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Books As Medicine

During World War I, doctors and librarians in the United States joined forces to provide books to soldiers recovering in hospitals. Many librarians, such as Louise Sweet, a hospital librarian at the United States Army General Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut, believed that it was important to select (or, if you will "prescribe") the correct books for convalescing soldiers. The correct books, many librarians and health professional believed, could aid in a soldier's recovery, while other manuscripts might hinder this process. Louise Sweet had four general guidelines for selecting books for patients, including "Objectivity of plot - stories preferably of action that carry the reader along zestfully and give him no time for retrospective bypaths" and "Avoidance in hospital literature of pathological characters and illnesses." With this online exhibit, created by history scholar Mary Mahoney, visitors can learn more about these war time librarians and early twentieth century attitudes about "healthy" reading.
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