By Anne Marie Mackler, Development Director
Sedona AZ (August 17, 2018) – As the Sedona Public Library continues to celebrate its 60th anniversary, we have had occasion to review our accomplishments over the years, the impact we have had in the community, and the many, many patrons and volunteers who have helped us along the way.
One voice that is particularly memorable is that of Paul Schwartz. Paul served on the Library’s board of trustees for three years, and he was very active in the community as a preservationist, publisher, musician, writer, and poet. He was, in no uncertain terms, passionate about literature and the written word.
We lost Paul this year in March, and we are offering a column that he wrote for us in 2015 as a way to honor his service and to celebrate the many voices that define Sedona Public Library. Paul’s words exemplify his passionate spirit and qualify the vital role that books, and libraries, play in our local communities and national story. Thanks, Paul.
Over 16 million Americans served in the Armed Forces in World War II. We tend to see that war through the eyes of the innumerable movies made about it—all combat and chaos. But for every hour of combat our soldiers and sailors endured, there were many more hours of sheer boredom spent in foxholes or at sea. Realizing this, the U.S. Armed Services decided to provide them with what was then state-of-the-art entertainment—books.
At first, citizens were asked to donate hardcover books to be sent overseas, and millions of books were collected. But it soon became apparent that a soldier with an 80-pound pack on his back, a heavy rifle over his shoulder, and many more pounds of ammo hanging from his person did not need an additional 10 pounds of books to carry around as he slogged through the mud. So, mobilizing the best minds in U.S. publishing, the Services embarked upon an amazing program: the mass publishing of lightweight, easily carried paperback books that were distributed free of charge to servicemen. They were published in two sizes, one to fit in the shirt pocket and one to fit in the back pocket, and they were set in four columns across the spread instead of the usual upright format. Over the course of the program, an amazing 1,322 titles were published.
While Hitler was busy burning books, we were busy publishing and distributing them. The slogan of the program was “Books Are Weapons in the War of Ideas.” There was something for every taste: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, biography, sports, mysteries, Westerns, classics, and best-sellers. The very first book in the series was Ross’s “The Education of Hyman Kaplan.” Perhaps this was the Services’ way of acknowledging that those who served came from every walk of life and every ethnic background.
You can read about this amazing program, which ushered in the paperback revolution, in “When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II” by Molly Guptill Manning. It’s available in the Sedona Public Library collection.
On a personal note, when I read this book I imagined my father reading these specially produced paperbacks. I never met him (he died in combat) but I know from the books he left behind that he was an avid, eclectic reader. I like to think that in his foxhole in the frozen Apennines he was deep into “Moby Dick,” “Candide,” or “The Grapes of Wrath.” But I would forgive him if, wanting to get away from the awful miseries of war, he chose “My World and Welcome to It,” “Hopalong Cassidy Serves a Writ,” or “The Big Sleep.” There was truly something for everyone!
Sedona Public Library is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We are grateful for all of our volunteers, and for the support we receive from the City of Sedona, the property tax dollars we receive from Yavapai and Coconino Counties, and the gifts we receive from businesses, foundations, and individuals like you. Please support your library atwww.sedonalibrary.org.