Publications: Foreign Book Lists, 1898-1927

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, as great waves of immigrants came to the United States, the American Library Association and librarians produced a series of resources to support library services for new immigrants. Each publication is rich in the experienced perspectives of library leaders of its time. Read on to learn more about early foreign language book lists!

Separate from the Foreign Book List series, in 1912, the A.L.A. reprinted Aids in Library Work with Foreigners, compiled by Providence Public librarian Marguerite Reid and Haverhill Public librarian John G. Moulton, for the League of Library Commissions from the Massachusetts Library Club Bulletin. Besides being filed in Record Series 13/10/4, this publication is a useful overview of early U.S. library work with foreign born library user populations. Marguerite Reid wrote most of the book lists, while John G. Moulton expanded them. The publication begins with the essay “Our New Americans” which describes different immigrant populations in the U.S. and multiple opportunities open to libraries to include both materials and services to them.

In Selected List of German Books, Wisconsin State Library Commission librarian Emma Gattiker compiles a 58-page list of German books for a small library. This number includes an essay by the author describing the experiences of librarians and German-speaking populations in Wisconsin. In Selected List of Hungarian Books, New Jersey Public Library Commission librarian J. Maud Campbell compiles a 12-page list of Hungarian books, with the aid of “Immigrant” Editor Dr. Michael Singer and Passaic Magyar Casino members too.

In Selected List of French Books, Vassar College Professor Jean Charlemagne Bracq compiles a 35-page list of French books, and it includes designations for books recognized by the French Academy, books written from Catholic perspectives, and books written from Protestant perspectives too. In Selected List of Norwegian and Danish Books, Norwegian author and Library of Congress librarian Arne Kildal compiled a 20-page list of Norwegian and Danish books too.

In Selected List of Swedish Books, Swedish Royal librarian Dr. Valfried Palmgren compiles a 45-page list of Swedish books. In fact, almost twenty years later, with the support of the American Scandinavian Foundation, Dr. Palmgren’s bibliography was updated by Aksel G. S. Josephson to a 58-page list.

In Selected List of Polish Books, Buffalo Public librarian Mrs. Jozefa Kudlicka compiles a 20-page list of Polish books. While in Selected List of Russian Books, Massachusetts Free Public Library Commission librarian J. Maud Campbell also compiles a 86-page list of Russian books, with the aid of Shaniawsky University Library Economy lecturer Mrs. Haffkin-Hamburger and Dr. Aurelius Palmieri too.

Contemporary with the Foreign Book List series, there were other foreign language bibliographic projects too. For example, as early as 1898, McGill Normal School (now McGill University) Madame Sophie Cornu as well as Tulane University Howard Memorial librarian and Fisk Free librarian William Beer co-authored the 28-page A List of French Fiction. While over twenty years later, Sarah Graham Bowerman compiled the separate 41-page list Recent French Literature too.

For seven issues, the Foreign Book List series provided guidance for U.S. libraries seeking guidance with developing small libraries for their multilingual populations. Multiple US-based and international compilers were sought for the project. Researchers today benefit from reviewing these early bibliographies for insights into how U.S. librarians helped support early multilingual library populations and what kinds of books might have been read by these growing communities too.

Copies Available at Your ALA Archives

Physical copies of early foreign language book list publications are available for viewing at the ALA Archives. Please view the Record Series 13/10/4 database record entry, for more information.

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