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Our librarians recently received an interesting reference question about projected books. Through research, we were able to find more information about this unique outreach material from the 1940s. Projected Books were published by the company Projected Books, Inc., from the 1940s through the 1970s. Microfilm images of book pages were projected onto the ceiling for hospitalized veterans to read while lying in bed.

Baldwin first added projected books to the collection in December 1947. The ceiling projector was donated by the local chapter of the Lions Club. By July 1948, the Library had approximately 84 projected books in its collection. Below, Jeanne Lloyd, Baldwin’s library director from 1947 to 1969, is pictured with members of the Birmingham Lions Club.

Jeanne Lloyd poses with Lions Club

An article about the donation appeared in the December 18, 1947 issue of the Birmingham Eccentric with the following caption:

William Gardner (left) president of the Birmingham Lions Club, last week presented Miss Jeanne Lloyd, head librarian at the Baldwin Public Library, with a ceiling projector on behalf of the local club. William Spence (right), immediate past president of the local Lions, was chairman of the Lions Ceiling Projector Fund.

The projector will be loaned by the library to hospital patients who find themselves unable to read or hold books in the normal manner. By microfilming such books and running the film through this vertical projector, each page is clearly shown on the ceiling above the user’s head. Pages are advanced or reversed by means of a conveniently located remote control switch which can be operated by the slightest pressure.

In the early 1980s, at the time the Birkerts Addition was built, a former Baldwin librarian rescued a collection of 15 empty film canisters that once held the projected books. The recovered collection of film canisters and a close-up of one canister are pictured below.

Book canisters

Below is a photo from the Detroit Public Library collection:

Two men use projected books


View of two men in hospital beds reading projected books. Projection equipment is located between beds; one man holds a control device. The Projected Books Service was offered by the Detroit Public Library.

Seeing the ways library technology has adapted to help meet the needs of readers in difficult times is truly one of the most rewarding parts of working in a library!

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