The future of libraries

book scanner
A book scanner is one of the APRL’s most frequently-used resources, and a second scanner will soon be available for patrons, staff, and volunteers to use.

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.

A study of public library engagement in America conducted by Pew Research found that technology users are also library users (Turns out most engaged library users are also biggest tech users, PBS NEWSHOUR). The full report is available from the Pew Research Internet Project.

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.

The new APRL
Architect’s rendering of the new library space.

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.

Exhibit explores personal libraries

An exhibit on personal libraries will open Nov. 15 and run through Jan. 6, 2014 at Penn State’s Pattee Library. I get many questions from readers of this blog and the Philatelic Literature Review about personal libraries and archives, so if you are planning to visit the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte in the coming months, you might consider a side trip to look at this exhibit. Penn State’s University Park campus is just over 10 miles from Bellefonte.

A visit to the Collectors Club

Collectors ClugAt the end of September, I had the pleasure of visiting the Collectors Club in New York. It was a beautiful autumn day as I approached the Club’s five-story brownstone in midtown Manhattan. The building was beautifully redesigned by architect Stanford White in 1902 and has been the Club’s home since the 1930s. It was renovated in 2000 and provides an elegant setting for the Club’s extensive library.

The library is open to the public five days a week and is easily accessible, located within walking distance of both Grand Central and Penn Station. It is a member of the Philatelic Union Catalog, and you can search its holdings by selecting CCNY from the list of libraries.

Library Chair (and APRL Trustee) Bruce Marsden started our tour on the fifth floor, which houses catalogs, including extensive runs of Scott and Stanley Gibbons.

UPU documents

We continued to the fourth floor, where treasures of the collection are housed. These include rare books, an extensive collection of Universal Postal Union documents, and photographs of the Knapp collection. This area is also used to process incoming material.

The third floor houses auction catalogs. Many philatelic libraries struggle to find enough space for their continually growing, yet infrequently used, collections of these catalogs. The Collectors Club Library, with finite space and no way to expand, has made the decision to downsize its collection. After consulting with specialist societies, they selected auction houses to keep and offered the remainder to the APRL. While I was at the Collectors Club, my husband and I sorted through the German auction catalog collection and boxed up the catalogs the APRL needed. We ended up with 10 boxes of catalogs!

Bruce Marsden and me in the library

The Club’s meeting and reception space is on the second floor, separate from library collections. The front room has a table with comfortable chairs and a fireplace, all framed by the large window. The back room provides space for presentations and exhibits.

The main library collection of books, pamphlets, and current periodicals is in the first floor reading room. Like most philatelic libraries, the primary organization is geographical.

The rest of the periodical collection is housed in compact shelving in the basement.

Irene Bromberger and meWhile I was at the Collectors Club, I also met with executive secretary Irene Bromberger. Irene assists visitors ranging from philatelic researchers to people who are curious about the building’s architecture.



Spellman Museum celebrates 50 years, hosts symposium

Earlier this month, the Spellman Museum of Stamps & Postal History celebrated its 50th anniversary and hosted a symposium, “From Indian Trails to the Birth of a Nation.” The Spellman, located at Regis College in Massachusetts, also includes a library and participates in the Philatelic Librarians Roundtable.

APS Executive Director Ken Martin attended the symposium and shared some photos – check them out on our Flickr page!

Spellman library

San Diego County Philatelic Library visit

This guest post was written by Scott Tiffney, APRL Reference Assistant.

San Diego Philatelic LibraryWhile I was attending SANDICAL on behalf of the APS back in February, Bill O’Connor afforded me the opportunity of visiting the San Diego County Philatelic Library at its new location in Poway, CA. The SDCPL had its genesis in 1923 but its actual appearance came in the late 1970’s through the revenues of the annual SANDICAL show and under the leadership of the newly formed San Diego Philatelic Council. The SDCPL has grown over the years to include an extensive collection of over 7,000 books, catalogs, monographs, journals, and other ancillary items. Staffed part-time six days a week by volunteers from area stamp clubs with Don Hager as the current Librarian, the SDCPL is believed to be the only philatelic library open to the general public and members in Southern California. While Don and the other volunteers are still in the process of acclimating the collection to its new location, the library’s catalog can currently be accessed via a .pdf file on its website: SDCPL Catalog.

San Diego Philatelic LIbraryOne very unique and inspiring aspect of SDCPL’s history occurred fairly recently and was articulated by Bill O’Connor at the annual SANDICAL awards banquet in February. It concerns a new SANDICAL award, the Ralph M. Armington Memorial Award. Ralph M. Armington was a long time volunteer with the SDPCL. He was a retired Navy Chief and lived in San Diego in his retirement. Ralph was never married, and had no close family members. Over the years he volunteered tirelessly at the last three locations of the SDCPL. He did not drive, but was able to manage a very difficult bus schedule, often taking up to two hours to make his weekly shifts at the library. Upon his untimely death a short time ago, very little was known of his personal life outside of his volunteering at the SDCPL. Ralph died alone but left the largest portion of his estate to the SDCPL and a smaller portion to a San Diego area Children’s Hospital. His generous donation will enable the SDCPL to continue its mission of providing not only a place where the general public and members can meet and conduct research, but his gift will also enhance the stamp collecting hobby in Southern California for years to come.

Wineburgh Philatelic Research Library

Paul Oelkrug
Paul Oelkrug in the Wineburgh Philatelic Research Library

While I was in Dallas for the Special Libraries Association Leadership Summit at the beginning of this month, I had the opportunity to visit the Wineburgh Philatelic Research Library, located in the Special Collections Department at the University of Texas at Dallas’ Eugene McDermott Library.

The WPRL was founded in 1976 by Harold Wineburgh and today is an active collection supported by an endowment. In addition to books and journals, the collection also includes the records of the Texas Philatelic Association. (The finding aid for this collection is available online.) The North Texas Chapter of the American First Day Cover Society meets at the WPRL.

Paul Oelkrug, Coordinator for Special Collections, gave me a tour of the WPRL and the rest of the Special Collections. Besides philately, a major strength of the collections is the history of aviation, a nice complement. Some items from the aviation collections are available in digital format on the Treasures @ UT Dallas repository.

You can search the WPRL holdings in the UT Dallas library catalog, and they are also included in WorldCat. The library is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the second Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Click below to view a slideshow of my photos from the visit:

Tiffany manuscript digitized

Tiffany manuscript

John Kerr Tiffany is a name well-known to collectors of philatelic literature. Tiffany amassed an incomparable library, acquired after his death in 1897 by the Earl of Crawford and now located in the British Library.

In 1874, Tiffany published a list of all known philatelic publications, The Philatelical Library: A Catalogue of Stamp Publications. Prior to that, he had compiled A reference list of publications relating to postage stamps and their collection for the Boston Public Library in 1871. Present-day philatelic bibliographer Brian Birch alerted us to the existence of this manuscript, but the only copy I could find was housed in the Boston Public Library‘s Rare Books and Manuscripts collection.

I inquired about the manuscript, and the Boston Public Library recently digitized the manuscript and made it available on the Internet Archive. It can be downloaded in PDF or e-reader formats, or read online.

Many thanks to the Boston Public Library for making this piece of philatelic history available to the public!