“Collecting Black Literature for Armed Forces Libraries”

PDF: Collecting Black Literature for Armed Forces Libraries [6 megs / 125 pages]

Jessie Carney Smith is a living-legend librarian. In 1965 she became a professor of library sciences and the university librarian at Fisk University, and, at 88 years old, she’s still there, and now she’s the Dean of the Library and the Camille Cosby Distinguished Chair in the Humanities. (See her biography here.) She’s written a number of groundbreaking reference works, including Historical Statistics of Black America, A Handbook for the Study of Black Bibliography, and the three-volume Notable Black American Women. 

And here we have what appears to be a forgotten early publication, a pioneering guide to building library collections by and about people of African descent, with the focus mainly (but not entirely) on the US. The title uses the word literature in its most expansive sense (i.e. material) — not just fiction and poetry but also history, biography, other nonfiction, manuscripts, primary documents, images, ephemera, etc.

In 1973 the US Army Pacific held a library training workshop in Tokyo, and as part of the proceedings USARPAC published Smith’s Collecting Black Literature for Armed Forces Libraries. It’s almost entirely about collecting Black-related material for libraries in general, with just a small section on the special considerations of military libraries.

I was able to snag a copy on the book-collector’s market, which turned out to be a stroke of luck. No other copies are for sale online, and a Google search of the title yields no hits. The WorldCat database shows it in only three libraries (two of which are on Army bases). My copy was formerly at the library at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Being a US military publication, it’s automatically in the public domain, so I’ve scanned and posted it above.

It’s valuable as a historic piece, but there’s more to it than that. Nonfiction from many decades ago often contains forgotten and ignored facts, ideas, and approaches — things that would be left out if the book or report were written now. This monograph is a goldmine of info on now-obscure books, bibliographies, catalogs, journal articles, and so on.

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