Keepers of the Flame: A Love Letter to Libraries

Libraries have been one of the loves of my life for years. I was fortunate to be a military librarian for over 30 years and I still volunteer as a librarian for the USS Midway (CV-41) Research Library. I thought that I’d celebrate military libraries with a re-posting of this library tribute from the U.S Naval Academy website.

I learned about this website from a recent Scuttlebutt Vol 6, issue 3, 11 February 2021, edited by Carl Snow, put out bi-weekly for the library volunteers and other interested members of the USS Midway.

The real Keepers of the Flame are libraries. There are two categories of libraries worthy of your consideration:  genealogy libraries and military/naval history libraries. What to send to each? That is certainly up to you, but I suggest you contact them first to see if they would welcome your treasures, your documents, your artifacts. Our Naval Academy Nimitz Library is one of the best, and Dr.Jennifer Bryan maintains its Special Collections and Archives. Here is the web site entry about such donations from another major military library, the Navy Department Library (under the Naval History and Heritage Command) at the Washington Navy Yard: 

The Navy Library is open to the public and provides resources vital to the writing and publishing of naval history, as well as information relating to the needs of today’s Navy. The library catalog is online, and the library posts numerous publications, documents and subject presentations on the Naval History & Heritage Command’s Website. The library’s collection continues to expand thanks to the installation of compact mobile shelving and materials acquired from Navy offices, private individuals, and organizations such as the Naval Historical Foundation. Significant holdings have been obtained from disestablished libraries (including Naval Air Systems and the Navy Judge Advocate General), as well as from libraries whose collections have been downsized (such as the State Department). Over 13% of the book titles in the library are unique in the international OCLC (Worldcat) database.

Materials that enhance the Archives’ collections and support the research of U.S. Navy personnel, historians, scholars, and other researchers are greatly appreciated. Please email if you have material you are interested in donating. Do not send unsolicited material. 

What type of items are of interest? The question is, what items do you have? Email the library to see if they would welcome your items into their collection, which includes:

From the front page of the Scuttlebutt Vol 6, issue 3, 11 February 2021

Some of your items almost certainly relate to family history. Genealogy libraries are well known to researchers, perhaps not so much to the general public.  For example, the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) is considered one of the ten destination libraries for genealogy, as is the Birmingham [Alabama] Public Library and the Detroit Public Library – do a search for top genealogy libraries. Vertical files can hold collections that are not bound– and LAPL even has its own bindery. If you were to send them loose pages of your unpublished biography, they will bind it and enter it into their collection–and WorldCat. Check with your local library and talk to the Genealogy Librarian, let them know what you have. They are so much more interested in your holdings than your kids!

Taking Books to the People, Part 4: Armed Services Editions and the Paperback Book Kits (part b)

When Books Went to War:  the Stories that Helped Us Win the War by Molly Manning is an excellent overview of the Armed Service Editions.  She not only tells you what happened but also why it mattered. The public had donated hardback books to the troops but they needed something they could take with them easily–on a ship or When Books Went to Warairplane, in the barracks, or in foxhole or tank. Manning deals with issues ranging from cost, transportation limitations (books vs beans vs  bullets), censorship (if the Nazis were restricting what people could read would the Council  on Books in Wartime do the same), and the impact of the books on the soldiers and sailors as written by the readers themselves.

For more information about the book, where you can buy it, and the author, check out Molly Manning’s website.  The website includes excerpts, reviews and a museum  which includes pictures and captions from Nazi book burning, to advertisements for the Victory
Book Campaign, small sized magazines (of regular magazines like the New Yorker and Saturday Evening Post Yarn), and the Armed Service Editions.

l-picture of a Nazi book burning in Berlin on the Openplatz  r-Display at Yad Vashern of books burned by the Nazis

l-Commemorative plaque of the book burning at Frankfort Hesse Germany r-American propaganda poster on why the Freedom to Read is important

After World War II, the military  services began their own paperback book programs.  The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines provide paperback book kits to deployed soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen whether they are in the field, in a combat zone, on a ship, in the brig or correction facility, or assigned to embassy duty.  The contents of the book kits have changed over the years.

Army MWR LIbrary LogoThe Army “Family and MWR Libraries also support deployed Soldiers in remote locations through monthly deliveries of paperback book kits and Playaways, small MP3 players containing an audio book. Kits contain about 25 paperback books or 24 Playaways specially selected to match the interests of Soldiers.”

Navy MWR LibraryThe Navy “(s)upport for deployed forces includes compact, battery-powered audio books and monthly shipments of popular paperbacks to afloat and shore commands.


USMC Logo The Marine Corps Order 1700.33  was published  18 September 2015, spelling out what the Marine Corp General Library would support including: deployed garrison and remote locations and Marine Corps Embassy Security Group personnel at foreign missions and deployed and remotely stationed Marines and families throughout the world.

Air Force Library ImageThe Air Force Libraries “ship magazines, paperback books and DVDs monthly to deployed and remote units world-wide. We also provide support to exercises through the USAFE Library Service Center (LSC) at Ramstein AB, GE. runs small libraries at several downrange locations in conjunction with education services at Learning Resource Centers. Support to military missions, including Defense Attache Offices (DAOs), Offices of Defense Cooperation (ODCs), Military Liaison Teams (MLTs) in CENTAF is also handled by the USAFE LSC.”



US Military Libraries, 1780-1943

There have been US military libraries since at least 1780.  Each of the services:  U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Forces and the U.S. Coast Guard all offer library services  to their service members and their families, as well as retirees.  These libraries can be post or base libraries (think of a public library on a military base), academic

Armed Forces emblemsl

libraries, technical or special libraries, medical libraries, or law libraries.  Many of these libraries are a mixed type of library such as post and academic.  They can be on bases in the United States (CONUS) or abroad (OCONUS) in countries like Germany, Italy, Belgium, England, Japan, Okinawa, and Korea.  There can be libraries on ships as well as bases.

Here is a brief outline of the early years of military Library Service.



Library at West Point

1780 –  Military garrison at West Point establishes library by assessing officers at the rate of one day’s pay per month to purchase books—arguably the first federal library since it existed when the country was founded (predecessor to U.S. Military Academy Library

1795 – War Department Library established in Philadelphia as a general historical military library by Henry Knox, the first Secretary of War

 1800  – The Navy Department Library established on March 31 by direction of President John Adams to Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert

 1800 –  War Department Library collections destroyed in fire at War Office Building on November 8, soon after relocation to Washington

 1901 – Congress appropriates $10,000 to establish the Army War College library “for the collection and dissemination of military information”

 1914 – War Department Library transferred and consolidated with collection of the Army War College Library at the Washington Barracks (now Fort Lesley J. McNair)

 1917 –  The Librarian of Congress named Director of the American Library Association (ALA) Library War Service, forerunner of the Army Library Service

 1918 – Carnegie Corporation of New York funds 36 library buildings at major Army installations

 1918 – Air Service, War Department (forerunner of Air Force) establishes three technical libraries: McCook Field Library (now Wright Patterson AFB), San Antonio Intermediate Air Depot Library (Kelly AFB) and the Air Service Library in Washington, D.C.

 1918 – First female ALA Library War Service librarian hired

 1918 – ALA Library War Service extended to hospitals caring for soldiers and veterans,providing patients with materials for recreation, education and therapy

1918 –  ALA Library War Service establishes Paris office to support soldiers in

 Army Library1940 – Permanent Army Library Service staff position established in Morale Branch of the Adjutant General’s Office to select and purchase books for Army posts and Air Corps stations and advise the War Department on library matters

1942 –  Office of War Information Library established from small newspaper morgue in New York

Library 31 Infantry Division 1943 Joint project of U.S. Government and private publishers begins production of 123 million copies of Armed Services Edition paperback books (4 ½ oz. pocket size reprints of 1300 best sellers and classics) for distribution to troops overseas 1944 Pentagon Library established in Pentagon Building (War Department Memorandum No. W. 210-44, 16 February 1944), based on recommendations of Keyes Metcalf (Director, Harvard University Libraries) to consolidate 28 military libraries

Happy Memorial Day to all members of the Armed Services, their family members, retirees, and the staff and volunteers who provide them with library service.