“Libraries = Strong Communities”: DPL in April 1919

As our way of celebrating National Library Week (April 7-13) here at the RSSC Center, we are looking at examples of how the Davenport Public Library of one hundred years ago fits well into 2019’s theme: “Libraries = Strong Communities.”

In April of 1919, 5 months after the Armistice ended the Great War, our library was continuing to serve the larger community — the nation — by participating in the American Library Association’s war service. This was an effort to collect and send books to U.S. soldiers recovering from illness and injury in French hospitals.  The need for fiction books was so urgent that the library made a special appeal to Davenport school children to donate at least one each for an upcoming shipment. [1]

This action was perhaps taken in response to a letter sent to Grace Rose, Librarian (equivalent to today’s Library Director) from the ALA war service representative:  “We must all stand by till it’s over over here, which will not be till all the boys have been taken home. This will not be done for several months yet, anyway from six to ten months.” [2]

The Davenport Public Library was also the site for making scrapbooks for “the thousands of brave lads living through days of pain and suffering and convalescence in the big reconstruction hospital at Camp Upton, New York.”  The Times article called for magazine donations and described the project: “Pictures, cartoons, jokes, short stories, incidents and articles of a humorous nature are clipped from the magazines, pasted into these attractively bound booklets and make happy reading for our war worn heroes trying to rebuild their lives from the ravages of war.” [3]

The library’s “club rooms” on the second floor of the Carnegie building were in heavy use by many local women’s organizations. Miss Maude G. Smalley of the War Camp Community service used the space to gather representatives of the Davenport Woman’s Club, the Lend-a Hand Club, the Y.W.C.A, the Davenport Visiting Nurses’ Association, the home service section of the Red Cross, and the Ladies’ Industrial Relief Society to form the Davenport Council of Social Workers. [4]  The Catholic Woman’s League, the Tri-City Girls’ Community Council, and the many “departments” of the Davenport Woman’s Club regularly used the public library’s club rooms.

For children, the library provided not only reading materials, but the opportunity to play games with others.  This service was very popular and the games were well-loved, as noted by the members of the Woman’s Club (perhaps because they were often in the library themselves) who decided to hold a “games shower” to add new games to the childrens’ collection. [5]

Another way in which the Davenport Public Library worked to strengthen the community was to make sure materials were available in all parts of the city. Librarian Grace D. Rose established the branch library at West Intermediate School in April 1919, along with two other intermediate schools the same year. [6]  Jackson and Grant elementary schools were also DPL “stations,” as were the Lend-A-Hand Club, the Y.W.C.A, the Y.M.C.A., Friendly House, the Independent Baking Company, the Purity Oats Company, the Robert Krause Company, and the city’s fire stations. A member of Rose’s staff also made noontime visits to “seven of the cities foundries and machine shops” with books and magazines. [7]

It is hard to imagine what more the Davenport Public Library of 1919 could have done to contribute to the local community!


[1] “Each Child Is Asked to Bring Fiction Book.” Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), April 10, 1919, p. 9.

[2] Davenport Democrat and Leader, April 7, 1919, p. 8.

[3] “More Magazines For Scrap Books for Camp Upton.” Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), April 1, 1919, p. 7.

[4] Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), April 9, 1919, p. 6.

[5] Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), April 8, 1919, p. 7.

[6] Davenport Public Library Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes, April 10, 1919.

[7] Davenport Public Library Seventeenth Annual Report, 1919, p. 10-13.

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