LHRT Newsletter

Volume 10, Number 2 (Spring 2011)

Greetings from the Chair

Caption: Melanie Kimball, current chair of LHRT. Image courtesy of Melanie Kimball.
melanie kimball current chair of lhrtAs I write this I look out on a sight I thought I would never see again—budding and flowering trees and bright sunshine.  After what seemed like the longest winter ever and, at least here in Boston, record amounts of snow, it is wonderful to be able to bask in the warmth and light again.  I have been taking many long walks recently and am constantly reminded as I pass the Boston Public Library, the Massachusetts Historical Society, or the Boston Athenaeum what a great place it is for an historian to live.

This year our Midwinter meeting was held virtually via Skype rather than face to face.  In addition to the Executive Committee and our ALA Liaison, Norman Rose, there were five members in attendance for a total of thirteen. The meeting worked well, once we all got the hang of how Skype works with conference calls!

The idea to hold a virtual Midwinter meeting was first proposed last year by then-Chair Bernadette Lear as a possible alternative to a face to face meeting on site. Due to the current economic situation, many people have reduced funding for conference attendance.  In some instances, we have had difficulty finding people to run for office in LHRT because they could not commit to attending both the Midwinter and Annual conferences for the two or three years that they would be in office.   Since Skype worked well, I anticipate that future Midwinter meetings may continue to be held virtually.  A few members who were not available for the Skype meeting, but who were at the Midwinter Meeting asked if we intended to have a face to face meeting as well.  That is certainly something that could be considered in the future.   I welcome comments and suggestions from members about virtual Midwinter meetings.

Despite numerous postings of the Call for Proposals for Library History Seminar XIII in 2015, not one proposal was received by the deadline.  I believe that there is still interest in having the seminar—the last two were very successful.  The Executive Committee will discuss this prior to the meeting in New Orleans, but I would very much like to hear ideas for how to proceed from our membership as well. 

As has been our tradition for some years now, LHRT has lots of activity planned for the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans.  The Research Forum, Invited Speakers Panel, and Edward G. Holley Lecture all promise stimulating programs.  Our Executive Committee meeting is also our annual membership meeting, so please come and be a part of the discussion.

These are my final few months as Chair of LHRT.  I want to thank members of the Executive Committee, our membership, and our ALA Liaison for all your hard work.  No one person could possibly keep LHRT moving forward.  I am privileged to serve with all of you.

Until I see you in New Orleans, enjoy the spring and Laissez les bon temps rouler!
—Melanie Kimball, Simmons College

Member Spotlight: Wayne A. Wiegand

Caption: Wayne A. Wiegand, longtime LHRT member, Dewey biographer, mentor, and friend. Image courtesy of Florida State University Libraries, Special Collections Department

wayne a. wiegandEditor’s note: This spring, we celebrate the retirement of Dr. Wayne A. Wiegand, an eminent scholar who literally “wrote the books” on ALA as well as Dewey. Here, Christine Pawley, former LHRT chair and one of Wayne’s mentees, reminds us of his ongoing contributions.

Wayne A. Wiegand may have seemed to many of us to be a permanent fixture in the library history universe, and it may be hard for us to think of him as stepping back from the academic coalface and enjoying life on the golf course instead.  However, although the fall 2010 semester saw the end of his active teaching career at Florida State University, he is still very actively involved in scholarship, writing a history of the American public library, a project supported by, among others, the National Endowment for the Humanities.  

Wayne’s full-length CV is almost a book in itself, and all I can do here is summarize some of the highlights.  He received a BA in history at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh (1968), an MA in history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (1970), an MLS at Western Michigan University, and a Ph.D. in history at Southern Illinois University (1974).  He was then employed as Librarian at Urbana College in Ohio (1974-1976) and on the faculty of the College of Library Science at the University of Kentucky (1976-1986).  He moved to be Professor of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison between 1987 and 2002, and Co-Director (with James P. Danky) of the Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America, a joint project of the University and the Wisconsin Historical Society established in 1992.  In 2003 he became F. William Summers Professor of Library and Information Studies, and Professor of American Studies, School of Information Studies, Florida State University, retiring at the end of 2010.

Wayne is the recipient of very many awards.  He was named Herbert Putnam Award winner by the American Library Association in 1975, ALA Library Research Round Table (LRRT) Award winner for Best Research Paper (1978), twice Justin Winsor Award winner for best research paper submitted (1982; 1996), and three times winner of the Research Paper Award given by the Association of Library and Information Science Education (1984, 1987, 1993).  In 1990 he received the William Best Hesseltine Award for the best article in the Wisconsin Magazine of History in 1989; in 1995 he received Southern Illinois University's Delta Award for significant scholarship and writing in the field of history and librarianship.  In 1996 he was elected Fellow in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Academy for Teaching Excellence.  Three times he has won the G.K. Hall Award for Outstanding Contribution to Library Literature (in 1988, 1991, and 1997).  In 1998 he coedited Print Culture in a Diverse America with James P. Danky, which was awarded the 1999 Carey McWilliams Award for scholarly contribution to multicultural literature.

Author of over fifty articles, Wayne continues to be extraordinarily prolific. Among his best-known books are Politics of an Emerging Profession:  The American Library Association, 1876-1917 (1986), "An Active Instrument for Propaganda:" American Public Libraries During World War I (1989), and Irrepressible Reformer:  A Biography of Melvil Dewey (1996).  In 2007, with Shirley Wiegand, he published Books on Trial: Red Scare in the Heartland.  His Main Street Public Library: Reading Spaces and Community Places in America's Heartland is about to appear from the University of Iowa Press, and we are looking forward to his public library history, currently titled “This Hallowed Place:” A People’s History of the American Public Library, following soon.

Wayne’s entire career in LIS has been devoted to improving the quality of library history through example, with the result that his monographs have become classics in the field.  Together with his many articles, they represent an extremely high standard of scholarship.  In addition to maintaining this impressive rate of scholarly output throughout his long career, he has been tireless in forging links between LIS and other fields, especially American Studies, and the History of Print Culture. His name is synonymous in the minds of many historians of the book with scholarship in the history of libraries, especially as it pertains to histories of the public sphere and print culture.  Wayne’s has been a towering presence (both literally and figuratively) in the field of library history.  He has also been an extraordinarily generous mentor to many of those students who, like myself, were fortunate enough to study with him.  It is hard for us to imagine library history scholarship without him; but luckily we don’t have to do that just yet .—Christine Pawley, University of Wisconsin-Madison

What Is It?: “The V.F.”

Caption: Modeling the new, “vertical” method of filing papers. From the Classified Illustrated Catalog of the Library Department of Library Bureau (Boston: Library Bureau, 1900), pg. 113. Image courtesy of Bernadette A. Lear.

modeling the new, “vertical” method of filing papersBack when I was in college, I had to write a paper on a local history topic for one of my classes. I grew up across the street from a park which had once been the estate of Daniel Ricketson. He was a Massachusetts historian who corresponded with Henry David Thoreau and many leading Transcendendalists of their day. I wasn’t sure whether I’d focus on Brooklawn Park or on Ricketson, but either way, it sounded do-able and interesting. During Thanksgiving break I visited the New Bedford Free Public Library to gather information. I had never done local history research so I asked for help. The librarian chewed her pencil thoughtfully and said, “Hmmm … Brooklawn Park … Daniel Ricketson … that’s probably somewhere in the v.f.” 

“Wow—what’s a ‘v.f.?’” I thought. The librarian led me to the other side of the room. It turned out that “v.f.” was librarianese for “file cabinet.”

At the time I was a little disappointed—file cabinets being rather unglamourous, you know.  Little did I realize that I would be up-to-my-elbows in green folders for the rest of my career.  Not only did I continue to do historical research; I also worked in a series of institutions where newbies like myself were assigned the task of updating, reorganizing, and weeding v.f.’s. Over time, I learned to appreciate the hard-to-find information, unique illustrations, and odd ephemera found in them. It also turns out that v.f.’s have an interesting history in their own right.

The term “vertical file” was coined in an era when the predominant method of organizing documents did NOT include hanging folders in logical arrangement. Rather, papers were often retained in their original envelopes, or folded and tied. They were then squeezed into boxes or desks, or laid flat on shelves. Pidgeon-holing was a method suited to an era of low literacy, scarce paper, and conducting most of one’s life among a few neighbors. By the late 19th century, however, old ways of keeping correspondence became counterproductive, especially for large businesses with national clienteles and far-flung operations. Vertical files economized space, kept related items together, and organized them in a handy and intuitive way so that various employees could easily consult them.

Few people know the connection between the library profession and the invention of the file cabinet. Everyone from antiquers to Wikipediers credit Edwin G. Seibels, a South Carolina insurance executive. They have good grounds, since a web page linked to the State Library’s “Study SC” site describes how Seibels worked with Globe Wernicke, a prominent manufacturer of office furniture, to construct the first vertical file cabinet in 1898. Seibels’ obituary, published in the December 23rd, 1954 issue of New York Times, also mentions that a model of his invention is held by the Smithsonian Institution. Yet Gerry Flanzraich has documented how the Library Bureau created a vertical file cabinet in 1892 at the request of a charitable organization in Buffalo, New York. A year before Seibels and Globe Wernicke supposedly “invented” the file cabinet, L.B. was including vertical files among its regular product line. Globe Wernicke, the Library Bureau, and other companies were hotly competitive, patenting dozens of improvements at the turn of the century (for Flanzraich’s article, see the Fall 1993 issue of Libraries and Culture).

While some technologies become ubiquitious with little advertising, others require a deliberate and hard-fought campaign. It seems that v.f.’s were among the latter. Manufacturers used several methods to convert the public to the new system. Throughout the early 20th century, the Library Bureau touted itself as the “originator” of the idea and reminded office workers how inconvenient other filing alternatives were. An October 4, 1915 ad in the New York Times describes how “before the Library Bureau existed, everybody ‘filed’ letters and important records on hooks, in boxes—any old way. It was always a needle-in-the-haystack to find anything.” In contrast, vertical filing was “the modern business term for simplicity, economy, accuracy and quickness.” Another one of my favorite promotionals is a full-page spread by Yawman and Erbe, a New York manufacturer who appealed to readers’ patriotism. An ad printed in the New York Times on September 9, 1919 showed doughboys wearing special gloves to handle overheated machine guns. Y&E boasted that it lined its fire-resistant cabinets with the same insulating material—asbestos.

The Library Bureau and Y&E even provided how-to manuals to instruct office workers on using the new system. A 1917 booklet by the Library Bureau identified exactly four filing methods which “fully cover[ed] the requirements of the business world”—alphabetic (for surnames or subjects), numeric (useful for cross-referenced files), geographic (town or state), or the “L.B. Automatic Index,” which combined the alphabetic and numeric systems. This said, filing in one folder all the papers pertaining to a single person or topic may have been an alien concept to some. Whereas most office workers don’t give it a second thought today, some of their predecessors apparently required 64 pages of descriptions and illustrations! 

Given that the Library Bureau was an “originator” of the vertical file, it’s no surprise that librarians were early adopters. V.f.’s have been especially popular in reference departments and local history collections. In the past, library employees proactively thumbed through newspapers and magazines to cut out articles, illustrations, and other tidbits—hence the term “clippings file” is also used.

Are v.f.’s still needed in the Google era? It is hard to say. Although many things are easy to find, images, statistics, and local information are sometimes maddeningly difficult.  I suspect v.f.’s will be around for years to come.— Bernadette A. Lear, Penn State Harrisburg

Building Spotlight: The Cherry Street (African American) Branch of the Evansville-Vanderburgh County, IN Public Library

Caption: Cherry Street Branch of the Evansville Public Library, a Carnegie library built for African Americans. Image courtesy of the Willard Library.

: cherry street branch of the evansville public library, a carnegie library built for african americansEditor’s note:  Some library historians may assume that separate libraries for African Americans are uniquely Southern institutions. Here, Michele Fenton reminds us that cultural, political, and social mores do not always follow state borders. The following article introduces the Evansville Public Library’s Cherry Street Branch (1914–1954), a Carnegie-funded institution established specifically to serve black residents. Although the building no longer stands, it was a landmark in Indiana’s library history.

In 1913, the Board of the Evansville-Vanderburgh County Public Library, Evansville, Indiana accepted and approved a proposal from director Ethel McCullough for the building of a separate library branch for African Americans. Andrew Carnegie donated $10,000 for the building’s construction and the Cherry Street Branch Library began operation on November 24, 1914. At that time, it was the only public library branch north of the Ohio River that provided services solely to African Americans. The dedication of the library was an important event, taking place on December 2, 1914, in the McFarland Chapel, a nearby African American church. The keynote speaker was Rachel D. Harris, noted children’s librarian at the Eastern Colored Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library. Harris’s speech was “The Advantages of Colored Branch Libraries.” Henry Sanborn of the Indiana Public Library Commission and Edmund Craig of the Evansville-Vanderburgh County Public Library Board were also in attendance.

The library’s official address was 515 Cherry Street, and the building was located on the corner of Church and Cherry Streets. The two-story building was made of brown brick with an entrance of white stone, and it had a glazed tile roof. Lillian Sunshine Haydon Childress Hall, the earliest known, formally-trained African American librarian to work in Indiana, began her career there before moving to the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library.

Early annual reports show that the Cherry Street Branch offered a variety of resources and activities. The collection initially had 2,800 books; however by the end of 1915 the collection had increased to 4,223. It also had several after-school programs for children including the Girl’s Literary Club and the Sons of Daniel Boone.  The library staff reached out to the city’s black schools (Evansville’s school system was segregated at the time) by inviting the teachers to visit the branch. In addition, the library provided meeting space for various organizations such as the NAACP, the Lyceum Literary Society, the Christian Science Society, and the P.T.A.  Like other libraries of its time, the Cherry Street branch supported the nation’s war efforts. During World War I, the staff established the Outlook War Unit. This group was responsible for sending Christmas gifts to bases at Yuma and Nogales, Arizona. The staff also participated in the War Chest Fund by purchasing liberty bonds and war saving stamps.

The Cherry Street Branch began to decline at mid-century. During World War II, the Evansville-Vanderburgh County Public Library began integrating its library system. Since African Americans were no longer restricted to the Cherry Street Branch, they soon began patronizing other libraries in the system. This led to a decrease in the number of patron visits to the Cherry Street location and a decision was made to close it. In 1954, the building was sold to the Buffalo Trace Boy Scout Troop. After the troop moved out in the late 1960s, the building was sold again to Welborne Hospital. In the early 1970s it was torn down to make way for the hospital’s expansion .—Michele Fenton, Indiana State Library

Further Reading

  • Atherton, Christi. “West Branch Library, a Mix of Past & Present.” Evansville Courier & Press, August 22, 2008. http://www.courierpress.com/news/2008/aug22/pages-of-history/
  • Evansville Public Library. Annual Reports, 1913–1918. Evansville, IN: Evansville Public Library, 1914–1919.
  • Fenton, Michele T. “A Great Day in Indiana: The Legend of Lillian Childress Hall.” Black Caucus of the American Library Association Newsletter 39, no. 2 (2010): 5-6.
  • Goldhor, Herbert. The First Fifty Years: The Evansville Public Library and the Vanderburgh County Public Library. Evansville, IN: H. Goldhor, 1962.
  • Harris, Rachel D. “The Advantages of Colored Branch Libraries.” The Southern Workman 4, no. 7 (1915): 385-391.
  • McKay, Elsie. “District Meetings.” Library Occurrent 4, no. 10 (1917): 180.
  • NAACP. “Along the Color Line: Social Uplift.” Crisis: A Record of the Darker Races 11, no. 1 (1915): 8.
  • “New Library Buildings.” Library Occurrent 4, no. 2 (1915): 28.
  • “Personals.” Library Occurrent 6, no. 6 (1922): 271.


LHRT Awards

Caption: Susan Reynolds, winner of LHRT’s Dain Award. Image courtesy of Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
LHRT recognizes the authors of outstanding books, articles, dissertations, and essays pertaining to library history.  In 2011, we awarded both the Phyllis Dain Dissertation Award and the Justin Winsor Essay Prize.

susan reynolds, winner of lhrt’s dain awardSusan Reynolds, who earned her Ph.D. from the Charles Sturt University of Australia in 2008 and is now a lecturer at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, won the Dain Award for her paper, “The Establishment of the Library of the Supreme Court of Victoria, 1851–1884: Antecedents, Foundation, and Legacy.” Dr. Reynolds’ dissertation thesis describes the first three decades of the Library of the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne, including historical, cultural, political, and individual influences on the library’s development.

Cody White is the recipient of the Winsor Award for the essay "Rising from the Ashes: Lessons Learned from the Impact of Proposition 13 on Public Libraries in California." The committee felt that this topic from the 1970s is a timely one, given the deep cuts libraries are experiencing around the nation today.  The paper examines how Proposition 13 was successfully marketed to voters and observes how libraries and library systems coped with cuts to personnel, hours, and services. 

In 2012, LHRT will award the Donald G. Davis Article Award and another Winsor Prize. Nominations are due in January 2012. For eligibility, past winners, and further information, see LHRT’s awards page at http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/rts/lhrt/popularresources/awards/awards.cfm .
Tom Glynn, Rutgers University, and Bernadette A. Lear, Penn State Harrisburg


Site Visits: The Restored Morgan Library and Museum, New York

Caption: Mr. Morgan's Library, East Room, part of the Morgan Library and Museum. Photograph by Graham Haber, 2010. Image courtesy of Miriam Intrator.

mr. morgan's library, east room, part of the morgan library and museum. On days when I cannot bring myself to read or write another word, I walk two blocks to the Morgan Library and Museum, first established as financier Pierpont Morgan’s (1837–1913) private study and library, designed by architect Charles Follen McKim (1847–1909). Once inside, I head straight for the East Room, Morgan’s passion and the heart of the current institution. The three stories of book-lined walls, crowned by H. Siddons Mowbray’s colorful ceiling paintings and highlighted by the textual treasures on display, never fail to recharge, awe, and inspire me. They appear even more magisterial now.

After a five-month closure for deep cleaning, new lighting, and restoring period furniture and fixtures, the Morgan Library reopened in October 2010 as an illuminated library. Light and depth of color beautifully highlight the artwork, elaborate bookbindings, manuscripts, and other rare items on display. One of the most transformative physical changes is the renovation of the North Room, converted from the cordoned-off office of Morgan’s longtime librarian Belle Greene (1879–1950), to an Ancient World and Middle Ages object gallery.

Morgan’s goal to import European culture to America is evident throughout his collection. Items on display during my December 2010 visit ranged from early bibles, to classics of French and English literature, to first editions of Galileo and Copernicus. Morgan particularly sought items with special qualities, such as unusual provenance, unique binding, marginalia, or hand-written markings or drawings. The free audio tour, narrated by curators, conservators, and historians, is a vital source of information about Morgan and his library. Morgan collected out of a true appreciation for exceptional textual material—what the Morgan refers to as his “collecting connoisseurship.” Nevertheless, the collection grew far faster and larger than he ever intended. In fact, only the first tier of books appeared in McKim’s original plan. During construction (1903–1906), the two additional tiers, accessed by staircases hidden behind columns of book-filled shelves, had to be added.

One of the most extraordinary gifts offered by the Morgan is the opportunity to compare manuscripts and printed examples of particular works. This provides singular insight into the writing, editing, revising, and publication process. For example, during my December visit, Dickens’ original manuscript for A Christmas Carol was exhibited next to an 1843 copy of the printed book. Nearby were Mary Shelley’s handwritten changes to the first 1818 edition of The Monster Prometheus, and Balzac’s extensive handwritten revisions that practically obscure a printed proof of Eugene Grande (1833). On permanent display is a 1455 Gutenberg Bible on paper. It is striking that the Morgan owns three, given that Morgan, ever the Anglophile, chose William Caxton rather than Gutenberg to represent printing in one of the library's painted ceiling panels. Other texts and documents are frequently rotated for exhibition, offering visitors motivation for repeat visits.

Briefly shown in conjunction with the reopening of the library, for example, was a selection of Italian photographer Massimo Listri’s large-scale images of Great European Libraries (December 10, 2010 to January 9, 2011). Many of the exhibited photographs appear in Listri’s Il Fascino delle Biblioteche (Umberto Allemandi & C., 2002), in which the Morgan Library is the only non-European inclusion. About five feet high by four feet wide each, Listri’s works offer an alluring view into some of the most beautiful and historic libraries in Europe. Those I found most intriguing contained hints—coats hanging over chairs or notepaper piled on tables—of active public use, an image contrary to the perception that these extraordinary libraries are museums, where visitors are invited to look but not touch. Thus Listri’s photographs capture the tension, familiar to many special collections librarians and curators, between past and present, private and public, luxury and practicality, technology and materiality, accessibility and preservation. More simply, the intention of the Listri exhibit was to illustrate examples of the architecture and aesthetic that may have inspired Morgan and McKim. Over a century later, the unparalleled library they built has been imbued with new light and life.— Miriam Intrator, Ph.D. Candidate, City University of New York

Byways: The Amelia Givin Library, Mount Holly Springs, PA

Caption: Computer and fiction area at the Amelia Givin Library, Mount Holly Springs, Pennsylvania. Many of the doors and walls contain panels of wooden “Moorish fretwork” as shown at left. Image courtesy of Bernadette A. Lear

computer and fiction area at the amelia givin library, mount holly springs, pennsylvaniaOn any given day near Carlisle, Pennsylvania, you will encounter hundreds of commuters and semis hurtling down route 81, an interstate that runs along the Appalachian Mountains from the Canadian border to Tennessee. In many years of traveling that road, I had never realized that a gem of architectural and library history lies just five miles south in Mount Holly Springs. There, at the base of South Mountain, you will find a Richardsonian Romanesque library which retains nearly all the features it had when it was first built.

The Amelia Givin Library is unique in many ways. For one thing, it was commissioned, funded, and built by a woman. In the nineteenth century, females certainly bequeathed property, raised funds, volunteered, and worked in libraries. Yet I have seldom encountered cases where a single woman built one from the ground up using her own money and then named the place after herself. Amelia Givin was unmarried and the sole heir to her family’s business (paper manufacturing). She hired Pittsburgh architect James T. Steen to design the building, which opened to the public in 1890. According to locals, the hands-on donor sometimes gave the librarian a break by sending her off for a drive in her carriage and staffing the library on her own. Givin was also a trendsetter in the sense that her library was the first public library in Cumberland County.

Caption: Rolling ladder in the Amelia Givin Library, Mount Holly Springs, Pennsylvania. Image courtesy of Bernadette A. Lear rolling ladder in the amelia givin library, mount holly springs, pennsylvania

Paul Tucker, a former member of the library’s board, did substantial research on the Givin Library’s architecture. In his work, he describes the library’s semicircular apse, arched windows, tower, rusticated masonry, and other Romanesque features. Inside, the woodwork is absolutely gorgeous, exemplifying the eclectic nature and excess of décor during the Victorian era. The Moorish fretwork—strands of carved wood woven together to form door and wall panels—intrigues many visitors. Mainly for these intact architectural features and through Tucker’s efforts, the Givin Library was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

But most interesting to me, as a historian and practicing librarian, is the chance to “walk back in time,” to play with tools and soak in the environment that my professional ancestors experienced a century ago. Although a modern addition was added in the 1980s, the front of the building has changed very little in the past century.

Strolling through the periodicals and fiction rooms, I encountered delightful wooden umbrella stands, gilt-framed portraits, a spiral staircase, and even a rolling library ladder (which I gingerly climbed).

Tucked within a town that has only 1,900 citizens and is only a few blocks square, the Amelia Givin Library is quite a treasure. It is also a reminder of the love affair many people have had with reading, in all places, eras, and circumstances.

If you’d like to visit, take I-81 to Pennsylvania exit 47A (State Route 34/Holly Pike) . Drive south about 5 miles. The Amelia Givin Library will be on your left.

—Bernadette A. Lear, Penn State Harrisburg Library.

Pathbreakers: Almarine McKellop and Sarah Smith, First American Indian Librarians?

Caption: Sarah Smith (Oneida), a former student and library employee at the Carlisle Industrial Indian School. Image courtesy of the Cumberland County (Pennsylvania) Historical Society.

sarah smith (oneida), a former student and library employee at the carlisle industrial indian schoolHave you ever read anything about nineteenth-century American Indian librarians? Probably not, because there is very little information about them within the professional literature. This might lead one to think that Native librarians did not exist. Yet the records of various “Indian Schools” reveal numerous literary efforts developed for and by American Indians.

I am slowly uncovering the history of reading rooms and libraries at the Carlisle (Pennsylvania) Indian Industrial School, which was the first and best-known government-run, off-reservation boarding school for Native Americans. General Richard H. Pratt, who founded CIIS in 1879, was an assimilationist who believed in exposing American Indians to classic literature, music, higher education, and others aspects of American culture.  In its early years, the school viewed books as an important civilizing force. It established three reading rooms in the 1880s—one for older boys, one for younger boys, and one for girls—and then opened an academic library in 1897.

I cannot say whether Carlisle’s reading rooms and academic library were the first library services for American Indians.  In fact, the scholarship of Daniel Littlefield, Robert Dale Parker, and Philip Rounds have shown that Native people had begun to read, own, and author books many years before Carlisle was founded. It wouldn’t surprise me if further research turns up missionary libraries, social libraries, or informal book-sharing networks in American Indian communities.

Still, in the absence of other information, it is worthwhile to note the efforts of two early American Indian “librarians”: Almarine McKellop (Creek) and Sarah Smith (Oneida). From what I can tell of school newspapers, McKellop was the first “librarian” (yes, he was given that title) at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. In 1882, fellow students elected him to maintain the boy’s reading room, a job which involved unpacking and shelving donated materials as well as keeping records of borrowed items. He was the first among many Carlisle students who came to be involved with the reading rooms’ growth and day-to-day functioning. Among the boys, the librarian was often a fellow who worked in the school’s mailroom or print shop. They often used school publications as coin-in-trade for obtaining items from other schools and organizations. Other children constructed chairs and tables, “kalsomined” (whitewashed) the walls, and maintained the facilities.

Sarah Smith was a Carlisle graduate who became the first paid American Indian employee in its academic library. The academic library departed from the informal reading rooms by supporting the curriculum in a manner similar to modern school libraries. After the head teacher, Dr. Oliver Bakeless, founded the academic library in 1897, he hired Smith to handle most of the daily operations. She was paid $300 per year and by all accounts was a diligent employee. She worked in the library until about 1900; then married Charles King, another Oneida, and moved back to Wisconsin.

As of yet, I do not know much about McKellop’s and Smith’s lives.  Biographical information for individual American Indians can sometimes be difficult to find, particularly if you are researcher on the East Coast. Yet my threadbare stories of McKellop and Smith suggest two crucial thoughts. One is that we currently know very little about the experiences of American Indians as library users and employees, especially prior to the 1960s. I hope that my work will help change this. Just as important, we have largely failed to acknowledge the contributions of young people to library development.  Poole’s Index to Periodical Literature and the Dewey Decimal System were begun by students, and the founding collections of many college libraries were donated by debating societies and fraternities.  Today, small armies of high school volunteers and work-study students perform first-line public services at our circulation desks. They also maintain order in the stacks, bind and preserve library materials, and undertake a variety of projects in academic and public libraries. Much like Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, which told the American story from an “everyperson” perspective, we could benefit from “A Student’s History of American Libraries,” looking at young employees, volunteers, and others who have left their imprint on the profession.— Bernadette A. Lear, Penn State Harrisburg Library

Web Site Review: Encyclopedia of Chicago

Caption: Homepage of Encyclopedia of Chicago. Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.

homepage of encyclopedia of chicagoChicago History Museum, The Newberry Library, and Northwestern University, “Encyclopedia of Chicago,” http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/ , (accessed April 18, 2011).

As someone who loves a good web reference, I was really excited to discover the Encyclopedia of Chicago. I became even more excited when exploring the site and seeing how detailed and comprehensive it is. The Encyclopedia is a joint effort between Northwestern University, the Chicago History Museum, and the Newberry Library, and it’s packed with enough features to necessitate its own user’s guide!

The homepage is neat and uncluttered. By clicking on “entries” in the toolbar at the top of the screen, a page opens with an alphabetical list of authored entries. To the right of the entry index, there are indexes for historical sources, maps, and special features as well. The list is incredibly long and inclusive, from AIDS, to Ghanaians, to Nursery Schools, to Zenith Radio Corporation. For library history enthusiasts, a simple search on ‘libraries’ returns 10 pages of results, including information on book arts, literary societies, neighborhood branches, and more.

Users can click on any photograph and are taken to a separate page with a larger image and description. Images on the site are accompanied by a simple editing toolbar that allows the user to zoom and rotate the image as desired. Readers can also access books within the site. These volumes are scanned in from resources within the partner institutions, and can be viewed in a split window with the table of contents, allowing the user to navigate quickly between sections of the book. Like photographs, the pages of books can be rotated and resized. Other entries that describe historical figures, places, companies, etc., include links within the articles to related topics and historical sources. These features make the Encyclopedia a great resource for teachers and professors.

The site also has a number of “special features,” including two rich maps—one on labor unrest in 1886, and another on residents of Prairie Avenue. Visitors can use controls (upper left-hand corner of the map) to show city streets or the density of immigrant populations in different neighborhoods. Above the map is a number of links which open different essays relevant to the map’s topic. Other special features include galleries and essays on Chicago history.

The site is a lot of fun, and the maps are a great way to bring historical events to life! The wording of essays and encyclopedia entries is intelligent but plain enough to be understood by most students. I am excited to continue sharing this resource with my friends who teach both at the high school and college level, and to share it with those who study Chicago history .—Julia Skinner, University of Iowa.

Upcoming Events: ALA Annual Conference, New Orleans

Join us for the following conference events. We have quite a schedule planned!

LHRT Executive Committee Meeting

The Executive Committee Meeting will be held on Sunday, June 26th, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., in the Pelican room of the Conference Center at the Hilton Riverside. During the meeting, we will discuss sites for the 2015 Library History Seminar, revisions to the criteria for our awards, and other important topics. This is an open meeting—all LHRT members and other guests are welcomed to attend.

Invited Speakers Program

The Invited Speakers Program will be Sunday, June 26th, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the New Levee room of the Marriott New Orleans/Convention Center. Speakers include:

  • Bernadette Lear, Behavioral Science and Education Librarian, Penn State Harrisburg Library, "What Hannah Taught Me: Researching Librarians in the Lives of Their Communities."
  • Christine Jenkins, Associate Professor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, "The History in our Stories: Documenting the “Hidden in Plain Sight” History of Youth Services Librarianship."
  • Mark McCallon, Assistant Director, Library and Information Resources, Abilene Christian University, "A Look Back at The Speaker:  The People Have Spoken!"

LHRT Research Forum

Our Research Forum will take place on Sunday, June 26th from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel, room Rosedown A, on the second floor. This year’s theme is the history of library services and collections for business, industry, and labor. Speakers include:

  • Ellen Pozzi, Rutgers University, "The History of the Business Branch of the Newark Free Public Library."
  • Joyce M. Latham, University of Wisconsin-Madison, "Collective Collections: Libraries and Labor.”
  • Sterling Joseph Coleman, Jr., Central State University, "English Public Libraries, Parliament and the Working Class: A Not-So Subtle Censorship Debate Within the British Parliamentary Debates of 1834 and 1850."
  • David M. Hovde and John W. Fitch, "Reading for Those Who ‘Labor with Their Hands and Earn Their Living by the Sweat of Their Brows."

Edward G. Holley Memorial Lecture

The Holley Memorial Lecture commemorates the life and work of Dr. Edward G. Holley, a preeminent library historian, educator, mentor, and former ALA president. Each year, LHRT invites a prominent scholar from outside the LIS field to discuss a topic that relates to library history or book culture. This year’s Holley lecture will be on Monday, June 27th from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Morial Convention Center, room 333.

The speaker is Sarah Wadsworth, Associate Professor of English, Marquette University, who will present "Ghosts and Shadows: Reading Race in the Woman's Building Library of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893.”

This Year in Library History

100th anniversary of the opening of the New York Public Library (May 23rd).

80th anniversary of the publication of The Five Laws of Library Science. S.R. Ranganathan’s simple mantras that “books are for use,” “every reader his or her book,” “every book its reader,” “save the time of the reader,” and “the library is a growing organism have shaped generations of librarians.

60th anniversary of the American Library Association’s accreditation standards, which made the Master’s degree (rather than the BLS) the educational entry-point into the profession.

35th anniversary of the introduction of the Kurzweil reading machine, the first optical character recognition system. This invention provided blind people with immediate access to books and other library materials by reading the text aloud.

‘Got Something to Say?—Well, Don’t Delay!

The LHRT Newsletter is interested in publishing material from our members. Brief articles (300-2000 words) are welcomed from students, new librarians, and volunteers as well as seasoned practitioners and researchers. Possibilities include brief biographies of pathbreaking librarians; short architectural histories of notable library buildings; interviews with “movers and shakers” in LHRT; descriptions of important or unusual primary sources; book and web site reviews; and more. We welcome announcements of awards, events, and other opportunities, too. If you are interested, contact newsletter editor Bernadette A. Lear (BAL19@psu.edu). We hope to hear from you soon!