War Service Library of the American Library Association

1918 War Service Library Bookplate

American Library Association’s Library War Service

In 1917, 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. 

To raise money for the library fund, the bookplate, designed by C.B. Falls, was distributed to department stores, banks, and other places to be purchased for $1.00 by the establishment’s clients.  The purchaser could place their name and address on the bookplate, which would be pasted into a book that has been previously donated to the War Service Library.

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.  

New York City book campaign – Photo by: Abel & Company, Inc – From the U.S. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division (public domain)

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.” 

Camp Lee (Virginia) Camp Library, Pre-1923 Postcard (public domain)
Interior of the Camp McClellan (Alabama) Camp Library, Pre-1923 Postcard (public domain)

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

Charles Buckles Falls

Charles Buckles Falls (1874-1960) was an American artist, and illustrator.    He is best known for his poster and advertisements for the U.S. military and American Library Association during the first World War.