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.
Continuing our coverage of ALA during World War I, this post will highlight the now very rare uniforms of the first military librarians. The Library War Service was not unique in having a uniform, as many volunteer groups active in World War I had their own distinctive uniforms, notably the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. However, World War I was the first war when many women had the opportunity to wear a uniform while serving their country, and these particular uniforms are especially interesting: as they embody a time in which women were were first starting to get official status within the military, as well as beginning to exert more power in the leadership of librarianship in general and ALA in particular.
While the battles, uniforms, and weapons that made up a World War I serviceman’s life are very well documented in the history books, the day-to-day monotony of a soldier’s life doesn’t often get as much attention. The ALA Archives has recently migrated our collection of digitized lantern slides from World War I into the CONTENTdm system, which shows one way these men filled their downtime: reading.
Within a few weeks of America’s entrance into World War I, the American Library Association undertook an enormous campaign to send books and other reading materials to American forces at home and abroad. Continue reading “A Book for Every Man”