Librarians in Uniform

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.

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Library War Service slides collection now online and browsable

Sailor selecting a book
A sailor is shown selecting his own book to read while overseas. The poster to his right has also been digitized, viewable here.

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.

View the complete Library War Service images collection here.

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“Give the Next Man a Chance!” The Circulating Books of World War I

If you’re a dedicated reader of our blog, you may know that during World War I the ALA sent over 10 million books and magazines to camp libraries and overseas for the use of servicemen. The collection development of these libraries was focused on having material that could help the men prepare for a job back home, such as books about businessenginesplumbing, carpentry, cement, and trains, but they also recognized that the servicemen needed entertainment, and stocked the libraries with magazines and “good, live fiction.” These library services still supported the servicemen after the armistice as well.

But what happened to all those books when the servicemen came home? The post-war life of the War Service books was very practical: ALA-managed libraries were transformed into military-managed libraries after the war. And as these military librarians eventually weeded them out of the collection or otherwise discarded them, War Service books were sold into private hands or distributed to public libraries for further use.

The ALA Archives holds a small selection of former War Service books as examples of how these books were marked and circulated during this important early ALA campaign. Here are a few pictures from the books in our collection:

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Early ALA Posters now Digitized and Online

A woman in classical robes holds books under one arm while holding aloft the ALA seal, superimposed over a map of the United States.
Promotional poster for the ALA 50th Anniversary

Posters used by the ALA during its early history are now digitized for long-term preservation and access copies are available for viewing online. [Database currently down, 3/8/2019] Subjects covered in these posters include the ALA’s work with the Library War Service to the American military during World War I, the importance of the freedom to read used during World War II, celebrating the ALA 50 Year Anniversary (in 1926) and the Carnegie Centenary (in 1935), as well as librarianship recruitment and general library promotion during the early twentieth century. These posters provide important documentary evidence of both the work of the ALA and how the presentation of American libraries and librarianship has changed over the past century.

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After the Eleventh Hour

"Your Next Job and Where to Look For It" RS: 89/1/13
“Your Next Job and Where to Look For It,” Record Series 89/1/13

Veterans Day honored the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918, bringing an end to the fighting of the Great War.  Angela Jordan has already detailed the work done by the American Library Association during the war, however the ALA’s role did not end on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  The time after the signing of the armistice would actually account for one of the busiest periods for the ALA during the war. Continue reading “After the Eleventh Hour”

A Book for Every Man

New York City, New York Book Collection, February, 1919
Record Series 89/1/13

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”