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“First Your Country, Then Your Rights”: African American Soldiers in WWI

In honor of Black History Month and the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I, it is only fitting to discuss the service of African Americans in the war and to highlight a few materials we have here at the archives that illustrate their contributions.

In 1917, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, which Woodrow Wilson then signed into law, thus initiating the draft. It required all young men, regardless of race, to register for service [1]. Subsequently, more than 2.2 million black men registered over the course of four draft calls [2], of which nearly 370,000 were then inducted into the Army [3].

W.E.B. Du Bois was one of many African American leaders and activists who saw the war as a chance to advance racial progress, hoping that racial equality would follow at the war’s end when Americans saw their loyalty and service to their country. He urged black men to put the fight for civil rights on hold during the war, writing in The Crisis, “first your Country, then your Rights!” [4].

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Research Strategies: Finding African American History Materials at the ALA Archives

February is African American history month and we at the ALA Archives want to help you optimize your research into African American and African history. In this month’s blog post, we’ll take a tour through ALA Archives holdings and we’ll use multiple strategies for finding information. Read on to learn more about locating African American history materials at an archives!


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Publications: The Black Caucus Newsletter

Since 1974, the Black Caucus Newsletter has provided a lot of support and information to Black librarians (with a little humor too).

Read on the learn more about the Black Caucus Newsletter!

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The ALA Mexican Border Traveling Library Service

While most of the American Library Association Library War Service’s efforts were concentrated in camps and hospitals in the United States and Europe, there was also a need for books for the soldiers stationed along the Mexican border. Chalmers Hadley, the librarian of the Denver Public Library, surveyed the desire for books among soldiers at the border and found them wanting.

In early 1918, Hadley observed that, “It is vastly different to find thousands of men requesting books, and hanging on a promise of some … It will be a great misfortune to the men and a lost opportunity to the A.L.A. if the traveling libraries are not provided.” [1] To satisfy the demand for books, two traveling libraries were established by the ALA and headquartered in the San Antonio Carnegie Library and at the El Paso Public Library in Texas.

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Publications: COGNOTES

Since 1972, COGNOTES has published ALA annual and midwinter conference news. Printed at ALA Headquarters and produced by volunteers, COGNOTES is staffed by New Members Round Table (NMRT) members and non-members. This is an ALA publication rich with information about experiences and events at ALA conferences.

Read on to learn more about COGNOTES!

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The Gift of Literacy: Lutie E. Stearns

In the middle of all of the holiday cheer, December is also a month for librarians across the country to think back on those who gave back to their communities.  The late Lutie Eugenia Stearns, born on September 13, 1866, influenced many within the field of librarianship.  With the holiday season upon us, who better to write about than a woman who selflessly dedicated her life to advocate for those whose voices went unheard?

Lutie Stearns began her career as a teacher in the Milwaukee Public Schools.  With her apt skills in book collecting, she soon caught the eye of the Milwaukee Public Library’s, Minnie M. Oakley.  After Minnie’s death in 1895, Stearns was then appointed head Librarian. Read More »

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Research Strategies: Publications of the A.L.A.

This holiday season is a great chance to consider the many historic professional gifts of A.L.A. members to colleagues past, present, and future: professional publications rich with information for all. However, there is so much A.L.A. produced literature that it may not be possible for one to read everything in a lifetime. So this ALA Archives gift to you is a strategy (or two) for navigating the many different historic publications of the A.L.A.

An ALA Publications List Poster

A poster of an ALA publications list , circa 1925, in Record Series 13/2/22, Box 1.

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“Public Library of the High Seas”: ALA and the American Merchant Marine Library Association

The connection between the ALA and the American Merchant Marine Library Association (AMMLA) is a little-known example of collaboration and cooperation between organizations. AMMLA developed out of the World War I Library War Service and ALA’s efforts to provide books and resources to men aboard U. S. vessels. (For more information about the Library War Service, please see our research guide). After the war ended, the library service for American servicemen was turned over to the War and Navy Departments, and the Library War Service Committee hoped that it’s work aboard U.S. ships would be taken over by either shipowners or another organization [1]. Finally, after the request from ALA to form a peace-time library service for this purpose, Alice Sturdevant Howard, Chief of the Social Service Bureau of the Recruiting Service of the United States Shipping Board, organized the American Merchant Marine Library Service in 1921 [2]. To aid the effort, ALA donated the leftover book stock used in the Merchant Marine Service as well as some unexpended funds [3]. Read More »

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Research Strategies: Publications About the A.L.A. and Librarianship

One method for searching an institutional or organizational archives is through a review of publications about the organization. Some external publications capture ephemeral information about an organization and complement other archival information. Such formal or informal publications can be produced by the organization, by institutions, by groups, or by people. Read on to see some examples of what an archives may hold in a Record Group 0!

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Activism and Advocacy in ALA: Women’s Organizations

Found in RS 99/1/13

Theresa West Elmendorf, the first female president of ALA, elected in 1911.

There are several units within the American Library Association that support women in the library profession and as a whole. Many of these groups arose during the second wave of feminism in the 1960s-80s in response to political and social movements outside of the ALA. Women in librarianship wanted the predominately-female profession to be regarded with the same respect and pay scale as other professions as well as more equity in ALA leadership.

One of the first major committees that is still around today is the Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship (COSWL). This committee came about after several years of advocating by ALA members and the eventual approval at the 1976 Centennial Conference in Chicago.[1] Initially, a proposal was presented during the 1974 Annual Conference[2] and then discussed by Council during the 1975 Midwinter Meeting.[3] The ALA Executive Board endorsed a set of guidelines put forward in 1976, drafted by a standing committee appointed by the ALA president.[4] The committee has a list of seven responsibilities, all of which support the growth of women inside and outside of the field of librarianship. COSWL also sponsors several research projects, publications, and subcommittees related to women in libraries, such as the Advance Women in Library Management, Minority Women Oral History Project, and the COSWL Study. ALA currently maintains a list of resources on the COSWL homepage related to women’s issues.

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