Q. Today I was going through some books donated to our book sale and ran across one with a bookplate stating "War Service Library" with a picture of a WW I Soldier carrying a stack of books. This plate was found in a 1918 book. What is the story behind this bookplate?
A. The bookplate -- sometimes a label or a stamp with the words "American Library Association, Soldiers and Sailors Camp Library"-- is one of several versions affixed to books furnished to sailors and soldiers by the American Library Association during World War I.
In 1917, ALA established the Committee on Mobilization and War Service Plans (later the War Service Committee). ALA's wartime program, known as the Library War Service, was directed by Herbert Putnam, Library of Congress, and later by Carl H. Milam. Between 1917 and 1920, ALA mounted two financial campaigns and raised $5 million from public donations; erected thirty-six camp libraries with Carnegie Corporation funds; distributed approximately 10,000,000 books and magazines; and provided library collections to 5,000 locations. Continuing by-products of this effort are the American Library in Paris and military libraries all over the country ... and world. The work is carried on by librarians who are members of the Federal and Armed Forces Libraries Round Table (FAFLRT).
As libraries were dispersed or weeded over the years, some of these books have come into private hands--even though the label will often say something like "Property of the U.S.S. ... - Not to Be Taken Off Ship"! For more information, please see our page on Library War Service. (And no, we do not want the book returned to us.)