The Books They Read: Library War Service in WWI

Found in record series 89/1/13, box 6.
ALA book campaign advertisement

During the course of U.S. involvement in World War I, the American Library Association collected $5 million in donations for the Library War Service, a service that accumulated a collection of ten million publications and established thirty-six camp libraries across the United States and Europe. It was the ALA Library War Service’s mission to provide “a book for every man.”

The Library War Service accomplished a great deal in a short time. According to the June 1918 War Library Bulletin, there were 385,310 books shipped overseas. At that time, there were also 237 small military camps and posts equipped with book collections and 249 naval and marine stations and vessels supplied with libraries. [2] The books were well-received by soldiers and sailors alike, and unmistakably utilized widely. Vice-Admiral Albert Gleaves of the US Navy wrote:

“Do the sailors read very much? Do the soldiers read very much? I know from personal observation that the books were in constant demand, and that they were in constant circulation. They were placed as a rule near the troop compartments for the soldiers, and for the sailors they were placed in their compartments. The books were allotted to them and they would draw these books; they were not responsible in any way for their condition or what became of them. If the books were lost, that was profit and loss to the A. L. A., and didn’t concern the sailor man. There was no compulsion, no restraint; they had free access to these books.” [3]
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Activism and Advocacy in ALA: Women’s Organizations

Found in RS 99/1/13
Theresa West Elmendorf, the first female president of ALA, elected in 1911.

There are several units within the American Library Association that support women in the library profession and as a whole. Many of these groups arose during the second wave of feminism in the 1960s-80s in response to political and social movements outside of the ALA. Women in librarianship wanted the predominately-female profession to be regarded with the same respect and pay scale as other professions as well as more equity in ALA leadership.

One of the first major committees that is still around today is the Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship (COSWL). This committee came about after several years of advocating by ALA members and the eventual approval at the 1976 Centennial Conference in Chicago.[1] Initially, a proposal was presented during the 1974 Annual Conference[2] and then discussed by Council during the 1975 Midwinter Meeting.[3] The ALA Executive Board endorsed a set of guidelines put forward in 1976, drafted by a standing committee appointed by the ALA president.[4] The committee has a list of seven responsibilities, all of which support the growth of women inside and outside of the field of librarianship. COSWL also sponsors several research projects, publications, and subcommittees related to women in libraries, such as the Advance Women in Library Management, Minority Women Oral History Project, and the COSWL Study. ALA currently maintains a list of resources on the COSWL homepage related to women’s issues.

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