Library/USA Exhibit at the 1964-5 New York World’s Fair

Reference librarians on duty at the Library/USA exhibit

Reference librarians on duty at the Library/USA exhibit

Three years before the founding of OCLC, and seven years before Michael Gutenberg 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? Read More »

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Knapp School Libraries Project

In 1962, the Knapp Foundation, Inc., provided a $1,130,000 grant administered to the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of ALA, to raise the standards of school libraries. At that time, school libraries in the United States were noted to be substandard. While federal funds helped to fund school libraries in 1958, the AASL realized that school libraries needed more than money to fix their problems. Improvements were needed in collection development, updates in technology, more staff, and renovations in facilities.

ALA0002123

A busy school library at Central Park Road School in Plainview, NY. RS: 99/1/18

The five year Knapp School Libraries Project started in 1963. The project had four objectives: The first was to demonstrate the educational value of school libraries. The second was to promote improved understanding and use of library resources by teachers and administrators. The third objective was to guide other libraries to develop their own programs by having them observe the demonstration schools. And the last objective was to increase interest and support for school library development by producing and circulating information about the program and the demonstration schools.[1] Read More »

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Miss “Public Libraries” Mary Eileen Ahern

Last issue of Libraries magazine.

The last issue of Libraries magazine.

Festschrifts are a common way to honor someone in academia, and line the shelves of many academic libraries. They typically contain academic essays related to the person’s life work, contributed traditionally by the person’s former doctoral students and colleagues. But what about a Festschrift that’s instead full of nothing but praise for the person being honored gathered from common workers in their field, and furthermore isn’t for an academic, but instead for a public-service librarian? This is the final issue of Libraries magazine, honoring one Mary Eileen Ahern. Read More »

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Ode to the Conference Program

The American Library Association Annual Conference is often a much anticipated event for librarians.  In 1876, 103 people attended the first conference in Philadelphia; last year alone over 26,000 people attended the Annual Conference in Chicago.[1]  Needless to say, the conference has grown a bit.

Amongst all of the exhibits, sessions, speakers, and free swag, there is one item that is essential to get around any conference: the program.  The program is the guide that allows people to navigate the conference, select which events to go to, which speakers to listen to, and where to obtain a free lunch.  Throughout the years, the Annual Conference Program has become thicker as the conference has expanded, and it has changed its appearance.  Early conference programs continue to be a valuable resource to the archives, but they were not nearly as aesthetically pleasing as the ones the ALA produces today. Read More »

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The Library Science Library at the University of Illinois, 1944-2009

Two library students stand just outside of the Library School Library, holding stacks of books.

Two library students stand just outside of the Library School Library, holding stacks of books.

People go to librarians when they need help researching, but where do librarians go when they need help with their own research? This post will explore the history of the Library Science Library at the University of Illinois, one of a few dedicated library science collections in the United States.

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Books on Wheels

In 1904, the Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown, Maryland, outfitted a wagon with bookshelves to serve as a mobile library unit to reach people who could not normally make it to the library. A few times a week, the book wagon was able to reach rural areas of the county and deliver books to residents.

BookWagon

Pamphlet by the ALA, 1921, RS: 29/7/4

The Washington County Free Library book wagon would meet a tragic end in 1910 when it was struck by a freight train at a railway crossing. This event would suspend the county’s library extension service as there were no funds to purchase a new wagon. However, in 1912, a generous donation of $2,500 by William Kealhofer, Esq. allowed the library to replace the book wagon. Instead of getting another horse drawn wagon, the library purchased a truck that could be fitted with shelves to hold 300 books.[1] The truck allowed the library to extend its reach by being able to add more routes. Read More »

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Library Service to Prisoners, 1936-39

Prison Library Unit, Chillicothe OH, 1941
From Photo Archive, Folder: “Prison Libraries, 1936-1957″

In the mid-1930s, the American Library Association formed a Committee on the Libraries of the American Prison Association.  Found in Record Series 23/40/5, this collection contains the Committee’s surveys[1] from 1936-38 of prison libraries across the nation; reports on prison librarianship which include historical information on recommended book titles and magazine subscriptions, cataloging, circulation protocols, staffing, readership habits, and testimony from prisoners; correspondence[2] of librarians, prison administrators, and prisoners; and a selection of prison newsletters and newspaper clippings. Read More »

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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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New Accessions at the Archives

Interns Gabrielle Barr and Lisa Lorenzo hard at work to preserve ALA history! Photo courtesy of American Libraries.

The ALA Archives has been busy working on large accessions of records sent to us by American Libraries magazine and the ALA Library.  These new accessions will total up to 40 bankers boxes once all of them have been shipped over, and the archives staff is excited to receive them.

The archives staff is currently working on boxes sent to us from the ALA Library.  These records are a rich collection of photograph vertical files that not only document the history of the ALA, but of the librarian profession itself.  There are of course photos and negatives of various ALA conferences, events, and staff, but there are also photographs of bookmobiles, libraries, exhibits, various library technologies, and even book trucks! Read More »

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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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