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In 1905, a physicist with unruly hair was busy unlocking the secrets of the universe in a sweet little formula he liked to call E=M[C.sup.2]. At approximately the same moment in history, a band of librarians with--we presume--more tightly coiffed locks was busy launching a book-review magazine. It's unlikely that the physicist and the librarians ever crossed paths, but as someone who has played a role in keeping that same magazine on deadline for the last quarter century, I like to imagine that Einstein and the founders of Booklist might once have gathered at an amiable pub and complimented themselves on having a damn good year back in ought 5.
From then till now
When Booklist made its debut in January 1905, it was a very different animal in every way from what it is today. Its design emphasized, shall we say, function before form; it was published eight times per year; and the annual subscription fee was 50 cents. The interest from a $100,000 Carnegie Foundation grant subsidized Booklist in the early years. The initial issue of Booklist was published in Boston, although its editor, Caroline Garland, continued her duties as librarian of the Dover (N.H.) Public Library. In 1913, the magazine was moved to ALA Headquarters in Chicago, and May Massee became the first on-staff editor (there have been only seven editors in Booklist's century-long history).
The most substantive difference in Booklist then and now, though, is in the interpretation of its mission. The 1905 version took its role as a selection tool very literally, defining the magazine as a "current buying list of recent books with brief notes designed to assist librarians in selection." Brief is the operative word here. Early Booklist reviews were 25-to-50-word summaries of a book's contents. A review as such would have been redundant in a sense, since simply being included on ALA's official list of recommended books was considered as …