”  For the Victory Book Campaign alone, thousands of volunteers assisted in the enormous task of sorting and shipping millions of donated volumes.

These donations were primarily intended to support existing libraries in the U.S. army, Army Air Corps, Navy, and U.S.O. Units, although some were also set aside for distribution to devastated libraries in Europe, prisoners of war, and conscientious objectors’ work camps.

Librarians’ enthusiastic participation in the war effort often came at the expense of library services at home, in the form of shortages of gas and tires for bookmobiles, staff shortages as librarians offered their services to the army, and even a lack of fiction as collection development funding was re-allocated for war-related materials and technical manuals for defense workers.