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History of the Missouri State Library

Library Support in the World War II Era

Many libraries were able to contribute to the defense of the nation from the home front in collaboration with industrial companies and libraries. With the rise of the war also came a rise in the production of necessary equipment, which prompted a rise in the need for skilled labor. Many libraries soon had workers coming to study different technical subjects, but finding outdated or obsolete books. This prompted a rise in the creation of up-to-date books on subjects such as airplanes, blueprint reading, mechanical drawing, shop mathematics, welding,  radio construction and repair, and many more. Books on advanced mathematics in terms of technical production also came high in demand. Libraries coordinated with defense training libraries to obtain these books and avoid purchasing duplicate ones to better serve the rising industrial community.

Victory Book Campaign

In January 1942, a national campaign was started to collect books for men in service. The drive was sponsored by the American Library Association, American Red Cross, and the United Service Organization for National Defense. Its goal was to collect ten million books to supplement the government's existing library facilities for soldiers. 

In Missouri, a committee was created to divide the state into ten collecting districts, in which individual public libraries were tasked with advertising the campaign, collecting and sorting donated books, and sending them in to the district coordinators and Library Commission to be distributed. Books that were particularly sought after were technical books for study, and good fiction or current affairs to keep soldiers morale up and to let them keep up with news from home.

By the time the program ended in 1944, the national Victory Book Campaign had collected a total of 18,449,974 books, of which 10,290,713 books were distributed to soldiers and camp libraries. Of that total number, Missouri contributed a total of 268,023 collected books.

Army Camp Libraries

The War Department helped establish camp libraries with a basic collection of about 5,000 books. The Missouri Library Commission was in charge of maintaining the services provided by these camps and supporting library staff. In 1943, 14 different camp libraries were established in Army posts and Army hospitals in the state of Missouri. They were open to everyone in the camp. Soldiers would use these libraries to study different technical fields or for the Officers' Candidate School to advance in the army. The libraries also had a large collection of fiction books, newspapers from all over the country, and magazines covering many topics, many of which were gift subscriptions.

Army Hospital libraries provided many of the same services to their ill or recovering service men. Often these collections were larger and had more fiction novels for reading therapy and vocational books for those returning to civilian life.

When the war ended in 1946, many of these libraries were phased out as Army posts were reduces or discontinued. The books, equipment, and furniture will be sold as surplus to local libraries to help fill any deficiencies in service that they might have, and to continue serving discharged soldiers as they return to civilian life.