Do you remember visiting your school library as a child? How did you check out a book? Was it by using a computer or on paper? Most libraries of today still have bookshelves but other things at libraries have changed over the years. In honor of National Library Week (April 8-14, 2018), we’re taking a look back. This trade catalog gives us an idea of what we might have seen if we stepped into a library in 1918.
This trade catalog is entitled School Libraries: Planning and Equipping the School Library (1918) and it is by Library Bureau. It includes practical suggestions for setting up a school library with descriptions of library furniture and other supplies.
The first thing a visitor sees when walking into a library is usually the circulation desk. Shown below are some examples of charging desks, or circulation desks, for school libraries. Just like today, these desks included space for checking out books, though without a computer, as well as space for temporarily storing returned or “on reserve” books and other library supplies such as borrowers’ cards.
Today, most people expect to use an online library catalog, but in 1918, patrons and library staff probably would have instead used a card catalog to search for and find shelving locations of books. The Card Catalog illustrated below is a 20-tray cabinet with the ability to hold thousands of catalog cards. It was also possible to lock the cabinet. Also, shown below are three catalog cards for the same book with bibliographic information organized by author, title, or subject.
This trade catalog also offers suggestions for charging systems for both small and large school libraries. Of course, both recommendations were a paper system. The suggestion for smaller school libraries, illustrated below, might sound familiar to some.
Each book had a book pocket with a book card, containing bibliographic information about the book, inside the pocket. When a patron wanted to check-out a book, library staff at the charging desk removed the book card from the book pocket, wrote the name of the borrower on the book card, and stamped the due date on both the book card and the book pocket. The borrower knew the due date of the book based on the date stamped on the book pocket. While the book was on loan, the library kept the book card in a charging tray behind a date guide that corresponded to the due date.
When the borrower returned the book, library staff removed the book card from the charging tray, crossed out the borrower’s name and due date of the book, and placed the book card back into the book pocket of the book. The book was then ready for re-shelving.
School Libraries: Planning and Equipping the School Library (1918) also illustrates other library equipment and supplies including book trucks or carts, periodical racks, bookcases, and multi-story steel bookstacks. This trade catalog and others by Library Bureau are located in the Trade Literature Collection at the National Museum of American History Library.