The polio vaccine in Indiana

As hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers begin to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, it is worth remembering that many of them have gone through a rapid mass vaccination program before. When many of today’s senior citizens were children, poliomyelitis – more commonly known as polio – emerged as one of the most dreaded childhood diseases on the planet. While most who contracted the virus survived it, polio could have serious and long-term effects on the central nervous system and could also lead to muscle paralysis.

Much like COVID-19, treatment for polio patients focused on respiratory assistance. Instead of being intubated with modern respirators, children with polio often found themselves in a long, formidable cylindrical tube known as an iron lung which would assist with their breathing.

Image and instructions on operating an iron lung from “Recommendations on nursing procedures and techniques in hospitals treating poliomyelitis cases of the Indiana Polio Planning Committee” (Indiana Collection, ISLO 610.73 no. 32).

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, outbreaks of polio across the United States caused widespread panic. Schools were temporarily shuttered, public swimming pools closed and other activities for children were cancelled as parents desperately tried to prevent their children from contracting the disease. The country was desperate for a vaccine.

Headline from the Indianapolis Star, Sept. 15, 1952.

Herald (Jasper County), Sept. 18, 1952. From newspaperarchive.com.

Jonas Salk first developed his polio vaccine in 1952. Mass testing began in 1954 and on April 12, 1955, the vaccine was declared successful and ready to be distributed to the general public, a medical feat which made the front page of many Indiana newspapers.

The Kokomo Tribune, April 12, 1955. From newspaperarchive.com.

Then as now, public health officials had to decide how to prioritize vaccine distribution. Children under 10 years of age, particularly those in grades 1-4, were considered most vulnerable to contracting the disease and were therefore scheduled to receive the vaccine first. And like the current iterations of the COVID-19 vaccine, multiple shots were needed to achieve full immunity.

Advertisement from the Rushville Republican, Jan. 20, 1956. From newspapers.com.

Once the vaccine was deemed effective, manufacturing went into overdrive. Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly was one of a handful of U.S. pharmaceutical companies to produce the vaccine. In 1955, Lilly produced over half of the vials used in the United States during the initial vaccination push.

Article describing vaccine manufacturing at Eli Lilly (Indiana Collection ISLO 614.473 no. 4).

Beginning soon after the public proclamation of the vaccine’s effectiveness in 1955, Hoosier school children quickly lined up at county hospitals, health clinics, or – in many cases – their school gymnasiums to receive their first shot.

The Brook Reporter, April 28, 1955. From newspapers.com.

Thanks to the vaccine and the mass mobilization of public health officials, healthcare workers, pharmaceutical companies, parents and children, polio was dramatically reduced in the United States by 1961 and is no longer considered the threatening childhood disease it once was.

Many of the children who lined up in their school gymnasiums in the 1950s are now in their seventies and are considered most vulnerable to the debilitating effects of COVID-19. They once again find themselves near the head of the line for a brand-new vaccine created to stop a dire public health pandemic. Instead of standing in literal lines at their local school, they must now navigate a virtual line to sign up for an appointment at a local health facility. As of this writing, nearly a million Hoosiers have received the vaccine.

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccination program in Indiana, click here.

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.”

Treatment of 3 rare 19th century maps at the Indiana State Library

1855 Map of Jeffersonville, Clark Co. Indiana
Jeffersonville, being positioned along the Ohio River and just north of Louisville, came out of the pioneer era as a metropolis by Indiana standards. This map shows the Jeffersonville and Indiana railroad, as well as the Clark County Plank Road. Jeffersonville was a gateway to southern markets; and later the movement of troops and supplies during the Civil War. Notice all the commerce along the riverfront: sawmills, meat packing and shipyards. Hart and Mapother Lithographers out of Louisville, have a rich body of work surviving in maps, but also print ads, pamphlet cover illustrations and letterhead. The detail on this map is really engaging.

This map came to the lab in extremely poor condition. Like most large 19th century maps, it had been adhered to a large sheet of fabric, which was very dirty. The map was also very deteriorated with lots of missing pieces. It was extremely fragile. Even handling it would cause pieces to fall off. The front of the map was also varnished, which had caused the entire map to darken and discolor. At some point, book cloth was glued to all four edges of the front. Finally, to the entire map had been “silked.” A large sheet of silk had been glued to the entire front of the map making the map appear cloudy and discolored.

The goal for treating this map was to get it to a state where it was stable and could be handled and eventually digitized. The varnish and silk were first removed, along with all the book cloth. The map was then washed, and all the fabric was then removed. The map was then lined onto a sheet of Japanese tissue.

Before treatment image of the front of the map.

Before treatment image of the back of the map.

Removal of silk from the front of the map.

After treatment image of the front of the map.

After treatment image of the back of the map.

1872 Map of Logansport, Indiana
Logansport is another Indiana city with a strong railroad tie. This 1872 map of Logansport shows many rail lines crossing through the city. This map also shows many of Indiana’s internal improvements of the era, Wabash and Erie Canal, and the unlabeled Michigan Road (Burlington Road). Another great data set on this map is the list of “Leading Business Houses of Logansport.” Something of a boomtown, Logansport’s population tripled between 1860 and 1870, going from 3,000 to almost 9,000 people. The map and the text make a wonderful snapshot of what appears to be a bustling town in 1872. Compiled from records of Julius C. Kloenne, city engineer, the subdivisions and out lots are represented in detail, showing names of additions and large landholders edging the town. Kloenne would make his own map of the city in 1876. As neat as the map is, little to be found about the publisher Barnard, Hayward and Company. In contrast, the engravers H.J. Toudy and Company, out of Philadelphia, made a fine business specializing in maps, atlases and birds-eye views until a fire in 1878 destroyed their business.

When this map was first assessed it showed a lot of problems. It was in extremely poor condition suffering from years of heavy use and prior attempted repairs. The entire map had been cut into smaller sections, in what my assume was an attempt to make the map more easily stored. Like the Jefferson map, this map was also adhered to its original fabric and varnished. Significant amounts of clear packing tape was also applied to large areas of the front, and paper had been glued to all four edges.

As with the Jefferson map, the goal for the Logansport map was to repair it for stability, safe handling and digitizing. This would mean removing all the varnish, all the tape and glued on paper, washing the map to remove discoloration, putting the sections back in their correct placement and re-lining the map onto a new sheet of Japanese tissue.

Before treatment of the front of the map.

Before treatment of the back of the map.

Conservation intern Lily Duncan removing tape from the front of the map on a tacking iron.

All of the tape removed.

Conservation intern Lily Duncan removing varnish from the map sections on a suction table.

Conservation intern Lily Duncan washing and cleaning sections of the map.

Conservation intern Lily Duncan removing the backing fabric.

Conservation intern Lily Duncan pasting out Japanese tissue for relining.

Treated section next to the untreated sections.

After treatment images of the front of the map.

After treatment images of the front of the map.

After treatment images of the front of the map.

After treatment images of the front of the map.

1876 Ohio County Centennial Map
Small in size, but rich in details, this map of Ohio County, Ind. was published to celebrate America’s centennial in 1876. The Ohio County Historical Society notes there were perhaps only 250 made. Surviving copies are quite rare. Ohio County was established just 30 years before this map was made. Notable are references to Native American sites at the time in Ohio County. George W. Morse, the mapmaker, is noted in the Ohio County history books as being present at the archeological digs in the area. He also delivered a historical address at the major Centennial Celebration held in Rising Sun the summer of 1876. The Centennial Independence Day was observed with cannons, bells and a parade. And this map!

This map was in an extremely fragile state. It had suffered lots of losses due to years of use. Like the other two maps it had also been varnished. The map had also suffered extensive water damage at some point resulting in staining throughout the entire sheet. Like the Jefferson map and Logansport map it was also adhered to its original fabric which had become very dirty and frayed.

As with the Jefferson and Logansport maps, the goal for this map was to repair it for stability, safe handling and digitizing. All of the varnish was removed, the map was washed and then re-lined onto a new sheet of Japanese tissue.

Before treatment of front of the map.

Before treatment of back of the map.

The map being washed.

After treatment of the front of the map.

After treatment of the back of the map.

This blog post was written by Conservator Seth Irwin and Monique Howell, Indiana Collection supervisor, both of the Indiana State Library.

Genealogy research in print materials

Genealogy research is so much easier than it’s ever been, thanks to the many subscription services and free databases available to researchers in their homes at any time of day or night. These databases, however, contain only a small fraction of the genealogical information available to family historians. If you have exhausted the online resources available on your family, or if you are looking for new and interesting sources for research, it may be worthwhile to look at print materials.

This series of books documents the descendants of the Mayflower passengers.

Genealogy libraries have a wide variety of print materials, and not just books. Our collections also include vertical files, maps, family trees, Bible records, manuscript collections, photograph and more. All of these materials contain family histories, indexes to records, research notes and all sorts of information on individuals and families.

If you visit a genealogy library, there are so many books and materials available that it’s easy to lose track of what you’re looking for as you browse through so many interesting-looking books. So it’s helpful to have a research plan, even before you visit a library.

As part of your research plan, you can identify which ancestors you want to research, and in what time period and geographic area they lived. That way, you can more easily identify which books and reference materials will help with your research and which ones will not. You may also want to consider books about families that are connected to yours.

Researchers of connected families may have written about your family in their books.

You can also search a library’s catalog online before you visit to see if they have books on a specific family or topic. If you are interested in a broader search for potential research materials, WorldCat is a great place to start.

WorldCat main page.

WorldCat is a shared library catalog that includes libraries from around the world. You can search by title, author or any subject or surname that interests you. Not every library participates in WorldCat, but many libraries are included. This can help you find if anyone has ever written a book on your family, and if so, which libraries own it.

When you visit a library and begin to research in the books that interest you, also take a peek at the books shelved around the books you want. While searching the catalog definitely helps you find the books you want, you may also find something on the shelves that you didn’t know you needed until you see it. You may also find books with alternate spellings of your family name that you did not consider while searching the catalog.

Names often changed spelling over time, so considering alternate spellings may lead to resources you otherwise might have missed.

To make organizing your library research easier when you get back home, as you take notes on the materials or make copies from the books, copy the information from the title page so you know what book you got the information from. And if you check a book and do not find anything relevant to your research, note that as well.

So, if you are interested in expanding the scope of your genealogy research, consider branching out into print materials. There is so much more that you can discover about your family tree!

This blog post is by Jamie Dunn, Genealogy Division supervisor.

Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award nominees announced; voting begins

The Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Committee has released its list of nominees for the 2021 Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award. The nominees are “The Box Turtle” by Vanessa Roeder, “Brown Baby Lullaby” by Tameka Fryer Brown, “How Do You Dance?” by Thyra Heder, “Red House, Tree House, Little Bitty Brown Mouse” by Jane Godwin and “Who Has Wiggle Waggle Toes?” by Vicky Shiefman.

In its seventh year, the literacy award recognizes picture books that serve an important role in the first years of a child’s life and encourages parents, caregivers and very young children to interact together with exceptional picture books.

Voting is limited to children who live in Indiana and who are under age 6 as of July 31. It is expected that most Indiana children will require help from a parent, caregiver or librarian. Children should circle their favorite Firefly nominee on their ballot and turn it in to their local voting location. This year, every public library system in Indiana will receive 15 print copies of the ballot and six sheets of Firefly stickers for marking nominees and winning titles. Packets of printed materials should arrive by late February or early March. Tallies will be accepted through July 31 and the award winner will be announced on Aug. 9. Voting locations should tally the votes and send them in an email to the Indiana Center for the Book.

The Indiana Center for the Book will be releasing a program guide by March 1. The calendar year for the Firefly Award changed last year as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis. The award nomination period now runs through the summer, allowing librarians to do Firefly programs throughout the run of their summer reading programs.

Click here for a PDF version of the ballot. Click here to learn more about the award.

The committee would like to thank TeachingBooks who supported printing and who put together additional Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award book information.

Please contact Suzanne Walker, director of the Indiana Center for the Book, with any questions.

This blog post was written by John Wekluk, communications director, Indiana State Library.

From our shelves to your computer screen, part two

“Thank you so much! This is so amazing! I appreciate you so much!,” responded a patron about an item in our digital collections here at the Indiana State Library.

Our digital collections have grown over the past few years to include more and more from our fragile, rare and vast collections. In a previous blog post, we talked about selecting materials and here, in this second part, we’ll show you how materials make it into the collections.

Once we’ve selected materials to add, we evaluate them by asking some questions. Is this fragile? Does it need some conservation work? Or is it ready to go and if so, how do we digitize it? For example, some of our maps need to be cleaned or repaired before being scanned or photographed to get the best quality image for you to see.

It may also go to our catalogers to make sure the bibliographic record is correct and up to date. Once their work is done, the materials come back to the digitization coordinator and are prepared to be scanned. We have a workflow that includes naming the item for the image files, deciding how and what scanner to use and keeping a record of everything we scan.

Here are some photographs of materials and collections after they have been prepped and are waiting to be scanned.

Here at the Library, we have our own equipment for scanning materials.

First, we have our Epson flatbed scanner. It is our workhorse for many items that are small than 11”x17”. We can do pamphlets, photographs and letters, to name a few, on this scanner.

We’ve done a lot of materials on this scanner, including almost all of our Civilian Conservation Corps newsletters found here.

We also have two larger scanners we refer to as the Bookeyes, which is their official name by the manufacturer. These are used for bound periodicals, broadsides and newspapers. For example, we’ve used these to scan many of our items in the Company Employee Newsletter collection.

For maps and broadsides, we use our Pro Scanner. We feed encapsulated items through this scanner and it often requires having two people when working with fragile items. Many of our maps are encapsulated, meaning that they are sandwiched between sheets of Mylar, making them easier to handle.

After we make the scans, we upload them into our digital content management system called ContentDM, a well-known entity in the digitization world. It is in this program that you get to see our digital collections.

This year, we’ll be adding more materials to our county collection in the Indiana Historic Print Collection as well as a great new collection called Open Space, Historic Places: Parks, Memorials, and Landmarks. We hope to launch that collection this summer. We just keep adding more great materials to our collections. Keep checking back – you never know what we’ve found and added.

This post was written by Christopher Marshall, digital collections coordinator for the Indiana Division at the Indiana State Library.

What’s Up Wednesday adds INSPIRE sessions

The Indiana State Library’s Professional Development Office will be adding a new session to the What’s Up Wednesday series that started in 2020. This year we will be adding Get INSPIRED sessions on the second Wednesday of every month. INSPIRE is Indiana’s virtual library of databases made available to residents free of charge across Indiana. It has existed for the past 22 years and, although that is a long time, there are still people who have never heard of INSPIRE. So, we want to help people learn what resources are available as well as how to use them.For example, did you know that you can access Consumer Reports or learn a new language with Rosetta Stone by using INSPIRE? There are also a variety of databases for health research and these are reliable sources of information that you can trust, not something you read on Facebook. The list of health databases includes Alt Health Watch which focuses on holistic medicine and therapies. Consumer Health Complete covers key areas of health and wellness and it does this by being available in 16 different languages. Health Source – Consumer Edition provides access to 80 consumer health magazines like Men’s Health, Prevention, Bicycling, Golf Digest, Health, Parenting and more.

If you are a parent who is homeschooling, or a parent helping your child with homework, Explora is available for different grade levels – elementary, middle and high school – and allows the student to find articles on their grade level about a wide variety of topics. We have also increased the number of eBooks available to more than 75,000. The eBook collections are divided into grade levels K-8 and High School. TeachingBooks offers resources related to fiction and non-fiction books for school-age children. You can meet an author, hear the author pronounce their name, read a portion of their book, watch book trailers and many other activities and resources related to books. The Points of View database is an excellent place to start if you are doing a speech or trying to decide on a topic for a research paper. Learning Express Library offers practice tests for the SAT and ACT as well as study guides.

INSPIRE offers a rich collection of research databases for academic institutions, as well. These include Academic Search Complete, Humanities Full-Text, Literary Reference Center Plus and other databases that are subject- specific like History Reference Center, Science Reference Center and Social Sciences Full-Text.

For people looking to start their own business, they can access databases such as Small Business Reference Center, Entrepreneurial Studies Source, Business Wire News and Legal Information Reference Center. Census.gov offers demographic information that can help when writing a business plan.

Indiana-specific databases offered by the Indiana State Library through INSPIRE include Hoosier State Chronicles, which offers access to historical collections of newspapers from around the state that have been digitized. Indiana Memory is a collection of primary sources (i.e., letters, photos, maps, etc.) that have been digitized so that people can access them virtually.

As you can see, INSPIRE offers access to a vast collection of resources related to many subject areas and interests. We hope that you will join us on the second Wednesday of every month to learn more about INSPIRE. The session in February will be an open Q & A session where attendees can submit questions in advance to George Bergstrom and he will answer as many as he can during the session. Each What’s Up Wednesday Get INSPIRED training session is worth one TLEU.

This blog post was written by Kara Cleveland, Professional Development Office supervisor at the Indiana State Library.

Explore the Talking Book catalog

The Talking Book catalog has a fresh new look and some fun new features for patrons to check out.
First, when you pull up the catalog you will be greeted by a new menu screen. This screen is easy to navigate and gives you the options Search, Browse, Quick Request and My Account. There is also a login button in the upper right corner.

Search
The search feature of the catalog has been redesigned to be more user friendly. You can now type what you are looking for into the query box and it will search the whole catalog for results rather than you having to select which field to search. Once you have your search results, you can easily use the options on the left hand side to refine your results by selecting the medium you are looking for (e.g., Digital Talking Book), the availability of the book or one of the other listed options. If you find a book you want, you can select it and add it to your book basket. Then follow the prompts to the check out.

Browse
Browse is a new feature in the catalog which will allow patrons to browse books in four categories: recent titles, popular titles, staff picks and Indiana Voices. This is a good option for someone who does not have a particular book in mind but is just curious about what is available.

Quick Request
Quick request can be used for patrons who have the exact book numbers for the books they want. Book numbers can be entered into the quick request box in the following format DB100054, with one book number on each line. When you have entered all of your book numbers, use the quick request button below the box to proceed to the checkout.

My Account
On the My Account page, patrons can see information related to their Talking Book service. Information about books they have checked out now, items they have on request, and items they have had in the past can be found on this page. Patrons can also review their reading preferences, which is the information the library uses to select books to send, on this page.

Patrons who would like to utilize the online catalog can call the library at 1-800-622-4970 for their username and password.

This blog post was written by Maggie Ansty of the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library.

Locating government information

The Indiana State Library provides services and expertise on a variety of subjects to Hoosiers across the state. One subject ISL can help patrons with is locating federal information. The State Library participates in the Federal Depository Library Program, which is a government program created to make U.S. federal government publications publicly available at no cost. There are 33 libraries in the state that participate in this program. ISL serves as the Regional Depository Library for Indiana.

FDLP libraries provide access to official federal government information, but also employ a library staff member with an expertise on the subject to aid research. At ISL, the position is part of the Reference & Government Services Division. The federal depository coordinator – or librarian – can assist researchers in historical research, politics, law or genealogy, but that only represents a fraction of the information that is publicly available. The U.S. government offers a wealth of information that is easily searchable online. It can be challenging to locate specific information. For current information, it is likely to be found by searching two resources: govinfo.gov and usa.gov.

Govinfo.gov is the one-stop site for authentic information published by the government. For those looking for a particular law, report, Congressional Committee material or any official publications from the three branches of government, govinfo.gov is the resource to use. The website allows users to search for specific legislation – like the recent Heroes Act – or browse for information by searching through collections, author, committees or date. GovInfo provides individuals access to official published government documents.

USA.gov is the official web portal of the United States government, and essentially serves as an information hub that connects individuals to information relating to the services offered by the federal government. Individuals can search every U.S. government website through usa.gov or learn about popular government programs and services. They are all organized by topic. USA.gov can help researchers contact members of Congress, check on your stimulus check, get COVID-19 resources, find government jobs and so much more.

With the breadth of information provided by our government, the federal documents coordinator can help researchers navigate the information overload. ISL staff can help researchers identify valuable government resources and help patrons on how to search a particular resource. Researchers can call, email, visit, chat or submit a LibAnswer question for assistance. Staff members have put together subject guides and presented webinars to help improve literacy of government information. As a FDLP library, the Indiana State Library is committed to ensuring Hoosiers can access government information and help navigate the wide range of government information available.

This blog post was written by Indiana State Library federal documents coordinator Brent Abercrombie. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services at 317-232-3678 or via “Ask-A-Librarian.”

How Indiana libraries contributed to MLB’s Negro Leagues statistics

On Dec. 16, Major League Baseball announced that it would add Negro League statistics to its official records. According to the league’s official website, “MLB is officially recognizing that the quality of the segregation-era circuits was comparable to its own product from that time period.” The statistics will come from the seven professional Negro Leagues that played between 1920 and 1948. This announcement adds approximately 3,400 players to the annals of Major League history.

When I first read the news, I immediately remembered an assignment I had when I was working the reference desk at the Tippecanoe County Public Library in the 2000s. Of course, researching articles on microfilm is pretty standard for anyone who works at a reference desk, but as someone who enjoys baseball statistics, I was excited to sit down at the reader and look up box scores of Negro League games that were played in and around the Lafayette area in the early 1900s. I don’t remember which specific box scores I researched, but I do remember wondering if the stats would ever be published anywhere.

Years later, I noticed my name was listed in a “thank you” section on the Negro League Data Sources page of the Baseball Reference website, along with the names of several other researchers from various Indiana public libraries. I had found the stats! It turns out that the researcher was Gary Ashwill, co-creator and lead researcher of the Seamheads Negro League Baseball Database, who also writes the blog Agate Type: Adventures in Baseball Archaeology. Ashwill is one of the leading researchers of Negro League statistics in the world. When the news of MLB adding the Negro League stats to their statistics broke, I wondered if any of the research conducted at the Indiana libraries would become official Major League statistics.

Fortunately, I was able to get in touch with Ashwill and he was kind enough to answer some questions and shed some light on the statistics researched at the Indiana libraries.

Photo courtesy of Gary Ashwill.

As a long-time researcher of baseball statistics with an emphasis on the Negro Leagues, what are your thoughts on Major League Baseball announcing that they will now include records from the seven Negro Leagues between 1920 and 1948 as part of their major league statistics?
It’s a day I did not ever contemplate happening, to be honest. I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand, it doesn’t change anything at all about what actually happened. Nearly all of the people who were directly affected by baseball’s color line have passed away, so it has the potential of seeming like an empty, even appropriative gesture. On the other hand, it carries tremendous symbolic importance, especially for baseball fans, and it could spread the story of the Negro Leagues much more widely than historians like me could really manage on our own.

Why is MLB including only stats from 1920-48 and not before?
Probably because before 1920 black professional teams were not organized into leagues, and it is still a fairly difficult lift to get some folks to consider teams that weren’t in leagues to be “major league” – even if they did employ some of the best baseball players in the country.

In the 2000s, you researched Negro League box scores at the New Castle-Henry County Library, the Muncie Public Library, the Indianapolis Public Library, the Tippecanoe County Public Library, the Brazil Public Library, the Morgan County Public Library, the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library and the Anderson Public Library. Why such a heavy emphasis on Indiana libraries?
Indiana was a very important arena for black professional baseball throughout the era of segregation. The places you mention were particularly important in the 1910s and 1920s because C. I. Taylor, the owner/manager of the Indianapolis ABCs, booked games against other strong black teams in many smaller cities and towns around Indiana. This was because the core of the Negro League fan base consisted of black fans in larger cities, but the amounts of disposable income were limited – so black teams commonly had to spend considerable amounts of time traveling around to seek out new fans and new markets. In smaller places, the arrival of polished professional ballplayers like the ABCs and their opponents was a big deal, and often received good coverage in the local papers.

The 1914 Indianapolis ABCs, from the Indianapolis Ledger, Oct. 24, 1914, p. 4.

MLB announced that they will be working with the Elias Sports Bureau to review and incorporate the statistics into Major League history. Will any of your research be included in the incorporated statistics?
Yes, we [Seamheads] are already speaking with Elias – it seems very likely we’ll be working together to figure it all out.

Finally, for anyone interested in sports-related statistical research, what advice would you give them?
Check as many sources as possible. This will help you spot mistakes in box scores or game stories and enable you to resolve anomalies. Also, not all material in a newspaper related to a game will appear in the article or box score that describes it. In particular, if the newspaper employed sports columnists, check their columns that day or even over the next few days – they will often have items or tidbits related to the game or the players you’re researching.

Also, when in doubt, ask a librarian! In the cases of many difficult-to-research smaller towns I wrote to librarians to help track down games I was looking for, and they were almost always able to help. It’s vital, of course, to do as much work as you can first to develop as precise an idea of what you need as possible, rather than asking someone to scroll through several months of microfilm for you. In one case, the newspaper microfilm of a box score was photographed out of focus, too blurry to read. I contacted a librarian in the city where the game was played, and they were able to check the bound volumes of the newspaper in question and send me a nice, sharp image of the box score.

I would like to thank Gary Ashwill, who took time out of his busy schedule of television appearances and meetings with the Elias Sports Bureau this week, for granting this interview.

This blog post was written by John Wekluk, communications director, Indiana State Library.

Merry Christmas from your public library… but wait, can they say that?

This is the time of year for all sorts of celebrations. The most widely-recognized holidays in America during this time of year include Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas.

Hanukkah is a Jewish festival that celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem after a successful 165 B.C. revolt against a king who had outlawed the Jewish religion and its practices, and who decreed only Greek gods could be worshiped in the Temple. Hanukkah is celebrated with certain foods, games, gifts and the lighting of a candle for each day of the eight-day celebration. The symbol most widely associated with Hanukkah is the hanukkiah, a candle holder that holds nine candles, one for each of the eight-day celebration and a “helper-candle” which is used to light the others. It is more commonly referenced as a menorah.

Kwanzaa is a seven-day festival that celebrates African and African American culture. Each day of the celebration is dedicated to one of seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. It is not intended to be a political or religious holiday. Kwanzaa is celebrated by festivities that include decorating, singing, dancing, gifts and a large feast on the last day. The symbol most widely recognized in relation to Kwanzaa is the kinara, a candle holder that holds seven candles, one to be lit on each day of the celebration.

Christmas is traditionally a Christian festival that celebrates the birth of Jesus, a person most Christians believe is the son of God. However, in more recent years, Christmas has become a more secular holiday celebrated by both Christians and non-Christians with festive decorations, singing, parties and the exchange of gifts. Symbols most commonly associated with Christmas are the Christmas tree, Santa Claus and nativity scenes depicting baby Jesus.

Undoubtedly, the holiday most obviously on display right now is Christmas. You can hardly leave your house without evidence of the upcoming Christmas holiday on display all around you. Many homes and businesses are decorated with pretty lights, wreaths, garlands and Christmas trees. Many cashiers and salespeople are wishing us Merry Christmas as we conclude our business with them. With Christmas being so popular, what could possibly be the issue with our local public library joining in the festivities?

The dilemma lies in the fact that Christmas is still considered by many in our country to be a religious Christian holiday. The establishment clause – found in the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution – prohibits government from making any law establishing a religion. It is widely established through numerous court cases that the establishment clause further prohibits government actions that promote, endorse or favor one religion over another. Thus, many have argued that taxpayer-funded government entities should not celebrate or decorate for Christmas because it promotes Christianity. Several U.S. Supreme Court cases have discussed the issue of Christmas displays on government property and the result appears to be that government can recognize and even decorate for Christmas, as long as it is done primarily from a secular perspective and not in a manner that promotes or endorses religion.

In the 1971 U.S. Supreme Court case of Lemon v. Kurtzman (403 U.S. 602), the Court established a three-part test to analyze if government behavior violates the establishment clause. In using the “Lemon” test to analyze a holiday display, the Court would look at (1) whether the primary purpose of the display is secular in nature, (2) if the display either promotes or inhibits religion and (3) if there is excessive entanglement between church and state. Accordingly, the analysis into whether a particular government holiday display constitutes an impermissible violation of the establishment clause is a fact-based analysis that could result in different outcomes depending on the nature and contents of the display.

The two most commonly-recognized U.S. Supreme Court cases on this topic are the 1984 case of Lynch v. Donnelly (465 U.S. 668) and the 1989 case of County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter (492 U.S. 573).

In Lynch, the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island was sued due to the city’s inclusion of a nativity scene in its annual Christmas display at a local park. In addition to the nativity scene, the city’s display included a Santa Claus house, a Christmas tree, reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh, candy striped poles, carolers, cut out animal figures, hundreds of colored lights and a banner that read, “Seasons Greetings”. The city was sued just for inclusion of the nativity scene. The city lost both at the U.S. District Court level and upon appeal and was prohibited from using the nativity scene in its Christmas display. However, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned those rulings and held the city’s display did not violate the establishment clause. The Supreme Court held, in part, that when a nativity scene is included as one component of a Christmas display for the purpose of celebrating the holiday and depicting the origins of the holiday, those were legitimate secular purposes. The Court further held it did not believe the display was a purposeful advocacy of a particular religious message which would violate the establishment clause and any benefit to any particular religion was “indirect, remote and incidental”. The Court additionally held that there was no excessive entanglement between religion and state resulting from the city’s ownership of the nativity scene and inclusion of the scene in its annual Christmas display. There was no evidence the city had been in contact with any church about the content or design of the exhibit prior to or after the city’s purchase of the nativity scene. No expenditures for maintenance of the nativity scene was necessary and any tangible material the city contributed was minimal. The Court explained in great detail how church and state cannot and have never been completely separate from each other. As one example, the Court brought attention to the fact that there are government funded art exhibits that include famous religious scenes such as “The Last Supper” and “The Birth of Christ.” Generally, the Court will invalidate government action where that action was motivated wholly by religious considerations and where no secular purpose is evident. (Stone v. Graham 449 U.S. 39 (1980)). The Lynch decision was a split decision, however, with five of the justices believing Pawtucket’s use of the nativity scene was constitutional and four believing it was not.

In the Allegheny case, the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County – both in Pennsylvania – were sued due to two recurring holiday displays on public property that depicted religious symbols. The first display was a creche – model or tableau representing the scene of Jesus’ birth – inside the main, most beautiful, public part of the county courthouse. The creche was displayed on the grand staircase of the courthouse and was surrounded by traditional Christmas greens. The creche was donated by the Holy Name Society, a Roman Catholic group, and included a sign stating such. Included in the creche itself was a picture of an angel and the words, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo!” which means “Glory to God in the highest!” The U.S. Supreme Court found this to be an unconstitutional display mostly because the creche itself was the focal point of the display and there was nothing to detract from the patently religious (Christian) meaning and message. This is a stark contrast to the Lynch display which included primarily secular symbols.

The second Allegheny holiday display was outside the city-county building and was an 18-foot-tall menorah standing alongside a 45-foot-tall Christmas tree. The mayor’s name was on a sign at the base of the Christmas tree along with the words:

“Salute to Liberty. During this holiday season, the city of Pittsburgh salutes liberty. Let these festive lights remind us that we are the keepers of the flame of liberty and our legacy of freedom.”

The menorah is owned by a religious group but is stored, erected and removed each year by the city. The Court held in this instance that in the context of the display as a whole, the Christmas tree was the primary focal point, not the menorah, and Christmas trees are largely considered secular Christmas symbols. The Court further felt that the sign saluting liberty further detracted from any possible religious meaning behind the display. The Court determined that the display was a culturally diverse permissible recognition that Christmas and Hanukah are both part of the same winter holiday season. Allegheny was also a split Court decision on both issues.

Note that the above doesn’t address the situation where a private individual or group wants to erect a religious display on government property, but rather if the government itself is the sponsor of such a display. Generally, if a public entity allows a private individual or group to erect a temporary display of some kind on public property, a public forum is opened and restrictions on other individuals or groups who want to erect displays in that space must typically be limited to time, place and manner and, for the most part, should not be content based. To the extent restrictions are based on the content of the display, such restrictions must be necessary and narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest.

Disclaimer: This blog article should be considered general information and should not be construed as legal advice. The article is a high-level overview of some of the considerations a court will look at when analyzing the constitutionality of religious symbols in a government display. The reader should not act on the information contained herein but rather should act on the advice of his/her own legal counsel.

Resources consulted for this article include:

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Kwanzaa
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hanukkah
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Christmas
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jesus
https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/22/us/hanukkah-questions-answered-trnd/index.html
https://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/first-amendment-and-religion
Lynch v. Donnelly 465 U.S. 668 (1984)
County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter 492 U.S. 573 (1989)

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

This blog post was written by Sylvia Watson, library law consultant and legal counsel, Indiana State Library. For more information, email Sylvia.