Yesterday as part of National Library Week and this year’s motto “Libraries Lead” we recognized the important role that the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL) plays in assisting a philatelic exhibit judge. Today we look a little further at this unique relationship of the APRL and exhibiting from the perspective of another distinguished philatelic judge as well as a renowned philatelic exhibitor. Both appreciate the important function the library plays in leading them to the resources they require for their different roles in the world of philatelic exhibiting.
This week as we celebrate National Library Week with its motto “Libraries Lead” we recognize the role that libraries like the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL) play in “leading” a varied group of researchers and collectors to the philatelic resources and research needed for their enjoyment and enrichment of the hobby.
As part of a national celebration and recognition of libraries and librarians, today begins a very special week here at the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL). Sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA), today marks the start of the 60th anniversary of National Library Week (April 8-14). First observed in 1958, the annual event recognizes the important contributions that libraries and librarians across the country play in their role as organizers and facilitators of knowledge, resources and research.
Tara Murray is the Librarian and Director of Information Services for the American Philatelic Research Library. She manages the library’s operations and collections and leads digitization projects.
Jane King Fohn was interested in making her gold and grand award-winning exhibit, The 9-cent Alamo Stamp and its First Day Covers, available to a wider audience. A display in the American Philatelic Center would only reach the limited audience of those who can make the trip to Bellefonte and wouldn’t be permanent, so I suggested that Jane lend us her exhibit for scanning. When she agreed and sent us the exhibit, we scanned it and added the digital copy to the library collection. It is now accessible through the library catalog and the APS online exhibit collection.
Fred Baumann is a Library Assistant three days each week at the APRL. He helps patrons select materials, checks material in and out at the circulation desk, keeps a close eye on overdue books, processes payments for library services, shelves and locates books and periodicals, and prices donated books for resale.
When I moved to Bellefonte as an active collector a decade ago, I found the APRL both enchanting and intimidating. With hundreds of books and journals about the things I collected, the chief challenge was discovering what was indispensable and what was not. That task is even more difficult for patrons searching an unfamiliar online catalog from afar.
While I’m not a professional librarian, I do bring to the library an intimate familiarity with the stamp hobby both as a collector and as a writer for the last 33 years. My experience sometimes enables me to find precisely what a patron needs.
A collector requested literature about stamps of Bosnia & Herzegovina from the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The best-known reference is an 87-year-old text, too rare and fragile to leave the library. What he didn’t know was that there’s a superb catalog in full color with current stamp values, robustly bound and in great shape, that we could lend him without a worry. He was delighted, replying that he “found some valuable info for just about every stamp in my collection.”
Krystal Harter is a Library Assistant at the APRL, and is responsible for responding to researcher requests, processing incoming donations, and checking in new journals.
Collectors, organizations, and non-collector families are very generous when it comes to donating their accumulations of books, journals, notes, and other philatelic material. We actively receive current journals from approximately 525 organizations which are checked into our card catalog, online catalog, and then shelved for immediate use. Donated archival notes, clippings and research materials are catalogued and placed in our archival files and made available to collectors for their research. Philatelic reference books and stamp catalogs are processed by determining if we currently possess the 2-3 copies we keep in our collection and if not, they are cataloged, barcoded, and shelved for use. If not needed, we add them to the online catalog for sale to collectors.
Many collectors are very excited to have the opportunity to purchase the publications, at a discounted price, to have as their own rather than borrowing them. I remember receiving a call from a member with a limited income and living in an assisted home asking about borrowing a Scott Catalogue. Not only was the fee to borrow the catalog an issue, so was the fact that he had no way to get the publication to the post office to be appropriately mailed back to us. I mentioned that we had Scott Catalogues for sale, which were a few years old, and asked if he would be interested in purchasing one stating that he would just have the one-time fee and then the catalogue would be his to use from that point forward. You would have thought we offered this member a million dollars as he graciously accepted the offer to purchase the Scott Specialized Catalogue.
Betsy Gamble is the Library Technical Services Coordinator for the APRL. In library terms, technical services can cover the process of acquiring and evaluating incoming material, adding anything that is within the scope of our library collections, making sure that people can find the material in our online systems and on our shelves, making sure that the collection is cared for physically, and dispersing excess material appropriately.
Our APS members and others have built the APRL in many different ways. Journal issues have appeared on the doorstep like foundlings, books are mailed in large boxes from estate lawyers, we receive journals electronically, or scan loaned exhibits and collections, we receive donations from specialty societies for material in their subject areas, and we receive large collections transferred from other institutions.
Two such large acquisitions in recent years are a portion of the stock of George Atkins’ Edenbridge Philatelic Literature business, and many volumes recently de-accessioned from Library and Archives Canada. With the help of volunteers and member societies, the library staff is working to make those materials available to our members.
Scott Tiffney is the Reference Assistant for the American Philatelic Research Library. He researches and answers reference requests as they are received in the library.
Peter Kühlhorn of Wuppertal, Germany emailed a question regarding philatelic covers (i.e. mailed envelopes) he collected from Hawaii during the Second World War that were sealed with an obscure red censor tape with the initials “THMA,” followed by a censor number. During the war when U.S. mail was routinely viewed by censors, the tape was applied to all mail from Hawaii to identify that it had been cleared for delivery. Mr. Kühlhorn’s question was a simple one: “What was the meaning of the initials THMA?”
After finding many examples of the censor tape in question but no explanation of the acronym’s meaning, I finally found the answer in a specialized catalog of civil censorship postal markings. The letters stood for “Territory of Hawaii Military Administration,” keeping in mind that this mail was dated when Hawaii was still a territory of the U.S., before becoming a state in 1959. The catalog also included a complete listing of the Hawaiian censor numbers.
Happy National Library Week!
National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support.
The theme for the week is Libraries Transform, and libraries all around the country are sharing how they transform their communities.
Help us celebrate by leaving a comment and telling us how the APRL has made a positive impact and helped you enjoy stamp collecting more.
Throughout the week, we’ll share some of the work we do and how we enjoy connecting with you.
This is the last in a series of daily posts about how the American Philatelic Research Library serves the philatelic community as we celebrate National Library Week.
I thought it would be appropriate to end the week with a look at the future of the APRL.
I was reminded by my co-blogger Larry Nix that this year marks the 45th anniversary of the APRL. While we do not have any anniversary celebrations planned, we are embarking on a very exciting project – the renovation of new library space.
The new library space will be located in the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte, PA, where the APS and APRL are currently located. It will provide:
- Space for collections with room to grow, consolidating collections from the current public library and library annex into one contiguous space.
Secure, climate-controlled areas for rare books and special collections, using space-saving compact shelving.
- Additional work space for staff and our growing number of volunteers.
- Accessible, comfortable places for researchers, including reading lounges, carrels with lockable storage, group study space, a youth area, and tables with task lighting and electrical outlets.
We have just started construction on the first phase of the project, which will include the closed stacks, rare book room, and large document and map room.
The benefits of the new library to researchers who are able to visit are obvious, but these benefits extend well beyond the walls of the APRL.
Better work spaces for staff and volunteers means more capability to sort donations and get books on the shelves and ready to circulate, and room for more volunteers to work on digitization, preservation, indexing, archival processing, and more.
Secure, climate-controlled areas for special collections means these unique materials will be available for many years to come.
Increased space for collections means the APRL can continue to grow.
To learn more about the project and find out how you can contribute, visit the Strategic Priorities section of the APS website.