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A Public Library Postage Stamp

For more than a decade I have promoted the issuing of a postage stamp by the United States Postal Service (USPS) to honor America's public libraries. This part of the Library History Buff Web site supports that endeavor. I invite you to join with me in promoting such a stamp.

You can promote a postage stamp celebrating America's public libraries  by writing to the the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee of the USPS and/or by writing to your U.S. congressional representatives. 

Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee
c/o Stamp Development
U.S. Postal Service
1735 North Lynn St., Suite 5013
Arlington, VA 22209-6432.

Why a public library stamp?

Each year the United States Postal Services issues 100 to 200 different postage stamps.  These stamps are chosen from almost 50,000 suggestions from the public and the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee.  A significant percentage of these stamps depict popular topics which encourage their purchase and retention without use.  Another groups of stamps commemorate events, individuals, and institutions which have played an important role in the heritage of our country. Public libraries as a group have never been included in the last category. They deserve to be so honored because they are one of America's basic democratic institutions. Public libraries were made in America. Public libraries are an integral part of daily American life and have been for almost 175 years.

Other than the honor of it, the issuing of postage stamp commemorating public libraries would provide a significant opportunity to promote public libraries across the nation. There are several good examples of this.

In 1982 under the leadership of Elizabeth Stone who was the President of the American Library Association, the library community succeeded in getting a stamp issued which honored all of America's libraries.  The library community took advantage of the issuing of the stamp to call attention to the importance of the library in America.
 

 

 

Many libraries across the nation participated in a Second Day of Issue event in connection with the issuing of the Library of Congress stamp in the year 2000. Something similar could be successfully promoted in connection with the issuing of a public library stamp.
 

 

 

On August 4, 2005 the USPS issued a Presidential Libraries stamp to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955. The USPS issued the stamp simultaneously at the 12 official presidential libraries of the National Archives plus the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids which is separate for the presidential library in Ann Arbor. At each location there was a first day of issue ceremony well covered by the media. Click here to see more about these ceremonies. It seems to me that if the USPS can honor 12 libraries, most of which are less than 50 years old, it could honor thousands of public libraries, many of which have already celebrated their centennials.

 

In the year 2000 the USPS issued a stamp for pre-sorted standard mail based on one of the lions in front of the New York Public Library. The USPS has a stringent policy against honoring individual local institutions. Originally, the stamp was to be issued with out "The New York Public Library" under the lion, but the Library required it because the lion is trademarked. Ironically, because of its widespread use by bulk mailers, it is one of of the most prolific of all library stamps. 

 

In 2005 I took matters into my own hands and created a public library postage stamp from a picture of the Baraboo Public Library (WI) using the personalized postage service of PhotoStamps in cooperation with USPS. This process, of course, results in only a small number of stamps.  This is a way individual libraries can promote themselves through the postal system.

Although the issuing of a stamp commemorating public libraries would provide a wonderful opportunity for libraries to celebrate their heritage, there are other opportunities for public libraries to use the postal system to promote significant events or anniversaries at the library.  These include the creation of souvenir envelopes with special postmarks applied by the USPS.

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Last updated: 04-15-10   2005-2010 Larry T. Nix
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