Spooky Stacks: Viewing Haunted Libraries of the Midwest through Library Postcards

According to a scientific survey by Chapman University, a little more than half of all Americans believe that places can be haunted by spirits, with three in four believing in some kind of paranormal phenomenon [9]. The history of ghosts in America is a storied one and can generally be charted as first being thought of as “agents of God, then the devil, and now are seen as entertainment, to a large extent”, according to Tamara Hunt, a History professor at University of Southern Indiana and collector of ghost stories. Generally speaking, the way ghosts are seen in culture and society reflect the temperature of the era. Those in the 18th century viewed ghosts as the spirits of the dead who had unfinished business on Earth. Later on, ghosts helped people deal with the rapid changes of the 19th century, and when seances and Ouija boards rose in popularity, so did the belief that people could communicate with any spirit – not just a loved one. Throughout all time, ghosts provided a link between the present and the past, and the living and the dead – a connection that brings comfort and peace of mind during turbulent times. Some of the most haunted libraries in the Midwest can be viewed – from a safe distance – through the American Library Association Archives’ extensive postcard collection. More information about haunted libraries throughout the United States can be found through the Haunted Libraries LibGuide, courtesy of the University of Illinois Library. Continue reading “Spooky Stacks: Viewing Haunted Libraries of the Midwest through Library Postcards”

You’ve Got Mail: Carnegie Libraries, As Seen Through Library Postcards

The history of public libraries in the United States is as vast and varied as the histories of the towns and cities they inhabit. Despite providing essential services since their inception, the spaces libraries inhabited were not always befitting of their importance. Many were kept in small backrooms or were forced to share space with other local organizations, impeding access to information and depriving citizens of a central gathering space. In this dearth, Andrew Carnegie – an enterprising businessman who at one point was the richest man in the world – saw an opportunity. Between 1893 and 1919, Carnegie gave away $60 million of his fortune to fund 1,689 public libraries across the country [1, 2]. Adjusted for inflation, that figure today reaches towards $1.3 billion. These “Carnegie libraries” became cultural centers in towns big and small and were instrumental in constructing the blueprint of small-town America as we know it today.

These towns were often so proud of these monuments of culture that they distributed postcards celebrating the new library. Many of these postcards, along with thousands of other postcards of libraries around the world, are housed at the American Library Association Archives in the Sjoerd Koopman, Celene Bishop, Judy Muck, and Daniel W. Lester Library Postcard Collections.

Carnegie Library, Washington D.C., 1910 (Record Series 97/1/55)

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Social Gatherings of Times Past: Century 21 Exposition (Seattle, 1962)

It doesn’t seem too long ago that gathering in large groups was a normal part of life, but the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept across the world has made such gatherings feel like a distant memory. In the absence of any significant social gatherings in the near future, take a tour through one from the past – the Century 21 Exposition, also known as the Seattle World’s Fair, which over the course of its run attracted over 10 million people from all over the world to its many exhibits. One such exhibit was sponsored by the American Library Association, who showcased the importance of libraries to a world yearning for innovation.

Fair map from 1959 promotional booklet (Courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives)

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“Librarians Are More Freedom Fighters Than Shushers”: Carla Hayden

Carla Hayden, 2003 (Record Series 13/6/15, Box 4)

In a career that spans state and government agencies, Carla Hayden has always fought for the people who need library resources the most and championed their right to have equal access to these resources, free of any government intervention. In a June 2003 news release announcing Hayden’s tenure as ALA President, Hayden stated that, “Equity of access is not only one of the basic tenets of our profession but it encompasses all of our basic and pressing contemporary concerns as well. We need to recommit ourselves to the ideal of providing equal access to everyone, anywhere, anytime and in any format, particularly those groups who are already underserved.” [1] Continue reading ““Librarians Are More Freedom Fighters Than Shushers”: Carla Hayden”