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.
Often when we think of archives, we automatically think of the paper items which document the decisions and actions of an organization or individual; be they correspondence, agendas, or photographs. But the ALA Archives also contains audiovisual materials, which can bring can bring a living action to past events.
Within the ALA Archives, we have many historic films on library services and literacy such as “Help Yourself,” a 1950 film about library services by the Cambria County Public Library. This and other films can be found in Record Series 18/1/13.
One of the most recently processed acquisitions was from the Public Relations Office (Record Series 12/3/63), which included videos and films promoting the @ Your Library campaign, interviews with ALA Presidents, public service announcements featuring celebrities such as Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Stewart, and the American Library Association as featured on local and national news broadcast.
Another recently digitized item in our collection is “Loss and Recovery: Librarians Bear Witness to September 11, 2001,” oral histories by New York Librarians describing their experience during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 from Record Series 18/2/13.
Although the challenge most often faced when accessing audiovisual material is the ability to navigate obsolete media formats, these materials are preserved with the goal of access. We are currently working with the University of Illinois Library Media Preservation Program to digitize our materials by request, and will be happy to assist you in accessing our holdings.
To browse more of our audiovisual collection, please click the following links:
ALA Archives database search: “audiovisual”
ALA Archives database search: “video”
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 business, engines, plumbing, 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:
Another significant collection at the American Library Association Archives is the Library Building Photographs, Record Series 99/1/15.
Compiled from numerous creators and spanning over one hundred years of documentation, these images offer both a broad geographic and historical perspective of libraries. These buildings range from magnificent classic libraries to quirky traveling book mobiles. Read More
Posters used by the ALA during its early history are now digitized for long-term preservation and access copies are available for viewing online. 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.
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. Read More
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. 
The more things change, the more they stay the same, or so you will think when you look at this laundry list of key considerations Katherine L. Sharp outlines for someone setting up a library in her writing “Catechism for Librarians.” Unlike a religious Catechism, she outlines not what to believe but a series of questions a librarian must answer for herself. Despite being only 3 by 5 inches in size, 24 pages long, and never published, these 180 questions still provide a reasonable guide to someone setting up a library today. And their relevance is still more interesting when you consider that this was written in 1891, with no knowledge of the sweeping changes in librarianship and technology that were to come. A few of the more prescient questions are presented here in their modern context: Read More