“The First Convention of the Kind”: The 1853 Librarians’ Convention

Letter of support for the convention.

Before the first American Library Association Conference in 1876, there was the 1853 Librarians’ Convention. The idea was first presented in 1852, in Charles Norton’s Norton’s Literary Gazette and Publisher’s Circular, though it would take another year for the idea to take root. After much correspondence a group of librarians put out an official proposal for a convention in May of 1853. The proposal, “Call for a Convention of Librarians”, was published in Norton’s Literary Gazette, stating: Continue reading ““The First Convention of the Kind”: The 1853 Librarians’ Convention”

“Develop the Power that is Within You”: The Harvey Dunn Poster Campaign

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Sometimes in the archives you look for one thing and find something completely different, but wonderfully fascinating. A letter for the Harvey Dunn Poster Campaign is one of those great and random finds in the archives. The letter, dated June 26, 1923, was a call for librarians to hang up a poster of a man reading a book in a factory, the image of the poster was originally from a painting by Harvey Dunn. Carl Milam, then Secretary of the ALA, stated that the, “Harvey Dunn poster … speaks directly to the people who need to learn of the hidden treasures which are theirs for the asking.”[1] Continue reading ““Develop the Power that is Within You”: The Harvey Dunn Poster Campaign”

Tour of the ALA to the Pacific Coast

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Sketch of S. S. Green from the Los Angeles Times, Oct 24, 1891.

In October 12-16 of 1891, the first ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco was held. It was the first conference to be held on the Pacific Coast and 83 people were in attendance, with Samuel Swett Green presiding as president. Even after over a hundred years, some of the topics discussed during the sessions would not be out of place at the 2015 Annual Conference. ALA members talked about library architecture, library administration, the use of libraries in schools, library legislation, and public support for public libraries. Continue reading “Tour of the ALA to the Pacific Coast”

National Library Workers Day: “Libraries Work Because We Do!”

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Courtesy of ALA Allied Professional Association

Today is National Library Workers Day, part of National Book Week. It’s a day to recognize the contributions made by library workers and all they do to keep libraries and library programs running. During the last few weeks, the ALA Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) has been promoting National Library Workers Day (NLWD) by providing a space to recognize stellar library workers, providing NLWD merchandise, giving suggestions for celebrations, and going on a social media blitz with photographs from the ALA Archives of library workers. Continue reading “National Library Workers Day: “Libraries Work Because We Do!””

Daniel W. Lester Library Postcard Collection

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A Carnegie Library at McPherson College, c. 1910.

In November the ALA Archives received a very generous donation of over 6,000 library postcards from Daniel Lester, now called the Daniel W. Lester Library Postcard Collection. The postcards made a cross country journey, courtesy of Larry Nix, from Mr. Lester’s home to the ALA Archives where they are now open for researchers to access. Continue reading “Daniel W. Lester Library Postcard Collection”

We Thought We Heard the Angels Sing

This is Our War - Let's Read about it!
Library promotional poster from World War II

For Veteran’s Day, the ALA Archives wanted to share how books can sometimes take us to strange and wonderful places.  James Whittaker’s We Thought We Heard the Angels Sing (a book about soldiers during WWII who survived a plane crash over the Pacific and were stranded on a life raft for weeks) took Suzanne Kelley and her students on a pursuit of knowledge that connected them with the WWII veterans from the book.  These veterans became a part of the students’ lives for years to come.  This is Ms. Kelley’s letter to the American Library Association from this past September: Continue reading “We Thought We Heard the Angels Sing”

Knapp School Libraries Project

In 1962, the Knapp Foundation, Inc., provided a $1,130,000 grant administered to the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of ALA, to raise the standards of school libraries. At that time, school libraries in the United States were noted to be substandard. While federal funds helped to fund school libraries in 1958, the AASL realized that school libraries needed more than money to fix their problems. Improvements were needed in collection development, updates in technology, more staff, and renovations in facilities.

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A busy school library at Central Park Road School in Plainview, NY. RS: 99/1/18

The five year Knapp School Libraries Project started in 1963. The project had four objectives: The first was to demonstrate the educational value of school libraries. The second was to promote improved understanding and use of library resources by teachers and administrators. The third objective was to guide other libraries to develop their own programs by having them observe the demonstration schools. And the last objective was to increase interest and support for school library development by producing and circulating information about the program and the demonstration schools.[1] Continue reading “Knapp School Libraries Project”

Ode to the Conference Program

The American Library Association Annual Conference is often a much anticipated event for librarians.  In 1876, 103 people attended the first conference in Philadelphia; last year alone over 26,000 people attended the Annual Conference in Chicago.[1]  Needless to say, the conference has grown a bit.

Amongst all of the exhibits, sessions, speakers, and free swag, there is one item that is essential to get around any conference: the program.  The program is the guide that allows people to navigate the conference, select which events to go to, which speakers to listen to, and where to obtain a free lunch.  Throughout the years, the Annual Conference Program has become thicker as the conference has expanded, and it has changed its appearance.  Early conference programs continue to be a valuable resource to the archives, but they were not nearly as aesthetically pleasing as the ones the ALA produces today. Continue reading “Ode to the Conference Program”

Books on Wheels

In 1904, the Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown, Maryland, outfitted a wagon with bookshelves to serve as a mobile library unit to reach people who could not normally make it to the library. A few times a week, the book wagon was able to reach rural areas of the county and deliver books to residents.

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Pamphlet by the ALA, 1921, RS: 29/7/4

The Washington County Free Library book wagon would meet a tragic end in 1910 when it was struck by a freight train at a railway crossing. This event would suspend the county’s library extension service as there were no funds to purchase a new wagon. However, in 1912, a generous donation of $2,500 by William Kealhofer, Esq. allowed the library to replace the book wagon. Instead of getting another horse drawn wagon, the library purchased a truck that could be fitted with shelves to hold 300 books.[1] The truck allowed the library to extend its reach by being able to add more routes. Continue reading “Books on Wheels”