Clara W. Hunt, chair of the Children’s Librarians Section, had noted that the Newbery Medal provided children’s literature with “publicity of the best kind.” But ALA did not always rely on the Newbery’s popularity to capture the public’s attention. Publicity around the Newbery Medal has drummed up excitement amongst librarians, readers, and the public for the past century. Often this has meant events, press releases, newsletters, radio programming, television broadcasts, and newspaper and magazine articles. Even the medal’s donor, Fredric Melcher, was part of the pageantry by holding press conferences at his New York office to announce the awardee of the Newbery Medal. However, some publicity ideas were more daring than press conferences and radio programs. The two stories of Rachel Field and Misty the Horse highlight a couple out of the box stunts. Continue reading “100 Years of the Newbery: “Publicity of the Best Kind””
For a century, the American Library Association has honored children’s authors with the John Newbery Medal. From the earliest years of the award, its prestige was not lost upon the authors who received it. Letters written by awardees to the Newbery Medal Committee chairs reveal their excitement upon receiving the news.
In 1934, author Cornelia Meigs was selected for the Newbery for her book Invincible Louisa. Meigs wrote to the selection committee chair, Siri Andrews, and was delighted to have her book honored, acknowledging that the Invincible Louisa was in good company:
Your letter, with its very delightful and astonishing news, has given me much pleasure. The Newbery Medal is an award for which everyone has the most profound respect, so that I am fully sensible of what good fortune it is to me to have it offered to Invincible Louisa. Some such extraordinarily fine books have been on your list in the past that it seems a very impressive thing have an invitation extended to join that distinguished company.(1)
The John Newbery Medal, established in 1921 for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children,” celebrated its 100th anniversary last year and the centennial of its first award ceremony is quickly approaching.
In 1921, Frederic Melcher, a publisher, bookseller, and chairman of the Children’s Book Week Committee, proposed the idea of a medal to be awarded in recognition of children’s literature and for it to be named after John Newbery, an 18th century British bookseller and children’s books publisher. With a growing audience for children’s books, more librarians being trained in children services, and the emergence of children’s book departments in publishing companies, the time seemed right for such an award and the idea gained traction.(1) Melcher paid to have the medal struck, while the Children’s Librarians Section (predecessor to the Association for Library Service to Children) organized the selection of the first winner through a vote of children’s librarians from across the country. Continue reading “100 Years of the Newbery: The First Medal”
Censorship is the act of preventing or obstructing another’s ability to express their thoughts through media, actions, and speech. American citizens are taught from an early age that the United States government will protect its people from censorship, as seen in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. However, this document was originally created to protect citizens from government censorship, not necessarily censorship coming from other citizens (5). Because of this, newer state legislation and court opinions either increase or decrease the ability to censor others in non-federal situations, and both public and private organizations get involved. One of the United States’ most iconic institutions, the public library, is a contested site in the discussion of censorship.
When the American Librarian Association Council accepted the Library Bill of Rights as a governing document in 1939, they also took a stand against censorship:
“Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.” (4)
Alongside written records, photographs, and publications, the American Library Association Archives also holds over 150 interviews of individual librarians and library workers. These oral histories and interviews provide a vital resource of librarian recollections that may not be otherwise found in administrative records, photographs, and correspondence. These stories told by librarians and library workers provide context to their lives and career, how their experiences and education shaped their librarianship, and how certain events shaped their personal and professional lives.
While the ALA Archives does not currently have its own active oral history program, the Archives collects and supports projects that capture the voices of librarians and library workers as part of its mission to preserve the history of librarianship. Here is a small selection the oral history projects and interviews that the Archives holds: Continue reading “Oral Histories at the ALA Archives”
Last summer, the American Library Association moved from its long-lived location at 50 E. Huron Street in Chicago to its new location off Michigan Ave. This office were the longest held headquarters that ALA had, it was by no means the first nor was Chicago ALA’s original location. ALA’s history is filled with debates about locations and new homes.
According to Virgil F. Massman, the Association had several temporary homes in its early years, with the saying being that the Association was in Melvil Dewey’s desk drawer or wherever the ALA Secretary hung up their hat. In reality, ALA established headquarter offices at 32 Hawley Street in Boston in 1879, which were maintained by Melvil Dewey. (1) Continue reading “A Short History of ALA Headquarters”
Blog post by Lauren Quinlan
Librarianship is a field that has long been dominated by women. According to a fact sheet published by the Department for Professional Employees, women compromise 81% of enrollment in graduate library science programs, 82.8% of all librarians, and 75.9% of all library workers . However, this dominance in terms of numbers has historically not translated to true equity in other dimensions.
According to a 1967 study of academic librarians, median salary differences between male and female librarians tend to widen as experience in the field increases – even when levels of education between the two groups are equal . This study emerged at a time when roughly four out of five librarians in the United States were female, and the discipline of librarianship was gaining legitimacy, with some concerned that “librarianship cannot upgrade itself without upgrading opportunities for women… Nor should it expect to gain the public esteem that it seeks by tactically endorsing inequality of opportunity, and furthering, by its own inaction, the all-too-familiar image of librarianship as a passive, unchallenging, and low-paid profession” . Continue reading “Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship”
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 . 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”
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.
From at least 1942 through 1947, known under the series title Interpreting America, the American Library Association produced a series of lists to support reading about cultures, histories, and politics of people in the United States. Each installment is rich with recommendations of contemporary writings on the peoples of the USA. Read on to learn more about early Interpreting America!
Continue reading “Publications: Interpreting America, 1942-1947”