Publications: Library Handbooks, 1908-1921

From 1908 until 1921, the American Library Association produced a series of publications about library administration known as Library Handbooks. Each installment is rich in the experienced perspectives of library leaders of its time. Read on to learn more about Library Handbooks!

At the same time as the Library Tract series (Record Series 13/10/1), the A. L. A. Publishing Board issued the Library Handbook series to provide additional resources on library administration for librarians and library advocates alike.

Wisconsin Free Library Commission librarian Miss Lutie E. Stearns (Record Series 97/1/31) compiled the Essentials in Library Administration for new librarians and library trustees who needed a less technical and more high-level description of library administration. The author revises the previous publication Handbook of Library Organization of the Library Commissions of Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, as an extension of the first two Library Tract numbers to supplement both Why Do We Need a Public Library? and How to Start a Public Library. This is the largest issue with over one-hundred pages, an alphabetical subject index, and sample forms for library administration use too.

While Aids in Book Selection, an expanded new edition of 1903 “Aids in Book Selection” published by the Pennsylvania Library Commission, by Drexel Institute Library School founder Alice Bertha Kroeger and Sarah Ware Cattell, guides librarians to become familiar with the best aids in book selection. Some recommended aids include general lists (i.e. the A.L.A. Catalog), book reviews, trade bibliographies, catalogs or bulletins from libraries, publishers, or booksellers, to name a few.

In Binding for Small Libraries, the A.L.A. Committee on Bookbinding compiled a list of suggestions for how small libraries could prioritize and bind different types of publications in their collections. Some suggestions include periodicals, newspapers, and books (fiction, juvenile, reference), as well as general remarks about good practice binding habits or tips.

While Mending and Repair of Books, compiled by Iowa Library Commission librarian Margaret Wright Brown, and later revised by Cleveland Public Library Supervisor of Binding Gertrude Stiles, is written for inexperienced book menders in small libraries without a conservation or preservation department. This number includes information about necessary repair tools, as well as ways to mend book components (i.e. pages, leaves, sections, and joints), and ways to clean book stains.

Reprinted and revised from different editions printed by the Minnesota Library Commission and the University of Nebraska Library, the U.S. Government Documents in Small Libraries, by future A.L.A. President J. I. Wyer Jr., identifies useful government serial publications and it includes a recommendation for the arrangement of government documents.

While How to Choose Editions, by Providence Public Librarian William E. Foster, provides a six-point guide to help librarians select the best print edition for public library readers. Those points include the accuracy of the text to the original publication, the reputation of the editor, the size of the book, the legibility of the typeface, the quality of the paper-and-ink, and the durability of the binding.

In A Normal Library Budget and its Units of Expense, by James V. Brown Librarian O. R. Howard Thomson, the author describes the challenges of public library finances and he provides recommendations based on publicly available information from libraries in cities like Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Williamsport.

While in Manual for Institution Libraries, compiled by Public Library Commission of Indiana Assistant State Organizer Carrie E. Scott, with assistance by the A. L. A. Committee on Library Work in Hospitals and in Charitable and Correctional Facilities, provides a guide for institution library administration. The publication answers five questions, including “What books shall I Select?”, “How shall I arrange them?”, “How shall I keep track of them?”, “How shall I get them to the readers?”, and “How shall I keep them in good condition?”

Finally, in Some Principles of Business-Like Conduct in Libraries by St. Louis Public Librarian and past A. L. A. President (1907-1908) Arthur E. Bostwick, the author defines “business-like conduct” and he emphasizes the value of the approach to library services and administration.

The Library Handbook series continued for a total of ten issues, published in multiple editions over the course of a decade, and other publication series were produced alongside this series too. The early twentieth century saw a great expansion of A.L.A. publications guiding and supporting libraries and librarians across the country and the world.

Copies Available at Your ALA Archives

Physical copies of Library Handbooks publications are available for viewing at the ALA Archives. Please view the Record Series 13/10/2 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 early Library Handbooks 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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