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War Services Committee | The American Library Association Archives

Name: War Services Committee

Historical Note:

In an April 1917 meeting between Herbert Putnam, Librarian of Congress, and the Secretary of War, Putnam suggested that the ALA provide books for the American Army. The President of the ALA then decided that it should assist the war effort (1).  The Louisville Conference of June 22, 1917 accepted the recommendation of the Preliminary Committee that a War Committee be appointed to study the supply of reading matter to the troops; construction, equipping and maintenance of library buildings at military garrisons; and the possibility of raising funds for that purpose (2). This mandate to study the problem was broadened by the Executive Board on August 14, 1917 with the appointment of a War Services Committee authorized to raise and distribute funds to supply books to the troops (3).

To facilitate the Committee's mandate, the Executive Board named Herbert Putnam Director General of the War Services Committee and gave him broad authority to hire staff, design and equip buildings, contract for equipment, determine lists of books to be provided, and accept or reject gift reading matter (4).

The War Services Committee ended its operations after the War. By August 21, 1919 the Committee proposed that Army and Navy librarians take over the fund for distributing books to service men, and that the service to hospitals be continued only until the Public Health Service could assume responsibility (5).  On January 3, 1920 the Executive Board took over the work of the Committee, and at its July 15-16, 1920 Meeting, the Board transferred the Library War Services Fund to the ALA Treasury, and abolished the position of Director General of the Library War Services Committee (6).  The ALA continued to provide funds for books for ex-servicemen as late as 1923 (7).

During World War II there was an attempt to revive war services.  To prepare for the possibility of war, the Executive Board authorized the President to INT a Committee on Defense Activities on October 7, 1940.  This Committee was to report directly to the Executive Board (8). On December 20, 1941 the Executive Board changed the name of the Committee to the Committee on Libraries and the War.  The mission of the Committee to the Committee on Libraries and the War.  The mission of the Committee was to disseminate information to libraries on "civilian defense and civilian moral" (9).  Subsequently the Executive Board appointed a Committee on War Information and Education, but by June 21, 1942, this Committee was dropped because the government was doing the Committee's work and it was no longer useful (10).


1.  Arthur P. Young, The American Library Association and World War I (Beta Phi Mu, 1981), 11.

2.  ALA Bulletin, March 1918, 107-8.

3.  ALA Executive Board, Minutes, August 14, 1917, vol. 1, 140 (microfilm).

4.  Ibid., Oct. 4, 1917, vol. 1, 143.

5.  Ibid., August 21, 1919.�??  vol. 1, 224-5.

6.  Ibid., January 3, 1920, vol. 2, 39; July 15-16, 1920, vol. 2, 106.

7.  Ibid., April 23, 1923, vol. 2, 293.

8.  Ibid., October 7, 1940, vol. 11, 175-8.

9.  Ibid., December 27-31, 1941, vol. 13, 182.

10.  Ibid., June 21, 1942, vol. 13, 244.

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