Universal York

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Student book vandalism a problem in 1936 York

Both daily papers, the York Dispatch on February 18th, and the Gazette and Daily on February 19th, 1936, had rather lengthy articles on students stealing books or tearing pages out of them. It was an annual problem at Martin Memorial Library as well as the William Penn Senior High library.

Why the rash of late winter wreckage? Miss Katherine Shorey, Librarian at Martin Library explained that about 300 William Penn students each year entered the Daughters of American Revolution essay contest, and, those that she described as an irresponsible few, didn’t want to take the time to copy the reference material, or else didn’t want other students to have access to it. (Photocopying wouldn’t become widespread for another generation, so notes would have to be [gasp] handwritten.)

William Penn’s Librarian, Dorothy Schwartzer concurred: “’Every year at the time of the D.A.R. contest, we have had the same experience as Miss Shorey…they have been doing it every year since I have been here,’ indignantly asserted Miss Schwartzer.”

The librarians were justifiably upset about pages torn from the Encyclopedia Britannica and Encyclopedia Americana, since these were only available in expensive sets. Britannica cost $130 a set, quite a chunk of change in those days. These were depression years, and Miss Shorey pointed out that many families didn’t have that kind of money or the shelf space for the multiple volumes, so the culprits were depriving the local citizens of access to that knowledge.

The D.A.R. ladies would surely have been aghast to think that some of their contest entries were produced with purloined information. On the other hand–history being my profession–I’m extremely impressed that 300 students in one high school annually entered the contest.

One last thought: I wonder if some of the guilty parties, great-grandparents of today’s students, squirm a little when lecturing their descendants about always doing the right thing.