10 rue de l'Elysée
Get Directions →
1917 – The United States declares war on Germany on April 6, 1917, thus entering the First World War.
The Library War Service of the American Library Association (ALA) begins sending books to the American Expeditionary Forces.
1918 – As the Armistice is signed on November 11, 1918, more than 1.5 million books have been sent by the ALA to camp libraries. What to do with them?
Some of them are shipped then stored in a warehouse, and a temporary central reference library is quickly set up in Paris. The operation is supervised by Ohio librarian, author and ALA European Director Burton Stevenson.
This initiative soon generates a strong interest not only from demobilized soldiers and American expatriates, but from english speakers and french students as well.
Stevenson set up a meeting in late 1919 to gauge support of a permanent american library in Paris… a proposition that instantly gains traction.
Charles Seeger, father of the poet Alan Seeger killed during the war, donates 50,000 francs from his son’s poetry royalties.
Three core principles are edicted: memorializing the American Expeditionary Force, promoting understanding and knowledge of the United States, and providing an example of the American library methods in Europe.
Its founding members and first trustees will count Countess Clara de Chambrun and author Edith Wharton, and its motto will forever keep the memory of the war in the mind of its staff and patrons: “Atrum post bellum, ex libris lux” – “After the darkness of war, the light of books“, a saying that will gain a whole new meaning in the next decade.
1923 -Ex Libris, the monthly review, then quarterly newsletter of the Library is launched. Its contributors will include the most brilliants expatriate writers of the time, from Ernest Hemingway to Gertrude Stein.
1930 – A charming and energetic young woman joins the library in the circulation department.
She is soon promoted to the periodicals department, and will become a key player of the Library in the coming years.
1933 – The American Library launches the Literary Evenings. André Gide, Ford Madox Ford, Colette, Anaïs Nin, Richard Wright, Samuel Beckett, Henry Miller contribute to the Literary Evenings and to Ex Libris.
Tags: 1920, 20th Century, American Library Association, Countess Clara de Chambrun, Dorothy Reeder, Edith Wharton, Europe, France, Paris, The American Library In Paris, The1920s, USA, Wars, World War I
Subscribe to the newsletter The Explorer:
Share this Adventure with your friends: