Soldiers and books

Today, being D-Day, I keep coming across interesting Army history links.  Among the many things I loved about living in an Army community, Army post libraries rank high on my list.  Books have always been near and dear to my heart.  Growing up in a rural PA village, with no public library, my first experience with an actual library was my elementary school library.

The interesting thing about growing up in a rural area, without a public library, is despite the lack of an actual library, books circulated informally among family and friends.  Along with these informal book exchanges, my childhood pastor and his wife, who lived across the road from my family, had acquired a nice-sized home library, which they freely shared with me.

One of the things I quickly noticed around the Army was books circulated in the same informal way as they did in my rural PA village, which was a part of the sense of  “community”, that made me feel at home around the Army.  An added bonus was Army posts, even small ones had post libraries.

Here’s a bit of Army library history:

“During World War I and World War II, camp libraries popped up everywhere at military bases in the United States and all over Europe, stretching as far east as Siberia. These camp libraries were originally established by the American Library Association (ALA), and at the end of World War I, ALA transferred control of them to the war department, which maintains them to this day. ALA worked with the YMCA, the Knights of Columbus, and the American Red Cross to provide library services to other organizations, such as hospitals and rehabilitation centers.

These libraries were nothing glamorous—usually a shed, shack, or a hut built of wood and other available materials. They were run by librarians who volunteered to travel overseas to care for the libraries. Responsibilities included circulating the collections, maintaining them, weeding out books, and acquiring new ones. More than 1,000 librarians volunteered during World War I, and that number only increased with World War II.”

How libraries served soldiers and civilians during WWI and WWII

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Filed under American History, General Interest, Military

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