“There is a major policy that has been close to my heart for some time. It is the establishment of a Society Library as an increased benefit to members. It is easy to say “set up a library,“ but it must be useful to all members who may be thousands of miles distant.”
With those words in 1967 to the gathered membership at the 81st annual American Philatelic Society (APS) convention in Newark, New Jersey, APS President Edward L. Willard signaled the need for a research repository and proposed the “creation of a Library Service” for the Society. At the following year’s convention in Rochester, New York President Willard, along with the APS Board, decided to resurrect the idea of a research library. After forming an ad hoc committee led by Daniel Vooys to study the feasibility of a library, the filing of the appropriate paperwork in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania soon followed and the incorporation of the new “American Philatelic Research Library” (APRL) was granted on October 28, 1968.
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.
Back in June I had the opportunity to visit the Vincent Grave Greene Philatelic Research Foundation in Toronto, Ontario. Charles Verge, Secretary of the Foundation, Sheila Moll, the Head Librarian, and Kathy Hartley, the Reference Librarian there were my hosts showing me around the Library and the facilities of the Foundation.
The Foundation is located at 10 Summerhill Avenue in Toronto, Ontario in the beautiful Summerhill neighborhood just north of the downtown, easily reachable by car or more conveniently by a nearby subway station. The Foundation is home to the Harry Sutherland Research Library which houses the largest and most comprehensive collection of Canadian and British North America philatelic literature in North America. The collection includes all of the most important monographs, journals, Postal Guides, Postmaster General Reports, auction catalogues and research papers on British North America. Many of the earliest journals in the collection have been scanned and are available digitally for full-text searching. The Research Library is a contributor to the David Straight Memorial Philatelic Union Catalog and the Global Philatelic Library, making their collection searchable online.
The Research Foundation is also home to Canada’s foremost expertizing service for the stamps and postal history of Canada and British North America. In February 2012 the Foundation purchased a Foster Freeman VSC6000/HS Video Spectral Comparator which allows the Foundation’s Expertizing Committee to examine items under some of the highest magnification commercially available as well as exposing the material to a wide range of wavelengths of ultraviolet, infrared and filtered visible light. Also on site is a large meeting room with exhibit frames mounted on its walls. The space is used regularly by a number of local clubs and societies, notably the Philatelic Specialists Society of Canada, the Greater Toronto Area Philatelic Alliance and the Canadian Aerophilatelic Society. But finally, one of the truly unique objects, especially for this native philatelic traveler and librarian, is the original safe of the Marks Stamp Company, one of Canada’s oldest and most significant stamp dealers. The safe is still operational and is a centerpiece in the Research Library.
If you plan to visit Canada near Toronto or are just interested in the philatelic history of British North America, be sure to make time to visit the Vincent Graves Greene Research Foundation. They are open Mondays through Thursdays and one Saturday a month from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and by appointment. Email or phone ahead (firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-921-2073) just in case.
Exhibits at stamp shows are a major attraction for those attending the shows. I’ve been attending state and national level stamp shows for almost twenty years and exhibiting at those shows for almost a dozen years. As both an attendee and an exhibitor I am always in awe of how much philatelic knowledge is represented by the exhibits, and how much knowledge is required by the judges to evaluate the exhibits. While personal philatelic libraries play a large role in obtaining that knowledge, organizational philatelic libraries also play a significant role. Most exhibitors prepare a synopsis of their exhibits which often includes reference sources to help judges evaluate their exhibit. If an exhibit judge is fortunate he/she may have easy access to a philatelic library which includes the reference sources cited by exhibitors. If not, exhibit judges can make remote use of the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL), and they often do. Any member of the American Philatelic Society can borrow books by mail from the APRL. The APRL will also send digital copies of periodical articles for a small fee, and even do customized research, also for a reasonable fee. Some of the nation’s other organizational philatelic libraries such as the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library will also loan books by mail if you are a member of the library. In addition to exhibitors and judges of exhibits, anyone who enjoys viewing philatelic exhibits is a beneficiary of organizational philatelic libraries. Thus the value of philatelic libraries extends beyond those who make direct use of the library. That’s one of the reasons I’m a supporter of the APRL and other philatelic libraries.
The Januanry/February 2015 issue of Book Reports, the newsletter of the Northwest Philatelic Library, contains an excellent article by Greg Alexander on the many ways philatelic libraries are embracing technology, including indexing journals, union catalogs of library holdings, digitizing books and journals, and even building or renovating libraries.
The Watkinson Library is a public research library and also houses the rare books and special collections of the Trinity College Library. Its holdings date from the 15th century to the present.
Curator Richard Ring gave us a tour of the library, including an exhibition of artists’ books and the library’s copy of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. He then took the group into the library’s Audubon Room, where we got to see items from the collection, including a cuneiform tablet, an illuminated manuscript, and leaves from a Gutenberg Bible, among other treasures.
Ring also explained to the group how he uses rare books in teaching Trinity College undergraduates and how he sparks interest in the collections through special events at the library. We bibliophiles enjoyed a little diversion from all things philatelic—and then it was back to the stamp show!
Rick Stambaugh, current president, and Joel Hawkins, immediate past president, of the Meter Stamp Society recently placed over one hundred books, catalogs, machine handbooks, and over ten postage meter machines with the Slusser Library. These are from their own libraries, as well as from the MSS library itself.
The recent generous donation to the Slusser contains some duplicate items, and it will take some time for Valerie Kittell, Slusser’s librarian, and her staff of volunteers to catalog everything. After the cataloging is complete, the holdings will be included in the Philatelic Union Catalog hosted by the APRL as well as in the Global Philatelic Library hosted by the Royal Philatelic Society London. Duplicate material will be offered for exchange or sale.
Rick and Joel have exhibited meter material, with award winning results, at many APS exhibitions. These markings are certainly examples of modern postal history, and the machines that create them are complex devices from a wide range of manufacturers. Many philatelic groups from many countries have published comprehensive information about their country’s meters; many of these publications are represented in this donation.
Rick and Joel have used this research material, as well as their own collections, to create and publish a catalog of U.S. meter marks, which is available from the MSS website. Furthermore, they recently released an electronic catalog of international meter stamps. This publication, which is free to download, is a wiki catalog, and subject to frequent additions and updates.
This post was written by Paul Albright, Scandinavian Collectors Club Library and Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library
It is not unusual for archival material to find its way to philatelic libraries over time. These libraries are natural—and understandable—repositories for research and reference material once a collector has closed his or her albums for any number of reasons. Often this information is available from no other source, partly because it may deal with specific and intricate details of philatelic topics. Far better that this material is offered to libraries rather than tossed into recycle bins.
I can cite several recent examples. Two boxes of published writings of longtime philatelic writer Charles A. Fricke recently were donated to the APRL. Tara Murray of APRL advised me that Fricke’s journal articles “will be kept together and a bibliography/finding guide prepared as time (and volunteers) permit.”
In an age when libraries are often considered dinosaurs – rendered obsolete by the rise of digital information – it might seem incongruous to build a new library. Yet, in many communities, libraries are busier than ever and library building and renovation projects are going full steam ahead.
Meanwhile, the Boston Public Library, the “oldest public urban library in the country,” is undertaking a massive renovation project to make its main library more inviting (Breaking Out of the Library Mold, in Boston and Beyond, New York Times). The renovation will preserve access to traditional library resources while providing space for new technologies and activities.
Philatelic libraries are increasingly using print and digital resources side by side to get the best information possible. Recently the Smithsonian Libraries digitized a John Tiffany manuscript, and have made it available for anyone to help with the transcription that will eventually make the 19th-century document fully searchable online. The Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library in Denver is producing a series of online videos. The Postal History Foundation has indexed its journal, The Heliograph, using the online Philatelic Union Catalog. The APRL has many digital projects in the works, including a growing collection of online exhibits, digital finding aids helping researchers discover and navigate unique archival collections, and an upcoming map digitization project. The new APRL space currently in progress will provide space for protecting and accessing our valuable print collections as well as space for digitization projects and for library users to scan a variety of formats and plug in their own devices.