Libraries in World War I

During World War I both private organizations and public institutions mobilized the American people to collect and produce millions of dollars’ worth of resources and contribute thousands of hours of volunteer labor to the war effort. Libraries across the nation led drives to collect books and magazines to fill fort and camp libraries as well as to send to troops stationed in Europe.

Leading the effort was the American Library Association (ALA), which was granted oversight powers by the federal government to collect books and money. However, the ALA depended on state library commissions to do the heavy lifting. Indiana formed a special war council to handle the logistics, which, in turn, issued directives to the county libraries under its umbrella. Extensive instructions and guidance were sent out to all libraries. Individual counties were expected to raise a certain percentage of funds and books based on their population.To aid in this effort, a series of form letters were issued to libraries for them to mail out to solicit donations and support. Each letter was tailored to community leaders: Newspaper editors, church pastors and local politicians. Newspapers collaborated by printing column after column advertising book drives, requesting contributions and offering anecdotes from grateful soldiers.

Nearly all war efforts were framed as patriotic duty. Anti-war speech was discouraged. Libraries were also asked to restrict access to potentially “dangerous” information for the duration of the war.

In the space of two years, Indiana raised almost $3,500,000 and collected tens of thousands of books. But what to do with all these materials once the war ended? Rather than attempt to retain the books it had collected or return them to their original libraries, the ALA turned over ownership of the contents of all camp libraries to the federal government.

The Indiana State Library has a number of scrapbooks concerning the war effort in Indiana during World War I, both of counties, in general, and libraries, in particular. To browse all digitized materials related to Indiana in World War I, visit our War War I and the Hoosier Experience collection.

This blog post was written by Ashlee James, Indiana Division volunteer digitization intern and IUPUI Museum Studies graduate student.

Armed Services Editions @ ISL

Providing recreational and entertainment outlets for American servicemen overseas was a paramount concern during World War II. The United Services Organization (USO) is perhaps the most well-known and enduring of these endeavors, supplying troops with live shows and revues performed by major Hollywood celebrities. Less famous but equally as important was the work of The Council on Books in Wartime, an organization formed by booksellers, publishers, authors and libraries whose main focus was to supply reading materials to troops. Americans happily donated books to the cause in numerous community book drives, but most books in the 1940s were heavy large hardcovers and could not be transported easily by troops. To remedy this, the council took bestselling books and fashioned them into a paperback format dubbed Armed Services Editions, which were distributed free of charge to servicemen. These books were purposefully designed to be small and flexible enough to fit into cargo pockets. The program was incredibly successful and paved the way for the rise of paperbacks as a popular and inexpensive book format in the post-war era.

Despite being manufactured by cheap materials, many Armed Services Editions survived the war and are now highly collectible. The Library of Congress has all 1,322 titles that were produced. Here at the Indiana State Library, we have three in our collection that represent works by Indiana authors.

“Here is Your War” by Ernie Pyle. This photo shows the size difference between the original version of the book and the Armed Services Edition.

“Little Orvie” by Booth Tarkington.

“Our Hearts were Young and Gay” by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough.

This blog post was written by Jocelyn Lewis, Catalog Division supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317) 232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

‘Hoosiers at War!’ reception to take place at Indiana State Library

Visit the Indiana State Library on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, from 4:30 to 7 p.m., for a special open-house reception to coincide with the “Hoosiers at War! From the Homefront to the Battlefield” exhibit that is currently on display throughout the library.

Over 150,000 people from Indiana answered the call to serve when the United States entered the Great War on April 6, 1917. “Hoosiers at War! From the Homefront to the Battlefield” showcases publications, correspondence, diaries, photographs and other materials detailing the experiences of Hoosiers during World War I, both at home and abroad.

The installation process.

The library will present artifacts of every day Hoosier heroes from the Great War, as well as some specially-selected treasures from the library’s collections. Library tours will also be available and light refreshments will be provided. Click here to register for this free event. Registration is encouraged, but not required.

The library is located at 315 W. Ohio St. in downtown Indianapolis. Parking is available in the Senate Ave. parking garage across from the library for $10 beginning at 4:30 p.m. The garage accepts credit cards only. No cash payments will be accepted. Street parking is also available.

This blog post was written by John Wekluk, communications director, Indiana State Library. For more information, email the communications director.

Two World War I stories: Newly digitized collections from World War I and the Hoosier Experience

With the World War I centennial upon us, library staff have been hard at work digitizing the collections of Hoosier heroes of all walks of life from wartime. While we are taking the time to highlight collections of those who served both at home and abroad, here are two new additions from the past few months: S0091 Joe Rand Beckett Collection and L359 Franklin Newton Taylor Collection.

A 1912 advertisement for Franklin N. Taylor as a voice teacher at the Metropolitan School of Music.

Both men were from Indianapolis, though Taylor was originally born in Danville, Ind. Taylor was a singer and, as part of the Y.M.C.A., traveled France entertaining the troops mostly throughout the Bordeaux region. Aside from his war work, he served as music director at the Central Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, choir director at Irvington Methodist Episcopal Church and was a voice instructor at Metropolitan School of Music (later Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music at Butler University) from 1908 until 1949. His collection includes a plethora of personal correspondence and newspaper clippings, as well as Y.M.C.A. and World War I travel ephemera and interesting personal effects that he collected.

Seashells collected by Franklin Taylor in La Rochelle, France while overseas with the Y.M.C.A., dated Jan. 30, 1919.

Beckett was an Indianapolis architect, lawyer, philanthropist, member of the Indiana Senate and captain of the 326th Field Artillery, Battery D during World War I. Shortly before the war, he had passed the bar and formed the law firm, Beckett and Beckett, with his father. At the beginning of his service, Beckett’s rank was first lieutenant and rose to captain in August 1918. The battery sailed from New York to Scotland the following month, arriving in France at the end of September only a few weeks out from Armistice. His senatorial career took place during 1929 and 1931; afterwards he became known for pioneering low-income housing in Indianapolis, specifically Lockefield Gardens. His collection contains several photographs, correspondence during and after the war and military papers, including the roster and movements of 326th F.A., Battery D.

A photograph of Joe Rand Beckett (right) in uniform in 1918; location unknown.

This postcard was sent to Captain Joe Rand Beckett’s wife, Mary Ann Beckett, to notify her that he had arrived safely overseas; ca. September 1918.



“Joe Rand Beckett.” Indiana Legislator Database. Accessed Sept. 1, 2017.

Barrow, Robert G. “The Local Origins of New Deal Housing Project The Case of Lockefield Gardens in Indianapolis.” Indiana Magazine of History 103, no. 2 (2007): 125-151, accessed Sept. 1, 2017.

This blog post was written by Lauren Patton, Rare Books and Manuscripts librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317) 232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”