When America’s Librarians Went to War

(Photo: University of Illinois Archives)

In 1917, the American people launched into a major war on a scale unlike anything that had been seen for more than 50 years. The whole nation was mobilized for the effort, including the librarians. The American Library Association (ALA) formed the Library War Service to establish more than 30 camp libraries among the troops. Pictured above are some of the librarians who accompanied 10 million books sent to American troops. Taking the job very seriously, they wore uniforms designed especially for them. NPR quotes ALA archivist Cara Bertram about the work of these volunteers:

"In both wars, librarians back at home or on the front were key in collecting and distributing books to soldiers," Bertram says. "During World War I, librarians maintained camp and hospital libraries," and in both world wars, "librarians promoted books drives and encouraged donations."

Librarians were especially active during World War I. The ALA reports that between 1917 and 1920, its Library War Service established three dozen camp libraries with the support of the Carnegie Corporation and raised $5 million in public contributions. Special uniforms were created for librarians in World War I. The American Library in Paris — established in 1920 by the ALA and American expatriates, and seeded with books from the LWS — continues to this day.

-via Daily of the Day

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