Larry T. Nix's "Bibliophilately Revisited" (Feb., p. 56-58) demonstrates that although most countries profess pride in their libraries as pillars of culture, the picture is quite different when it comes to portraying libraries on postage stamps. Of the 185 members of the United Nations, only 75 have issued stamps depicting them.
Even more critical, only eight countries have celebrated library staff on stamps. Among them are the People's Republic of China, the only case in history where a former library assistant in the periodical section of Beijing University became a head of state (Mao Zedong); Russia, which honored Lenin's wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, the founder of the Soviet library system, on a 1956 stamp; and Vatican City, which depicted the Vatican Library's first librarian on a 1975 stamp. Our own Melvil Dewey was never so honored.
If we truly care about our international image, ALA and IFLA should form task forces to persuade postal authorities of the need for issuing library stamps. They are silent ambassadors to all countries that reach children and adults of all races, ethnic backgrounds, and cultural levels. The last century's inaction should not be carried over into the next.
New York, New York
The author responds:
The Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee has had a policy since 1985 of not considering individual nonprofit organizations, including libraries, as stamp topics. The way to get around this is through the postal-card historic preservation series that has been used to honor major university anniversaries.
For example, 2003 will be the 170th anniversary of the first free public library in the United States (in Petersborough, New Hampshire); a postal card could honor public libraries in general. Melvil Dewey carries a lot of baggage, but I would have liked to see a stamp celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Dewey Decimal Classification in 2001. The fact is, however, that it is a major undertaking to influence the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee to recommend a particular topic. An organizational focus might be persuasive.
"Bibliophilately Revisited" (Feb., p. 56-58) was very timely. Our library is taking advantage of the Library of Congress bicentennial stamp by becoming a second-day-of-issue site. In addition to selling the stamp at the library on April 25, we have also received permission for a pictorial cancellation and have designed a cachet to commemorate the occasion. We have a full day's worth of activities as well as an exhibit in our large meeting room.
BARBARA NICHOLS RANDALL
Guilderland (N.Y.) Public Library
Editor's note: Libraries interested in participating in LC's second-day-of-issue activities April 25-May 31 can visit www.loc.gov/bicentennial/factsheet.html for information, or contact Kathy Woodrell in the LC Bicentennial Program Office at 800-707-7145, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't Expect a Metamorphosis
When I saw the more or less hostile characterizations of library assistants by Alfonz Lengyel and Keith Cottam (Dec. 1999, p. 32-33), I could not let them go uncontested.
Frankly, after more than 20 years in public-service positions at a municipal library system, I am convinced that unless people are already intelligent and well-equipped for library work going into library school, they will not come out of it much improved. If they are not adept at applying what they are supposed to have learned, then nothing really has been gained. Instead, a false dichotomy of talent is created within the library staff and an us-versus-them mentality exists.
Library patrons don't care about the letters after our names; they care about service. To them, we are all "librarians."
BECKY WURM CLARK
Like public education, the library profession is a graying profession (Feb. …