One day I started to disassemble a book titled This Way to the Big Show by Dexter W. Fellows and Andrew A. Freeman (1936) to do a full repair on it.  As I was taking off the pastedown from inside the front cover, I discovered stamped words underneath the Iowa State College catalog label stating “I.S.C. Book Club” and a penciled-in date of 7-18-36.  This lead me to wonder what the I.S.C. Book Club was, as I had not heard of it before.  With assistance from co-workers Mindy McCoy (Preservation) and Laura Sullivan (Special Collections), I was able to find out more information about the I.S.C. Book Club.

In 1925, the college library began helping in the educational program of the local radio station WOI.  Three years later, the reading of books over the air waves was begun, and the Radio Book Club was formed in early 1930.  Membership in this club was open to all persons within three hundred miles of Ames – the size of a postal zone, with mostly rural customers who had no public library close by.  Over 1,200 persons were using this service, and not just in Iowa.

A pamphlet listed 715 available items with a brief comment about each title, and demand was so high for some books that there would be seven to eight copies available.  The general library of Iowa State College or the Faculty Book Club would supply books not on the regular list.  As a book was purchased by the Radio Book Club, an announcement (and usually a review) was broadcast from Ames.  A variety of titles were read on the airwaves, such as “As the Earth Turns,” “A Lantern in Her Hand,” “Life Begins at Forty,” “100,000,000 Guinea Pigs,” “Men and Machines, “Out of My Life and Thought,” and “Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God.”  The Radio Book Club was self-supporting, and the average cost to the borrower was twenty cents in both directions.

Sources

School & Society, v. 38, is. 981, pages 508-9, Edward S. Allen

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