The Rolfing Library receives hundreds of books through donations every year, and we absolutely love how our community gives so generously! These donations are wonderful not only because they allow us to provide diverse titles to our faculty and students, but also because of the interesting and rare books that come across our desks. While sorting through our most recent donation, our Theological Librarian Evan Kuehn found a War Service Library bookplate in one of the books. Interested in the significance of this bookplate, Evan did a little digging and discovered the history behind the War Service Library.
This War Service Library was actually three dozen small camp libraries established between 1917 and 1920 during World War I. The American Library Association reports that these libraries were started with funds from the Carnegie Foundation as well as over $5 million from public donations. Those who sorted and sent the books from back home hoped that they would “alleviate homesickness, chase away boredom and provide training to those who wanted to land jobs when they returned home” (NPR, 2015). Beyond the camp libraries, this program also brought books to hundreds of other locations, including military hospitals (ALA, 2015). Because of the popularity of this program, the War Service Libraries persisted throughout the 20th century, and there are still permanent library departments in the Army, Navy, and Veterans’ Bureau.
We are thankful for all those who have served and given their lives in the armed forces. We are also thankful for all those who value Christian education and make donations, both monetary and literary!