WPA Library Projects & Services - 1938
WPA Library Projects and Services Include Bookmobile (Texas), Library Extension (Kentucky), Pack Horse Library (Kentucky), Traveling Library (Iowa), Rural Library Service (Ohio). Inventory: An Appraisal of Results of the Works Progress Administration, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1938. GGA Image ID # 1520b41715
Existing city and rural library systems over the United States have been enlarged by the addition of 3,535 new branch libraries and 4,502 reading rooms which are staffed and kept open for public use by WPA library workers.
Libraries—1 Percent of Total Program. Inventory: An Appraisal of Results of the Works Progress Administration, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1938. GGA Image ID # 1520c8c0ab
Not only have WPA professional workers and clerks brought books into the homes of millions of people who have not had access to regular library services, but also they have created a demand for more and more reading for relaxation and for study.
WPA personnel also has made possible the establishment of 1,164 so-called Traveling Libraries, through which many means of conveyance are used to bring books into the remote rural sections of the country. Where roads are good, the book-truck known as the "bookmobile," manned by WPA workers, makes regular stops, usually at country schools.
In some localities the school bus, rigged up with shelves of books, is routed for book service when not scheduled to carry school children. In the mountainous regions, WPA library assistants on horseback carry saddlebags filled with books along almost impassable trails to isolated homes.
By motor, horseback, and even by boat, WPA library workers are supplying immeasurable aid in reducing the figure of 40,000,000 people without library service in the United States.
Economical and effective library service is being and has been developed on a county-wide and State-wide basis through the help of the WPA. Illinois, Ohio, Mississippi, Arkansas, and South Carolina are taking advantage of WPA personnel to demonstrate library service plans, the effectiveness of which could not have been tested without the substantial increase in library staffs afforded by WPA professional and clerical workers.
In rural Cook County alone, outside of Chicago, are 18 small new libraries opened and operated by WPA workers. It is generally conceded that the recent action of the Arkansas legislature in subsidizing State-wide library service was largely induced by the interest created by the 120 WPA library projects throughout the State.
Here, as in other localities, WPA library workers have "sold" their small library units to many communities which are assuming the library, and often the workers, as a local responsibility. Millions of books and other library materials which were stored, unrepaired and unrecorded, because of the depressed budgets of libraries and schools, have been made available by additional library workers supplied by WPA.
Under trained supervisors, WPA library clerks have cataloged over 20,000,000 books, which means that improved card records have made these many books more readily available to readers.
A notable "cataloging" project is operating in the Boston Public Library where a much-needed revision of book records on some 2,000,000 volumes is being speedily accomplished by several hundred WPA library workers. About 14,000 libraries, including public and school libraries and school textbook collections, have benefited from the many WPA book repair and reconditioning projects.
A total of 33,649,219 books, about one-half of which are schoolbooks, have been returned to active service by WPA book repair project workers. This work is done by WPA only if the institution is unable to finance it within its regular budget.
Professional librarians realize that properly supervised WPA library workers are adding appreciably to the effectiveness of library service over the country. Carl H. Milam, Secretary of the American Library Association, in a letter to the President summarizing reported permanent gains in book service accomplished by the Works Progress Administration, concludes: "This is not intended to be a complete report but it indicates, I think, that WPA book service is proving of more than temporary value and is arousing genuine popular response in rural sections of the country."
Paul A. T. Noon, State Librarian, Ohio State Library, Columbus, states: "We expect that the State-wide library project in Ohio coordinated with our State-aid program will advance library development, especially in the rural sections, at least 10 years ahead of its normal development.
The WPA can make a permanent contribution to the cultural life of the Nation by helping to make possible the extension of our library service." Ralph Munn, Director, Carnegie Library, Pittsburgh, reports: "Greatly expanded information services to the people of Pittsburgh have resulted from WPA projects in the Carnegie Library.
The indexing of local historical and biographical works, the listing of birth and death notices, and the compilation of many subject bibliographies all represent tasks which the Library could never have accomplished with its own staff."
Forrest B. Spaulding, Librarian, Des Moines Public Library, says that "the help of the WPA which came at a time when library appropria- tions were seriously reduced, made it possible for this library to carry on when, otherwise, much important work would have had to be curtailed."
Additonal WPA Library Projects and Services Include Proofreading Library Cards (Ohio), Bookbinding (New Jersey), Indexing (Massachusetts), Card Filing (Washington), Typing Braille (District of Columbia), Reading Braille (Georgia). Inventory: An Appraisal of Results of the Works Progress Administration, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1938. GGA Image ID # 1520c78619
"Libraries," in Inventory: An Appraisal of Results of the Works Progress Administration, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1938, pp. 45-48.