Libraries Empower: National Library Card Sign-up Month

With September coming to a close, there are just a few more days to celebrate National Library Card Sign-up Month. The monthly event got its start in 1987 by the American Library Association (ALA) as a way to spotlight the library card and the important role it can play in a child’s education. Now in its 35th year, National Library Card Sign-up Month marks a month-long push by the American Library Association to encourage users of all ages to visit their local library, sign up for a library card, and discover the myriad ways in which libraries enrich their local communities.

No matter a user’s background or circumstance, signing up for a library card provides patrons with critical access to technology tools, information resources, and local programming that can transform lives and strengthen communities. As part of the month’s festivities, the ALA held a promotion on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #LibrariesEmpower to find out firsthand how libraries can empower individuals as they pursue their dreams and passions. While the promotion is no longer active, users can explore the hashtag on social media and see the many services their local library may offer.

To commemorate National Library Card Sign-up Month at the Illinois Digital Heritage Hub, we’d like to highlight items that speak to the changing format of the library card itself. From paper slips to digital cards, how users access library resources evolves to keep pace with the current age. A similar shift may also be seen in the types of promotional materials organizations use in motivating patrons to walk through a library’s doors. These items reflect that no matter the decade, people rely on libraries to meet a variety of information needs, whether that’s finding specific scientific data or the most recent book by a favorite popular author. Enjoy the highlights below, and sign up for a library card today!

Free Public Library card. [n.d.] Quincy Public Library. Quincy Area Historic Photo Collection. Courtesy of the Quincy Public Library.
John A. Jones, Chicago Public Library Card, 1941. April 1, 1941. Newberry Library. Chicago and the Midwest. Courtesy of the Newberry Library.

Card, Library Photo. [n.d.] Orland Park Public Library. OPPL Archival Collection. Courtesy of the Orland Park Public Library.
Free -And it pays! circa 1918. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. American Library Association Archives Digital Collections. Courtesy of the American Library Association Archives.
Read! circa 1920. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. American Library Association Archives Digital Collections. Courtesy of the American Library Association Archives.

Want to see more? 

View more items in the IDHH related to all kinds and uses of library cards as well as items related to the American Library Association

To learn more about Library Card Sign-up Month, visit the American Library Association’s webpage about the celebration.

Back to School with the Way to Knox College

As students return to campus and the Fall academic semester begins, the IDHH is featuring The Way to Knox, a collection of images representing the history of Knox College, a four-year private liberal arts college that is home to over 1,200 students and 120 faculty of the Prairie Fire. Located in Galesburg, Illinois, the history of Knox College and its hometown is inextricably entwined. Presbyterian minister George Washington Gale moved from New York to Illinois to found a manual labor college, a college where students performed a few daily hours of manual labor in exchange for rescinding tuition and room/board. Gale’s 1836 “Circular and Plan” documented his intentions for a Prairie College in the west, and in 1836 Galesburg, Illinois was founded by the first settlers. Knox Manual Labor College was founded in 1837, and in 1857 was renamed Knox College. 

From its beginning, Knox College has been firm in supporting the marginalized. Galesburg was home to the first anti-slavery society in Illinois and a stop on the Underground Railroad, as many of the Galesburg residents and founders of Knox College supported the abolitionist movement. In fact, one of the first black men to receive a college degree in Illinois was Barnabas Root, Class of 1870. Furthermore, Gale’s “Circular and Plan” for the Prairie College included educating women, and in 1844 the college opened a Female Seminary. The Way to Knox reflects the growth of the Knox Manual Labor college into the four-year Knox College, with over 500 items that include student organizations and activities, campus buildings, protests and marches, and research and scholarship over the last 150 years. 

Here are a few of our favorite items from the collection: 

Library circulation desk. circa 1950s. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College. 
Move in day. 1970. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College. 
Anti-Columbus Day march. 1992. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College.
Women’s archery. 1957. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College.
Homecoming football catch. 2009. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College. 
Preparing for the Knox centennial. June 1937. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College. 
Commencement processional, 1919. 1919. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College. 

Want to see more? 

Browse the full The Way to Knox collection, or browse all items from Knox College

View more items in the IDHH related to back to school

To learn more about Knox College, visit Knox College’s site