Publications: Booklist Books, 1919-1940

From 1919 through 1940, during the period between both World Wars, the American Library Association and librarians produced an annual series of resources to support library collection development known as Booklist Books. Each publication is a helpful overview of suitable books for general library communities published each year. Read on to learn more about Booklist Books!

For 22 years and often published in March, The Booklist Books series (Record Series 13/3/12) provided guidance for U.S. librarians seeking assistance with selecting the right books for their library communities. Not to be confused with the annual New York State Library Best Books series, the A.L.A.’s The Booklist Books was compiled from the A.L.A.’s monthly Booklist (Record Series 13/3/4). But, the The Booklist Books staff did not always work alone. Over time, a variety of librarians had contributed specialty lists too. In fact, from 1919 until 1933, Pratt Institute Free Library Head of Applied Science Reference Department Donald Hendry alone contributed the Technical Books section. For the publication’s first 4 years, the book list was organized into 4 sections, including general literature, fiction, children’s books, and technical books, followed by an alphabetical author and title index too. In 1921, the series was retitled Booklist Books, and in 2 years it would undergo another formatting change.

In 1923, Booklist Books had acquired book covers printed on colored paper, and the book list was reorganized to include many additional sections. The new organization included: libraries and authorship, philosophy and religion, sociology, philology, science–useful arts, technical books, fine arts–amusements, literature, history, geography and travel, biography, fiction, children’s books, and, of course, an alphabetical author and title index too. In 1927, Los Angeles Public Library Art and Music Department Head Miss Gladys Caldwell contributed the list “Music Books and Scores for Small or Medium-Sized Libraries”.

During the 1920s, more guest contributions would follow. In 1928, A.L.A. Committee on Hospitals Chair Miss Perrie Jones contributed the list “Hospital Libraries”. In 1929, Cleveland Public Library Stevenson Room Head Miss Jean Roos contributed “Thirty Books for Young People”.

During the 1930s, even more guest contributions would follow too. In 1934, following Donald Hendry’s retirement, Seattle Public Library Technology Division Head Florence M. Waller compiled the “Technical Books” list. While for the following year, in 1935, Denver Public Library Technical Department Head Margaret Blakely contributed the “Technical Books” list.

Also during the 1930s, new to Booklist Books was the inclusion of printing press information on the title page. From these notes, readers get a glimpse into local printing press history too. Those publishers included: for 1933, it was The Wallace Press (Chicago); and for 1934 to 1935, it was The Blakely Oswald Printing Company (Chicago).

During the second half of the 1930s, at least one more guest author would contribute to the project before the publication ended in 1940. That year was 1936, when Detroit Public Library Technology Department Chief Charles M. Mohrhardt contributed to the both “Technical Books” and “Business Books” from then on and until the end of the publication.

For 22 years, Booklist Books provided a great amount of annual guidance to public librarians seeking recommendable books for their library communities. Although the publication ended, its parent The Booklist has continued strongly ever since.

Copies Available at Your ALA Archives

Physical copies of Booklist Books are available for viewing at the ALA Archives. Please view the Record Series 13/3/12 database record entry, for more information.

Got Something to Donate to the Story So Far?

Many people have been involved in the long history of A.L.A. publications and library leadership. Do you have any information about Booklist Books participants, collaborators, publications, or beneficiaries? Please contact us through social media. We and our readers would like to read about it.

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