Clarion Call: An Invitation to Look, Listen, Read, and Share!

This photo has caught many pairs of eyes around here. Look closely and you’ll no doubt deduce why.

 New York City book campaign. Photo by Abel & Company, Inc., 1919. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.40926

New York City book campaign. Photo by Abel & Company, Inc., 1919. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.40926

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!

ALA Camp Kearny library Left to right: J.H. Quire, Camp Librarian, Fr. Herbert Putnam, Gen'l. Director, Library War Service, I.N. Lawson, Jr. Assistant Librarian. Photo, 1918 or 1919. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.06513

ALA Camp Kearny library Left to right: J.H. Quire, Camp Librarian, Fr. Herbert Putnam, Gen’l. Director, Library War Service, I.N. Lawson, Jr. Assistant Librarian. Photo, 1918 or 1919. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.06513

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.

Bookplate of War Service Library. Print by C. B. Falls, 1918. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.40874

Bookplate of War Service Library. Print by C. B. Falls, 1918. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.40874

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.

The camp library is yours - Read to win the war. Print by C. B. Falls, sponsored by the American Library Association, 1917. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.40831

The camp library is yours – Read to win the war. Print by C. B. Falls, sponsored by the American Library Association, 1917. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.40831

Learn More

  • 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.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.