The Library History Buff
Promoting the appreciation, enjoyment, and preservation of library history
Library History Museum/Library Heritage Center
America needs a library history museum. This does not necessarily mean a museum in the traditional sense. Such a museum could be virtual and/or distributed in multiple locations. One approach would be to create a National Library Heritage Center which might or might not have a traditional museum component. Another approach, possibly in conjunction with a National Library Heritage Center, would be to promote library heritage centers in each state which also might or might not have a traditional museum component. Wisconsin has created the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center as part of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation. Library history exhibits are also an alternative approach to a permanent museum facility.
Why There Should be a Museum of American Library History
The library in America is what it is today because of our legacy and the legacy of those with the same commitment to library service who came before us. That legacy deserves to be preserved and to be honored.
Why Isn't There a Museum of American Library History?
There is no single answer to this question. It is actually extraordinary that there isn't a Museum of American Library History. There are tens of thousands of museums throughout the United States devoted to every conceivable person, topic, institution, organization, type of artifact, and historic event, but no library history museum. Here are some possible answers from one person's perspective.
Librarians, as a whole, don't seem to value their heritage all that much, and if they don't who else will or should.
With all the issues libraries face, library history is a pretty low priority.
Developing any kind of museum would take commitment and resources. Developing a really good museum would take a great deal of commitment and resources.
Library historians appear to be more concerned with archives and research than artifacts and memorabilia.
If we build it, would anyone really come?
Some Previous Efforts
There was a significant effort in the early 1980's by the Public Library Association to explore the possibility of a library history museum or some other mechanism for promoting public library history. The Public Library Heritage Task Force was appointed in 1982 by PLA and was asked to develop recommendations in this regard. A hearing on this topic was hosted by the Task Force at the ALA Annual Conference in Los Angeles in 1983.
One serious idea that was explored was the development of a public library heritage trail. State librarians were asked to identify historic libraries in their states, and a publication that included this information was planned. Like many good ideas that go through the bureaucracy of a large association, this one finally ground to a halt and the Task Force was disbanded with no tangible outcome.
Another idea that was also explored was identifying a former public library building that could be used as the space for a library museum. This also didn't work out.
Why the Time May be Right for a Library History Museum
As an aging profession, maybe we might be a little more concerned about our own legacy as well as the legacy of those who came before us.
Digitization offers the potential for developing a virtual museum. Libraries seem hell bent on digitizing history. Why not library history?
The Institute of Museum and Library Services promotes both museums and libraries. Why not a library history museum?
We are reaching more and more historical milestones in the history of libraries.
The Archives of the American Library Association
The closest thing to a library history museum in the United States is probably the Archives of the American Library Association located at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. The archives are maintained by the UICU under an agreement with ALA. Although the archives include primarily paper documents related to ALA, there are some special collections of library postcards and photographs. Recently, a project has begun to make some of these available in digital form over the Web. The ALA Archives should play an important role in any library history museum.
The Norman D. Stevens Collection of Library Architecture
The Norman D. Stevens Collection of Library Architecture located at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.is undoubtedly the world's largest collection of librariana. Stevens' book A Guide to Collecting Librariana, is the "bible" of collecting library artifacts and memorabilia. After a lifetime of collecting librariana, he ensured the preservation of his collection by donating the bulk of it to the CCA.
Virtual Library Museums
The Museum of Cataloging and Acquisitions Artifacts
Museums of Library History in Other Parts of the World
The Bibliotheekmuseum (Library Museum) that is located in the Bibliotheek Amsterdam (Amsterdam Library) is the oldest and most extensive library museum. It was founded by Hans Krol who established the Library Museum Committee in 1969. The museum opened in 1975 in a small room in The Hague. It moved to the Amsterdam Public Library in 2000.
Donations to the museum can be sent to:
Library Museum Committee
Joh. Verhulstlaan 26
2102 XT Heemstede
The Biblioteksmuseet (library museum) was founded in 1989 in Borås Sweden as a result of efforts of the Swedish School of Library and Information Science. The city and county librarian in Borås serves on the board along with representatives from the Swedish Library Association and the National Swedish Federation of Adult Educational Associations. The museum has an English version of its website with a video about the museum at http://www.biblioteksmuseet.se/eng .
This site created and maintained
Larry T. Nix
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Last updated: 11-29-10 © 2005-2010 Larry T. Nix