Local History: Library Hand

An offhand comment to a colleague about his handwriting lead us to this blog post about “library hand,” the formalized style of penmanship librarians were taught to use from the late 19th century until typewriters made the skill obsolete. Before typewriters and automated cataloging systems, librarians maintained handwritten accession books that listed purchasing and bibliographic information for books acquired by the library. Below are various examples of documents from the White Plains Collection that contain “library hand” and some that obviously do not. Even where writers used the style they were likely taught in library science school, there are variations which distinguish individual writers.


An accession book covering the years 1912 through 1919. A good example of the script version of “library hand.” The page lists purchases of James Fenimore Cooper's The Spy, written and set in Westchester County.


An accession book showing purchases from September 1925. None of the books cost more than two dollars, just like the great titles we have in our Friends' Bookstore in the lobby today!



An accession book from 1928 that exemplifies the script version of “library hand.”


A charge card for John Reed Scott's Unforgiving Offender, a novel from 1913 about a social scandal in an American town. Note the use of “library hand” to record the author's last name and book title. This card would be removed from the book and put in a borrower's card pocket.


The pocket for charge cards that each borrower had on file at the library. This patron lived on Winchester Street, which was just blocks from the library on Grand Street. I've kept them anonymous here to emphasize WPPL's commitment to patron privacy!






















The accession book for the Academic Library of the Joint Union Free School notes the purchase of Andrew Carnegie's Triumphant Democracy for $1.85. One wonders if White Plains Public Library purchased any of Carnegie's books, given that he contributed $40,000 toward the construction of “The Grand Old Lady of Grand Street,” the original WPPL building located behind the county building.


An accession book from the Academic Library of the Joint Union Free School in White Plains.


The featured image is from a set of color slides in the White Plains Collection. In this shot, Library Director Isabel D. Clark meets with the Adult Education Committee in the Grand Street Library during the 1950s.

Categories: Local History.

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