Commemorating the centennial of the U.S. entry into WWI
and the ALA Library War Service

ALA warehouse 1919

With the centennial of the U.S. entry into WWI on 6 April 2017, the Library would also like to commemorate the centennial of the Library War Service of the American Library Association (ALA), of whose books became the core collection of the American Library in Paris a few years later. By the time of the signing of the Armistice, the ALA Library War Service had shipped 1.5 million books for the use of the American forces in the dozens of make-shift camp libraries in France. In an interesting article by the ALA Archives entitled "The Books They Read: Library War Service in WWI," the types of books that the soldiers read, and they read a lot, covered all topics including technical subjects like "business, engines, plumbing and carpentry, and trains," as well as books of poetry like The Hundred Best Love Poems and works by Dickens, Poe, Kipling, and Meredith. 

With the dismantling of the camp libraries after the war, many books were shipped to a warehouse, but a central reference library was opened in Paris that quickly attracted readers from the American expatriate community, demobilized American soldiers as well as French students and members of the Anglophone community in Paris. Burton Stevenson, the Ohio librarian charged with overseeing this huge operation, called for a meeting of the Temporary Committee of American Library Fund in November 1919 to discuss the future of the reference library in Paris. One of the first supporters was Charles Seeger, father of the poet Alan Seeger who was killed in combat and author of the poem "I Have a Rendezvous with Death." After Seeger's donation, many others followed from American, British, and French supporters. 

With this show of support and enthusiasm, the ALA established the American Library in Paris on 20 May 1920 as a private, non-profit organization at 10 rue d'Elysée in the 8th arrondissement with a core collection of 25,000 volumes and 115 periodicals. 

Recently, Abigail Altman, assistant director of reference and collections, participated in a round-table discussion on the American influence in French libraries at the 2017 Salon du Livre Rare. A more detailed account of that discussion will be posted at a later date.

In the meantime, join us in our commemoration of the centennial of the U.S. entry into WWI and the ALA Library War Service by reading the Library's interactive timeline or browsing our historical photo archives on the Library Tumblr


Photo: Workers unpacking boxes of books at the ALA warehouse, 1919. 

Published in Thoughts off the Top

The Future of Libraries

The 2014 ALA Annual Conference continues at a relentless pace, with concurrent speaker sessions, poster sessions, informal discussions, and author signings with lines for books by Lois Lowry and Judy Blume wrapping around the exhibit hall. It's heartening to see librarians waiting 45 minutes for a moment with their favorite authors. 

Pauline Lemasson attended the "Future of Libraries" panel, moderated by ALA President Barbara Stripling, and included Corinne Hill, director of the Chattanooga Public Library, Carolyn Foote, District Librarian for Eanes Independent School District, and Dr. Pearl Ly, Director of Library Services at College of Marin.

Corinne strongly emphasized that libraries need to constantly innovate and be trend watchers across a wide spectrum of areas including politics, economics, demographics, culture and technology. She mentioned that libraries are not warehouses, but places for ideas. She describes herself as operating a dual library. One is about the books and delivering information as libraries have been doing for 3,000 years and the other is the place for innovating, producing, experimenting in order to better adapt for the future. 

Carolyn expressed that school libraries form the foundation of how students perceive and utilize all other libraries. Therefore, the school library offers many opportunities for engagement and involvement. 

Corinne regularly follows and reads Wired, Wall Street Journal, and The Futurist to help her envision the future. Carolyn reads Fast Company and The Unquiet Librarian, while Pearl follows The Ubiquitous Librarian, and In the Library with the Lead Pipe


Published in Library News
Sunday, 29 June 2014 00:00

2014 ALA Annual Conference - Day 1

The 2014 American Library Association Annual Meeting


Library staff members Pauline Lemasson and Celeste Rhoads are reporting from the 2014 ALA Annual Conference, which officially kicked off on Friday 28 June at the Las Vegas Convention Center. So far, it's been an intense schedule of attending sessions, meeting authors, and connecting with librarians, teachers, and students.

The first session we attended was "The Annual Unconference" that featured round-table discussions on issues such as how to get adults to library programs, managing staff, improving communications, and the always fun topic of assessment. Participants shared freely and openly. It becomes evident that it's sometimes just as helpful to ask questions and discuss as it is to come up with "solutions" for every issue. 

We attended other sessions such as "How to host an independent TEDx talk at your library" and "21st Century Teen: Literacy in the digital world." The TEDxJuneauLibrary offered examples of how one public library successfully organized monthly events as informal talk viewing parties open to the general public, and designed to introduce the community to the ideas that come out of TED and TEDx.

At the opening general session, keynote speaker Jane McGonigal, an American gamer and author, describes how playing alternate reality games can create strong positive emotions and increase brain activity. McGonigal celebrated gamers as super-empowered hopeful individuals who could use the skills they learn from gaming to solving major real-life problems. She mentioned the much-cited article, "When Scientists Fail, it's Time to Call in the Gamers," on how gamers deciphered a complex protein structure in 10 days that had stumped scientists for 14 years. 

Be sure to stay tuned as we bring you more updates from the 2014 ALA Annual Conference. 

Published in Library News