“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:

This full color bookplate featuring a Marine was the most popular one pasted into War Service books.

This full color bookplate featuring a Marine was the most popular one pasted into War Service books.

You may recognize this book-loving Marine from this poster soliciting book donations featuring the same artwork!

This alternate bookplate is in black and white and has the name of the person who donated the book.

This alternate bookplate is in black and white and has the name of the person who donated the book.

This unique bookplate says that the book was donated by the citizens of Boston via the Boston Public Library.

This unique bookplate says that the book was donated by the citizens of Boston via the Boston Public Library.

The books also show how the books were circulated to soldiers:

The librarians used a slanting piece of cardstock glued to the book on the right and left edges to hold the books circulation card.

The librarians decided to use a slanting piece of cardstock glued to the book on the right and left edges to hold the circulation card instead of the more typical sleeves.

The circulation cards were unique and asked for your name, company and regiment

The circulation cards were unique to the project and asked for your name, company and regiment. This book (a text for learning German) appears to have never been checked out!

Some other libraries didn’t bother with circulation cards:

Checkout dates stamped on endpaper

Here the check-out dates are stamped directly on the book’s endpaper.

One book in our collection came into the hands of the archives in a particularly interesting way:  it was sent to the ALA in 1989, and got a small write-up in the April 1989 issue of American Libraries as being extremely overdue!

overdue_notice

(But if you happen to have a Library War Service book in your hands at this time, don’t worry, there’s no fine and the ALA doesn’t want it back!)

These particular War Service books are available for use at the ALA Archives, Record Series 89/1/60, but other “veterans” of this war effort are still commonly available in used books shops and other places antiques are sold.

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