When Books Went to War

When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning Read Free Book Online

Book: When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning Read Free Book Online
Authors: Molly Guptill Manning
they were now being asked “to gather more books than are contained in any existing library in the world.” She concluded simply, “Let’s do it!”

THREE
A Landslide of Books
The soldier at the front needs to have a cause in his heart as well as a gun in his hand.
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— EMILY MILLER DANTON, LIBRARIAN
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    V OLUNTEERS FOR THE NDBC worked feverishly throughout November and December 1941 to organize and promote the largest book drive in American history. Time was fleeting and the project was monumental. As Althea Warren admitted to her colleagues: “It is going to take a full month of radio spots, pictures, stories, editorials, and half a million printed posters to get the mass mankind of our country to give in quantity.”The campaign needed a publicity director. Marie Loizeaux, the former publicist for the New York Library Association’s 1941 book drive, was hired immediately.
    Loizeaux aimed to blanket the nation with book-drive posters, and shower every village, town, and city with receptacles for donations. There would not be a library, school, department store, or train depot that did not advertise the campaign or inform the public of where books could be donated, so far as she could help it. Loizeaux worked with major corporations, public transportation, and chain stores so that her publicity efforts would have the largest impact. She yielded impressive returns. National Transitads promised to display twenty thousand posters advertising the campaign in the trains it serviced. Bus tickets were redesigned to include a reminder to donate books. Safeway supermarkets agreed to display donation boxes and a book-campaign poster in each of its twenty-four hundred stores. Hundreds of radio programs—from college-run to nationally syndicated shows—vowed to advertise the book drive on the air. Newspaper reporters offered to announce information on the campaign, such as directing townspeople to book drops and identifying the types of books that were in highest demand.
    The efficacy of Loizeaux’s publicity work was evident before the campaign even began. Donations from the public flowed in to the campaign’s coffers, and one eager publishing company sent a gift of one hundred thousand paperbacks. The nation’s willingness to give caused both delight and panic: if so many books were donated before the campaign even started, a landslide of books might overwhelm volunteers once it actually began. Turning to newspapers for help, Warren made a frantic appeal for additional helpers to apply at branch libraries.
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    Just as the campaign was taking shape, Japan waged its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Congress promptly declared war on Japan, and Germany followed by declaring war on the United States. Suddenly the nation faced one struggle in the Pacific and another in Europe and Africa. American troops began shipping out to fight Hitler’s army, and yet some wondered why the United States was taking action against Germany when it was Japan that had attacked Pearl Harbor.Librarians understood that the conviction to go to war would not last long if fueled only by hatred and a desire for revenge. Now they vowed not only to collect books for the servicemen, but to illuminate why the nation was at war.
    The NDBC was renamed the Victory Book Campaign (VBC) to reflect the nation’s entry into the conflict. After being blessed with the support of President Roosevelt and the First Lady, who publicly donated books for the servicemen, the campaign officially began on January 12, 1942. The public turned out in droves to donate books and support their servicemen. “Carrying the books themselves, sending their chauffeurs with volumes stacked high on back seats, or calling up voluntary and library services to help move the larger contributions, New Yorkers began yesterday to fill the sorting table of the Victory Book Campaign,” the
New York

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