The connection between the ALA and the American Merchant Marine Library Association (AMMLA) is a little-known example of collaboration and cooperation between organizations. AMMLA developed out of the World War I Library War Service and ALA’s efforts to provide books and resources to men aboard U. S. vessels. (For more information about the Library War Service, please see our research guide). After the war ended, the library service for American servicemen was turned over to the War and Navy Departments, and the Library War Service Committee hoped that it’s work aboard U.S. ships would be taken over by either shipowners or another organization . Finally, after the request from ALA to form a peace-time library service for this purpose, Alice Sturdevant Howard, Chief of the Social Service Bureau of the Recruiting Service of the United States Shipping Board, organized the American Merchant Marine Library Service in 1921 . To aid the effort, ALA donated the leftover book stock used in the Merchant Marine Service as well as some unexpended funds . Continue reading ““Public Library of the High Seas”: ALA and the American Merchant Marine Library Association”
There are several units within the American Library Association that support women in the library profession and as a whole. Many of these groups arose during the second wave of feminism in the 1960s-80s in response to political and social movements outside of the ALA. Women in librarianship wanted the predominately-female profession to be regarded with the same respect and pay scale as other professions as well as more equity in ALA leadership.
One of the first major committees that is still around today is the Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship (COSWL). This committee came about after several years of advocating by ALA members and the eventual approval at the 1976 Centennial Conference in Chicago. Initially, a proposal was presented during the 1974 Annual Conference and then discussed by Council during the 1975 Midwinter Meeting. The ALA Executive Board endorsed a set of guidelines put forward in 1976, drafted by a standing committee appointed by the ALA president. The committee has a list of seven responsibilities, all of which support the growth of women inside and outside of the field of librarianship. COSWL also sponsors several research projects, publications, and subcommittees related to women in libraries, such as the Advance Women in Library Management, Minority Women Oral History Project, and the COSWL Study. ALA currently maintains a list of resources on the COSWL homepage related to women’s issues.
To continue our blog series highlighting pioneering women librarians, this next post will focus on Mary Wright Plummer (1856-1916). A member of Melvil Dewey’s first class in librarianship at Columbia College, Plummer went on to establish an impressive career in librarian education, children’s librarianship, and international librarianship, and served as the ALA’s 2nd female president from 1915-1916.
Born to a Quaker family, Plummer attended Wellesley College from 1881-1882, studying languages and creative writing. Her librarianship career began when she enrolled at the age of 30 in “the first class in library science on the planet”, Melvil Dewey’s 1887 class in the School of Library Economy at Columbia College. Distinguishing herself immediately in her studies, she was selected to present her experience in library school at the American Library Association’s 1887 meeting (“The Columbia College School of Library Economy from a Student’s Standpoint,” printed in Library Journal, September-December 1887). Continue reading “Mary Wright Plummer”
Sponsored by the National Book Committee, Inc., and in cooperation with the American Library Association, the first National Library Week was launched on March 16-22, 1958. Citing a 1957 survey showing that only 17% of Americans polled were reading a book, the inaugural National Library Week slogan was “Wake Up and Read!” The National Library Week initiative was the first nationwide effort to promote literacy for personal and national improvement, to celebrate the role of libraries in making reading materials accessible to everyone, and to highlight the varied career opportunities available within the library profession.
This “Traveling” Souvenir is sent to a few friends, and I hope it may give enough pleasure to offset cost of postage. (Preface, 1897 Photo Album)
As described in an earlier blog post: Frederick Winthrop Faxon (1866-1936) was the early bard of the American Library Association. Although he was not a librarian, he was memorialized as someone who “for almost forty years,[…] devoted himself to serving librarians and promoting the library idea.” Attending 43 annual conferences throughout his lifetime, Faxon’s humorous reports enliven several years of the American Library Association Papers and Proceedings. Continue reading “Faxon’s Traveling Conference Albums”
A recent acquisition to the archives is a small packet containing the bylaws and related documents of the ALA Players (“ALAP”). As described in the ALA Archives transmittal form, the ALAP was established when a huge snowstorm descended during the Midwinter conference of 1978, causing the group to be snowed in and looking for ways to occupy their time. The documents reflect the playful attitude of the members during their confinement. The ALA Players “continued for many years with dancing on Tuesday (or other) nights of each conference.” Continue reading “Snowed in at Midwinter: the ALA Players”
“[T]he blind soldier is the spirit of war, of the battlefront, of France,” said Jerry O’Connor, a blinded Cantigny veteran from World War I, during his award-winning speech titled The Duty of the Blind Soldier to the Blind Civilian at the Red Cross Institute for the Blind’s Public Speaking Contest in 1920. “We have the mud of the trenches upon our feet, gold chevrons upon our sleeves, and the scars of War upon our faces. Whether we deserve it or not, people stare at us, send us gifts, invite us to their homes, give us sympathy. Such circumstances place the blind soldier in a position where, when he speaks, he can be heard. Consequently, if the conditions of the blind can be improved, the blind soldier should speak – and be heard.” Identifying two major obstacles for blind people as “the habit of the public to look upon the blind man as incapable, sensitive, and helpless” and the lack of educational opportunities for the adult blind person, O’Connor called for public programs to address these obstacles for the blind. One of the institutions responding to this call for action would be the American Library Association. Continue reading “Library Service for the Blind”
Burton Egbert Stevenson (1872-1962) was surprised to find himself named the foremost ALA representative in Europe for the Library War Services campaign during the first World War. A college dropout from Princeton University and aspiring novelist, he fell into the library profession after marrying Chillicothe Public Librarian, Elisabeth Shephard Butler and accepting a librarian position at the same library in 1899. Continue reading “Burton E. Stevenson: ALA Representative in Europe”
Three years before the founding of OCLC, and seven years before Michael Hart typed the first ebook for Project Gutenberg, the public got a tangible introduction to the potential use of computers in libraries at the New York World’s Fair. Even more uniquely, the Library/USA exhibit did not introduce people to the first commonly-spread use of computer technology in libraries, the online catalog, but instead to some of the library computer applications that would come much later, such as online encyclopedias and subject bibliographies. How did the ALA orchestrate this little slice of the future? Continue reading “Library/USA Exhibit at the 1964-5 New York World’s Fair”
With its approaching centennial in 1976, the American Library Association noticed the increased interest in the history of the librarianship and the association by historians, writers and archivists. Because of this greater awareness in their records, the ALA expressed concern over the management of their archives and the preservation of their history. At the time, most of the ALA archives were housed in a warehouse in Chicago and, while it was conveniently located near ALA Headquarters, the records were not easily accessible. The ALA Librarian and staff had worked hard to care for the archives, however it was a great task in addition to their other obligations.