“What Can I Do to Help?: A Program for Immediate Library War Service,” from War Library Bulletin, v.1:no.1, Aug. 1917

No questions were oftener asked at the Louisville meeting of the A.L.A. than ‘What war service can my library render?’ ‘What can I do?’ This statement aims to answer these questions for the smallest library and the younge’t assistant.

1. The A.L.A. has been asked by the War Department to undertake the collection, distribution, and circulation of reading matter in the thirty-two principle army camps. For this purpose it expects to have its own building at each camp. For this work every library in the land is to be a collection center, not only to gather material, but to take the lead in presenting this appeal and in representing this work throughout the country, and especially to correlate and unify at the library all similar efforts. Every library should give the widest publicity to this campaign of book collection, through the press, through slips put in books circulated, through the churches, the movies, and through other agencies cooperating in the same work.

The Subcommittee on Organization has distributed full account of all kinds of books wanted and what is to be done with them by each library. Briefly, this is to secure all material offered, to sort it, to sell inappropriate material, using proceeds for shipping charges and other expenses or remitting to the General Committee, and finally to ship according to instructions form the Subcommittee on Organization. The committee hopes to have shortly a list of 7,000 titles available for every library on request, to be used in sorting material and in suggesting titles to donors.

2. Every librarian should join the ‘Dollar-a-Month Club’ and make an individual money gift for this work. The Finance Committee has already addressed all members of the American Library Association, but such contribution should not be limited to members only. Return or send pledge promptly to Dr. Frank P. Hill, Chairman, Finance Committee, 26 Brevoort Place, Brooklyn, N.Y. This is our work, and every librarian should lend a hand in its support.

3. The library should give as an institution.

4. Volunteers will be needed for two lines of work:

a. Sorting and shipping all material in local libraries and to some extent in regional libraries (probably one in each State). Men or women can be used for this work.

b. Men are needed to volunteer for camp library service. The A.L.A. has undertaken to furnish without charge sufficient personnel for this work during the duration of military training. Some have already volunteered. Many others are necessary. Each librarian can help to enlarge the honor roll.

-J.I. Wyer, Jr., Chairman, A.L.A. War Service Committee

An elaborate fund-raising campaign was launched in 1917 with the goal of raising a million dollars for a Library War Service. Each public library director was expected to lead the campaign in his/her community. Prior to this campaign, the ALA had been working with the YMCA, the Knights of Columbus, and the Young Men’s Hebrew Association to collect book donations, but this was considered to be insufficient to meet the needs of soldiers. By April of 1918 the campaign raised $1,700,000 for the Library War Fund. This money served 464 camps, stations, and vessels by erecting 36 camp buildings, placing 117 librarians in the field, purchasing 300,000 books, collecting 1,349,000 gift books, sending 109,403 books overseas, and distributing 5,000,000 magazines.

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