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.

Camp Bowie Army Base, Brownwood, Texas

1917-1919 Camp Bowie Library No. 2, Branch No. 2, Identification Card No. 818

Camp Bowie Camp Library No. 2, Branch No. 1, Identification Card (back blank)

In December 1917, the United States officially entered World War I with a declaration of war on Austria-Hungary. The Selective Service Act had passed in May 1917 in preparation for US involvement, and over 24 million men who had registered for the draft, were poised and ready for military training should they be called to service. To facilitate the training of new inductees, the US Department of War established thirty training camps throughout the US. The construction of Camp Bowie, a 2,186-acre facility outside of Fort Worth, began on July 18, 1917.

“Camp Bowie Library Will Open Friday.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 24, 1918, Page 9
Camp Library, Camp Bowie, Texas, c. 1917-1920. Copyright: American Library Association.

On November 11, 1918, the signing of the Armistice de Compiègne brought the end of World War I and victory to the US and its allies. Camp Bowie became a demobilization center and officially closed on August 15, 1919.

Camp Bowie reopened in 1940 and continues to be used as an active military training center.

American Library Association’s Library War Service

In 1917, at the behest of Herbert Putnam, the Librarian of Congress, and Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker, the American Library Association established the Library War Service to provide books and services to American World War I soldiers stationed at home and abroad, as well as, military hospitals and prisoners of war. 

Through public monetary and book donations, the ALA established at least 43 camp libraries and distributed approximately 10 million books and magazines, including braille books to soldiers that lost their sight in battle. The ALA also hired over 234 trained librarians to staff the camp and military hospital libraries through the grants from the Carnegie Corporation. In addition, “crafts teachers” were hired to teach convalescing soldiers skills such as mechanical drawing.

The camp library buildings were designed by architect E. L. Tillman and were equipped to hold approximately 10,000 volumes, and came with a small vehicle for library related tasks such as transportation of books.  Some camp libraries were equipped with fireplaces to provide ambiance and “a touch of home and civilization.” 

The Library War Service remained active through 1919, after which the library services became military-managed.  

The M. Steinert & Sons Company Music Circulating Library

1902 M. Steinert & Sons Company Music Circulating Library Membership Ticket issued to Dr. G. W. Brown

1902 M. Steinert & Sons Company Music Circulating Library Membership Ticket (front)
1902 M. Steinert & Sons Company Music Circulating Library Membership Ticket (back)

The M. Steinert & Sons Company Music Circulating Library

Illustration of the Steinert Building by Charles H. Overly (1908-1970) (No known copyright restrictions)

The advent of the pneumatic player piano, invented in 1895 by Edwin S. Votey, made piano and organ music accessible to everyone regardless of musical ability. The Pianola and Aeolian pianos were gaining popularity, and M. Steinert & Sons Music Company sold them alongside traditional instruments such as the Steinway and their own Steinert brand pianos. Steinert’s offered patrons a circulating library of Aeolian and Pianola music rolls for a subscription fee of $10 (three months), $15 (six months), or $20 (one year). Subscribers living within 75 miles from Boston were entitled to borrow for up to two weeks up to twelve rolls at a time. Subscribers living more than 75 miles from Boston were allowed to borrow for up to four weeks up to 24 rolls at one time.

The M. Steinert & Sons Music Company operated on “Piano Row” in the Steinert Building at 162 Boylston Street in Boston from 1896 to 2015. At the same address, four stories below street level, is Steinert Hall, a concert auditorium, considered by early-1900s Bostonians to be the “headquarters for the musical and artistic world of cultured Boston.” Steinert Hall was closed to the public in 1942 due to fire code restrictions. M. Steinert & Sons continues to be a top destination for quality pianos and instruments.

The Aeolian Music Company Piano Roll (no known copyright restrictions)
Boston Evening Transcript (Boston, Massachusetts), Saturday, January 6, 1900, Page 22
Advertisement from The New England Magazine, Vol. 18, Page 264, 1896 (No known copyright restrictions)

Thư viện Quốc Gia (National Library), Saigon, Viet Nam

Pre-1972 Reader’s Card No. 2238 issued to Hữu Tuấn Nguyễn

Thư viện Quốc gia Việt Nam (National Library of Viet Nam), Pre-1972 Reader’s Card (front)
Translation of Front of Reader’s Card
Thư viện Quốc gia Việt Nam (National Library of Viet Nam), Pre-1972 Reader’s Card (inside)
Translation of Inside (left) of Reader’s Card
Translation of Inside (right) of Reader’s Card
Thư viện Quốc gia Việt Nam (National Library of Viet Nam), Pre-1972 Reader’s Card (back)
Translation of Back of Reader’s Card

Thư viện Quốc Gia in Saigon (National Library in Saigon)

Thư viện Quốc Gia (National Library) in the former Saigon, Vietnam (now Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam). Renamed the General Sciences Library of Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by by Bùi Thụy Đào Nguyên 5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)(unaltered photo)

Occupying the site of the old Maison Centrale de Saigon (Khám Lớn Sài Gòn), a much-maligned and overcrowded penal facility built in 1865, construction of the National Library building, designed by Vietnamese architect, Bùi Quang Hanh, began in December of 1968. The cornerstone was laid by South Vietnamese Premier Trần Văn Hương (1903–1982). Considered by many to be the height of the war in Vietnam, the 1968 cornerstone ceremony became an opportunity for Premier Hương to announce that there would be no ceasefire with North Vietnam.

The Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida), Sunday, December 29, 1968, Page 10

Built in a mid century modernist style and costing more than 130 million piastres ($400,000 USD), and the new library building was inaugurated by South Vietnamese President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, in a ceremony held on December 23, 1971.  During that ceremony, Thiệu took the opportunity to share his confidence in South Vietnam with reporters.

Democrat and Chronical (Rochester, New York), Friday, December 24, 1971, Page 2

After the reunification of North and South Việt Nam, the National Library in Saigon was integrated into the national library system of the Socialist Republic of Việt Nam, and renamed Thư viện Quốc gia II, Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh (the National Library II in  Hồ Chí Minh City.  Shortly after, in 1976, the library was renamed Thư viện Khoa học Tổng hợp, Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh (Hồ Chí Minh City General Sciences Library), the name by which it is known today.

Graduate Student,Tran-Thu-Thuan tours the Central Kansas Library System, Great Bend Tribune (Great Bend, Kansas), Sunday, July 25, 1974
1974 Commemorative Stamps

Brookline Public Library, Brookline, Massachusetts

1879-1880 Brookline Public Library Card No. 3373 issued to Miss Anna White

1879-1880 Brookline Public Library Card No. 3373 issued to Miss Anna White (front)
1879-1880 Brookline Public Library Card No. 3373 issued to Miss Anna White (back)

Brookline Public Library

The Brookline Public Library was born out of an inconvenience to Benjamin F. Baker, one of the first trustees of the Board of Trustees of Brookline. Baker contemplated and investigated the idea of a public library as early as 1847. Although any formal action to establish a public library wasn’t until 1856 upon a failed attempt to consult an unowned reference book[1].

After gathering support for his public library proposal from prominent Brookline citizens, Baker succeeded in having Articles 7 and 8 inserted into the “warrant” (agenda of items) for the annual town meeting held on March 16, 1857:

From the 1893 Annual Report of the Trustees of the Public Library of the Town of Brookline

The articles were accepted at the following town meeting held on March 30, 1857, and on December 2, 1857, Brookline’s public library was opened to the public.

The first home of the Brookline Public Library was a 36 1/2 x 29 foot room in the Brookline Town Hall. The modest space was fitted with shelves on two walls, and equipped with a desk for delivery of borrowed books. The first librarian, John E. Hoar, served 17 years, resigning on September 19, 1871, when his duties as school principal became too demanding.

Brookline Town Hall c. 1920.  Photograph by Leon H. Abdalia (1884-1967). Source: Boston Public Library. (public domain)

New Library Building

Although additional rooms were provided for the Town Hall library, by 1861, the library inventory had increased to 11,000 volumes, necessitating the need for an even larger space. In 1867, the town trustees approved the building of a new library, and on October 9, 1869, the new library building opened to the public.

Original Brookline Public Library, built in 1869.. From the Report of the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts, by the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts, 1891. (public domain)
Interior of 1869 Library. Credit: Digital Commonwealth, Massachusetts Collection Online, Brookline Photograph Collection, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode

1889 Expansion

In 1888, at a cost of $16,500, an additional wing was added to the library building, as well as a reading-room in 1891. This additional provided space for 75,000 volumes.

Brookline Public Library after the 1889 expansion. From the Report of the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts, by the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts, 1891. (public domain)

Continued Growth

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Boston Evening Transcript, Boston, Massachusetts, August 15, 1906, page 17
Boston Evening Transcript, Boston, Massachusetts, April 22, 1908, Page 21

Another New Building

Boston Evening Transcript, Boston, Massachusetts, June 3, 1909, page 3
The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts, July 18, 1910, page 2

A growing community necessitated yet another library expansion. In 1907, the library Trustees In June 1909, R. Clipston Sturgis Cornerstone was laid November 1, 1909

361 Washington Street
The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts, September 10, 1910, page 15
The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts, September 10, 1910, page 15

Brookline Public Library In the News

Boston Evening Transcript, May 5, 1909, Page 25
The Hartford Daily Courant, December 25, 1911, Page 8

Miss Anna White

Anna Catherine White, born October 27, 1864, was the daughter of the co-founding namesake of the R. H. White & Co. department store in Boston, Massachusetts, Ralph Huntington White (1841-1917).

Died January 7, 1895 in Aiken, South Caroline. She is buried next to her father’s museleum at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

R. H. White & Co.

Advertisement from The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts, December 31, 1926, page 12

[1] 1893 Annual Report of the Trustees of the Public Library of the Town of Brookline, pp. 7-12

San Diego Public Library, San Diego, California

Pre-1937 San Diego Public Library Borrower’s Card No. 75273 issued to Lee R. Moore

Pre-1937 San Diego Public Library Borrower’s Card No. 75273 issued to Lee R. Moore (front)
Pre-1937 San Diego Public Library Borrower’s Card No. 75273 issued to Lee R. Moore (back)

San Diego Public Library

San Diego Public Library (pre-1923 public domain postcard)

Opened to the public on July 15, 1882, the San Diego Public Library’s first location was the Commercial Bank building (aka the Consolidated National Bank) at 5th and G Streets.  The use of rooms on the 2nd floor2 was provided to the library non gratis for the first six month,1 after which rent was paid from the $650 city appropriation.

Commercial Bank Building (pre-1923 public domain photo; photographer unknown)

In 1893, the library was moved once again to the fashionable St. James Building at 7th and F Streets and would remain there for at least five years.3

Drawing from a 1890’s St James Hotel breakfast menu (No known copyright restrictions)

By 1898, the library began to outgrow its accommodations, so arrangements were made for space on the 4th floor of the new Keating Building at Fifth and F Streets.  Rent increased from $50 to $85, but the rooms were more spacious and well-lit, and a modern elevator made access to the library much easier.4 The Keating Building was designed by George J. Keating, founder of a farm equipment company, and built in 1890 by his wife, Fannie, after his death on June 25, 1888.


Keating Building.  Photo by John Margolies.  No known copyright restrictions.   From the John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive (1972-2008), Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

While the Keating Building provided adequate square footage to accommodate the growing library, library space had been a concern several years prior to the move into the Keating Building.   Efforts to raise funds for the building of a permanent home large enough to house the growing library was undertaken by the Ladies’ Wednesday Club as early as 1896.5. But it wasn’t until mid-1899, that a new library building became a realistic goal.  In response to a letter sent to the Andrew Carnegie Corporation by library trustee, Mrs. Lydia K. Horton, in which she asked for photographs of previously built Carnegie libraries in hopes that the photographs would spark interest by her fellow trustees, the Carnegie Corporation promised a $50,000 grant to build the first Carnegie library west of the Mississippi River.6  On April 23, 1902, the new library building opened at Eighth and E Streets.  The building designed by architects, Ackerman & Ross of New York, had room for 75,000 volumes and boasted a museum, art gallery, and lecture room. The Carnegie Library building would serve as the main library until 1952 when the building was razed to allow the construction of a new, modernized building. The new library opened at the same location on June 27, 1954. The current location of the San Diego Central Library is 330 Park Blvd. in San Diego.

San Diego Public Library and Comic-Con

Since 2013, the San Diego Public Library has partnered with Comic-Con and designed limited-edition comic-themed library cards, which are only available at the San Diego Public Library booth at the yearly Comic-Con convention in San Diego.  The 2019 card, of which only 3,000 were made available, features Waldo over an image of  the San Diego Central Library, which is located at 330 Park Boulevard in San Diego.  

2019 San Diego Public Library Special Edition Comic-Con Library Card and Keychain Card (front)
2019 San Diego Public Library Special Edition Comic-Con Library Card and Keychain Card (back)

Lee R. Moore

Lee Reed Moore was born August 7, 1921, in Kansas City; He was the son of Lee R. Moore, Sr  of Texas and Orpha Moore.  Lee R. Moore was a salesman for Ryan Aeronautical Co.  He died on April 29, 1980.

1 Catalog of the San Diego Free Public Library: Compiled by the Order of the Board of Trustees, by Lulu Younkin, April 1889

2 The Record (National City, California), June 11, 1885, p. 2

3 The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) April 5, 1893, p. 7

4 The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) April 7, 1898, p. 13

5 The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California), December 7, 1896, p. 5

6 The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California), July 18, 1899, p. 15

Around the World

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