This photo has caught many pairs of eyes around here. Look closely and you’ll no doubt deduce why.
Reference librarian Melissa, who added it to our sharing wall, noted that, at first glance, she thought the megaphone-wielding woman was standing on an edifice of very narrow bricks. But no, it’s…books!
My first thought, likely influenced by thoughts of plans for a new year was, “My, what an impressive ‘to read’ pile!” I can testify that my “to read” stack feels this ambitious. But what the photo actually shows is energetic campaigning on behalf of a notable book sharing effort: the American Library Association’s World War I program to bring books to those serving in the military.
The Library War Service was initially directed by Herbert Putnam here at the Library of Congress. Between 1917 and 1920, ALA raised $5 million from public donations; set up thirty-six camp libraries with Carnegie Corporation funds; and distributed approximately 10,000,000 books and magazines (my thanks to this American Library Association blog post for the facts and figures: “War Service Library book, ” American Library Association, April 19, 2010. http://www.ala.org/tools/war-service-library-book).
This bookplate, which is about the size of a small playing card, designated a book made available through the program.
Appreciating what I think of as a “clarion call” photo, replete with books, megaphone, many visual details to absorb and a massive sharing effort to admire, has me primed for all the opportunities for looking, listening, reading, and sharing we can look forward to as we enter a new decade.
- This photo was featured in the exhibition,“Not an Ostrich: And Other Images from America’s Library” held at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, California April-Sept. 2018, and is among those from the exhibition that we have shared on Flickr. Have a look at the comments viewers offered on the photo, and explore others in the “Not an Ostrich” album.
- Sample World War I book-related initiatives documented in photos and posters.
- Looking closely at the World War I posters online suggests just how important reading was to people stationed far from home on both sides of the conflict. Searching within the collection by the subject heading “reading” offers several where reading is the focus, but see if you can locate more that show people reading in the foreground or background.
- Check out an earlier blog post about World War I record drives that brought sound to those serving in the war: “Sounding the Call, for Sounds.”
- Learn more about the Library War Service from Theodore Wesley Koch’s first-hand account, Books in the War: the Romance of Library War Service (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1919) available in full text through HathiTrust.