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Years of Change, 1928 - 1929


C. Teft Hewitt, Head of the Order Department, was acting Director until June 7, 1928. Two significant developments featured this period.

Preparations were made for the opening of the Knoxville-Carrick Branch in the Rochelle School, the first full-scale branch to be located in a school building. The Board of Public Education provided the space, heat, light and janitor service; the library furnished the staff, books, furniture and equipment.

The Pennsylvania Room was opened in June to house all of the reference books and documents dealing with Pennsylvania and Genealogy. It was supervised by Rose Demorest who continued to give part of her time to the adjacent Reference Department.

Ralph Munn, Director, June 1928
Ralph Munn became Director of the Library June 7, 1928. Mr. Munn was a graduate of the University of Denver, its law school, and the New York State Library School, with experience in Seattle and Flint.

He began his first annual report thus: "a new director would usually devote his first months to an intensive study of the Library and a survey of the Community. The present Director found matters which seemed to call for prompt attention, and the survey will be made next year." The following changes were made, during the next few months.

Book Orders
Orders had been divided among several local retail dealers whose stocks were too small to assure prompt deliveries. A contract was made with one wholesaler at a much higher discount. Simplifications made in the Order Department routines also speeded the service.

Cataloguing
Cataloguing had fallen so far behind that it was common for a book to be on the shelf for a year before its catalogue card was received. Part of the fault lay with the Printing Department which produced all cards.

In November, 1928, the Library ceased to print its own cards for most books and ordered them from the Library of Congress. Exceptions were children's and technical books, because of special requirements in those fields.

Binding
A large number of books needing repair had accumulated over the years. Relief was sought by adding temporarily to the Bindery force and by simplifying methods. The number of magazines bound for preservation in the branches was reduced. New colors and two-tone buckram replaced the traditional dull brown.

Opening the Third Level Bookstack
Because of limited shelving in the Lending Department, only 12,000 books were available to the public on open shelves.

The proposal to open the third level of the bookstack, which adjoins the Lending Department, to public use met with strong objections from older staff members. It was opened, however, on October 1, and gave free access to 50,000 additional books. It met with hearty public approval, and brought fewer administrative problems than the staff had feared.

The Monthly Bulletin
The monthly Bulletin, with an average of 69 pages, included all books added to the Library. It was financially possible to publish it because the type had already been set for the catalogue cards. The change to Library of Congress cards spelled doom for the Bulletin. It was replaced with an eight to twelve page list of selected titles which first appeared in January, 1929, under the name Among Our Books.

Since cards for children's books continued to be printed here, the type was held for quarterly publication of the Enchanted Door.

Technical Book Review Index
Because of the small edition, this publication involved a loss of over $2,000 per year. Of 220 copies distributed, only 13 went to Pittsburghers. Although the Index served helpfully in a difficult field, it was decided that it was not a proper charge against the Pittsburgh taxpayer and it was discontinued at the end of 1928. It was revived in 1935 as an official publication of the Special Libraries Association.

General Publishing Policy
The monthly Bulletin and the Technical Book Review Index enjoyed wide usage within the Library profession. By 1928, however, the American Library Association and commercial firms had begun to publish library aids, and it was decided that Carnegie Library might well withdraw from the national field, and develop the type of publications which would be of the greatest value to Pittsburghers.

Discontinuance of Apprentice Class
The apprentice class scheduled to begin in September, 1928, was indefinitely postponed and has never been resumed. It was explained that the Library needs two kinds of workers: (1) professional librarians with college and library school education, and (2) clerical assistants.

The apprentice class graduates fell somewhere between these two groups. Most of them had only a high school education, and with few exceptions, had not developed into professionals through experience. The apprentice class gave more library instruction than is needed by clerical assistants. Also, the apprentice class was burdensome to the department heads who acted as instructors, and it took them away from public service.

In 1929, 18 apprentice class graduates had started the long trail toward a college degree as part-time students at Pitt or Tech.

High School Alcove
The space now occupied by the Public Affairs Room was utilized for specialized services to the teen-age group. Books appropriate to school needs, were housed here. A full-time assistant was appointed in 1930. This was the precursor of the James Anderson Room.

Staff Library
The Library expected staff members to have knowledge of current books, but as a protection to the public, it restricted staff borrowing of new books. A staff library was established comprising extra copies of some of the latest books.

Boys and Girls Department
The name of the Children's Department was changed to Boys and Girls Department, in the belief that the new name would give less offense to the older boys and girls who resented being assigned to a childrens room.

Bagpipe Notes
Bagpipe notes was established as a staff newspaper, controlled by a staff committee, and intended to bring widely scattered agencies into closer relationship.

All of these changes and additions, except the opening of the third stack, were made with the full approval and support of the staff.

General Survey
A study of the library system as a whole and a survey of the community and its needs was the Director's principal project during the first half of 1929. It was completed and mailed to the Board of Trustees on August 16, 1929.

It followed the usual methods of assessing the plus and minus aspects of the community for library services. It found that the circulation of 4.2 per capita, was low as compared with other cities; that reference services were superior. Financing at 97 cents per capita was below the leaders, but above the average. The staff was said to be excellent, though additional fully qualified professionals were needed.

Stress was placed on the need of a downtown branch building, and subject departments at Central.

Long-range improvements included a county library service, and a municipal reference library.

Immediate projects for 1930 included: rented store building type of branches for Brookline and Carrick, and an art division at Central. These projects were approved and provision for them was made in the 1930 budget as passed by City Council.

Sunday afternoon opening of Central Lending and the Wylie Avenue Branch began in February, 1929, and was an instant success.

In an effort to gain outside support, arrangements were made to submit annual budgets for scrutiny by the Library Committee of the Civic Club and the Education Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, before their submission to City Council. Both groups always approved budget requests. Action by the latter group was futile, however, because the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce invariably recommended that City Council make no increase in City taxes.

The Depression Years, 1930-1939

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