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.
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.
The ALA Archives has an exhibit up this month up in the Marshall Gallery at the University of Illinois Library. Traveling Libraries: The Library Extension Board and Rural Library Service explores the varied history of the Library Extension Board and library extension services in the United States. You can see of preview of the exhibit content here, but be sure to stop by the Marshall Gallery June 1-30 to view the exhibit. You can also visit the American Library Association Archives to find more materials from the Library Extension Board. Continue reading “Traveling Libraries: The Library Extension Board and Rural Library Service”→
Libraries of all kinds have suffered damages and loss due to environmental disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods. As hurricane season comes to a close (officially June 1 to November 30), it’s a good time to reflect on disaster planning. Hurricanes Florence and Michael caused significant damage in the United States this year, and Puerto Rico is still rebuilding following last year’s Hurricane Maria.
June is pride month, which means that our exhibit Out of the Closet & Onto the Shelves: Librarians and the Oldest Gay Professional Organization in the U.S. is up in the Marshall Gallery at the University of Illinois Library. This exhibit documents the early history and development of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association. This organization has a rich history documented in the archives, and we are excited to display these materials to library patrons this month. However, we couldn’t fit everything in the exhibit and we know that not everyone can make it to campus, so here we will share some highlights of GLBT Round Table history. Be sure to stop by the Marshall Gallery June 1-30 to view the exhibit, and visit the American Library Association Archives to see more of this exciting collection. Continue reading “Out of the Closet & Onto the Shelves: Librarians and the Oldest Gay Professional Organization in the U.S.”→
World War I spread tragedy and despair across the world, but the American Library Association worked to brighten the spirits of wounded soldiers. In 1917, the American Library Association provided library services to wounded soldiers and delivered books, newspapers, and magazines to more than 200 army and navy hospitals. The ALA was able to send trained librarians to 75 military hospitals to aid in the outreach.
A special thanks to ALA graduate assistant Salvatore De Sando for all his hard work on this exhibit! And thanks to ALA graduate students Sharon Pietryka, Leanna Barcelona, and Madison Well for their help.
It was a gray spring day in 1983 on Park Lane and although she didn’t know it yet, Association of American Library Schools (now the Association for Library and Information Science Education) Executive Secretary Janet Phillips had immortalized Tour Guide and Mascot “Prissy”.
On November 11, 1966, Headquarters Librarian Ruth White wrote to Associate Executive Director Alphonse Trezza:
The archives for ALA are now stored in many places.There has never been an established policy for retention and disposition of ALA and divisional correspondence and publications. Neither has there been a systematic program for collection of archival material. In 1949 the Committee on A.L.A. Archival and Library Materials made a detailed report, but there is no record of action being taken on the report. Certainly the recommendations have been carried out only spasmodically, if at all. As stated at the beginning, the result is that many divisions have their own archives, some archival material is in Central Files, some if in the library, and some is in the hands of officers, past officers and past headquarters…
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”→