Archive for March, 2009

I don’t suppose a week goes by when ALA’s Library History Round Table doesn’t send me something of interest. Today was an especially fascinating link to the blog of Charles A. Seavey, Desert Sailor.Info. There are several interesting library matters to be found there but his essay “Books for Swabbies: Ship’s  Libraries in the “New” Steel Navy, 1880s-1930s was a fascinating glimpse of a world I never suspected.

Seavey writes at the outset that “by comparing the contents of ship and crew libraries with the recommendations of the American Library Association (ALA) we can see that fundamentally differing approaches to book collections were in place. I[t] will be argued that the ALA recommendations were for an “ideal” library only partially grounded in real world conditions. The Navy, on the other hand, was basing their selections on both the nature of their ship-borne libraries, and the world in which those ships operated. The Navy, in this instance, was far more aware of what their readers might actually want to read than was the ALA”.

USS Franklin

USS Franklin

 Seavey goes on to describe a rather complex history of ship libraries which got their start aboard the USS Franklin in 1820.  According to Seavey libraries on ships became “institutionalized” at this time.

Moreover, he reports that the US Navy was far ahead of all others. Great Britains’s Royal Navy did not place books on ships until 1913.

All in all, this is a fascinating look at a type of library I had never known existed.


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