Thursday, February 28, 2008

Flu, Libraries and Sammies in Oklahoma

The American Library Association (ALA) sponsored camp libraries all over the US during WWI. Library directors serving at Camp Doniphan were Luther L. Dickerson and William K. Porter. If there was an existing facility, the ALA would use it. However, in many cases, including Camp Doniphan, the ALA would be required to meet their own space requirements. Luther L. Dickerson, of Grinnell College was sent to Europe after the Armistice to oversee a library there. William Porter replaced him in Oklahoma.

Luther Dickerson went to the American Expeditionary Force University at Beune in the Cote d'Or region. It was only operational for three months, March-June 1919, but Dickerson was able to accomplish many things. One being the number of books available to the soldier-students. One week after arriving and shelving 6000 books the library opened. Within a "very short time" the library exceeded 30,000 volumes, over 80% non-fiction. The three connected buildings that made up the library provided accommodations for 1,500 soldiers, twice the seating capacity of the central library of any American university. Daily circulation approached 1,100 volumes. In the short life of the Beune library 88,500 volumes circulated and attendance was estimated at 310,000.

November 1, 1919 Dickerson was appointed library specialist over army libraries. He oversaw army libraries until his resignation in 1924. In those intervening years, army command opinions declined on the necessity of troop libraries. Dickerson was not replaced.

Most of that information can be found in Arthur P. Young. Books for Sammies: The American Library Association and World War I. Pittsburgh, PA: Beta Phi Mu, 1981. ISBN 0910230153.

I have some interest in these libraries and those like them, like the libraries set up at camps for the Civilian Conservation Corps, POW camps, etc. The ALA processed millions of books during WWI. I'm sure they used many different markings for books, but mark them they did. My favorite to date is the bookplate which uses the art of the ALA book drives by CB Falls. I'm fortunate to have this plate in my collection. This weekend I found another label, more plain. It's a simple bookplate that reads "American Library Association/ Soldiers and Sailors/ Camp Library." Most bookplate collectors define labels as strictly typographic bookplates. They sometimes have ornamental borders, but are otherwise quite simple. Some of my favorite marks of ownership are typographic labels. Finding the book at the OKC Metro FOL sale, maybe this book came from Camp Doniphan. Sadly, there is no way to be sure. This label was applied directly to the cover and has the call number written on the spine and on the label. Many camps had the ALA library and then smaller "branches" in individual barracks, or with the Red Cross, the hospital, etc. So, the "Main Library" stamp likely means this book was kept at a building like the one pictured in the postcard.

In the back of another old book I found some neato postage stamps. There were programs with the Post Office during WWI and WWII (and perhaps other wars) that books could be sent in the mail to soldiers by simply applying postage to the book itself. Pardon my finger in the photo.

Then I noticed the rubber stamp on the paste down. I found it disturbing.

"Burn After Quarantine/ American Library Association"

1918 SPANISH FLU EPIDEMIC flashed involuntarily through my mind. I could feel the red rot on the spine dropping molecules into my white palms. Ugh. Wide-eyed, I stiffly pivoted at the waist to find the nearest door out. After all, I had to get my treasure home.

Now, if any of you out in bibliosphere-land have or know of a really great collection this book should go to, let me know. Does anyone know of other related bookplates or markings related to these camp libraries?

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