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.
Many of the books these men are reading were donated as part of the ALA’s Library War Service campaign, an ambitious project that distributed over 10 million books, magazines, and newspapers to soldiers and founded the modern military library system. In these slides, soldiers and sailors are shown patronizing ALA and YMCA run camp libraries, hospital libraries, and reading books on their own.
Many of these slides were used by ALA representatives in the US for fundraising purposes, demonstrating the demand for reading materials. Others were used in the camps to advertise the services of the camp library directly to the servicemen. These camp and hospital libraries kept servicemen occupied during their downtime, helping to ward off boredom and low morale. Libraries also gave servicemen a chance to advance their education for the war effort and for future jobs back at home.
These slides provide documentation of a serviceman’s life and the important part that libraries played in it during World War I.