Friday, January 31, 2014

Re-dos pay off: from Pennsylvania Library Notes to the records of the State Federation of Pennsylvania Women

Psychologists have identified a "competence-confidence loop," such that trust in one's own ability to perform a task increases as he or she becomes better at doing it, and that such positive feelings improves the outcome. But sometimes, I think competence and confidence can be inversely related. This is especially true of young intellectuals who are used to hearing that they are bright. They become overly confident and assume their knowledge is complete and correct in all things when it is not. If you don't know what I'm talking about, re-read a term paper that you wrote years ago -- perhaps something you submitted for a high school assignment. Maybe you stated some of your insights (this assumes you had any!) with conviction and clarity. But overall, you'd probably be embarrassed if anyone else read your old paper today. In other words, the trouble (and promise?) of intellectual life is that your understanding of yourself, your topic, and your world continues to grow. So, when you are in your 30s, 40s, or 50s and you rediscover material written in your 20s, 30s, or 40s, some of it inevitably causes the face-palm characteristic of substantial regret.

I was thinking about this phenomenon several weeks ago when I was considering redoing my hand-search of Pennsylvania Library Notes (PLN), the newsletter of the Pennsylvania Free Library Commission and State Library of Pennsylvania. In 2005, when I first started researching the history of public libraries, I harvested all the "significant" articles from it. Or so I believed at the time. But knowing how much my knowledge has grown since then, I recently worried that I may have missed important items that I wouldn't have recognized as such years earlier. So I asked the State Library for special permission to take the heavy volumes home. Working like a cold-case detective, I reexamined evidence collected by an earlier colleague who just happened to be my younger self.

It turned out I was right to doubt myself. Looking at the stack of photocopies I had created 9 years ago, I clearly privileged articles written by Commission or State Library staff, or articles which summarized statewide library development. In other works, I caught the pieces that State Librarians Thomas Lynch Montgomery and Gertrude MacKinney wrote about the broad history of public librarianship in Pennsylvania. However, one important thread that I didn't pick up on was the crucial role of women's clubs in early 20th century public libraries. For example, I didn't copy a brief article on "Co-operation with Federation of Pennsylvania Women" which stated that the Commission was "the medium through which clubs have presented books to some of the smaller libraries" (PLN, July 1913 issue). In the 1930s, when the State Library was fervently pushing the establishment of county library systems and bookmobiles, I missed additional articles pertaining to the Federation. For instance, within a special issue, the State Library had asked representatives of the Federation, the Grange, and other non-librarian constituent groups to write regarding what county libraries "would mean" to their membership (PLN, January 1933 issue). To give another example, I had passed over a feature article in the April 1935 issue on "Women's Clubs and Public Libraries," at the end of which was a note that the same text was to be published in Pennsylvania Clubwoman. Furthermore, I did not copy a detailed outline of "The Library Program of the State Federation of Pennsylvania Women," presented by Mrs. Joseph Dury of Sewickley*, chair of the Federation's Education Department, at the 1936 Pennsylvania Library Association conference (PLN, January 1937 issue).

These refound clues led to an important new trajectory in my work. I checked whether the historical records of the Federation were accessible to researchers. As it turned out, a major collection is housed only a few miles away at the State Archives in Harrisburg. Throughout December and early January, I used board minutes, yearbooks, periodicals, and other materials which proved to be treasure-troves for library history.

The State Federation of Pennsylvania Women, later called the Pennsylvania Federation of Women's Clubs, and now the General Federation of Women's Clubs, Pennsylvania, is an association of associations. I do not know how it operates today, but in my era of interest (1890s-1940s) local clubs paid membership fees to join the state organization and send "delegates" to its annual meetings. The Federation put forth "resolutions" which were expected to be adopted by all members. State-level officers and committees provided direction, coordination, practical advice, and communication channels toward implementation. Despite the structure provided by the state organization, however, clubs were free to pursue their own interests, methods, and opportunities. At the local level, women were involved in a myriad of cultural and social concerns, including Americanization of immigrants, arts and music appreciation, birth control, environmental beautification and conservation, marriage and divorce law, suffrage, town clean-up and facility improvement, working conditions for women and children, and much more.

Why did women's clubs in Pennsylvania care about free public libraries? Numerous scholars have discussed the importance of reading as a means of education and entertainment for women. In Pennsylvania, many local women's clubs focused on literature or currents events. Among the 66 local clubs that originally federated in 1895, 8 had "Belle Lettres," "literary," or "Shakespeare" in their names (1896/1897 SFPW Yearbook). Often, libraries provided books and periodicals in support of such activities. Thus the number of women interested in libraries naturally grew as additional clubs joined the Federation.

Another factor may have been discrimination against females within the subscription libraries that existed at the time. Having used the records of more than a dozen such institutions across Pennsylvania, I have found that gender segregation may not have been de jure, but it certainly was de facto in many cases. In other words, although I have seen few library constitutions and bylaws which specifically bar women from membership or from leadership positions, lists of subscribers and board members tend to include many more males than females. Also, early records of the Pennsylvania Young Men's Christian Association, another statewide organization which promoted libraries, show that in our state, women were typically considered "auxiliaries." They were welcomed to raise funds and provide other types of support for local Ys, but until well into the 20th century they were generally were not invited to use the Ys' facilities or serve as officers.

Some of the history of SFPW's library involvement is elusive, because the collection at the State Archives contains no correspondence from the early years. Also, I have been unable to locate the first volumes (1913?-1919) of the Federation's periodical, The Messenger.  Nonetheless, extant board minutes and yearbooks indicate that it took an early, active, and long-lasting interest in public library development. When the SFPW was founded in the 1890s, free public libraries were immediately placed under the umbrella of the Civics Committee. Within a decade, there was enough interest in libraries such that a separate "Libraries Committee" was created (see 1904/1905 SFPW Yearbook). First led by Winifred Riggs, who was a librarian at the Lawrenceville Branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, it evolved into a "Library Extension Committee," chaired by Anna B. Day of Connellsville. Because Pennsylvania tried to mirror the national federation's administrative structure, and since incoming state presidents and boards could alter such structures, the name of the library group and its reporting lines sometimes changed. Yet SFPW Yearbooks from 1911/1912 to 1918/1919, 1924/1925 to 1937/1938, and 1944/1945 to 1946/1947 (when my research ceases) list distinct departments, divisions, or subcommittees pertaining to libraries.

As such administrative lines suggest, interest in public libraries waxed, waned, and waxed anew with changes in Federation leadership. During the turn of the 19th-20th centuries, there was a strong push to start city and town libraries. In 1899, the state organization formally resolved that "each delegate and club member [urge] her home club to encourage University Extension, Free Libraries, and Traveling Libraries. Also that we request the next Legislature make an appropriation for the use of the Library Commission" (1900/1901 SFPW Yearbook).

The Federation supported the library movement in other ways. For example, its annual conference frequently included programs and activities pertaining to libraries. At the 1896 meeting, Alice E. Huff of the Women's Club of Pittsburgh introduced attendees to the "New Library Movement" (1896 SFPW meeting program). Similarly, the 1899 conference offered a discussion session on "Town and Traveling Libraries," led by Mrs. George Kendrick, Jr.* of Philadelphia. The Federation also welcomed professional experts to its events. In 1902, when Isabel Ely Lord, a librarian at Bryn Mawr, was elected as the first female vice-president of the Keystone State Library Association (the forerunner of PaLA), she was invited to speak at a conference session (1902 SFPW meeting program). The following year, new State Librarian Thomas Lynch Montgomery addressed attendees on "Pennsylvania in Library Work" (1903 SFPW meeting program). Librarians sometimes spoke on panels pertaining to books, literacy, film, education, and related topics. For example, in 1911 Marion Gunnison of Erie Public Library provided a talk on "One Hundred Best Pictures [stereopticon slides] for Public Schools" (1911 SFPW meeting program). Several years later, Anna MacDonald of the State Library, Mary A. True of Clarion Normal School, Jean A. Hard of Erie Public Library, and Mrs. Francis D. Maxwell* of the SFPW's Eastern District presented various topics relating to library extension (1917 SFPW meeting program). To promote development of county libraries, the State Library's and Susquehanna County's bookmobiles were "open for inspection" and parked outside of the 1930 meeting.

Various local clubs, and eventually the state Federation, advocated women's suffrage. As members gained political power, they were encouraged to use it on behalf of libraries. Legislative activity began well before women won the right to vote. For example, among various resolutions in the 1900/1901 Yearbook, there was one promising that "we exert our influences to procure the election of more women" on library and school boards. The 1901/1902 Yearbook included a report from State Librarian George Reed about traveling libraries, along with an appeal that attendees "personally or by letter appeal to your Representatives urging them to use their influence" in securing additional appropriations for the Pennsylvania Free Library Commission. Reed wrote to Federation secretary Mary K. Garvin that he had "reason to know that the work of the Federation of Women's Clubs did a great deal ... in securing the passage" of the act that had originally created the Commission, because "a large number of the Senators and members of the House informed [him] that they had received communications from members" (1900/1901 SFPW Yearbook).

During the late 1910s, Pennsylvania women's attention shifted to civil defense, food conservation, Red Cross work, selling bonds, and other activities in support of World War I. About the same time, the chair of the Literature and Library Extension Committee, Harriet H. Greer, seemed more interested in the former rather than the latter half of her mandate. Yet interest in public library development revived in the mid-late 1920s during the twilight of Minnie K. Hamme's presidency. She appointed Alice R. Eaton, librarian at Harrisburg Public Library and an active member of the Pennsylvania Library Association, as head of the Federation's Division of Library Extension. Leaving office in 1927, Hamme urged all members to "turn [their] attention to County Libraries ... so that every child, no matter how remote his habituation, may have access to good books." The state organization passed a resolution stating that it "heartily endorse[d] and will aid in the County Library System and urge that it be established on a tax supported basis" (1926/1927 SFPW Yearbook).

The following year, Ruth L. Frick of Allentown became state president. Frick was a strong library advocate who identified libraries as one of the 5 "special subjects" she would emphasize during her administration. For her part, MacDonald chose "active librarians" for her district committee chairs, including Isabel M. Turner of Allentown for the Northeast district; Mary Reutter of Pottstown for the Southeast; Jessie Wilson of Northumberland for the Central; Mary A. True (now at Erie Public Library) for the Northwest; and Edna Krause of Scottdale for the Southwest (1928/1929 SFPW Yearbook). Frick also authorized a $2000 budget to "put a trained worker in the field" to promote county libraries. Helen R. Godcharles of Milton, who was hired for this role and elevated to second vice president of the Federation, provided dozen of talks to local women's organizations, businesses, civic associations, and government leaders. Since Godcharles (as Helen Rockwell) had worked for several years at the State Library prior to her marriage, she had in-depth understanding of library issues and likely enjoyed close relationships with librarians throughout the state.

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, numerous articles in the Federation's periodicals -- many of them written by Eaton, Godcharles, and MacDonald -- pressed members to "Make 1926 The Library Year" (The Messenger, April-May 1926 issue), invited them to "Plant Books" (The Messenger, March and May 1928 issues), and even urged them to "Outlaw Literacy in the United States of America" (The Messenger, April 1928 issue). Similar articles appeared on nearly a monthly basis during the 1930s. Among the most compelling was a piece by Mrs. Joseph D. Dury*, "Rich Pennsylvania, Poor in Books." It noted that more than 4 million Pennsylvanians still lacked access to library services and that 78 towns with populations of 5,000 or more had no libraries (Pennsylvania Clubwoman, October 1936 issue).

Ruth L. Frick, President of The State Federation of
Pennsylvania Women, 1927-1931. Frick was a strong 

advocate of libraries. From Pennsylvania Clubwoman
November 1931 issue.
During Frick's tenure, the SFPW also sponsored a demonstration project in Tioga County whereby the State Library provided a bookmobile and the Federation purchased 400-500 volumes of reading material (1930/1931 SFPW Yearbook). Though this experiment ultimately failed to motivate Tioga County residents to approve a library tax, women's agitation resulted in the passage of state law providing partial matching funds for county governments which made appropriations for rural library service (1931/1932 SFPW Yearbook). This was a watershed achievement -- the first time the state had provided such money. After state funds were secured, the Federation then urged local clubs to develop the movement. Copies of the new legislation were mailed to all county-level federations. At the 1934 state conference, The American Library Association's pamphlet, "Books for Town and Country" was slipped in each attendee's packet. Furthermore, the Federation sent questionnaires to each of more than 570 local women's clubs, asking what they were doing to support library development. Responses revealed that no fewer than 114 were giving books, money, and/or labor to their libraries (1934/1935 SFPW Yearbook). 

Throughout the 1930s, the Pennsylvania Clubwoman printed success stories of suburban and rural library services, including Centre, Huntington, and Union Counties, as well as Belle Vernon, Coraopolis, Elizabethtown, Glenolden, Johnsonburg, New Kensington, Yeadon and other communities. The magazine continued to provide practical ideas, too. For example, the May 1939 issue included "Program Suggestions from Your State Chairman," which recommended "portable libraries" for rural schools and community centers, "memorial book shelves" (gift book campaigns to honor the deceased), National Book Week observance, and other activities. Another survey conducted by the Federation's Department of Education found that 66 of 67 Pennsylvania counties could report at least one local club that was aiding libraries. Allegheny County was a standout -- in a single year its residents gave $1790 and more 2100 hours of voluntary service to their libraries (Pennsylvania Clubwoman, June 1940 issue). 

During the early 1940s, it seems that women again put the library movement on hold in order to support national defense and war efforts. Although many members assisted in local and county Victory Book Campaigns, it appears that the state Federation steered them toward non-library efforts. For instance, in June 1942, members pledged to "use [their] utmost influence in persuading our government to appropriate no public money for any governmental expenses except those vitally essential to defense or the legitimate welfare of any of the states or the federal government." The same year, another resolution urged "every club woman to cooperate ... to the fullest extent" regarding "conserving resources for the war" (1941/1942 SFPW Yearbook). Both mandates temporarily ruled out county libraries, which relied on public taxation and rationed gasoline. Even modest speaking program suggestions from the chair of the Federation's Department of Education tended to be war-related, such as "The Library: A War Information Center," "Books and Their Influence in Safeguarding Civilization," and "Books and Horsepower in Modern Warfare" (Pennsylvania Clubwoman, May 1943 issue). This said, interest in public libraries likely revived after the war, particularly when Katherine Shorey, an active librarian from York, was appointed chair of the Federation's Division of Libraries.

There are many additional details from Federation board minutes, yearbooks, conference programs, and periodicals which could flesh out an entire scholarly article or book chapter on this topic. I am very thankful that I questioned my own perspective and thoroughness and decided to revisit Pennsylvania Library Notes. If I hadn't done so, I would not have uncovered the articles which prompted me to seek out the Federation's records. Skipping such vital documentation would have been a serious oversight, given that State Librarian Anna MacDonald once stated that "more than fifty per cent of the libraries in Pennsylvania have been started by women's clubs" (1928/1929 SFPW Yearbook).

*I have scoured SFPW records to learn each woman's first name, but cannot identify all of them at the present time. If you can supply such information, please contact me!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Finding what I wasn't looking for: PaLA materials at Dauphin County Library System

"Really, you shouldn't be sorry." 

Lori Lane, Dauphin County Library System's Fundraising and Events Coordinator, was apologizing to me for not cherry-picking "the early stuff" from a series of motley boxes on a loading dock table. She explained that the library's historical records had gotten jumbled as a variety of staff members prepared posters, web sites, and other material for its centenary celebration. But like I said, I didn't mind at all. Historical researchers like me thrive on serendipity. Time and time again, I've found the right things in the wrong places.  

Lori went back to her work and I began mine. Within a few minutes I found an interesting item. At the bottom of a box of scrapbooks was an unassuming album. I knew from a glance at the cover that it was probably an "NME" ("not my era"). But after years of doing this kind of research, I knew better than to push it aside without a look. Sometimes, old records are "rebound" in newer materials when the original wrappers disintegrate. I don't even trust labels, because occasionally, gently-used binders are redeployed without peeling off or blacking out old lettering. So I opened it. 

An unassuming scrapbook at the Dauphin County Library
System encompasses a wonderful surprise!
Sure enough, the contents were from the 1980s. But rather being a battered computer manual or another piece of "junk," here was a significant treasure: a scrapbook which thoroughly documented PaLA's 1984 Pennsylvania Legislative Day. 

Since I tend to write about the early years of PaLA and I've never been a policy wonk, I haven't had occasion to scour the association's board minutes to figure out exactly when, how, and why Pennsylvania Legislative Days began. I would guess they were an outgrowth of ALA's annual National Library Legislation Day, which has been held annually since the 1970s. PaLA's archives holds documentation of various legislative activities back to 1939, plus records of Legislative Days from 1981-1994 and 1999-2006. Yet most of the archive's folders only include the packet that was distributed to participants. They don't provide much detail regarding how the event was organized, how activities unfolded, or what, if anything, resulted. Even a list of participants'names, and the legislation or policy issues they were advocating, can be challenging to find. 

Fanning its pages, I realized that the album in my hands was the most complete record of Legislative Days I'd ever seen. The person who compiled it, Richard Bowra of DCLS, submitted it for consideration in ALA's annual John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award competition. When I gushed to him about his effort, he chuckled and said "yeah, that was back when I had time" (he became director of DCLS in 1986). 

Bowra painstakingly recorded every aspect of Legislative Day with paper items, photographs, and realia. The triumphant final pages of the album even include a copy of SB 658, along with the pen that Governor Dick Thornburgh used to sign it into law. This bill prohibits the release of personally-identifiable information from library customer records, thus protecting patron confidentiality. Even more helpful than the artifacts, though, are the rich captions which put activities into context. For example, the album explains that "Library Users Are Voters" buttons were distributed throughout the day by adults and children wearing blue and white "jogging suits." 

When I was designing my sabbatical research project, I purposefully limited its scope to pre-1945. I did so in part because some library directors are reticent about someone writing about staff, donors, and customers who may still be living. I don't regret focusing on the early decades, because most of my academic training has been in 19th/early 20th century cultural and social history. However, my thoughts inevitably wander toward all the other PaLA records -- especially from the 1970s forward -- that may remain in libraries' file cabinets, storage rooms, and e-mail accounts. Although I contact officers and committee chairs each year to solicit recent materials, I don't know whether this was done regularly before I became the association's archivist in 2007. How can I encourage colleagues to "repatriate" such records -- to send them "home" to PaLA? Does PaLA even have a right to ask for them, given that they were created and are retained by members, sometimes not acting within the official duties of a committee position?

If you have items like this, for gosh sake, DON'T THROW THEM OUT! Contact me ( and I will add them to PaLA's archives. 

Revisiting the no-Carnegie mystery

If I were to ask you who was the most important library philanthropist -- or, to make it simpler, imagine that I asked you to name one person who is most often affiliated with public libraries. You might be right if you answered "Andrew Carnegie." From the 1880s through the 1920s, Carnegie built more than 1,600 public libraries in the United States, plus a number of college libraries, plus libraries in other countries.

Given that Carnegie made his fortune in Western Pennsylvania, it isn't a surprise that he donated a lot of money to our state. Looking at tables available on Wikipedia, which are based on research by George Bobinski and Theodore Jones, one finds that Carnegie gave more dollars to Pennsylvania than to any other state except New York. Of the approximately $45 million he provided for libraries across the United States, more than $5 million came to the Keystone State.

Looking closer at the data, however, one sees that the high tab is due largely to massive gifts made to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In 1903, Carnegie provided $1.5 million to build 25 branch libraries for the Free Library of Philadelphia. The previous decade, he spent more than $700,000 on the Forbes Avenue (main) branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and an additional $300,000 on branches throughout that city. He also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a small number of Western Pennsylvania towns where he had substantial business interests or other connections. These libraries were far more elaborate than the simpler structures he built later. For example, the original Carnegie library in Allegheny cost more than $400,000 to build and included substantial lecture halls and a theater. In addition to books, Braddock offered a large auditorium, bowling alley, gymnasium, and swimming pool. The Carnegie library in Carnegie also had (and continues to have) a music hall. The Homestead library, like Braddock, provides a gym, pool, and music hall.

When we exclude these large gifts, it turns out that Carnegie spent less than $2 million erecting libraries in Pennsylvania. In other words, only 26 communities received a library. The states of Indiana (156 grants), California (121), Illinois (105), Iowa (99), Ohio (79), and 10 other states received more donations than Pennsylvania did. If we take the 1900 census as a reference point and calculate Carnegie's generosity in terms of total dollars per capita given to each state, Pennsylvania (about $0.89) fares better than the nation as a whole ($0.60). Yet 9 states and the District of Columbia received more funding according to this measure. In fact, it appears that Carnegie was most generous to states in the Far West, including Wyoming (about $2.78 per capita), Washington ($2.02), California ($1.91), Colorado ($1.44), Oregon ($1.02), Montana ($0.93), and Utah ($0.92). The District of Columbia ($2.62), Indiana ($1.03), and New York ($0.92) also received more funding relative to their populations than Pennsylvania did.

Why weren't more Carnegie libraries built in Pennsylvania?

This question is a crucial and challenging one to answer.

In his book, Bobinski lists 19 communities in Pennsylvania which were offered grants, but never built their libraries: Beaver, Blairsville, Carbondale, Clarion, Clearfield, Dunmore, Greensburg, Huntingdon, Knoxville, Lansdowne, New Castle, Norristown, North East, Slatington, State College, Tyrone, Uniontown, Wilkinsburg, and York (pgs. 116-133). In some cases, such as Beaver, Huntington, and Slatington, the towns were unable support libraries financially. In other localities, such as Blairsville, Carbondale, Clarion, Dunmore, Tyrone, and Uniontown, local councils did not provide the required annual appropriation to support library operations. In New Castle, residents voted down the library in a referendum. At York, it was determined that building the library was illegal. In other cases, such as Greensburg, Lansdowne, and Norristown, Wilkinsburg  there were problems with building sites. At North East, a local donor stepped forward and a Carnegie grant was no longer needed. State College's library, authorized in 1917, was thwarted by World War I and rising building costs.

Pamela Spence Richards' chapter within Robert S. Martin's Carnegie Denied: Communities Rejecting Carnegie Library Construction Grants, 1898-1925 discusses the reasons why some of these libraries never came to fruition. She begins by emphasizing labor controversies, including the Homestead strike and battles for protective legislation for child workers, as generating a "special antipathy" toward capitalists like Carnegie (pg. 13-16). Yet in her case studies of Blairsville, Carbondale, Clarion, Dunmore, New Castle, and Tyrone, Richards found that "rather than any set, predictable pattern emerging from similar towns, Pennsylvania communities around 1900 were apparently relatively isolated, independent organisms with their development only slightly affected by outside factors. Enthusiasms, either positive or negative, about events in the world at large that did not immediately relate to their lives were factors of much less weight than immediate, practical concerns." Since Pennsylvania was (and remains) "a state characterized by decentralized governance and strong local control," individual personalities and timely events played the greatest parts in advancing or thwarting library efforts (pg. 30-31).

Richards' work goes a long way toward explaining why some proposed Carnegie libraries were never completed. In my own work, I can confirm that "immediate, practical concerns" were paramount to Pennsylvanians of the Gilded Age/Progressive Era. At the time, small towns like Clarion and Lebanon were encumbering themselves to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, floating bonds and raising taxes to build roads, schools, and other public facilities. Financially-cautious residents were quite  concerned about the accumulation of public debt and often voted against proposals that were not of dire necessity, including "recreational" items like libraries, parks, and playgrounds. Such accommodations often ended up being funded through door-to-door canvassing and other voluntary efforts.

Richards was also insightful when discussing cultural factors that dissuaded Pennsylvania residents from applying for Carnegie money. An unsigned article on "Pennsylvania Library History" which apparently represented the Pennsylvania Free Library Commission's understanding of the course of public library development in the region, emphasized that the state was home to "at least four races and nationalities" which differed greatly in language and religion. Such differences were so great that "a feeling very akin to hatred was engendered" which was responsible for "the lack of unity in our State which is found even to-day" (see the 1913 issue of Pennsylvania Library Notes, pgs. 1-11). Library promoters noted that Pennsylvanians, especially in rural areas, were very resistant to taxation. In explaining it, they sometimes referenced historical events like the Whiskey Rebellion, as well as the frugality of German and Scotch-Irish settlers. In a similar vein, as explained by State Librarian Thomas Lynch Montgomery, Pennsylvanians believed that "what was worth getting was worth paying for," and the failure of subscription libraries was often interpreted as the public's negative verdict on their necessity. Why should local government force residents to fund institutions that could not garner voluntary support? ("A Survey of Pennsylvania Libraries," Pennsylvania Library Notes, October 1913, pg. 45-59). Thus, Carnegie's requirement that local governments promise annual appropriations was a deal-breaker.

If I were to rewrite Richards' work, I might amplify the discussion on decentralized government. Specifically, I would highlight the Pennsylvania Free Library Commission's failure to promote the Carnegie program. Thumbing through the newsletter of Pennsylvania Library Notes, the commission's mouthpiece, the silence on the Carnegie program is deafening. It astounds me that giventhe commission's  purpose of encouraging public library development, and the intention of PLN as rallying and providing practical tips to new institutions, it never published a "how to" article on applying for a Carnegie grant. There are no laudatory articles about the nation's largest library donor, either. This is quite  strange in light of the fact that the State Librarian, Thomas Lynch Montgomery (served 1903-1921), was native to a city (Philadelphia) which had received a massive grant.

Two decades after Richards wrote her pathbreaking chapter, I would question her contention that turn-of-the-century Pennsylvanians were isolated. Many, especially in the mountain areas of Central Pennsylvania, and in rural communities throughout the state, were isolated geographically, but not always intellectually or socially. Through my searches of local news in Clarion, Lebanon, Lock Haven, and Warren (which Richards could not access as easily in 1993), I have found that the papers reported Carnegie grants in other municipalities, as well as the opening of new libraries in the same region donated by other philanthropists. For instance, within the Warren Ledger I found various articles about the James Prendergast Library in Jamestown, NY, and within the Lock Haven Express, which I finished using this month, I spied numerous articles about the Thomas Beaver Free Library in Danville. Rural newspaper readers would have been aware of major urban libraries in other states, too. The combination of the Astor and Lenox libraries with the resources of the Samuel Tilden estate, which established the New York Public Library in 1895, as well as the construction and opening of the new "Congressional Library" in Washington, D.C. in 1897, were major stories.

Poring over the board of trustees' meeting minutes of the Reading Public Library this week, another possible explanation for the lack of Carnegie library activity was brought to mind:

Possibly, there was a widespread, mistaken belief that the steel magnate only funded new institutions. 

At the turn of the century, Reading's library was operating in a crumbling multipurpose building that had been erected in the 1840s. In 1910, while construction workers attempted to undertake repairs, inspectors discovered  that the foundation at the northeast corner of the structure was "very weak," the walls were 1-3 inches out of plumb, and that many bricks were "soft." City architect A. Smith warned the board that "he did not know what would happen if the North and East walls were torn down." At that point, a trustee suggested contacting Andrew Carnegie, but board president Richmond Jones "was opposed to a Carnegie Library and thought it should be built by the City." He urged that a "careful examination" be made before they decided to tear down the current library (RPL board of trustees meeting minutes, January 25, 1910). For nearly 2 months, the board obtained conflicting opinions as to the soundness of the building. Then, Mayor William Rick made an executive decision, informing the trustees that they were to close the library immediately, remove all employees, and not allow patrons inside. Rick wrote to Carnegie himself to inquire about funding. That spring, citizens also circulated a petition decrying the "unwise and temporizing policy of the repairs now being made" and asking that "a new and fireproof structure be erected (RPL board of trustees meeting minutes, April 18, 1910). In time, Reading obtained its Carnegie library -- a structure costing more than $100,000 opened in 1913.

Particularly interesting about this episode is a comment board president Jones made upon hearing that Carnegie approved Reading's grant request. Within a board meeting, he "stated he had first thought that Mr. Carnegie would not give us any money for a Library Building for the reasons that we already had a Building and could not comply with his requirements." The new library would be "more than he hoped for, for such as satisfactory response" (RPL board of trustees meeting minutes, April 29, 1910). Despite the fact that Reading was in such dire need, it seems that Jones simply assumed Carnegie would not help. 

By the time the philanthropist began to fund libraries outside the Pittsburgh area, many Pennsylvania communities had hosted subscription, YMCA, Sunday school, and even in some cases free libraries for a generation or more. One can only wonder how many other civic leaders mistakenly foreclosed themselves from an opportunity as Jones nearly did.

In the next few months I will visit Johnstown, New Castle, and other towns with Carnegie connections. Hopefully this will shed greater light on the "no Carnegie" mystery!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Polskie książki w bibliotece: Polish books at the library

Looking through a plastic tub of historic documents from the Reading Public Library (RPL), I uncovered a poster about 11 by 17 inches in size. It appeared to be a list of books but it was written in a language I didn't recognize. It such cases, my iPhone is a vital research tool. I typed the bold worlds at the top of the poster into my Google Translate app and learned that, roughly, what I had in hand was a notice about "400 new Polish books, novels, and works of literature for general adult readers" available at the library.

A list of Polish language books in Reading
Public Library, probably 1930s
Although the list is undated, I suspect that it is from the late 1930s. At that time, a local "Polish Committee" approached head librarian Alfred Decker Keator with a donation of $50, asking that more volumes written in their native language be purchased. Keator and RPL's board agreed to match the gift with $50 from the library's budget (board of trustees meeting minutes, December 20, 1937).

Title lists of library collections can reveal much about the cultural and social world that someone is trying to create. Whether a librarian is assembling a shelf of books for local children, a group of neighbors is gathering and sorting donations for a bookmobile, or a community organization is providing a list of desiderata for the library to purchase, the authors and topics that are included (and those that are excluded) speak to perceived realities, cherished values, and hoped-for ideals. I wish that I had the ability to analyze this poster in such lights. I am only able to note that there are many Polish titles. Other works are translations. For example, the list includes Balzac, Conrad, Dickens, O. Henry, Hugo, Kipling, London, Poe, Scott, Tolstoy, Twain, and Yeats.

The poster might also prompt scholars to consider the role of books/reading in Polish-American communities. A basic introduction to "Poles in Pennsylvania" doesn't discuss literary activities in depth, nor does it mention the size of the Polish population in Reading. But in general, many who lived in Northeastern Pennsylvania arrived at the turn of the 19th-20th century to work in coal mines. Apparently, the Polish community in Reading was large enough to support at least one church, St. Mary's Roman Catholic, and at least one newspaper, Gazeta Readingska. Scholar Pien Versteegh has found that although they retained cooking habits, folk dances, and religious traditions, many Polish-Americans in Pennsylvania lost (or never developed) the ability to read and write in the native tongue, largely because of their enrollment in public schools. It might be interesting to think about a booklist of Polish language titles -- which includes American, European, and Polish authors -- in light of the Americanization story.

Hopefully a colleague with background in Polish language and literature will find this fascinating list, track down information about the Polish community in Reading, and tell us more about them!

Nameless no more: staff development at Reading Public Library during the 1920s

For each research site I visit, I try to compile a list of long-serving staff members. I enjoy tracking down everyone's obituaries to learn their personal backgrounds and the interests they enjoyed outside of the profession. Often assembling such a list is a difficult task, however. In my experience, the head librarian usually wrote and signed printed annual reports, but other staff were unacknowledged. Within board of trustees meeting minutes, women were often referred by "Miss" or "Mrs." plus a surname. Beyond designation as a "librarian," "assistant," "substitute," or "janitor," their departments or roles were not frequently stated. This was especially true in institutions where the head librarian had the authority to hire his or her own staff without confirmation by the board.

Such was true of the Reading Public Library from the time it became a municipally-funded institution in 1898 through the early 1920s. During those decades, staff were seldom mentioned in the library's published reports. Although head librarians Albert R. Durham (served 1892-1907) and Edward A. Howell (1907-1925) were expected to seek trustees' approval when hiring new employees, locating names within thousands of pages of handwritten board minutes is a headache-inducing task.

Suddenly, in 1925, things changed.

In that year's report, each staff member's first and last name appeared on the verso of the customary list of board members. In 1938, when the library celebrated its 40th anniversary of free public service, the corresponding annual report named all regular employees in order of seniority that had served over the past decade. This revealed that Mary M. Crater (started at RPL in 1904), Elizabeth Ruth (1908), and Lily M. Wilson (1910), Florence Hergesheimer (1915), Kate H. Muhlenberg (1916), Rebecca Menges (1919), Olga G. Deppen (1921), and Dorothy Johnston (1921) had served Reading for 25 years or longer. By 1940, the published staff list included their departments and positions as well. For example, Hergesheimer was in charge of ordering. Also, she was assistant librarian -- 2nd in command to head librarian Richard L. Brown. Deppen was head of the cataloging department and Crater was her assistant. Ruth was head of circulation while Menges was in charge of the periodicals department. Johnston was RPL's children's librarian.  Muhlenberg was the librarian for Reading's Northwest Branch. It appears that Wilson had resigned by that time.

Although the first appearance of a certain type of information within an report might seem like little more than a bibliographical curiosity, I believe it is evidence of an important change that was occurring at RPL at the time. When Truman A. Temple became RPL's head librarian in 1926, he immediately focused on the professional development of its staff. Catalogers were trained on "the modern and universally accepted methods" of describing books. Johnston was sent to Springfield, Massachusetts, to observe children's services. Temple also arranged for staff to visit libraries in Allentown, Bethlehem, and Pottsville "to observe and compare methods" which "stimulated a desire for the most effective methods." He also urged the board to pay registration and transportation costs for 2 employees to attend a summer library training program (see board of trustees meeting minutes, April 19 and May 17, 1926).

Temple and his successor Thomas Ayers did not remain in Reading very long, but it appears that staff development continued during the tenures of Alfred D. Keator (served 1928-1940) and Richard L. Brown (1940-1961). From the 1920s on, the board minutes frequently contain notices from the librarian that staff were attending college, library training programs, and professional meetings, often with RPL's financial support. By the 1940s, staff were becoming regionally and nationally recognized in their own right. For example, Ethel M. Briggs of the Northwest Branch wrote an article on "The Children's Hour" for the library's weekly newspaper column, "Your Library in Action." Finding it helpful for encouraging parents and neighbors to get involved in storytelling, RPL reprinted thousands of copies in pamphlet form and gave Briggs credit on the cover. It also promoted her book, The Friendly Library (Snyder Publishing Company, 1942), which was a children's textbook for using libraries.

Observing this moment in Reading Public Library's history has strengthened my resolve to include the stories of library workers as I blog, as well as when I write articles or a book. Although such a commitment is an important start, it's crucial for today's institutions to ensure that paraprofessionals, students, interns, and volunteers are written into institutional records, so that historians like me will find their names and know their contributions decades later. I am proud that my own library's staff directory lists all of our employees, and I hope this doesn't change.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Are you related to Phoebe Albert, Harriet Bowers, Dorothy Boyer, or Beatrice Saylor?

Sometimes, I wish that there were regional "History Detectives." Today I found a tantalizing item that captures a summer that was significant to someone. Unfortunately, it doesn't reveal the characters, setting, or plot. I'd love some help filling in the story! 

I was sorting through miscellaneous documents and photographs at the Dauphin County Library System's McCormick Riverfront location when I found a small blue and yellow scrapbook with the words "County 1936" hand-drawn on the cover. It only measures about 9 inches tall and 6 inches wide and consists of about a dozen leaves.

A mysterious scrapbook at the
Dauphin County Library System.
Several pages in, there is a small photograph of a stone building, perhaps a garage or workshop. Above it, penned by a feminine hand, is a brief verse: 

"We were a part of the County 
For eight short weeks or so, 
And we want to leave this record, 
That our achievements you may know."

Subsequent pages consist mainly of statistical tables. They apparently track the daily work of 4 people: Harriet J.  Bowers, Beatrice A. Saylor, Phoebe J. Albert, and Dorothy J. Boyer (in order of their appearance). There is a numerical table for each woman, tallying the number of items she "washed" and "mended" for each weekday from June 22nd through August 14th. Over the course of 8 weeks, the team repaired 5331 items. 

The scrapbook records an 8-week cleanup effort
-- but cleaning what, and why?
What is frustrating -- and fascinating -- about this scrapbook is that it provides such granular data, yet does not state what the women were cleaning/repairing, why they were doing it, or how they were chosen for the task. In fact, one can only assume they were handling books based on a single photo which shows them posing in front of a Dauphin County library book truck. Whether they were permanent library staff or volunteers isn't mentioned. Given that many libraries during the 1930s were utilizing temporary employees from the Works Progress Administration, Albert, Bowers, Boyer, and Saylor may or may not have been Harrisburg residents. To add to the mystery, there are actually 5 women in the group photos, but the names and activities of only 4 of them is recorded. Perhaps one is a companion, assistant, instructor, or supervisor who did not do the bulk of the work?

I wonder if the scrapbook documents an effort to refurbish materials that were damaged by the Great 1936 Flood. Although the Harrisburg Public Library's main branch was undamaged, a contemporary article in Pennsylvania Library Notes mentions that it "sustained loss of books in circulation and a complete loss of a branch library which was located in one of the public school buildings" (see April 1936 issue, pg. 58). Yet the PLN article also mentions the library's "quick action in getting books to the bindery," which seems inconsistent with the fact that these women are handling materials months after the flood took place. Maybe they were a special team which helped other affected libraries in Dauphin County? Or perhaps there was another emergency which prompted the "washing" and "mending" of thousands of items? 

I have already tapped the limited resources available to me and unfortunately I've found no definitive answers. None of the women are mentioned in The Years Speak Volumes, the go-to history of the Harrisburg Public Library/Dauphin County Library System. Unfortunately, the institution does not have a complete backfile of published annual reports, board of trustee meeting minutes, or newsclippings as some libraries do. Penn State's newspaper databases don't help either: America's Historical Newspapers' coverage of the Patriot ceases in 1922, and Newspaper Archives offers no Harrisburg newspapers at all.

Using censuses via HeritageQuest proves frustrating as well. At best, the database might identify 2 of the women. The 1930 data isn't available, so I used 1940. That year, there is a 22 year-old Beatrice Saylor living with her parents and younger siblings on Reel Street in Harrisburg. At the time, she was a substitute teacher in a public school. I did not find a Phoebe Albert living in Harrisburg in 1940. However, on the other side of the Susquehanna River, in Camp Hill, there is a 44 year-old married woman who was born in Harrisburg. Could she be the tall, more serious-looking female in the scrapbook photos? 

Sadly, it is difficult to pinpoint Harriet Bowers. The 1940 census lists several women with the same name. The one of a proper age who lives closest to Harrisburg is a 25 year-old living in Reading. The 4th woman, Dorothy Boyer, may be untraceable because her surname is so common in this area of Pennsylvania. In 1940, there were more than 40 Dorothy Boyers statewide, though none in Dauphin or Cumberland Counties. 

Although I have so little information to offer, I was moved to share this story because at least 1 of the women wanted her and her friends' efforts to be remembered. In my experience, very few paraprofessionals and volunteers are captured by library records, and yet, as the scrapbook's copious statistics illustrate, a significant portion of an institution's work is accomplished through their hands. Nearly 80 years after the fact, it may not be reasonable to hope that Albert, Bowers, Boyer, or Saylor will see this homage, but perhaps a son, daughter, nephew, niece, or grandchild will. If that's you, please know that someone is appreciating and wondering about your relative. 

Harriet Bowers, Beatrice Saylor, Phoebe Albert, Dorothy Boyer,
and an additional woman. Unfortunately, I don't know who is who.
Do you?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Poor Mr. Durham?: library behavior in 1890s Reading

Librarians who work for any length of time on the front lines in urban settings require (or develop) both enthusiasm and detachment when it comes to human behavior. These might seem like opposite strengths, but both are needed. When working at Enoch Pratt Free Library, I retained interest in all my customers' queries and problems, from whether or not the Bilderbergers conspired in starting world wars, to calculating the flow velocity inside a pipe. And yet I wasn't shaken (at least not for very long) when a patron called me a b-tch for not allowing an expensive reference book to circulate. If you have no idea what I'm talking about in terms of the craziness that unfolds each day in America's public libraries, read Don Borchert's book Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library. We've never met, but I think Borchert and I would be simpatico in many respects.

Although some of my beleaguered colleagues chalk up bad library behavior to a "new generation" which lacks empathy, intelligence, or training, it might comfort us all to know that it's actually nothing new.

This week I am using the historic documents of the Reading Public Library (RPL), which recently celebrated 250 years of public service. For several days I have been squinting at handwritten board of trustee minutes from the 1890s and early 1900s. Since the head librarian, Albert Durham, served as the board's recording secretary, the minutes sometimes include juicy anecdotes and commentary about his daily grind.

Soon after RPL became a free institution, the board approved a new set of rules for library users. A century later, it's interesting to note the library's apparent need to emphasize that "tobacco is prohibited, and no dogs or other pet animals will be permitted in the rooms." Also, "all conversation and all conduct inconsistent with quiet and order is strictly prohibited. The Library is not to be used as a place for meeting friends or visiting" (board minutes, April 10, 1899). Several months later, the short list of guidelines was elaborated upon. Among my favorites are:

"Conversation with attendants on duty is forbidden except as to necessary Library matters and such conversation must be as brief as possible and in a subdued tone."


"Gentlemen shall not wear their hats in the Library" (board minutes, October 16, 1899).

While policing smoking, noise, and attire, Durham also coped with patrons who failed to return materials. Once, someone lost an expensive book "while making a tour of the saloons on Penn Street" and failed to replace it. Durham contacted the man's employer, who agreed to deduct $2.50 from his worker's weekly wages until the missing volume was paid for (board minutes, September 17, 1900).

In addition to rectifying the behavior of his patrons, Durham also had to keep in check the activities of other persons in his vicinity who were not library customers at all. Before Mayor William Rick persuaded Andrew Carnegie to erect the current building, RPL was located a multistory edifice built in the 1840s as a lodge for the local Independent Order of Odd Fellows. By the 1890s, the library owned the whole building, but since it owned fewer than 10,000 volumes, it did not require the entire space. Extra rooms were rented to other community organizations and Durham was the "custodian." He was not like a janitor in the modern sense, but rather scheduled and supervised all activities within the building.

I found myself nodding in sympathy as Durham described the difficulties of sharing space with people who did not have the same priorities as he did. Portions of the building were used by a local women's club, a liederkrantz (German singing society), and a turn verein (German gymnastics club). Judging from the board minutes, their activities vexed Durham on a regular basis. On at least one occasion, ladies left the floor "littered" and furniture in disarray. For their part, the liederkrantz "ignore[d] the comfort and quiet of the Library talking noisily as they pass[ed] boisterously up and often shouting to each other and smoking not particularly good tobacco of which we get full benefit." On several occasions friends of the turners hauled kegs of beer upstairs and turned their space into a taproom. Spilled beverages and melted ice seeped through the floor boards and stained the library's ceiling. Durham also complained about public urinals on the upper floors which became "rank" during summer months (board minutes, September 17, 1900).

I don't report these incidents in order to embarrass any of the organizations involved. Notably, Durham's complaints cease within several years. This could mean a number of things, including that leases may have been cancelled, or that the groups could have found more suitable lodgings. Perhaps the renters corrected themselves once they were informed of their offenses. Maybe that Durham and his staff developed thicker skins and identified greater priorities, too. More importantly, such conflicts seem to be common in spaces which are used by various people for different purposes, especially when places' contexts are unclear and where rules of engagement aren't decided. In other words, my point is that many librarians strive to find workable medians between the efficiency and orderliness we often prefer, and the complexity and messiness of our customers' lives. Also, we can find ways, as Durham did, to quietly replenish our enthusiasm. The board minutes don't contain a lot of gush about his patrons, but Durham's 15 years at RPL attest to a passion that was renewable.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A first week on the job: Alice R. Eaton, Harrisburg, May 1913

Have you ever seen the film The Color Purple? If so, you may recall the scene where Celie enters her husband's kitchen for the first time. It is absolutely filthy, with dirty dishes and rotting food all over the floor. Bucket in hand, Celie is determined to clean up the mess. Putting aside the obvious historical and socioeconomic differences between Celie and us, I think many librarians act as she did on their first days of new jobs. They visually survey scenes that appear absolutely chaotic, if not disgusting. They calm an instinct to despair or flee. They pick a starting point and make a mental list of priorities. They grip their tools, they get to work, and they make it right.

I was thinking about The Color Purple this week when I began my research at the Dauphin County Library System and found a certain item sent by Alice R. Eaton to the Board of Trustees. Within a stack of century-old documents that DCLS Director Richard Bowra fished from his office files, there is one with the date -- "12 May 1913" -- written in ink at the top. It stands out because it is handwritten, while from June 1913 onward, nearly all Eaton's communications were meticulously typed. I was delighted to realize that I was holding perhaps the very first artifact of what would be a 40-year career in Harrisburg. The fact that it is penned lends to the presumption that she was in the thick of hard, new work -- maybe no typewriter available, or perhaps she hadn't had time to get comfortable with Harrisburg's yet.

First page of Alice R. Eaton's first report to the Harrisburg
Public Library Board of Trustees, May 2013.
DCLS, which was then the Harrisburg Public Library, had been in operation since 1889 (for information about the library's history, see Anthony Arm's book, The Years Speak Volumes, Camp Hill: Plank's Suburban Press, 1976, as well as the library's 100th anniversary web site). Having only just begun my research, I don't yet know what condition the building, collection, or staff were in when Eaton arrived. Yet she faced the substantial task of preparing for the library's impending move from 125 Locust Street to a new building on the corner of Front and Walnut Streets. As she reported to the board, her first effort was to examine 12,000 volumes which then comprised the collection. Eaton apparently set up a triage:
 "1. Books in good condition ready for cataloguing and use.
2. Book recommended for binding.
3. Books reserved for use if needed but not of sufficient value to catalogue.
4. Books soiled and worn out which should be discarded."

Within her first 2 weeks on the job, she had sorted about 2,000 items.

It is clear that Eaton was highly capable of what we would today call "project management." Weeding the collection was prerequisite to cataloging and packing, since the fewer items that needed to be handled, the less expensive the entire process would be. Within her first days at work, Eaton also investigated haulers, the best option apparently the Harrisburg Transfer Company, which offered a 1-horse/1-man wagon at 50 cents an hour, or a 2-horse/1-man wagon at 60 cents an hour. In addition, Eaton arranged to borrow boxes from the State Printing Office, and requested bids from several local "junk dealers" to remove unwanted books and paper.

Given that Eaton was reporting on only 2 weeks of activity, her accomplishments seem astounding. In addition to breaking down the Locust Street location, she was also responsible for outfitting the new library on Front and Walnut with all the necessary equipment and supplies. She communicated with the Library Bureau, compiled an order list, and received an estimate. She also obtained information about the Library of Congress's card distribution program and recommended that her library receive LC's pre-printed cards as a way of sparing the catalogers' efforts. Eaton carefully considered the human resource needs as well. She asked the board to fund 2 "trained and expert" catalogers immediately. However, before additional assistants were hired, she advised them to determine policies for scheduling, vacations, illness, and "attendance at library institutes" (i.e., professional development).

Alice R. Eaton, n.d., published in Anthony Arms,
The Years Speak Volumes. Location of original unknown.
Although Alice Eaton's 7-page report is daunting to read, ultimately it inspires me. I have yet to learn all the details, but I know that within a short time this indomitable woman developed a "training class" to recruit and raise competent junior staff, and began to distribute reading materials to local schools. I was (and continue to be) highly interested in her because she developed one of the first county library systems in Pennsylvania, and because she was highly active in the Pennsylvania Library Association -- including a presidency in 1927. Although the city had hosted several failed libraries over the years, with Alice Eaton in charge I knew the Harrisburg Public Library was here to stay.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

At the half

Pennsylvania is an interesting place to celebrate the New Year. As a person who grew up watching the same glittery ball drop each year on my grandparents' TV screen, I am fascinated by the bolognas, chocolate kisses, pickles, roses, strawberries, and other eccentric items which make their annual descent in nearby towns. Unfortunately, I can't "hang" with the night owls though. I typically nod off between 10 and 11 p.m., then jolt awake when others start shouting during the final seconds before midnight.

I appreciate the day more than the eve. For me, the turn of the year is an important opportunity to reflect, to be honest with myself, and to recommit to pursuing career and personal goals. I try to awake before dawn so I can watch the sunrise. In past years, I followed that up with a long hike. The quiet of a secluded trail allows me to breathe deeply and to pray without interruption. Seeing barren branches encourages me to shed unnecessaries and focus on important priorities.

I got up early enough this morning, but my back and shoulders throbbed responsively when I glanced at the thermometer. An icy 19 degrees. No hiking for now. So I curled up on the coach with my cats.

I have been so immersed -- almost frantic -- with research for the past 5 months that naturally, my thoughts drifted to "the project." My sabbatical leave is more than half finished, but January 1st seems like the appropriate half way point between 2 semesters. So I created a map of the sites I have visited and compared it to an earlier map I submitted with my sabbatical proposal. It's hard to say whether I am ahead, at, or behind pace. On the negative side, in August the director of the Lancaster Public Library got cold feet and barred me from further use of its materials. In September, I postponed my work with the Dauphin County Library System so that I could assemble a presentation on libraries during World War II for the Pennsylvania Library Association conference. This month, a trip to Hershey Public Library fell through. Also, I canceled a trip to Easton Area Public Library so that I could receive regular chiropractic care.

There was another surprise, too. I am still deciding whether Newspaper Archive, a database newly available at Penn State, is a boon or bust for my work. When I learned of our subscription and scrolled through its title list, I felt the queasy exhilaration of someone on a roller coaster. I was thrilled to have access to such a goldmine, but quickly realized the enormous amount of work it could add to my project. Even though Newspaper Archive was not part of my proposal, its existence compels me to exploit it as much as possible, even if I can't enjoy the feeling of closure that I deserve whenever I return home from a road trip. In the case of Lebanon, Newspaper Archive has proved vital in providing information about libraries which preceded the current institution. For Lock Haven, a community whose documentary heritage has been repeatedly destroyed by floods, the database filled many gaps. But it is such a "time suck" that I have to carefully limit the scope of my searches, or else become derailed from site research that I can only accomplish during sabbatical.

Despite my tendency toward self-criticism, there are some major achievements. I am completely finished with 6 locations, having used all available annual reports, board of trustee meeting minutes, scrapbooks, newspapers, photographs, and other records. I have finished site research at an additional 5 libraries, but still hope to trawl local newspapers. In October I took advantage of my travel to PaLA, adding the Carnegie Free Library of Connellsville to my list of completed sites. I also did some preliminary research at the Mary S. Biesecker Library in Somerset. When I finished my work in Williamsport ahead of schedule, I dropped into the Annie Halenbake Ross Library in Lock Haven. Working day and night, I churned through all its annual reports, scrapbooks, and other records within 2 days. These 3 locations were not included in my initial plans, but have added much to my understanding of the conversion of subscription libraries to free public institutions (Lock Haven), interactions between Andrew Carnegie and town leaders (Connellsville), the development of county library services (Lock Haven), and the use of WPA workers in libraries during the Great Depression (Somerset).

Map of sites visited in Fall 2013. Blue pins denote completed
locations, including newspaper research. Most sites with orange
pins are complete except for newspaper searching.
When I wrote my sabbatical proposal more than a year ago, I envisioned publishing several articles based upon my findings. Since then, my supervisor and research mentor, Dr. Greg Crawford, has persuaded me that a book could be possible. A more expansive history of librarianship, I believe, requires me to investigate non-library organizations that encouraged library development, especially due to the fact that in several communities, I have uncovered connections to state chapters of the Y.M.C.A., the Federation of Women's Clubs, the Grange, the Tabard Inn Libraries, and the Community Chest/United Way. Being confined to the Harrisburg area prompted me to explore resources at the Pennsylvania State Archives. To my delight, I learned that it retains the PA Federation of Women's Clubs Records, the State YMCA of Pennsylvania Records, and the Pennsylvania State Grange Records. It also offers materials pertaining to Pennsylvania's participation in the Works Progress Administration. I have already used the Women's Clubs documents, and hope to use the other collections in January and February.

In addition to all the items I have used, I am pleased with the preliminary writing I have accomplished. As previously mentioned, I presented some of my findings at PaLA's conference in October. Also, the number of people who are reading this blog -- more than 2500 pageviews so far! -- is a welcome reward for my efforts.

On a personal note, I have certainly been frustrated by back problems. Even though I am in less pain now, I can only sit or drive for an hour at a time. I use a portable music stand so that I continue my work while standing. Even still, a mere 5-6 hours of research is a good day for me, when I would do 10-12 hours formerly! This said, I think other challenges of being on sabbatical have fostered my growth as a human being. While lodging in cabins in different state parks, I have certainly learned to live with less, including no cell phone coverage, no heat, no stove, no bathroom close by! The lack of radio reception along many Pennsylvania byways has encouraged me to explore new music, especially classical and country. And while I have appreciated sitting out the usual rush of library instruction this fall, recurring loneliness has reminded me how much I value human interaction. I especially miss running into my students on campus, attending weekly faculty research presentations, lunching occasionally with colleagues, and being exposed to news and viewpoints from outside of "libraryland."

Moving forward, I hope that neither health problems nor winter weather thwart my research plans. I must remain near home, but have made arrangements to visit DCLS on the 2nd. Then, on January 13th, I am headed to Reading Public Library to *finally* complete research I began there years ago. The following week, I have an appointment at Bosler Memorial Library in Carlisle. Bosler is another site that was not part of my original plan, but a new director offered a new opportunity. At the end of the month, I may parlay a trip to Philadelphia for the American Library Association midwinter meeting into a visit at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Initially, I had excluded Pennsylvania's 2 largest cities from my list of sites. At the time, I felt that they had received, and would continue to generate, plenty of interest from other scholars, while smaller communities were largely being ignored. I still believe this; however, since I now have a book in mind, I should seek any documentation I can find about John Thomson (an early FLP director who was also a founder of PaLA) as well as FLP's outreach to ethnic and poor populations.

This time of year, most people are wishing each other happiness and health. But I am also hoping for productivity in 2014!