Crowdsourcing and Collaboration: 20th Century Style!

Thanks so much to my friend and colleague, Julia Skinner, for writing this guest post.  She’s a historian,  book-arts whiz, and she blogs regularly at Julia’s Library Research Blog and Modernizing Markham.  She’s also currently on the prowl for someone to publish her book on World War I-Era Libraries.

Cedar Rapids Carnegie Library
I’ve been feeling so inspired lately by all the exciting work people around the country are doing with #HackLibSchool (a collaborative effort by students to discuss library school and to share experiences and tips), and I can’t help seeing connections in other areas of my life! I just finished up a major research project on World War I-era Iowa libraries, in which I looked at 6 Eastern Iowa libraries and talked about their administrative records in the context of the statewide and national climate. I was amazed that even in an era before the Internet (or private telephone lines) librarians were collaborating and sharing resources, and using each other as inspiration!

Librarians from several of the libraries would visit each other to talk about what was going on in their libraries and share ideas — in Cedar Rapids especially, the librarian mentioned meeting with others in Eastern Iowa. She even compiled statistics about all the libraries so she could compare how they were doing! Like today, librarians also attended conferences, and they also wrote reports about what was discussed and what they learned. What’s really cool is the overlap between what they discussed then and what it discussed now — there was a lot of talk about how to improve services to patrons!

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