[American Library Association’s Library War Service Posters, WWI.]. American Library Association.
[American Library Association’s Library War Service Posters, WWI.]
[American Library Association’s Library War Service Posters, WWI.]
[American Library Association’s Library War Service Posters, WWI.]
[American Library Association’s Library War Service Posters, WWI.]
[American Library Association’s Library War Service Posters, WWI.]
[American Library Association’s Library War Service Posters, WWI.]
[American Library Association’s Library War Service Posters, WWI.]
[American Library Association’s Library War Service Posters, WWI.]
[American Library Association’s Library War Service Posters, WWI.]
[American Library Association’s Library War Service Posters, WWI.]
[American Library Association’s Library War Service Posters, WWI.]

[American Library Association’s Library War Service Posters, WWI.]

[Massachusetts]: American Library Association War Service, ca. 1917–1918. Six posters on card stock, each measuring 22.5” x 28.7”, illustrated with a total of 24 half-tones.

A scarce set of six posters promoting the American Library Association’s Library War Service program during WWI, a wide-ranging and expansive initiative that distributed books and provided library services to U.S. servicemen at home and in Europe.

In 1917, during the First World War, the American Library Association established the Library War Service program, raising some $5 million from public donations between 1917 and 1920 and receiving additional Carnegie Corporation funding. With this financial assistance, the ALA created 36 camp libraries; distributed—with the help of ALA volunteers—some 10 million books and magazines; and provided library collections to 5,000 locations, such as military hospitals—as seen here. Books in Braille were even provided to soldiers who were blinded in combat. Many public libraries throughout America took part in the program. As a result of these efforts, tens of thousands of servicemen were able to spend their free time reading in camp libraries. In addition to such immediate benefits, the ALA’s efforts not only helped launch numerous modern library services that would survive beyond the War, but would also help to firmly cement the public library as a keystone institution in American communities.

The six posters offered here picture numerous scenes of the operations undertaken by the Library War Service in Massachusetts, which was under the direction of the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts. One poster covers the ALA’s cooperation with other organizations in the state and broader New England, such as the Y.W.C.A. Huts, U.S. Naval Hospitals, and Red Cross Houses. One of the four illustrations is intended emphasize interracial cooperation in the program. It shows black and white men reading together in a small library and is captioned “All races join in issuing books at Camp Devens Red Cross house.” Numerous images show delivery scenes where individuals are shown unloading and hauling books. One illustration captures a load of 100 boxes “starting on their overseas journey” from the Harvard College Library, which housed the Boston Overseas Dispatch Office. This single overseas office shipped some 122,000 volumes per month. A company of Lockwood Basin servicemen in uniform are also pictured, who are described as “on hand to pack books for their comrades overseas.” The volunteer service for this particular hub of the ALA at Harvard comprised “soldiers, sailors, librarians, Red Cross workers, students from Radcliffe and Simmons Colleges, Widener Library staff, Telephone girls and men, business men and women, teachers, Girl Scouts, and club and society women.”

Several scenes show the Naval Training Station and Radio School in South Boston and Cambridge, Mass. The caption for an image of sailors in a library reads, “technical literature seriously studied by men ambitious to advance ratings.” The most touching of these posters is one devoted to Army hospitals, illustrated with scenes of “restful reading.” One caption reads: “men in bed enjoy books on open air porches.” This poster lists the numerous hospitals for convalescent servicemen supplied with books from the ALA. Several remarkable shots of the Boston Public Library’s Distributing Office, show staff or volunteers sifting through a deluge of unsorted books. Finally, a number of illustrations show the Camp Devens Library in Mass., bearing such captions as “quiet alcove for study” and “No red tape. A welcome and book for every man.”

Six fine posters capturing the war-time efforts of the American Library Association and their seminal Library War Service program.

REFERENCES: Wiegand, Wayne A. The Library War Service. February 18, 2016 at americanlibrariesmagazine.org; War Service Library Book at ala.org

CONDITION: Good, some chipping and short tears at edges, lightly soiled, old tack holes.

Item #4608

Price: $950.00

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