Monday, October 20, 2014

Alabama Library History: A Call for Traveling Libraries in 1898

In September 2014 I posted an item on bookmobiles, one of a series I'm doing on library history in Alabama. Today's post is a late nineteenth century call for such "traveling" libraries in the state. 

The article below appeared in the Sewanee Review, Volume 6 in 1898 and found via the Internet Archive. That literary and cultural journal is still being published at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.  

The author is Kate Hutcheson Morrissette of Montgomery's No Name Club. She begins her piece noting the importance of education and bemoaning Alabama's low state appropriations in that area--only New Mexico is lower among the states. Even South Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia are moving forward. 

Morrissette notes that the Georgia Federation of Women's Clubs have adopted a Yankee innovation--"traveling" libraries to help with educational efforts. Such libraries will bring learning materials to rural areas that do not have it, allow graduates to continue learning and replace the "poisonous cheap literature" abroad in the land. The article credits the traveling libraries concept to "chief promoter" Melvil Dewey. Dewey was a prominent librarian and educator who created such mobile libraries while serving as director of the New York State Library from 1888 until 1906. 

The article closes with several rousing paragraphs extolling the virtues Traveling Libraries will bring to Alabama. I leave it to the discerning reader to parse these sentiments.

Morrissette's efforts are part of a grand tradition in America, one in which middle-class ladies and their clubs metaphorically rolled up their sleeves and went to work on various public issues---education, libraries, sanitation and so forth. We are the beneficiaries of those efforts.

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