Pre-1954 Library Card for the American Library in Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Pre-1954 Library Card for the American Library in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (front)

Pre-1954 Library Card for the American Library in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (back)

Department of State’s U.S. Information Service (USIS)

After World War II, and with the passing of the Smith-Mundt Act (of 1948), an act “to promote the better understanding of the United States among the peoples of the world and to strengthen cooperative international relations,” the United States Army in conjunction with the Department of State opened libraries in occupied areas of the world.  These libraries, also known as “information centers,” supplied “as representative a collection of significant United States publications in all fields of knowledge.” By 1953, When the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) replaced the USIS, there were 196 information centers and reading rooms, and 34 binational centers for a total of 230 information centers in 75 countries.  By 1970, there were 319 centers in 97 counties.  In addition to information centers, the USIS/USIA operated state-owned radio broadcasting organizations including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. (Voice of America and Radio Free Europe are now operated by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM).  The USIA was abolished on October 1, 1999, and information and cultural exchange functions were transferred to the Department of State’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.  

The American Library in Belgrade, Yugoslavia

On October 19, 1945, the USIS officially opened the Belgrade Information Center in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.  Ambassador Richard C. Patterson, Jr. and “a group of high government officials and well-known personalities from the intellectual world” attended the opening ceremonies.  Although the USIS typically housed information centers at embassies, USIS officials believed visitors to the Belgrade center would feel intimated entering an embassy, so a “building of a less official nature” at Cika Ljubina 19, the historic Palata Zora building, was chosen as the Belgrade information center location.

Belgrade Information Center. Translation of signage: АМЕРИЦKA ИЗЛОЖБA = AMERICAN EXHIBITION (front), ИЗЛОЖБA СAД = USA EXHIBITION (side).  From Waging the Truth Campaign, Eighth Semiannual Report of the Secretary of State to Congress on the International Information and Educational Exchange Program, Volume 8, July 1 to December 31, 1951 (public domain)

Preparing the center’s library for opening day was no easy task.  Furnishing the library was a major hurdle since library furnishings were not available in Belgrade.  Accordingly, all furnishings had to be manufactured prior to opening the library.  This included library tables, chairs, bookcases, display racks and even curtains.  Obtaining permits from the local officials further delayed the opening.  The cost to open the library was $2,000 USD (approx. $35,000 today). 

The library was open to the general public from 10:00am-1:00pm and 4:00pm-8:00pm and closed only on Thursday.  These hours were most convenient for Yugoslav locals, as most government offices were open from 8:00am-2:00pm.  The library reading room contained magazines, newspapers, miscellaneous publications, and a small collection of fiction.  A reference library containing scientific and technical publications and books was kept separate.  Membership cards were issued to those interested in full use of the center.  The management of the library believed that  the effort to apply for a membership card limited the casual reader and left more room at tables for more serious students and researchers.  For those that held a membership card, fiction could be checked out for one week; however, reference materials were not allowed out of the premises.  The library was under the care of a US government “Information Specialist” and three English-speaking Serbians, one of which acted as the librarian.

In addition to library services, the information center maintained display windows on the ground floor in which the currently available books and reading themes were advertised, and an exhibit room with monthly photographic presentations on various subjects related to American culture.  The center also presented English-language lectures on American culture, such as music and authors.  American music recordings were also available for listening and proved to be in great demand. 

According to The Record (Vol. II, No. 5, May 1946), a publication by the Scientific and Cultural Cooperation Division of the Department of State, the library had 2,372 visitors in February 1946.  The most popular subjects were American architectures, aeronautics, history, electricity and radio.  Reading material on art, chemical research, mechanics, machinery, physics, medicine, music, transportation and American youth were frequently requested.

The American Library Closed

In September of 1946, the information center was closed by the Tito administration after it was accused of “engaging in anti-Yugoslav activities.”  Previously, in December 1945, the US government had announced that they would “recognize” the new Tito-led communist regime in Yugoslavia; however “our ambassador was instructed to make it clear to the government of Yugoslavia and the people of that country that our willingness to establish diplomatic relations with the new regime should not be interpreted as implying approval of the policies of the regime, its methods of assuming control, or its failure to implement the guarantees of personal freedoms promised its people.”   When this information was supplied to the Yugoslav people, the Tito administration failed to disclose the criticism that accompanied the recognition.  Upon learning of this transgression by the Tito administration, the USIS transmitted radio broadcasts of the full US statement and posted transcripts of the statement in their display windows.  Locals swarmed the center display windows to read the news causing the local police to disperse the crowds.  After some diplomatic negotiations, the center was allowed to reopen three months later on the condition that radio news bulletins would no longer be posted.

Battle Creek Enquirer, 28 Sep 1946, Sat., Page 1
The Herald-Sun, 15 Dec 1946, Sun., Page 5

The American Library in the News

The Gaffney Ledger, 4 Jan 1951, Thu., page 3
The Daily Clintonian, 12 Jan 1951, Page 3

The Palata Zora

The Palata Zora (English: Dawn Palace) was built in 1904 for royal court jewelers, Constanine and Nikola Z. Popović.  The building was confiscated and nationalized in 1944 upon the rise of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). Since 2004, the Palata Zora has been home to the Instituto Cervantes,  a worldwide nonprofit organization created by the Spanish government to promote the Spanish language and the culture of Spanish-speaking countries. 

The Palata Zora’s Original Appearance (Public domain postcard)
The Palata Zora’s today. Home of the Institute Cervantes (2015).  Wikimedia Commons Attribution: Mister No, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en (no changes)


Pre-1926 Library Card (Downtown Branch) issued to Mrs. Sam K. Gardner

Pre-1926 Library Card for the Detroit Public Library (Downtown Branch) issued to Mrs. Sam K. Gardener

Early Detroit Library History

The Detroit Library Association’s City Library of Detroit

John Monteith (1788-1868), a soon-to-be Presbyterian minister and professor of Greek, Latin and Hebrew classics, arrived in Detroit on June 25, 1816 after accepting a job offered by Governor Lewis Cass (1782-1866) to come to Detroit to “introduce the gospel to Detroit.”   Detroit, having a population of less than 1,000 inhabitants in 1816, was lacking the intellectual and educational resources that Monteith had grown used to at Princeton Theological Seminary.  Anticipating the harsh winter months ahead, Monteith had his private library shipped to Detroit, along with a number of new books from a bookseller in Pittsburgh.  However, these shipments didn’t arrive until Spring 1817, leaving Monteith with little intellectual stimulation during the winter of 1816-1817.    On March 17, 1817, Rev. John Monteith (1788-1868 ), penned in his diary, “a meeting of citizens is held to determine the guise of a public library.  Attendance is good.  Appointed a committee to prepare a Constitution.  Adjourned to the 24th.”   Detroit’s first library was borne out of Monteith’s disappointment and discontent during that long winter season. 

As with most early libraries, the City Library was not accessible to all.  Shares for the new library were purchased for $5.00/share (approx.. $100 today).  One share entitled the shareholder to borrow one book at a time and to cast one vote during elections.  Additional shares increased these privileges.  On April 6, 1817, Monteith “set out on horseback through Canada for N.Y. & Princeton” to purchase books for the new library and to complete his ordination at the Princeton Theological Seminary.  While in New York, Monteith carefully selected approximately 300 volumes to be shipped to Detroit. The Library opened Monday, August 4, 1817.

Detroit Gazette, August 1, 1817, page 3
Detroit Gazette, January 2, 1818, page 3
Detroit Gazette, December 11, 1818, page 3
The Detroit Classical Academy in 1825. Location of the City Library from 1819 until 1831. Also home to a number of higher education institutions, including Catholopistemiad, later known as the University of Michigania, of which Rev. Monteith served as President. The University of Michigan, as we know it today, relocated to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1837. Etching by Wilfred B. Shaw. (Public Domain)

On July 23, 1821, Monteith ended his duties as librarian of the City Library having accepted a professorship at Hamilton College in New York.  It wasn’t until October 1829, when Gershom Mott Williams (1810-1857) was officially appointed librarian of the City Library, that the practice of librarian duties fell into the hands of teachers of the Detroit Classical Academy.  Over the years, shares in the library waned and financial strain was ever present.  In 1829, to renew interest in the library, and to be competitive with new reading rooms and clubs that were opening in shops and bookstores in Detroit, hours were increased.  Unfortunately, any attempts to revitalize the City Library became useless when the Academy building was turned over to the newly-elected Commissioners of Common Schools, and the rent-free arrangement was ended.  During the summer of 1831, the City Library inventory was turned over to the newly-formed and short-lived Detroit Athenaeum.  Library books, record and furniture were moved to the Athenaeum’s rented rooms above the Newberry & Kercheval’s clothing store on the “southwest corner of Jefferson Avenue and Griswold Street.” 

The Detroit Young Men’s Society Library

In 1832, a group of young men in Detroit desiring “intellectual improvement” approached local business leaders to assist in the establishment of a library.  As a result of that initial meeting, The (Detroit) Young Men’s Society was established to promote the “general diffusion of knowledge and a condensation of the talents and acquirements of the young men of Detroit, for intellectual and moral improvement.” The Articles of the Constitution of the Society were published in the January 30, 1833 edition of the Democratic Free Press.  Men under the age of thirty were eligible for membership upon sponsorship by a society member, a majority vote by the Directors, and a membership fee of $2 dollars. Upon reaching the age of thirty, members had “no voice” in the Society, and were declared “honorary members.” The Society advertised topics for weekly debates in the local newspapers, and held lectures by prominent business and political leaders. 

Detroit Free Press, 18 Sep 1846, Fri · Page 2
Detroit Free Press, 04 Nov 1850, Mon · Page 2

Prior to the 1850 construction of the Young Men’s Society Hall on Jefferson Avenue between Bates and Randolph, the Society library was house at the office of J. W. Baxter, Esq. and Horace Hallock’s clothing store at 124 Jefferson Avenue. The Society remained in the Jefferson Avenue building until 1861 until a new hall that could accommodate over 1,500 people was constructed a block away on Woodbridge Street.  While the new hall was in great demand at first, public interest waned as newer facilities were constructed in Detroit.  By 1875, deep in debt, the Society sold the property and rented rooms on the first floor of the Merrill block. 

“The Merrill Block,” From The History of Detroit and Michigan Or, The Metropolis Illustrated; a Chronological Cyclopaedia of the Past and Present, Including a Full Record of Territorial Days in Michigan, and the Annals of Wayne County · Volume 1, by Silas Farmer, 1889. 
Detroit Free Press, 17 Aug 1875, Tue · Page 2

In August of 1882, the Society began liquidating their assets of art work and over 16,000 volumes, and ceased operations on September 30th bringing to close the 50-year history of the Young Men’s Society in Detroit.

“The End of the Detroit Young Men’s Society After Fifty Years of Service,” Detroit Free Press, 01 Oct 1882, Sun · Page 6

The Detroit Reading Room

The Detroit Reading Room was established in 1837 by Benjamin Kingsbury, Jr. and George F. Burnham, editors of the Evening Spectator, a semiweekly literary gazette published between 1836-1838.  Located at Republican Hall, 154 ½ Jefferson Avenue, the Detroit Reading Room made available to [who could join] “the first periodicals in the country” and “important monthlies and quarterlies.”  Use of the library was for subscribers only (and visitors to the city if introduced by a subscribing member).  The subscription fee was $4/year.   

A glimpse of Detroit in 1837.  From The History of Detroit and Michigan Or, The Metropolis Illustrated; a Chronological Cyclopaedia of the Past and Present, Including a Full Record of Territorial Days in Michigan, and the Annals of Wayne County · Volume 1, by Silas Farmer, 1889

.Other Libraries

Kingsbury and Burnham established a Circulating Library that offered the “popular literature of the day,” for a subscription fee of $5 yearly.

From The Directory of the City of Detroit With its Environs, and Register of Michigan, for the Year 1837 by Julius P. Bolivar MacCabe (public domain)

George W. Pattison, Rare and Antiquarian Book Dealer, offered a circulating library at his book store on Grand River Avenue.

Detroit Free Press, 25 Jul 1880, Sun · Page 14

The Detroit Public Library

The seeds for the Detroit Public Library were planted in 1835 when the Michigan state constitution contained a provision that “all fines and penalties collected in criminal cases should be devoted to the establishment and maintenance of public libraries.” In 1842 a similar resolution was adopted by Detroit’s Board of School Inspectors.  However, it wasn’t until 1859, when a Detroit newspaperman, Henry E. Baker proposed establishing a committee to look into the whether the Board received “its proper share of such fines.”  After investigation, it was reported that library funds were directed elsewhere.  A lawsuit brought by the Committee against the courts of the county eventually reached the Supreme Court of Michigan, and it was decided that “about three-fifths of $17,000 collected in fines during the preceding years belonged to the city.”  Steps to establish the first public library were taken immediately upon receipt of the positive outcome of the lawsuit.  Recitation Room No. 3 on the second floor of the old capitol was “fitted up with a table, chairs, bookshelves and a lamp as a library and committee room for the use of the board and teachers.”   In 1861, the public library fund received a settlement of $7,000.  Four years later, on March 25, 1865, a public library on the first floor of the old capitol building was formally opened to the public, and on May 2, 1865, the library was available for circulation.  The number of volumes at the old capitol building library were approximately 9,000. 

1847 photo of Michigan’s first state capitol building located in Detroit, Michigan.  In 1847, Michigan’s capitol city was changed to Lansing, and the “Old Capitol Building” became the Capitol Union School, and the location of Detroit’s first public library in 1865.  Author: unknown.  (Public Domain)

 On January 22, 1877, a new library building on Center Park was opened to the public containing over 33,000 volumes.

Detroit’s Centre Park Library designed by Brush & Smith (1906). Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection. No known restrictions on publication; Call Number: LC-D4-19537 [P&P]

By the early 20th century, Detroit’s public library was again in need of additional space.  Accordingly, on March 29, 1921, a new public library designed by Cass Gilbert, architect of the United States Supreme Court, was opened on Woodward Avenue.  A grant in the amount of $750,000 from Andrew Carnegie aided in the construction of the main library and eight branch libraries throughout Detroit.  The new main library opened with over half million publications. 

Detroit Public Library System currently has 21 branch libraries, and over 7.5M publications. The main library continues to operate from the Woodward Avenue location. 

Detroit Public Library built 1922. Published by Detroit Publishing Co. (Public domain)




1984 To Kwa Wan Branch of the Urban Council Library System Library Card

1984 To Kwa Wan Branch of the Urban Council Library System Library Card (front)
1984 To Kwa Wan Branch of the Urban Council Library System Library Card (back)


Although city officials consider the library located at the City Hall building constructed in 1962, the first modern public library in Hong Kong, efforts were made before the mid-20th century to establish libraries for Hong Kong residents. 

Victoria Library and Reading Room

One of the earliest public libraries, the Victoria Library and Reading Room, was organized shortly after the 1842 colonization of Hong Kong by Great Britain.  In The Chinese Repository, Vol. XVIII, No. XII, a periodical published by protestant missionaries, it was noted in Art. IV, The Journal of Occurrences for September 1, 1848-December 31, 1849, that the “Library and Reading-room” was opened to the public at Victoria on September 7, 1848, and the first annual meeting was held on April 28, 1849.  There were 48 members, and the library had 650 volumes.  The 1862 edition of The China Directory listed the location of the Victoria Library and Reading Room as Queen’s Road Central, and Sit Him Cook was Librarian.

1862 China Directory listing for The Victoria Library and Reading Room

By 1865, the Victoria Library and Reading Room faced financial difficulties. As reported in the July 8, 1865, edition of the Hong Kong Daily Press, the Trustees of the Library decided to close the library.  This decision was met with outcry from long-time residents of the area, saying, “we do feel somewhat indignant that a library bequeathed to [Hong Kong] by its ‘pilgrim fathers’ should be allowed to be sent to the hammer for debt by their numerous and wealthy progeny.  That surely is a disgraceful termination to such an undertaking.” The Victoria Library collection of approximately 3,000 volumes was donated to the City Hall Library in 1871.

1865 Painting by Eduard Hildebrandt, Hongkong Queen’s Road (Public Domain)

Library of the Morrison Education Society

The Morrison Education Society, an Anglo-Chinese School and missionary society, established a public library in Hong Kong in 1842. Originating in Canton, China, in 1835, the society commemorated the life of Robert Morrison, the first Protestant missionary in China. As noted in the March 1864 edition of the Annual Meeting Report of the Proceedings of The Morrison Education Society, it was reported that the Society members proposed the formation of a public library to maintain the Society’s book collection due to increasing expenses and decline in membership subscriptions.  The Morrison Library was donated to the “City Hall Library” in March 1869, and the Society dissolved in 1873.

The City Hall Library

The City Hall, established in 1866 and inaugurated by Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, on November 2, 1869, was a publicly-funded community center that included assembly rooms, a 569-seat theater, a museum, and a library. Although the government donated the building site, the library was a private establishment funded by subscriptions.  By 1871, The City Hall Library had over 8,000 volumes, 3,000 of which were donated by the Victoria Library and Reading Room upon its dissolution and another 3,000 by the Morrison Education Society.  (The Morrison Collection is currently housed at Hong Kong University.)  In 1908, the City Hall Library had over 500 registered borrowers.  Over time, the City Hall Library collection became antiquated, periodicals being the most current reading material available.  In an article in the Hong Kong Telegraph published November 11, 1916, a visitor noted “embellishments” and obscenities in the margins of periodicals he browsed.  The City Hall Library was no longer the esteemed public institution it had once been. Over the years, the City Hall building fell into disrepair, and in 1933 was sold to the Hong Kong Bank to be the site of its new headquarters.  On June 6, 1933, the library and museum of the City Hall were closed in preparation for the partial demolition of the City Hall building. The library was transferred to the eastern portion of the City Hall, which was eventually renovated for continued use as the library and museum.   In 1947, the remainder of the building was demolished to make way for the Bank of China building.   

The City Hall and Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, 1869.  The building was demolished to make way for the Hong Kong Bank and Bank of China Buildings.   (Public Domain in HK and US)

The City Hall Library In the News

“Two Youths Sleep in City Hall Building,” The Daily China, Hong Kong, March 4, 1920


The Urban Council, established in 1936, was a government agency in Hong Kong responsible for municipal services on Hong Kong island and Kowloon. Originally founded as the Sanitary Board in 1883, the Urban Council had wide-ranging responsibilities from sanitation and cremation to public services such as arts and leisure activities, museums, parks, public swimming pools, and libraries.

The first modern library established by the Urban Council opened at the newly-built City Hall building in 1962. It served as the main library in Hong Kong until the opening of the new Central Library building in May 2001. The new Central Library is a 12-story building at 66 Causeway Road in Causeway Bay, with over 360,000 sq. ft. of floor space. The Hong Kong Public Library System has 70 branches and a collection of over 14.35 million items.

The Hong Kong Public Library, 2008. Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0), Author: Wing1990hk

The Urban Council was disbanded in 1999 and replaced with the Hong Kong Leisure and Cultural Services Department.


The National Teachers College, Manila, Philippines

Pre-1942 Identification Card for the National Teachers College Library issued to Felicidad de la Cruz and Newark System Charging Card

Founded in 1928, The National Teachers College in Manila officially opened its doors to students on June 10, 1929. This higher education teaching institution continues to offer courses and degrees in a number of fields.

Pre-1942 Identification Card for the National Teachers College Library, Manila, Philippines (back)
Pre-1942 Identification Card for the National Teachers College Library, Manila, Philippines (back)
1941 Newark System Charging Card for the National Teachers College Library, Manila, Philippines (front)
1941 Newark System Charging Card for the National Teachers College Library, Manila, Philippines (back)

Library Association of Portland, Portland, Oregon

Pre-1949 Library Association of Portland Library Card issued to Grace E. Montgomery

Pre-1949 Library Association of Portland Library Card (front) (back blank)

Library Association of Portland

In early 1864, Leland Howard Wakefield (1823-1914), proprietor of a daguerreotype studio and the local postmaster, recognizing the need for a library in the rapidly growing city of Portland, canvased the citizenry to “obtain signatures of those that were willing to materially aid” the establishment of a library. The canvasing proved great interest in a local library, and within months, a library committee was elected, and Association by-laws were drafted. The Association secured rooms on the second floor of the Stark Building at 66 First Street (at Stark Street) for $50/month. Membership was open to any city residents (including women) by signing an agreement to abide by the library’s Constitution and by-laws and paying an initiation fee of five dollars (~$95 today) and quarterly dues of $3. Lifetime memberships could be purchased for $100 (~$1900 today). The Library Association of Portland opened in December 1865 with approximately 1,500 volumes.

Announcement for the new Library Association of Portland,
Morning Oregonian, December 12, 1865, Page 4

In March of 1869, bankers William Sargent Ladd, Esq. (1826-1893) and Charles Elliott Tilton (1827-1901) presented to the Library Association a rent-free lease of three years for a suite of rooms on the second floor of their new bank building at SW First and Stark Streets. The library inventory had grown to over 3,000 volumes by 1869, and library membership fees were adjusted to a more modest quarterly fee of one dollar, making the library accessible to many more citizens.

Library association moves to new Ladd & Tilton bank building,
Corvallis Gazette-Times, March 13, 1869, Page 2
Suite of Rooms Leased to the Library Association,
Corvallis Gazette-Times, 26 Mar 1870, Page 3
Library Association advertisement,
Morning Oregonian, June 9, 1871, Page 4
The 1896 Ladd and Tilton Bank building. The Ladd and Tilton Bank building was designed by Irish-American architect John Nestor and opened for business on January 12, 1869. Nestor’s design was supposedly inspired by the High Renaissance-style façade of the Libreria Vecchia (Old Library) in Venice, Italy, designed by Jacopo Sansovino and built between 1537–1588. The 1868 Ladd and Tilton Bank building was razed in 1955 and replaced by a surface parking lot. Photographer: unknown. No known copyright restrictions.

It was stipulated that the lease would be renewed at the end of three years provided the association raised $6000 for on-ongoing maintenance of the library. The Library Association of Portland would subsequently occupy space at the Ladd and Tilton Bank Building for the next 24 years until June 1893.

The Library Association of Portland Builds Permanent Location

In 1893, the Library Association of Portland sought assistance from Portland architects William Marcy Whidden (1857-1929) and Ion Lewis (1858-1933) to design and construct a new library building at Washington (now SW Washington Street), Stark (now SW Harvey Milk Street), East Park (now SW Park Avenue), and 7th (now SW Broadway). Funds for the new library building was the culmination of 27 years of fundraising and a major bequeathment of over $100,000 from the estate of a wealthy heiress, Ella M. Smith (1848-1889), daughter of the late Sea Captain Benjamin F. Smith (1810-1879).

Big Money for the Library,”
Morning Oregonian, October 6, 1889, Page 3
Library Association of Portland Postcard (Pre-1923 public domain postcard)

Daniel F. W. Bursch (1866-1948), the library’s first trained librarian, instituted the Dewey Decimal system and maintained an open shelf system for members to browse freely. However, the library continued to be a subscription library only accessible to paying members of the Association.

The Library Association of Portland Becomes Public

In September 1900, John Wilson (1826-1900), a successful Portland merchant, bequeathed his entire collection of over 8,000 books, manuscripts and maps to the Library Association of Portland with the stipulation that the collection be used as a “free reference library for the people of [Portland.].”

Library Bequeathed, The Morning Astorian, September 21, 1900, Page 3

On June 20, 1901, by a unanimous vote, the Library Association of Portland entered into a contract with the City of Portland to allow inhabitants of the city free use of the Association library for a period of ten years. Ordinance No. 12,302 was approved by the Mayor on July 18, 1901, and the Association accepted the terms and conditions on August 18, 1901.

Mary Francis Isom (1865-1920) was engaged to catalog the Wilson Collection, and the Browne Charging System was instituted. The library opened its door to the public on Monday, March 10, 1902, making it the first free library in Oregon supported entirely by citizen taxes, an accomplishment of which the City of Portland took great pride.

The library becomes a free institution,
The Oregon Daily Journal, March 11, 1902, Page 1

No Saloons Near Library

During the population boom of early Portland, transient workers sought “goods and services” for entertainment during their leisure hours. Accordingly, saloons, gambling halls and other “vice” services proliferated in early Portland. So much so, that the Association began a “crusade” to prohibit saloons near public libraries. In short order, an ordinance was passed that prohibited the granting of licenses to saloons located near public schools and libraries.

The Oregon Daily Journal, March 16, 1903, Page 5

New Public Library Building

As Portland’s population grew, library usage and book circulation steadily increased. The circulation of the Central Library went from approximately 175,000 books per year in 1904 to nearly 410,000 in 1909. This figure was double that of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania public library, and surpassed the circulation of Boston’s public library. Due to the robust library usage, the Association president, Winslow B. Ayer (1860-1935), suggested a new main library building and additional branch libraries be built.

In early 1912, the Association purchased a block at 10th and Yamhill Streets to be the site of a new main library building. However, this location came as a great disappointment to many local organizations including the Greater Portland Plans Association, Northwestern University Alumni Association and several Portland women’s organizations. In an attempt to quell these concerns, on May 4, 1912, Ayer issued a public statement in The Oregon Daily Journal that the site was considered central to business and shopping districts and very accessible due to the proximity of main traffic routes and street car lines, but most importantly the purchase fell within the budget available to the Association. Public disfavor did little to change the purchase decision, and days later the Association made their decision known by placing advertisements in the local newspapers seeking bids to raze structures on the already-purchased site. By mid-September 1912, construction of the new building was under way, and one year later on September 6, 1913, the new library opened its doors to the public

Early 1900s postcard of the public library in Portland (public domain)

A major renovation was begun in 1994 to provide necessary seismic upgrades, rearrange interior spaces to facilitate technological needs, and add two floors for staff offices and meeting rooms. The renovation returned the interior of Central Library to its original grandeur and added new decorative details by artists, including etched black granite stairs by Larry Kirkland. Hardy Holtzman Pfeiffer Associates developed the initial design concepts, with Fletcher Farr Ayotte completing the design development.

On April 8 1997, the Central Library reopened after a three year renovation. Much of the original Georgian Revival architecture was restored and the building was modernized with seismic upgrades.

Now operating as the Multnomah County Library System, in addition to the Central Library, there are 32 branch libraries. The Central Library is located 801 SW 10th Avenue in Portland and is open 7 days a week.

Grace Ellen Montgomery

Grace Ellen Montgomery (November 26, 1915-May 24, 1995) was born in Lyon, Minnesota. She married Harold W. Buckles in 1936. Mrs. Buckles was a piano teacher in the Salem area for over 25 years.

Pennsylvania Railroad Employe’s Circulating Library, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1882 Pennsylvania Railroad Employe’s Circulating Library Card No. 456

1882 Pennsylvania Railroad Employe’s Circulating Library Card No. 456 (front)

Pennsylvania Railroad Employe’s Circulating Library

As a means of extending library services to thousands of company employees often residing in remote areas along the railroad lines, American railroad companies, including the Pennsylvania Railroad Company (PRR), established reading rooms and circulating libraries at train stations and depots. At its peak in the 1920s, the PRR system had over 11,500 miles of track that serviced 13 states, reaching as far as west as St. Louis, Missouri, and north to Detroit, Michigan. In the 1904 edition of the Bulletin of the International Railway Congress, it was noted that the PRR circulating library system had “31 branches, and 72,973 volumes (of which 35,000 were at the Mechanics’ Library at Altoona, PA).” The branch libraries provided technical trade publications, as well as recreational and reference reading materials.

One such reading room was located on the “upper story” of PRR’s Broad Street Station located at Broad and Market Streets in Philadelphia (now John F. Kennedy Blvd. and W. 15th Street). Opened on December 5, 1881, it was the primary passenger terminal for the PRR from 1881 to the 1950s.

Wilson Brothers & Company, architects James R. Osgood & Company from The American Architect and Building News, volume 18, number 509 (September 26, 1885), p. 157. (Public Domain)
“A Timely Present,” The Daily Gazette, July 16; 1883, Page 1
Broad Street Station expansion by Frank Furness, architect. When completed in 1893, the expanded station was the largest passenger
terminal in the world. The original 1881 section is at the right.
(Photographer: William Rau) (Public Domain)

The last train departed the Broad Street Station on April 27, 1952. The station was demolished in October 1952.

“Broad St. Station Closes April 27,” The Commercial Appeal, April 28, 1952, Page 21 (Memphis, Tennessee)

The Hartland Public Library, Hartland, Vermont

1896-1899 Hartland Public Library Cards (Nos. 110 and 354) issued to Mrs. Lucy A. Darling and Mrs. L. V. Gilbert

The Hartland Public Library

The 1872 edition of the “List of the Institutions, Libraries, Colleges, and Other Establishments in the United States in Correspondence with the Smithsonian Institution” listed a library association in Hartland, Vermont, but it wasn’t until November 6, 1894, when the General Assembly of the State of Vermont enacted legislation to “promote the establishment of free public libraries,” that Harland officials set in motion the establishment of a public library system. 

To be eligible for state assistance, a town was required to put in place an elected Board of Library Trustees to oversee library services, and to annually appropriate funds for the continual maintenance of a library.  Upon acceptance of an application submitted by the Board of Trustees to the State Board of Commissioners, the Board of Trustees would be granted $100 for establishment of the library and purchase of  state-supplied books, and detailed guidance on how to set up, organize and maintain a successful library.

In 1896, the Hartland Public Library opened three “divisions” in Hartland, North Hartland and Hartland Four Corners.  As reported in the Vermont Journal, October 24, 1896, Louise R. (Mrs. Albert A.) Sturtevant (1843-1933), Jennie J. {Mrs. Henry T.} Dunbar (1867-1941), and Miss Lucy M. Flower (1875-1900), were appointed as the division librarians, and each provided an area or room in their homes for use as the library of their particular division.  900 volumes were divided amongst the three divisions to be rotated on a quarterly basis. 

“Hartland News,” Vermont Journal, July 4, 1896, Page 4 (Windsor, Vermont)
Announcement of Librarians, Vermont Journal, October 24, 1896, Page 4 (Windsor, Vermont)
Notice of North Hartland Hours, The Landmark, January 22, 1897, Page 4 (White River Junction, Vermont)
Hartland Library ca 1901 Sturtevant House Vermont – Source: Fourth biennial report of the Board of Library Commissioners of Vermont, 1901-1902. St. Johnsbury, VT: Caledonian Co., 1902. Author: Board of Library Commissioners of Vermont (public domain)

Apparently, library services were in such demand that Lucy M. Flower, the librarian of the Four Corners division, found it necessary to post a notice in the  Vermont Standard newspaper that visiting the library outside the posted hours of 1pm-8pm on Saturdays is no longer allowed.

Notice re Business Hours at Hartland Four Corners Library, Vermont Standard, July 22, 1897, Page 4 (Woodstock, Vermont)
The Flower House (formerly located across Rte. 12 from the Ladies Aid building) from “Hartland’s Family of Flowers,” Hartland Historical Society Summer 2007  (no known copyright restrictions)

Location of Division Libraries Over the Years

While most often located in the home of the presiding librarian, the locations of the division libraries changed multiple times over the years.  Some known locations were “Mr. and Mrs. Kelly’s new home” (1903), The Hartland Hotel (1909), Isabelle J. Cabot’s home (1909), the home of new librarian, Mrs. Harold Russell (1933) and an unused North Hartland schoolhouse converted for use as the North Hartland library (1975). 

Library Moves to the Kelly’s New House, Vermont Standard, December 13, 1903, Page 7 (Woodstock, Vermont)
1909 wing of the Hotel Hartland was used as the library
Vermont Standard, February 18, 1909, Page 5 (Woodstock, Vermont)
Library Moved to Russell House, Rutland Daily Herald, November 17, 1933, Page 14
(Rutland, Vermont)
Old School Building to be Converted to Library, Rutland Daily Herald, July 22, 1975, Page 7 (Rutland, Vermont)
New North Hartland Library Building Opens, Rutland Daily Herald, December 1, 1975, Page 13 (Rutland, Vermont)

Four Corners Library

In August 1943, the library trustees proposed to purchase a small office used by Millard T. White, a local lumber dealer, and have it moved “just over the fence” to a parcel of land “on the south west part of the [First Universalist Society] church lot” for use as the permanent location of the Four Corners Library.  Ultimately, Mr. White donated the main building and sold an additional building to the Trustees for $50.  The two-rooms were moved to the church property in August 1945, and a dedication ceremony was held for the Four Corners Library on August 23, 1945.

Property Leased, Springfield Reporter, August 23, 1943, Page 14 (Springfield, Vermont)
Books Unpacked, Vermont Journal, October 28, 1943, Page 10 (Windsor, Vermont)
“PTA Project,” Rutland Daily Herald, September 8, 1943, Page 8 (Rutland, Vermont)
Four Corners Library Dedicated, Vermont Journal, August 23, 1945, Page 8 (Windsor, Vermont)

In 1994, photographer Richard Dawson said in his book, The Public Library: A Photographic Essay, “the library was assembled from two office rooms from a local sawmill in 1944. It had no heat except a wood-burning stove. At the time [he photographed the building] it had just been closed and its entire collection of 70 boxes of books had just been sold to a local used-book dealer for $125.” The Four Corners library building was deemed “structurally unsound” and demolished sometime in 2010.

Martin Memorial Library

In 1958, Earnest N. Martin (1874-1965), a local lumber and saw mill operator, built the Martin Memorial Building and donated the building for use a the new Hartland Public Library.

New Modern Library for Hartland, Vermont Journal,
February 27, 1958, Page 3
Library Moves Into New Building, Vermont Journal, June 15, 1961, Page 10 (Windsor, Vermont)
The Martin Building today. Home of the Hartland Historical Society. Photo from Google Maps.

In June 1999, the Board of Trustees for the Hartland Public Library began taking bids to renovate and expand a two-story, 3,000 sf residential shell in Hartland. The renovation would added an additional 2,300 sf to the existing shell. According to the Hartland Library website, “[t]he Martin Memorial Building was used until the year 2000 when the dream became a reality and the current (2018) library building was built in Foster Meadow. “

The Hartland Public Library today. Photo from the Hartland Community Government Website (Copyright unknown. However, Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allows for “fair use” for purposes educational purposes.)

The Hartland Public Library is located at 153 Route 5 in Hartland, Vermont. 

Mrs. Lucy Adams Holmes Darling (1815-1908)

Lucy Adams Holmes Darling obituary from the Vermont Journal, Windsor, Vermont, January 18, 1908, Page 4

Mrs. Lucy Violet Darling Gilbert (1842-1914)

Daughter of Lucy Adams Holmes Darling

The Oakland Park City Library, Oakland Park, Florida

Early-Mid 1990s Library Card Nos. 12963 and 12964 for the Oakland Park City Library

Early-Mid 1990s Library Card No. 12963 for the Oakland Park City Library (front)
Early-Mid 1990s Library Card No. 12964 for the Oakland Park City Library (front)

Oakland Park City Library

Initially organized as a project of the Oakland Park Women’s Club, the Oakland Park City Library was originally located at the Oakland Park Women’s Clubhouse at 3721 NE Thirteen Avenue.  Ethel Gordon (1897-1973), a member of the Oakland Park Women’s Club, having “never lived in a town without a library” suggested organizing a community library in Oakland Park.  In May 1954, the organization of a library at the Clubhouse was added to the budget for the upcoming year.  Ethel Gordon was elected Chairman of the Americanism Department.

“Oakland Park Women’s Club Hold Busy Final Session,” Fort Lauderdale News, May 24, 1954, Page 9

In February 1955, the community was invited to the Clubhouse to inspect the new library and to bring books or donations, and in May 1955, the library was officially opened to the public.  The Mayor of Oakland Park and members of the City Commission were invited and given complimentary membership cards.

“Oakland Park Library Gets 100 More Books,” The Miami Herald, February 13, 1955, Page 34
“Library Opening Slated for Today,” Fort Lauderdale News, May 18, 1955, Page 14
Pre-1960 Postcard by Spaulding & Co. (no known copyright restrictions)

The Library Today

On October 16, 2013, the Oakland Park City Commission voted to officially change the name of the library to The Ethel M. Gordon Oakland Park Library in recognition of her role in the establishment of the Oakland Park library.

Fun fact:  Children under the age of 16 may obtain a library card in their name as soon as they can print their full name!

The library is located at 1298 NE 37 Street in Oakland Park and is open Monday-Saturday.  For more information on Oakland Park’s community library, go to:


Mid Century Modern-style home of Ethel M. Gordon Oakland Park Library (photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Prince George’s County Memorial Library System, Prince George’s County, Maryland

While many public libraries had been opening  across the country throughout the mid- to late-1800’s, the establishment of a public library system in Maryland lagged far behind.  In 1902, the Maryland State Library Commission (MSLC) formed to explore the establishment of public libraries within the State of Maryland.  In 1910, with the passing of new Maryland state library laws, The Maryland Public Library Commission (MPLC), which succeeded the MSLC, was established to “stimulate” the opening of permanent county and election district public libraries and to provide funds for the purchase of books for new libraries.  

Pre-2000 Library Card for the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System

Pre-2000 Library Card for the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (front)
Pre-2000 Library Card for the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (back)

The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System

The roots of public libraries in Prince George’s County can be traced back to the late 1800s.  In 1898, The Forestville Library Association held an “entertainment benefit” to collect funds for a public library, and in June 1899, they received a parcel of discarded books from Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Library.  In 1890 a room at an engine house in Upper Marlboro was set up as a library and reading room by the Marlboro Fire Association.  In May 1910, Laurel’s “new public library” was readied for opening with 700 volumes. On June 5, 1915, local talent performed for the benefit of The Prince George[‘s] Library and Reading Room Association.  On November 26, 1916, an oyster dinner and bazaar was held in Mitchellville to benefit The Prince George’s Library Association, and as reported in The Prince George’s Enquirer and Southern Maryland Advertiser on February 4, 1921, a space in the J. C. Hawkin’s Electric Shop had been secured for a public library in Hyattsville.  Greenbelt and Beltsville each opened public libraries in 1939 and 1942, respectively. 

“The Reading Club Started, ”The Prince George’s Enquirer and Southern Maryland Advertiser, January 18, 1889, Page 3
“Laurel’s Library to Be Used,” The Baltimore Sun, May 9, 1910, Page 11

While legislation was regularly presented to Maryland’s General Assembly, the most earnest attempts to establish and maintain free libraries in Prince George’s County were made  by county citizen groups.  The MPLC continued to rely upon the traveling library system to provide free library services to Maryland county communities.

Free traveling library in Hagerstown, Maryland
Courtesy The National Archives Catalog.  Photographer: American Library Association.

No copyright restrictions.
Free traveling library in Hagerstown, Maryland
Courtesy The National Archives Catalog.  Photographer: American Library Association.

No copyright restrictions.

In 1946, The Prince George’s Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) was established “as a living memorial to those who have made the supreme sacrifice and a testimonial to all those who served in wars.”  The Laurel Public Library, which served both Prince George’s County and the City of Laurel, was the first branch library of the system. 

Today, there are 19 branch libraries in the PGCMLS, including Accokeek, Baden, Beltsville, Bladensburg, Bowie, Fairmount Heights, Glenarden, Greenbelt, Hillcrest Heights, Hyattsville, Largo-Kettering, Laurel, Mount Rainer, New Carrolton, Oxon Hill, South Bowie, Spauldings, Surratts-Clinton and Upper Marlboro.

Augusta County Library, Fishersville, Virginia

Pre-1995 Library Card and Sleeve for the August County Library

Pre-1995 Library Card for the Augusta County Library (front)
Pre-1995 Library Card Sleeve for the Augusta County Library (front)

The opening of the Augusta County Library in Fishersville, Virginia was announced in the Daily News Leader, on July 14, 1939.  Located in the Beverly Manor Elementary School, the public library was open to all “county folk.”   The library held approximately 1,400 volumes for all ages.  Miss “Lina” Hupman was the librarian.  The initial hours were Sunday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm; however, due to robust attendance, Saturday hours (9:00 am to 1:00 pm) were quickly added and announced in The Daily News Leader, October 28, 1939.  

“County Public Library Hours are Announced,” The Daily News Leader, October 28, 1939, page 6

In August 1947, the Augusta County Library was moved to the new Wilson Memorial High School campus (formerly the Woodrow Wilson General Hospital). Occupying one of the numerous wards on the former hospital campus, the library boasted over 14,000 volumes and a film library covering over 165 subjects.

Pre-1947 aerial view of the former Woodrow Wilson General Hospital. No known copyright restrictions
“Many Subjects, Activities Offered at Wilson School,” The Daily News Leader, January 14, 1948, Page 2

Miss Evelina Gibbons Hupman (b. June 28, 1889 – d. July 31, 1958) retired on June 30, 1958, after 53 years of service to the Augusta County School system. 

“Wilson High Faculty Honors Librarian Who is Retiring,”
The Daily News Leader, May 28, 1958, Page 1

In 1977, after responsibility for the Augusta County Library was transferred from the Augusta County School System to the newly established Augusta County Public Library System, a new facility was built for the library on the Wilson campus. Plans for the new library facility included a reference desk, chess club, children’s story hours, a listening center, local history, and women’s collections, as well as bookmobiles to serve the community.  The new library was dedicated on March 20, 1977.

“Friends of the Augusta County Library Book Sale,” The Daily News Leader, March 5, 1993, Page 2

On December 17, 1983, the library moved to the old Fishersville Elementary School located at Rt. 250 and Rt. 608 in Fishersville.  The new location was a 25,000 sq, ft, building renovated for use as a library. In preparation for the move, the library asked members to check out 20 books each and return them to the new location after the move.

“Library Move,” The Daily News Leader,
December 8, 1983, Page 7 
1983 location of the Augusta County Library at Rts. 250 and 608.
The Daily News Leader, March 31, 1990, Page 85

In December 2010, after several years of preparation, the library completed a 14-month renovation project.   The Augusta County Library is located at 1759 Jefferson Highway, Fishersville, Virginia.

The August County Library. Google Maps 2022