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Michael North, Head, Reference and Reader Services, Rare Book and Special Collections Division
Abby Yochelson, Reference Librarian, Researcher & Reference Services Division
Amanda Zimmerman, Reference Librarian, Rare Book and Special Collections Division
Created: October 29, 2021
Last Updated: July 22, 2022
An outstanding achievement of the Army Library Service during World War II was the publication and distribution of the Armed Services Editions. Guided by an organization of publishers, booksellers, authors, and librarians known as the Council on Books in Wartime, this publishing effort produced, from 1943 to 1947, over 122 million paperbacks for free distribution to U.S. Servicemembers.
The Armed Services Editions were designed to appeal to a variety of reading tastes and included works ranging from bestsellers to poetry. Only 99 of the 1,324 titles published had previously been reprinted.
Between 1943 and 1951 the Library of Congress received a complete set of Armed Services Editions, largely as gifts from the Council on Books in Wartime.
The unique materials of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, now totaling over 1 million items, include books, broadsides, pamphlets, theater playbills, prints, posters, photographs, and medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. At the center is Thomas Jefferson's book collection, which was sold to Congress in 1815. The Rare Book & Special Collections Reading Room is modeled after Philadelphia's Independence Hall. This room is home to the divisional catalogs, reference collection, and reference staff. Collections are stored in temperature and humidity controlled vaults.