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University of Washington Libraries

War Library Service

"At this time when a million of our young men are entering the military service of the federal government, one of the difficult problems presenting itself is that of recreation and especially that phase of it which appeals to librarians- the collection, organization, and distribution of reading material."

W.E. Henry, UW Librarian, in Library Journal (July 1917)

The American Library Association established its Library War Service in 1917 to provide books and library services to U.S. soldiers and sailors in training at home and serving in Europe. A second book drive in early 1918 generated three million books, many going overseas, others to 36 training-camp libraries erected through Carnegie Corporation funding and managed by ALA volunteers across the country. To make it possible to ship all of the books and for soldiers to carry them, the ALA published small leather-bound copies of classics. The ALA also established the National Phonograph Records Recruiting Corps, which sent records to Europe for soldiers.

The Pacific Northwest Librarians Association (PNLA) was the first group to pledge its support for the Library War Service. UW librarians went to Camp Lewis, Camp Fremont, and the Presidio in California to help start and support camp libraries and hospital libraries. As a part of the efforts by the State Council of Defense to stop seditious actions, librarians were called on to weed out German language materials from their collections and to track users who checked out suspicious materials. It is unclear whether librarians participated in this action, but UW librarian William E. Henry was charged with this official task.