ALA 140th anniversary
A visual history of the American Library Association in its 140th year (2016).
1927, June 2: The new Philadelphia Free Library's book retrieval system works like this: When a patron requests a book, a librarian in the Reading Room transmits the request to the stacks via a Teletype system. An employee stationed in the stacks receives the request via a recording typewriter, retrieves the book from its place on shelves, and places it on a conveyor system for a long, circuitous trip to the requesting librarian. The entire process requires only 2-4 minutes.
1927, June 2: Librarians and trustees open the new Philadelphia Free Library Central building with a dignified ceremony on the lawn. While bands play and newsreel cameras roll, Mayor W. Freeland Kendrick, City Council President Charles B. Hall, and other dignitaries including former US Sen. George Wharton Pepper (1867-1961), a descendant of the library's founder, praises the new building and the many people who had devoted years to its erection. Librarian John Ashhurst opens the doors.
1927: The ALA Committee on Library Extension publishes a small brochure that describes the inequality of access to public library service in the US and advances the goal of "Adequate public library service within easy reach of everyone." It then offers some strategies for achieving that goal. A chart in the brochure shows that more than 50 million Americans are without library service, mostly in rural areas.
1926, Oct. 4: At the ALA Annual Conference in Atlantic City, N.J., Council approves a resolution to expand the ALA Bulletin into a "complete journal of discussion, adequate under competent editorial direction to accommodate the major contributions from the profession." The resolution is proposed by M. L. Raney, librarian at Johns Hopkins University. The Bulletin does add a cover and a few more enhancements over the next 5 years.
1926, Oct. 6: Although the ALA Annual Conference is being held in Atlantic City, N.J., about half the attendees travel to Philadelphia for an Anniversary Session at the Drexel Institute (now Drexel University) to commemorate ALA's 50th anniversary. Richard R. Bowker and Melvil Dewey, who were both at the 1876 conference, give presentations.
1926, March: Frederick Paul Keppel (1875-1943), president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, informs ALA that it plans to grant it $4 million over the next 10 years. The funds will be used to endow a graduate library school (at the University of Chicago), aid other library schools, begin a general ALA endowment fund, and carry on ALA's general activities.
1926, Oct.: Following the Atlantic City conference, some 30 overseas librarians are invited to take part in the ALA Post-Conference trip to visit libraries in Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit. Hugo Krüss (third from left, shown in front of the White House), director of the Preussische Staatsbibliothek in Berlin, proposes setting up an international library association to be formally constituted in Great Britain in 1927. The proposal is considered a precursor of IFLA.
1926: As a gesture of appreciation for sending St. Louis Public Library Director Arthur E. Bostwick on a consulting trip, the Library Association of China and its secretary Yuan Tung-li (1895-1965) send to ALA headquarters a 1000-year-old earthenware statuette of an oxcart used to transport manuscripts. Unfortunately, the statuette has been misplaced in recent years.
1926: For its 50th anniversary, ALA encourages every library in the US to set up an exhibit to let the public know about the interesting things that libraries do. This library exhibit is at a farmers' meeting in New Jersey. The ALA Bulletin notes: "Probably everyone who passed these exhibits stopped at least to read the captions."
1926, May 31-Nov. 30: 3,600 square feet of floor space is assigned to ALA, free of charge (a rental value of $18,000), at the Sesquicentennial Exposition in Philadelphia. ALA considers it an unusual opportunity to present library work to the general public. The exhibit contains a model children's room, a bookmobile, and ALA's original record book from its 1876 conference. The ALA exhibit wins a Grand Prize from the Exposition jury.
1926, July 15: The Los Angeles Central Library, originally designed by Bertram Goodhue and completed by his associate Carleton Winslow, is dedicated. Built in ancient Egyptian and Mediterranean revival style, the central tower is topped with a tiled mosaic pyramid with suns on either side and a hand holding a torch representing the "Light of Learning" at the apex. Other elements include sphinxes, snakes, and celestial mosaics.
1926: The New York Public Library purchases Puerto Rican historian Arturo Alfonso Schomburg's (1874-1938) collection of African-American books, manuscripts, and prints with a $10,000 grant from the Carnegie Foundation. The collection is deposited at the 135th Street branch in Harlem, where Schomburg becomes curator of the Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and Art. It is later renamed the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
1926: The ALA Commission on the Library and Adult Education publishes its report on the status of lifelong education in US libraries, funded with the help of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and finds "outstanding deficiency in all forms of adult educational work." Afterwards, ALA establishes a standing Board on Library and Adult Education.
1926: ALA celebrates its 50th year with a membership of 8,000+, a permanent endowment of $1.1 million, and 90 employees in Chicago, St. Louis, Washington, Philadelphia, and Paris. Publication sales have risen by 250% in 1926, and it has 61 committees.
1925, April 26: St. Louis Public Library Director Arthur E. Bostwick arrives in Shanghai, China, as ALA's representative to a delegation gathered to form a National Chinese Library Association. He travels to 14 cities to confer with Chinese librarians and educators on the development of modern libraries.