World War I Library War Service

The Library War Service, formed during World War I, was the first large undertaking of the American Library Association. It launched the ALA from a small professional association to a large organization concerned with public service. Because of the enormous effort put forth by the ALA and its members to run book drives, collect donations, sends books, setup camp libraries with librarians, and the start of programs like the Library Service for the Blind, the Library War Service is a heavily studied aspect of the association.

The following is a list of resources provided by the ALA Archives. Many of the resources on this list are digitized and readily available to offsite researchers.

A Book For Every Man: The ALA Library War Service

An online exhibit curated by ALA Archives staff on the ALA Library War Service, providing an overview of the War Service’s history and activities, drawing upon a variety of sources from the Archives.

Bookplate used on the inside of camp library books.

ALA Archives Blog Posts

ALA Archives staff have written several blog posts about the Library War Service. Blog posts highlight individual librarians, uniforms, the ALA’s war time programs, and activities after the war. Bibliographies are provided in most blog posts so researchers can easily request documents of interest.

Library War Service Photographs and Slides

The Archives holds glass slides, photographs, and postcards depicting book campaigns, volunteers sorting books, soldiers utilizing camp libraries, hospital libraries, and signage advertising the benefits of using the library. Part of the American Library Association Digital Collection.

Library War Service Posters – Database Temporarily Down

Getting the word out about book campaigns, donations, and programs was vital to the success of the Library War Service. These posters tell the story of the promotion side of the campaigns and advertising to soldiers about the resources available to them at camp libraries.

Physical Archival Holdings

Top two would be sewn on the lower left sleeve of main uniform style, bottom blue one on the upper left sleeve for some uniforms.
Top two would be sewn on the lower left sleeve of main uniform style, bottom blue one on the upper left sleeve for some uniforms.

Most of the Archives’ resources on the Library War Service are not digitized. This rich collection of personal papers, artifacts, reports, correspondence, books, photographs, scrapbooks, and clippings are available to visiting researchers. If you can’t visit the Archives, send us an email and we will be happy to help you with your research.

Published ALA Conference Proceedings: 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920

While conference proceedings may seem like an unlikely source for information on the Library War Service, these volumes are actually filled with reports about book drives, programs, and accounts from camp librarians during and after the war.


The Library War Service Scrapbooks help to tell the story of how the books collected by the ALA and other organizations were used, along with photographs depicting camp libraries and the librarians that ran them. The scrapbooks are currently being digitized and more will be posted later.