Join the Circle of Knowledge During National Library Week
National Library Week celebrates its fiftieth anniversary in 2008. The American Library Association developed the campaign to promote reading and library use to Americans who were increasingly tied to their televisions and radios; the theme of the 1958 celebration was "Wake Up and Read!"
National Library Week celebrates the valuable contribution that libraries and librarians make to their communities and promotes use and support of all types of libraries—school, public, academic, and special. Since 1985, the American Association of School Librarians, a division of ALA, has promoted the entire month of April as School Library Media Month. Since 2003, the Tuesday of National Library Week (April 15, this year) has been designated National Library Workers Day to acknowledge the individuals who make libraries such warm and welcoming community centers.
This year's theme for all ALA-sponsored library programs is "Join the circle of knowledge @ your library®."
GFWC members have long recognized the value of reading for both personal and public education and enjoyment, and have advocated for the creation and support of local public libraries.
A report presented at the 1898 biennial meeting in Denver demonstrates that GFWC clubs were staunch supporters of library programs:
A very large percentage of the clubs belonging to this Federation are actively engaged in library work; indeed, it seems to be common ground on which we all meet. That missionary and beneficent branch of the work, known as the traveling library, was given especial emphasis at our meeting, and . . .the need was brought for closer co-operation between the clubs, . . . And in view of this fact, and in view of the importance of library work, a motion was unanimously carried that we ask for the appointment of a Library Committee, believing that such a committee would be the center of appeal, an inspiration which we so much desire.
Many state federations were involved in establishing traveling libraries to provide books to areas in their states without easy access to a public library. Library pioneer Melvil Dewey, who helped found the ALA in 1876, noted the significant influence of women's clubs in developing traveling libraries in his 1901 study Field and Future of Traveling Libraries, the full text of which is available online.
GFWC members also raised public consciousness and funds to create free libraries within their communities. Many early clubs originated as book clubs and contributed books and volunteer time to build library collections and services. In the 1904 Federation Bulletin, Mrs. Charles A. Perkins wrote about GFWC's library extension work, noting that GFWC clubwomen had established 474 free public libraries. Since the early 1910s, ALA has credited GFWC clubs with establishing a large percentage of the nation's public libraries.
GFWC members have continued their support through the years both locally and nationally. GFWC was an early supporter of federal aid for public libraries, testifying in 1947 on behalf of the Public Library Service Demonstration Bill and reaffirming that support for subsequent iterations of that legislation. In the mid-1980s, GFWC became a member of ALA's National Partners for Libraries and Literacy and continues to partner with ALA and other organizations that promote libraries and literacy.
Photo 1 above: A reading room for patients at a sanatorium was developed in 1939 by members of the Welcome Branch Book Club in Monroe, Louisiana. They located the reading room in an old streetcar and started the library with a collection of 500 used books.
Photo 2 above: Sadie Orr Dunbar, elected GFWC president in 1938, is pictured left as the bookmobile which was made possible by the New Hampshire Federation of Women's Clubs makes a scheduled stop. With Mrs. Dunbar are Mrs. Frederick B. Preston (center), president of the New Hampshire Federation, and Mrs. LaFell Dickinson, who was serving as second vice president of GFWC. The bookmobile was purchased with proceeds from the sale of a book, The Folk Tales of New Hampshire, which was compiled and edited by Mrs. Guy E. Speare, a past president of the New Hampshire Federation, and Mrs. Moody Gore. Revolving book shelves held more than 600 books.
No matter how you choose to commemorate National Library Week, remember to report your activities to GFWC!