Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Google has been running a lab just off the Capitol Square, at 10 E. Doty St., since October. Representatives of Google said the company has signed a lease for an office at 301 S. Blount, just off Williamson Street, and plans to move into that space in the fall.
Google representatives would not comment on other specifics, including how many employees work at the facility, but the company did provide The Capital Times with a release that stated: "We are opening an office in Madison because the city offers an excellent quality of life, a deep local talent pool and commitment to education at all levels, including the University of Wisconsin."
Google's engineering office in Madison will be directed by Jim Laudon, who received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the UW in the mid-1980s. Laudon was not available for comment.
Another prominent member of the Google lab in Madison will be Jim Smith, who recently stopped teaching as a professor of both computer sciences, and electrical and computer engineering at UW-Madison. Smith's research area was in computer architecture, a UW-Madison specialty.
"After Jim Smith stopped being a professor (in the summer of 2007), Google wanted to hire him," said Guri Sohi, the chair of the UW-Madison computer science department who collaborated with Smith for many years. "But he wasn't willing to move to California, so Google basically said they'd start a site in Madison for Jim. And then they found some other people to run it with him."
April 28, 2008
Shh! In British Library Reading Rooms, Flirting and Even Giggling
By SARAH LYALL
LONDON — In its old, mustily glorious quarters in the British Museum, the British Library’s main reading room was as exclusive as it was glamorous, a club rich with tradition whose distinguished alumni included Karl Marx, Virginia Woolf, W. B. Yeats and George Bernard Shaw.
But in 1998 the library moved to a modern red-brick building on Euston Road, and four years ago it liberalized its admission policy. It opened its new reading rooms not only to writers and academics who depend on material from its singular collection, but also to “anyone who has a relevant research need,” a spokeswoman said.
Which is all fine. But “anyone” includes college undergraduates, and the problem with them, at least in the eyes of the older researchers, is that they tend to behave like the teenagers that many of them are.
They hog the seats.
They gather into clumps of chattering hormonal aimlessness.
They flirt, look one another up in Facebook and make complicated social plans about who will meet whom later in the cafeteria.
And to the extent that they are poring over texts, complained Tristram Hunt, a historian, professor and television personality, it is the sort of texts they intend to send to their friends across the room.
“The worst is that they actually answer their phones,” he said. “The phone vibrates and they go, ‘Hold on a minute, Nigel,’ and then they run out of the reading room and take the call.”
Researchers have been grousing about the boisterous atmosphere and crowded conditions at the British Library for years. But the dispute — a philosophical battle, really, over who should be allowed access to a great national library — spilled out in public last week when The Times of London published an article quoting various distinguished figures complaining about the out-of-control mood over spring break.
The article described how the author Lady Antonia Fraser had been obliged to wait for 20 minutes in freezing weather just to enter the building, and another 20 minutes to leave her coat at the mandatory check-in desk.
It described how another writer, Christopher Hawtree, had been “forced to perch on a windowsill” because he could not get a desk.
Claire Tomalin, a historian, was quoted as saying that the library was “full of what seem to be schoolgirls giggling” and not using the library for any necessary research purpose.
“I heard one say, ‘I’ve got to write about Islam. Can I have your notes?’ ” she said.
In a letter to the library, Lady Antonia said that while she did not object to the admission of students per se, she felt that the library had failed to address the “chaos and confusion” that came with the larger numbers.
A library spokeswoman said that the crowds were a reflection of the library’s success and that today’s researchers have a new, more interactive approach to their work.
“The library has changed and evolved, and people use it in different ways,” said the spokeswoman, who asked that, in accordance with library policy, her name not be used. “They have a different way of doing their research. They are using their computers and checking things on the Web, not just taking notes on notepads.”
With 127,000 active readers’ passes in circulation and a total of 1,480 dedicated studying seats, the library is doing its best to manage the situation, including dispatching monitors to remind members of things “like not talking in reading rooms and not leaving your books on the desk and going off for lunch,” the spokeswoman said.
The library has also installed plasma screens announcing which reading rooms are full, in the manner of municipal parking lots. But that has failed to placate the older members.
“There’s loads of people dressing like they’re in an episode of ‘Skins’ and high-fiving each other,” said Matt Taunton, a 28-year-old postdoctoral research assistant, referring to a television series about the wild and crazy lives of teenagers in Bristol.
He said he had recently asked a group of students to be quiet. “They looked at me like I wasn’t cool,” he said. “I thought, ‘This is a library — we’re not supposed to be cool.’ ”
Mr. Hunt, referring to students with iPods, said: “They’re sitting next to me with their Walkmen on, and I tell them to turn it off. I’ve become like a granddad, and I’m only 33.”
Richard Martin, 26, a first-year doctoral student, said the undergraduates were not the only group behaving badly at the library.
“The only defense is that the people I see most asleep are the old-men academics,” he said. “They turn up with a dozen books in the morning, briefly flick through one, fall asleep and then go out for a long lunch.”
Lady Antonia’s daughter Flora Fraser, 49, a biographer who was using the library the other day, said that at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, readers reserve seats in advance on the Internet. That way, no one turns up at the library only to find that all the spots are taken, a common problem at the British Library.
“Actually, I really recommend it,” she said. “Maybe the answer is to get on the Eurostar and go to Paris.”
Sunday, April 20, 2008
1. In what ways does the formation of the internet mirror the development of libraries in terms of function and users? Do you think the originators of the internet were as elitist as Michael Harris accuses the public library founders of being?
2. For the D’Elia article, did the conclusion that libraries and computers are complementary for the moment seem correct to you? What should libraries' tactics be centered on: joining forces with the internet or becoming a quality-based service center in competition with the internet?
3. Will a digital public library be possible because of copyrights? What are some other issues with the idea?
4. Is web 2.0 at all a realization of Tim Berners-Lee and Nelson's original idea of shared information? Is it closer or further from their vision?
5. How has the economy altered the development of the internet and technology in the library? Would it have been different if technology were not profit driven? How has this aspect most affected the development of the internet?
6. How does Bernard Frischer’s idea of an ideal new research library compare with the findings of the D'Elia study? Are they compatible, or not, and why?
7. Considering all the visions of libraries present and past that we have read about, what would your own personal ideal library look like? Does yours differ very much or not at all from the San Francisco Main Public Library?
Monday, April 14, 2008
"... the agenda for the start of the next century is almost entirely dominated by addressing the effects and implications of technological change." (p. 68, "From Automation to Transformation")
"Will (libraries) be needed when the raw materials with with they have traditionally dealt are no longer available in printed form but are all readily accessible, on demand, to anyone with a terminal and the ability to pay for their use?" (p. 356, "Whither Libraries? or, Wither Libraries")
"So labor was to blame -- in its decisions, its skill, and its cost in time and money for the poor reaction on the part of LIBRARY 21 visitors to the Univac computer." (p. 47, "The Librarian and the Univac")
"Finally, we come to the present ... In trying to come to grips with what is happening ... libraries need to be understood in the historical context within which they have been created and developed as outlined here ... to begin to know more fully what libraries are for and how they work." (p. 13, "A History of Computer Applications in Libraries.")
My questions for discussion are:
If that last statement were rephrased as a question -- what are libraries for and how do they work? -- did these readings help answer it? Did they set up or further a collections-vs.-service debate?
What kinds of effects do you think labor and cost considerations have had in automation and technological updates in libraries? Will have in the future? Did it surprise you that so few librarians were involved in the CLR projects?
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Monday, April 07, 2008
The fundamental philosophy of public libraries in the
~Library Bill of Rights, American Library Association, Adopted June 18, 1948
Since the very beginning of Public Library services in the
Critics of outreach to the underserved often put heavy pressure on library decision-makers. According to those who, for example, oppose library services for immigrants, linguistically relevant collections and cultural programming causes a drain on traditional library services and is a misuse of taxpayer’s money. When you have an exclusively elite (white, middle/upper-class) group in power of the allocating and advocating of library funds, certain voices will most likely be left out. These are the voices of the underserved, the poor and disadvantaged.
Not only are libraries under the elicit power of an elite group within the library, but they are also receiving intense pressure from an array of diverse stakeholders from outside the library.
An example of anti-immigrant groups pressuring libraries played out recently in
In response to situations like those outlined above, advocates across the country who support freedom of knowledge (especially those who advocate for library services for Latinos) have organized, prepared resolutions, and coordinated concerted efforts to guarantee equity of service. A leader in this work has been REFORMA, The Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking. REFORMA has dedicated a section of their website to resources and official public statements concerning immigrants and the Spanish-speaking. (www.reforma.org ) In April 2006, REFORMA approved a resolution opposing H.R. 4437, stating that “REFORMA will encourage library workers to act as advocates for the education of undocumented immigrants about their human rights.” REFORMA members also developed a “Librarian’s Toolkit for Responding Effectively to Anti-Immigrant Sentiment” and signed on to the White Ribbon “Campaign for Dialogue”, an expression of support for meaningful conversations about immigration reform. The American Library Association and REFORMA both have agreements with the AMBAC (Asociación Mexicana de Bibliotecarios, AC), the Mexican national library association, to share information and opportunities.
Other efforts have been coordinated nationwide by librarians and by those who support libraries. For example, the Suffolk Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee presented “Breaking Down the Walls: Making Your Library a
Another initiative that promotes library services to immigrants is “The American Dream Starts @ Your Library” project sponsored by
The American Library Association identifies Equity of Access as one of the guiding principles for investment of energies and resources: “The Association advocates funding and policies that support libraries as great democratic institutions, serving people of every age, income level, location, ethnicity, or physical ability, and providing the full range of information resources needed to live, learn, govern, and work.” (Ramírez Wohlmuth, de
During January 2007, ALA passed a Resolution in Support of Immigrant Rights stating that, “ALA strongly supports the protection of each person’s civil liberties regardless of that individual’s nationality, residency, or status; and be it further resolved that ALA opposes any legislation that infringes on the rights of anyone in the USA (citizen or otherwise) to use library resources on national, state, and local levels.”
But why does this matter? Why do we need to serve the underserved, the poor and the disadvantaged? As my ex supervisor, Patrick Jones, once said, Outreach to underserved communities matters because “the ability of the public library to remain indispensable in the eyes of society depends upon our ability to serve those who need us most.” And since the golden rule of libraries is to serve our community, we would be breaking our moral contract with our communities of we denied services to certain members.
But, even after writing all of this and wanting to believe that librarians are of course warriors of social justice, I hear the echo of Sandy Berman in my head and I can't help but pause and wonder...
Whether intended or not, are we "disseminating only white, middle-class cultural values?" Is there a huge gap between everything mentioned above that ALA claims to be doing to defend intellectual freedom and the reality of how libraries actually work? Are we truly walking the walk or only talking the talk?
Is there, as Samek suggested, a "deliberate but subtle use of force by an entrenched hegemony to maintain its grip"?
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Article 1: The Use of Library and Educational Facilities by Russian-Jewish Immigrants in New York City, 1880-1914: The Impact of Culture
In this article, author Nelson R. Beck exposes a glaring flaw in Michael Harris's controversial revisionist history. While the author maintains that many of Harris's critiques of formative library culture ring true, he criticizes Harris's own selective use of facts, as well as Harris's own elitism. Beck admits that assimilation into American culture was the goal of many top-down organizations that intended to educate immigrants of all walks of life. "Indeed, Edward G. Hartmann contends that the Educational Alliance, the Aguilar Free Library, the Baron de Hirsch Fund, and the older Americanized Jewish population all worked for the assimilation and Americanization of the Russian Jews" (133). Another signal of top-down manipulation came in the form of librarians denying Russian Jew children material in their native languages (of course, some of this appears to have stemmed from demand for such material from adult users). In the end however, it appears (at least according to Beck) that immigrant Russian Jews shaped the use of the library to according to their own needs and because of a desire to be educated due to the conditions prescribed by their native culture--a direct assault on Harris's own assertion that immigrants did not care to be educated. "In spite of slaughter and destruction, the Russian Jews maintained an educational system that reflected and perpetuated their religion and culture. Central to this education was moral training through the home and Synagogue. The scripturers and the Talmud demanded education" (131). For many immigrants, "Americanization" was a voluntary process as since education was important to Russian Jews, they wanted to learn English. Libraries often reflected what their immigrant patrons wanted in the library. There was no shortage of periodicals in the Aguilar Libraries related to Jewish topics, and Jews in New York City started up at least eleven different newspapers. At the end of the article, the author admits that this is merely one case study, and that while Harris's own elitism and "historical tunnel vision" may have been misguided, in order for his vision to be fully refuted, many more immigrant populations' educational habits would have to be examined.
1) To what extent did top-down assimilation strategies succeed? For example, did libraries succeed in creating a generational divide between young Russian Jews and their parents? Did libraries do anything that may have reinforced such a divide?
2) What are some of the ways in which Russian Jews had an impact on the institutions that helped educate them besides some of the reasons mentioned above?
3) Did Jewish culture have an effect on libraries more than libraries impacted Russian Jewish culture as Beck suggests? Is there a way to refute such a claim in favor of a top-down explanation?
Article 2: White Privilege in Library Land
This article proved a bit troublesome for me, because I could only answer half of the twelve "white privilege" questions with an unequivocal "yes." While I would not deny that I benefit from white privilege, I had to question if the twelve questions were indeed fair to the reader. In looking at the numbers provided by John D. Berry, the racial numbers regarding librarians who received higher education library degrees did not change in very significant ways over time--which is self-evidently significant in its own right. Perhaps we have not come as far racially as Americans as we would like to think we have since 1973. The only number that really evolved over this period is the massive growth in the percentage of females receiving upper level library degrees over their male counterparts.
1) Is the growth in females receiving high level degrees (and hence, leadership positions) in librarianship a boon for women's equality, or does it only serve to reinforce irritating gender-related stereotypes within the library field?
2) How many of the questions provided by Barry did you answer "yes" to? Does this number vary depending on where you have worked in the past? Where does Wisconsin generally fit into this twelve question equation?
Article 3: Toward a Multicultural American Public Library History
"If historians choose to see libraries as earlier forms of communication and information technologies, then it might be possible to look for ways in which libraries and their constituents engaged in similar struggles against restrictions, sometimes on the same side and sometimes not" (78-79). This quote lies at the center of the question that I would like to address today. As Cheryl Knott Malone addresses in her essay, a study of library history and culture tends to focus on leaders--the movers and shakers in libraries from the top down. In our own studies of Apostles of Culture and The Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown, we have often seen this to be true. By this time, we know the names of all sorts of prestigious librarians in our field today, as well as many of the prestigious librarians of history. Malone asserts that bottom-up activity holds plenty of sway on the library as well. She cites the impact of Polish and Russian Jewish people on library culture in America, for example. She claims that creating a multicultural library history would involve a study of use, users, and nonusers. In creating a multicultural history of Chicago, Malone suggests leaving no ethnic stone unturned in piecing together a bottom-up epic. As Malone cites, "Takaki asserts that only by recovering different pasts, told from divergent perspectives, can a full appreciation of the complexity of United States history can be reached." Too often, such histories are only told from the top-down instead of the bottom-up--a shift to the latter would be helpful in telling a more complete story with respect to any history.
1) If libraries are an earlier form of communication like the article suggests, what parallels can be drawn between the way the library is shaped and the way later communication technologies were shaped (think bottom-up vs. top-down, think technological determinism vs. social shaping of technology perspective)?
2) What are some reasons that historical stories always tend to be told from the top-down? Is it so difficult to imagine a world in which such stories are all told from a bottom-up perspective and the top-down point-of-view is neglected?
3) Why has such close attention been paid to black-white relations in library history as opposed to more focus on American immigrant history?
Article 4: The Ugly Side of Librarianship
This is an article in which Michael Harris's distaste for ALA self-aggrandizement seems to be warranted. While the ALA took responsibilty for immigrants (a widly diverse group), African-Americans were dismissed as being a problem too wildly divergent between various American regions. Such hypocrisy appears to be impossibly thick-headed for a supposedly progressive institution--at least on the surface. Hatred towards black people was intense enough in the South that librarians did not want to alienate their white patrons by admitting black people to their libraries. Again in American history, separate but "equal" was thought to be the only solution. Librarians such as Rachel Harris celebrated the existence of ANY library that catered to the African-American population, even employing the writings of W.E.B. DuBois to back up her position. After all, the library did indeed offer education for those for whom it was lacking. In fact, the opportunities provided by the Louisville Free Public Library (Eastern Colored Branch) allowed some African-Americans to become college students, medical students, or university professors. Through 1950, virtually no library in the South was truly "'unrestricted'" (86). Northern libraries weren't terribly accomodating, either. The ALA was a complicit partner in American racism.
1) Would integration in American libraries circa 1900-1950 have been asking for too much, too fast? Could libraries as well as society as a whole expect to see a backlash from forced integration too early? In matters of racism, is there ever any room for compromise--even though racism is wrong?
2) Why did immigrants receive special attention from the ALA and not black people? Could it be that Michael Harris is right?...that the ALA and other interested parties wanted to assimilate immigrants into American culture?...perhaps African-Americans were deliberately excluded from such assimilation?
Article 5: Breaking the Color Barrier: Regina Andrews and the New York Public Library
The story of Regina Andrews might be considered a story of "middle-up-and-down" as opposed to top down. She was a member of her Harlem community--an active participant in the Harlem Renaissance. From her position within the NYPL, she fought her superiors alongside W.E.B. DuBois for equal pay. Still, this is a bit of a top-down sort of act (while also fighting from the bottom-up)...she was a "mover and shaker" within the library, and eventually came to hold a position of prominence. Regina Andrews invited controversial topics into her library with open arms, but also was in charge of more mundane Family Night at the Library program, a program that died with her retirement.
1) "Perhaps, though, the very ethnic background that at first impeded her progress also gave her the strength to ultimately succeed" (419). Please relate this to Louise Robbins's discussion of Barack Obama and Geraldine Ferraro from last week.
2) Is this story more of a top-down or bottom-up affair? Please explain your answer.
Aricle 6: Gays in Library Land: The Gay and Lesbian Task Force of the American Library Association: The First Sixteen Years
While the ALA has been cowardly in taking a stand against discrimination in the past, there is an instance of forward thinking that might give Michael Harris reason to pause and take notice. In 1970, the ALA recognized the Task Force on Gay Liberation of the American Library Association. This group was responsible for such successes as the Gay Bibliography, the Gay Kissing Booth, and the Gay Book Award. Though "[their] job was as much to unsettle ALA over gay issues as to settle into the ALA fabric," the branch was still nonetheless approved by the ALA and its SRRT. The TGFL had its share of failures too, however. Their Gays in Hollywood Film project, AIDS Awareness Project, and a discrimination survey were all busts.
1) "And I think it was more than chance that ALA was the first professional organization to be liberated by gay activists. Librarians are after all committed to inquiry, the open mind, and dissemination of information" (92). Has it been your experience that this is entirely true of libraries? What about from 1970 to the present day?
2) Could such promotion of LGBT culture be considered top-down indoctrinating elitism as defined by Michael Harris?...or would this be a step foward according to Harris? (I'm asking because I really don't know.)
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
The writings for this week are in many ways foreshadows of current technology. In other ways they are the dream ideas of brilliant Futurists. Aspects of both types of thought can be seen in the Memex conceived by Vannevar Bush (no relation to George W. Bush).At its core his ideas were based on the premise that we did not lack the ideas or thoughts to propel society forward. Rather we lacked a way of accessing ideas and creating connections between diverse and divergent concepts. His Memex sought to “store” and “extend” concepts in order that they should be “useful to society” (Bush p.2). He places his technology and ideas within the framework of other advances, such as photography, film and recording devices and in many ways sells his ideas as a product that will revolutionize the way we think about information and ideas. His Memex is said by some to be an early form of the internet, sans worldwide connections, for its ability to place ideas in web-like frameworks of connectivity.
In the world of Bush and his allies, the world-wide web is not computer based but micro-film based. Surely he never considered the way that the technology degrades as Nicholson Baker would decry many decades later in DoubleFold . Such is the drumbeat of progress, considering more the desire to get someplace new than the ramifications of the journey. One has to wonder what the value of historical archives are if they are all degrading. Yet there is no consideration for the preservation of documents in their original form within the Memex.
The work of Bush sidles up nicely to Leigh’s The Public Library Inquiry inasmuch as one considers the way in which information can be shared for the purposes of research, and Leigh considers the way in which resources can be shared amongst libraries to build an efficient network of libraries that would share materials for the enjoyment of users and the cost-savings of taxpayers. It is rare in our society when bastions of culture and the arts as libraries are, are put under the microscope of scientific analysis in dry calculations that seeks to quantify all the meanings derived from the place and from the services derived within. How do you measure something that is at once the “People’s University” and at the same time (but perhaps in a separate room), a place for the education of children (p.225)?
Written in the 1950’s during the rise of the interstate fast-car society, the chapter entitled “The Direction of Development” calls for centralization to take advantage of economies of scale, and provide an equalization of resources between smaller and larger libraries. The document further tells of the expansion of the libraries role as educator of adults and children. At the time of writing, the school library as we know it today had not yet come into being. Therefore it was impressed upon both the schools and the public library to make materials and staff resources available to younger students. To this end, the document calls increased training of librarians for this role, in both school libraries and in the public library sector.
While the document touches on many topics, the ultimate theme is the need for streamlining, Definition of duties and the efficient provision of resources to carry out those duties.
Pennavaria’s 2002 work Representation of Books and Libraries in Depictions of the Future captures a more modern perspective on our never diminishing fascination with The Library of the Future. She divides tales of the future into the categories of “utopian” or “dystopian” (p.230). That is to say happy tales and sad tales. Pennavaria speaks of Orwell’s 1984, and provides this writer a means of connection to another of this week’s writings, Bush’s “As We May Think” *(1945), which she notes is both hopeful in its offer of salvation through technology, but also cautionary in his plead that technology can be peaceful, even as he is aware of the constant drumbeats for war.
One has to wonder if the futuristic idea of “Libraries as community center” came from librarians as a gift to the writer, or if the futurists gifted us with this concept (p.237). Just as little thought was given to the mechanisms that would increase the speed of knowledge acquisition according to Pennavaria, so too was little consideration given to the types of people that would use the library. Could they know that libraries would collect GLBT works, that they would house original copies of infamous works such as Mein Kampf? Just as they had no idea about the mechanics of technology, so too it would seem that they had little idea about the human mechanics of support for libraries – staff members and interest groups that form the backbone coalition for the support of any library.
Sapp’s Early Visions of Future Librarianship begins with Ranganathan’s 5th law of Library Science that “the Library is a growing organism’ (p.xi). He begins with Dewey’s hope for the future of the library and uses that as a catapult to discuss the dreams of other library greats. During the early years, were obsessed with notions of professionalization, such that it had to be overtly stated that librarianship existed as Bibliothecal Science (P.xiv).
As was noted in the readings for last week, wars played an important role in defining the mission of the library. They also played a role in increasing the visibility of librarians, even as it came late to the idea of the library as a proponent of democracy. The writer notes the “technical” aspects of early training and efforts to develop curriculum that reflected the desired higher status. Specialization was one method used to both enhance the status of librarians and enhance the level of service available for the growing needs for academic and corporate librarians. The overall training was touted alongside aspirations for the increase in cultural impact and relevance of librarians in wider society
Other descriptions sought to clarify divisions of labor, monetary support for librarianship through endowments and the role of librarians as intelligent gatekeepers of the new information economy. Throughout the work, one has to wonder where the line between the formation of new mission statements and pure aspirational wishes lay. At some point like the rantings of those who insist on the existence of extra-terrestrial races, one has to wonder if the fantastical writings of Futurists enhanced or in fact diminished the credibility of librarians in the mind of the public.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Leigh’s article pieces discuss the future of public library function and action from a 1950 perspective. Interestingly, the report was not done by the library itself; rather, the ALA contracted the Social Science Research Council to do so in order to gain a more objective and independent judgment. In the prose and setup of the article, there is definitely a noted difference in their approach opposed to many of the articles we have read from an internal library perspective. The Public Library Inquiry aims to evaluate the library’s success in terms of its own goals as well as their aptness within the framework of American social and cultural institutions. The author proposes increased funding and bureaucratic organization to better run the library in the coming decade.
(1) In discussing the alternate directions proposed by some librarians in the beginning of part II, Leigh presents a tension between catering to public demand and providing “valuable” information and resources to society. How do you think the public library has handled this balance since 1950, and do you agree with the study’s suggestions on pp. 234-5? (On a more personal note for us: are collections of video games and popular music in College Library warranted? Does this detract from the purpose of collegiate libraries?) Why (not)?
(2) Wisconsin’s share of public library systems costs is 8.1% and the 2007-2009 proposed budget aims to maintain this level. Do you think the state, based on Leigh’s analysis, has a higher obligation to contribute to the financial aid of libraries or are other pressing issues more important? How should the government appropriate funds to their public library institutions?
(3) In his general summation of the library’s future, Leigh remarks that the library “would provide people of all ages in all places in the U.S. with abundant opportunity to learn so far as library materials can give that opportunity.” Based on historical context and our previous readings, do you think the library truly catered to this goal, or was it more geared toward the middle-class white population?
In this article, Bush proposes potential new paths for peacetime physicists to follow. No longer able to focus on the more war-related elements of physics, they are now encouraged by Bush to use their skills for the maintenance and retention of stored knowledge. Focusing on “the record,” physicists can use technology to find innovative ways of information storage (microfilm), transcription (like the Voder and Vocoder), performing mathematics, and effective means of research. While not all of Bush’s article concentrates directly on the library, his methods and applications definitely transfer over to library processes and ways to manage information and collections, most importantly in how to preserve access to such information. Through Bush, the library and scientific communities merge, lending themselves to one another.
(1) Discussing photography and its potential use in microfilm records, Bush suggests something that could clear space in the library rendering hard copy books, magazines, newspapers, etc. almost unnecessary. Obviously, microfilm today is not the technological innovation of the century to revolutionize library storage, but might the Internet have a similar effect? Does this outlet of information threaten the necessity of such hard copies as well? Why or why not?
(2) Bush mentions the difficulty of actually being able to consult “the record” (for libraries – their collections and resources), but the librarian is a professional who can maneuver through such complicating records and collections. If physicists are able to simplify this process for the common library patron, how might this affect the role of the librarian?
(3) Based on all of Bush’s suggestions, what do you think is technology’s role in the library? How has the Memex from 1945 come into the contemporary library?
Pennavaria, in her article, discusses the future of the library and books/information in general – not through her own predictions, but rather through writings of fiction and nonfiction by other authors. She focuses mostly on how writers in the past thought information access would be in the future. Fiction writing, she claims, tends to focus more on long-term future and make more concrete predictions about how the library will actually BE in the future. However, fiction does not necessarily attempt to prophesize (is that a word?), instead it expresses the writer’s own fears and beliefs about the potential of their own society – most often for the worst. Pannevaria cites numerous fiction examples where books and information are completely destroyed by an overbearing government, reflecting the value of books for independent thought and existence. Nonfiction, on the other hand, tends to be more conservative in their predictions. She references a few articles relating to technology, but points out that most deal more with the actual role of the library. Librarians themselves were the optimistic futurists, believing the library will remain similar but grow in importance and become a true cultural center. Interestingly, aspects of their predictions – whether literally or in a more figurative sense – can today be found in the modern library.
(1) As noted in Pennevaria’s description of fiction, there seems to have existed a deep-seated fear about a society losing its information exposure and retention. Was their fear valid and can you see its repercussions today? What parts of fictitious predictions came true?
(2) Why might the librarians have been the only “optimistic futurists?”
(3) Charles Cutter in 1883 offered the fantasy that all libraries in the country would be technologically connected and open every day. To what extent was Cutter correct?
(4) In the Cambridge Review one author makes a social commentary about the university libraries and its need to be run by scholars instead of bureaucrats. Has the university situation improved in your eyes?
Sapp details thoughts about future librarianship and libraries throughout different decades since the ALA’s establishment in 1876. While obviously concerns change with the times, it is surprising to see how many elements remain the same (concerns over technology, proper organization, supply/demand). Between 1876-1900 Sapp cites concerns over the social agenda for librarians, and between 1900 and 1945 a sense of civic responsibility only increased with the outbreaks of World Wars I and II. The question of getting information to patrons remained a large issue throughout the 20th century as librarians were unsure and in disagreement whether technology should aid the library, and if so, how. After 1946, as academic scholarship changed and increased, the library further questioned how it would meet the demands of its new and ever-growing patronage and the appropriate technology to aid them along. Even today, we see this debate in libraries over the future role of technology as the library enters the digital world as well as keeping its foot in print culture.
(1) After 1900, many librarians asserted the library’s continual role in adult education. Do you think this role continues today? What does this role say about the library’s view of civic responsibility? Have the libraries “fundamental values remained in tact”?
(2) What do disagreements over computers in the library say about the debate that goes on today and the library’s sensitivity to tradition?
(3) Do you see a heaver dependence on technology in the library – and reduction in print resources – as a reality?
Monday, March 03, 2008
Wiegand discusses the effects of WWI on Wisconsin public libraries.
He shows how libraries worked with federal, state and local governments
and how they worked independently to aid the war effort as they saw
fit. Wisconsin public libraries stream-lined services and increased
professionalism by focusing on library management and information
retrieval. At the same time, however, these libraries were disseminating
propaganda and censoring library materials.
“In Service to the State” questions
1) What are some differences that Wiegand sees between the missions of
public libraries in the in the pre-WWI era, in the years before U.S.
involvement in the war and once the U.S had declared war? Why? What
stayed the same? Why?
2) What do American public libraries' actions during WWI say about the
debate between putting emphasis on providing resources and service based
on the demands of the public vs. putting emphasis on upholding higher
ideals (i.e. self-education)?
At the onset of the U.S.’s involvement in WWII the ALA established
methods with which to “meet the needs of a nation at war.” Not everyone
in the library community agreed that change was necessary or how
libraries could be changed to best serve America. In some cases,
libraries were faced with changing populations of patrons or patrons
that wanted new or different information. Some in the library community
saw an alliance with government agencies as critical to the success and/or survival
of the public library.
“To Meet the Needs of a Nation at War” questions
1) Why were public libraries’ willing to undergo the changes that they
did during WWII? How were these changes in missions similar and/or
different from the changes in libraries during WWI? Why?
2) How do the shortfalls that public libraries faced when trying to work
with government agencies (USIS, OCD, OFF and OWI) reflect larger
problems within the public library system?
During WWII public libraries dealt with tightening budgets, but expected to meet
head-on with ALA policy and patron demands. Not all librarians were enthusiastic about
censorship but the ALA actively worked to make the government recognize
libraries as a viable means to disseminate propaganda. On the whole,
libraries provided recreational reading for children, adults and
servicemen although circulation numbers decreased during the war.
“In Time of War” questions
1) Did public libraries fail in WWII? If so, what would a failure mean
for libraries in the post war period?
2) Do you see Becker’s description of a post-9/11 library as realistic
or “the norm”? Does anyone want to share their personal experiences in
post-9/11 and post-Patriot Act public libraries?
After the fall of Baghdad the Iraqi city experienced widespread looting of
museums and libraries. The military seemed to have failed to anticipate
the looting despite warning from various institutions and scholars - and
also failed to stop it once it had started. While Iraqis lamented the
losses, some members of the U.S. government and media downplayed or
- acc. to the author- outrightly denied the effects of the looting. The loss of cultural
artifacts comes at the detriment to the Iraqi identity, global cultural
“Errors of Omission and Cultural Destruction in Iraq” questions
1) According to Knuth, was the U.S. government’s failure to prevent/
stop looting of cultural artifacts malicious or was it more a product of
ignorance? Do you agree, why or why not? Should it matter especially to
2) What is the result of losing the materials that were looted?
How do you think it may impact the Iraqi people as a whole?
3) How does reflecting on the use of propaganda and censorship in the
World Wars clarify or complicate our understanding of what is currently
happening in Iraq (and the U.S.)?
Sunday, February 24, 2008
A Florida State University professor has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to write a book exploring the history of public libraries in the United States. Wayne A. Wiegand, the F. William Summers Professor of Library and Information Studies, received a $50,000 fellowship to write his proposed book, A People’s History of the American Public Library, 1850–2000, which will explore the roles the public library has played in the community, in the life of the reader, and as an information provider....
Florida State University, Feb. 14
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Edited to add: Also consider Dan Chudnov's comparison of free and open-source software with Carnegie on the axes of need and philanthropy.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Released: January, 2008
Welcome Stranger: Public Libraries Build the Global Village
“In March 2007, The Urban Libraries Council conducted a survey of its members, gathering data on the ways in which urban public libraries are involved with the transition of immigrants into American life. The findings of the survey, augmented with data collected in another 2003 member survey, are summarized in this report. They show that urban public libraries are in the forefront of the effort to make their cities stronger by welcoming and integrating new residents from all over the world.
Download the full report at:
Monday, February 18, 2008
The readings for this week cover a wide variety of historical documentation. The first article, to get our minds rolling, is by Elaine Fain. She discuses, in great detail, the Americanization Programs of 1900-1925, as well as the impact and formation of social reform and improvement. This was a period in history of rapid growth. This growth spurt came in the form industrialization as well as immigration. Immigration was the building block of early library growth. Fain states that between 1890 and 1910 American public libraries “developed most of the systems and services we take for granted today.” This population explosion of the 19th century included a vast amount of immigrants with little or no “American” education. The library became the means in which to educate and assimilate these new arrivals, especially the children. This idea of educating the non-English speaking community, and the effort that went into it, was an approach that was very successful. Do we, as librarians in the 21st century, see this concept as the corner stone of developing and furthering the strength of our current “system?” (The continuing education of the immigrants and assimilation into “our” society?) Our current government doesn’t seem to think that letting outside individuals into our country is worthy goal. . .
A statement made by the Sons of the American Revolution stated, “This is a great country, may you be worthy of it.” What are your thoughts on that statement?
The increased growth of individuals and outbreak of WWI furthered the development of concerns. Americans soon developed a (greater) distrust of the immigrants within the society during the early 19th century. Thus, the materials that were used to educate and assist immigrants became a means of discussion and concern. In other words, the materials caused problems among the ranks. Do you see the idea of pamphlets for immigrants to understand American culture as being misguided and elitist, or was this actually constructive step in the right direction?
The obviously “elitist” society that had formed and supported the library required a change in order to serve a purpose in modern society. How has social education (reform/improvement) changed now? As history often repeats itself, was this the beginning of an end? Librarians have considered themselves to be “vigorous reformers.” Do librarians still seem to be doing what they, from their egalitarian point of view, see as being the “best” for their customers, or have they demonstrated willingness to conform to a changing society?
Christine Pawley’s article was a very interesting look into a remarkable early reformer within Wisconsin in the character of Lutie Stearns. The impact that her actions had was amazing, as the traveling library seemed to be the early form of the book mobile. Stearn’s dedication and perseverance in getting books to those who needed them was amazing, especially since she had to fight her misconceptions of her gender, petty county boards, the disinterest of her patrons, and the extreme distances she had to travel to get the books where they needed to go. This concept of spreading knowledge and information throughout the country was actually quite revolutionary for the time, especially when we consider that although books where becoming more widely available, they were still expensive and not necessarily considered a priority. Also, since many librarians of the time only paid lip service (rather than practice) to the idea of “the right of citizens to equal information access,” Stearns did actually seemed to accomplish this goal through the sheer force of her strong personality and dedication.
We saw the formation of an early bureaucracy here; as Stearns did keep extensive notes about circulation, book interest, etc. This seemed to be used, in many cases, to show that the library actually was effective. It was interesting to see here that although Stearns had expected people to be interested in books beyond popular fiction, this was often as in every other library not the case. Do you see the travelling libraries as one more idealistic idea of the early library history, or was it actually effective? Was Lutie Stearns a part of the elitist culture of the early library, or do you see her as working against the tide?
Check out these Web sites:
The last article is rich in history, as well. Written, in part, by Phyllis Dain, it touches upon several historical timeframes and the concurrent problems within those timeframes. One major concern was, and still may be, the formation of collections. Does one collect for popular demand or does one “aim for diffusion of knowledge?” Perhaps not so much of a concern in the 21st century, but as discussed later in the article, one has to take into consideration the “matching the acquisitions of library materials to the lifestyles and occupations of clientele.” This concern does continue with a constantly changing society.
The authors discussed in great detail the comparison of public librarians of being in a position of a “Scylla and Charybdis” situation. This is often true in many aspects of daily life, and with this article one can include the library culture as well, as one never can fully realize the implications that this situation holds for one in the library infrastructure. For example, what are the dangers of growing too comfortable in doing things in one set in stone way? What should libraries ban, what should they not to ban? And, if libraries do ban books, we know if people want something bad enough, they WILL find a way to get it. This being true, is it the public library’s job to provide it? How does one impose certain view on the dissemination of knowledge when there is such a large multitude of individuals to serve? One danger leads to another. . .
Historically, as we all know, libraries have gone through times of great efficacy and times of difficulty in doing so, which the authors emphasize. They mention the formation of committees and structural integration of strategies that have/had impact on what we call “library systems,” as well as the idea of marketing the library to fight trends of deteriorating user value. How does one successfully market library services? We also saw the attempt to determine exactly what the mission of the library should be going into the future. This started in the 70’s and continued through the decades. Does it seem like a cohesive purpose was really ever created? Who actually utilizes (greatest use) libraries today? Should the library become like a business (such as Barnes and Noble) that is a “private enterprise serving only those who can afford to pay?” On a related note, the idea of the McLibrary seems to represent a response to our “need it now” culture. Are you offended by this representation of the library, or is this one of the necessary facets of the library for it to survive in our culture?
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Garrison’s first job in re-creating the landscape of the 1870’s was to show the reader the class dynamics occurring in that period. For the first time, it was possible for a person to have money without being raised in an upper class family. Thus, there formed two classes: the gentry elite and the business elite. Garrison says that the gentry elite’s response to this shift was to “cling to literary idealism (p 13),” so rather than make any changes, they preferred to try and order the universe around how their sense of things was. The general slowing of religious behavior and less rigid rules about sexuality were just the beginning of cultural changes that completely threw them off balance. The library then seemed to be an attempt to stave off the gentry elite’s feeling that most of the world, and the people in it, were out of control.
With a few exceptions, most of the early librarians were part of this class. Most notable about the early librarians then was a seeming “inability to settle down into their life work (p 18).” Main players included Justin Winsor, William Frederick Poole, and Charles Cutter. These men were the early leaders in libraries, and while they set the tone for a while, already heading into their forties, they were immediately almost a part of the old guard. On the whole, this meant that although they were somewhat innovative at the time for their more passionate attitude toward librarianship and their efforts to increase circulation and organization in the library, they did not seem to accept Melville Dewey’s call to move forward. Garrioson said that Winsor, for example, couldn’t understand Dewey’s “bustling adoration for technical solutions (p 27),” and Poole refused to implement the idea of fixed location books (p 29).
In contrast from these almost shiftless, although well educated early librarians, Dewey made librarianship his life’s work. He was obsessed with not wasting time, and before he had even finished his junior year in college at Amherst, Dewey had created and implemented a new library classification system (p 115). Despite Dewey’s growing reputation as a librarian with novel, useful ideas, Dewey’s business, professional, and personal affairs seemed to be led by one frustrating guiding principle-
“his ability to work mightily for his own advancement while genuinely believing he cared only for the good of others (p 116).”
Dewey’s high moral standards were shared (at least on the surface) by many of his upper class, educated contemporaries. While Dewey did seem to be sincere in his beliefs, the educated elite’s objections on the whole to fiction on the basis of immorality Garrison saw as something more sinister than religiosity alone. There was at the time a population of “religious rabble that challenged established patterns of distribution,” and most literature that the upper class objected to on moral grounds seemed to challenge this as well. Rather than reading this trash, upholders of the status quo were convinced that if unsatisfied labor workers everywhere would just read about business and capitalism, they would suddenly understand “the intricacies of efficient moneymaking (p 47),” and stop striking and forming unions to ask for more money.
In my favorite part of the book, Garrison outlined some of the plots of the objectionable literature of the time. Many of these authors wrote chiefly for women, and their theme centered around “rejection of traditional authority, particularly in domestic life, in religious life, and in matters concerning class distinction (p 75).” These characters- voluptuous, head strong Belinda, dauntless, man subduing May, and Edna Earl, who takes on education and then man with a fervor nearing religious (p 77), all seem a little silly, but for the woman who functioned essentially as a second class citizen, they must have been a breath of fresh air. Moreover, Garrison’s depictions of these heroines demonstrated exactly what most real women of the time were not-especially in the library world.
While Dewey continued to take on libraries with mechanical efficiency, simultaneously endearing and antagonizing library boards with his presumptuousness, Garrison says that he also “openly recruited cultured and educated women to library service (p 128).” This, perhaps equal with the Dewey Decimal System, seems to be have been Dewey’s dubious legacy. Not only did he set the tone for women as the main purveyors of library culture, he also began the trend to pay women less than half of what men made. Even past the middle of the century, women were supposed to feel almost lucky to work, and recognize that their real compensation- the good they were doing, could “never be measured by salary scales…she knows…of that satisfaction which comes of being needed and used (p 228).”
This summary barely scrapes the barrel of the library’s relatively short history. In just under 250 pages, Dee Garrison was able to show her reader not only what she felt where the main motivations of the early library, but also who the main players where, and how the library evolved to eventually come to become what seems very laissez-fair in comparison. Perhaps most importantly was what female librarians accomplished, almost in spite of their low value, which was the eventual creation of vibrant children’s libraries. By the end of the book, I really felt I had a good picture of the best and worst sides of the library, with a dose of thoughtful social commentary to really round it off.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Nonetheless, Ditzion believed that the statistics relating to the library and crime were favorable, such that in one city, arrests decreased by 142 in the same year that a library opened. These statistics are perhaps a little suspect, but although Ditzion mentioned that it was thought that the library could be used to encourage temperance, he noted that this was somewhat hard to do in practice, partly because of lack of funding, and what appeared to be a lack of interest.
Ditzion also mentioned that in general librarians did not take much initiative to create the mission of the library- rather, this was more often left to the trustees. Overall, Ditzion stated that this “humanitarian rationale [was] campaign material for more and better supported libraries.” He did not seem to regard this as necessarily a bad thing, but he did admit that while democratic principles were generally striven for, as often as not, different groups did try to force their ideas onto others.
This service of entertaining reading seemed a bit conflicting to Perkins though. Although he felt the habit of easy reading must be formed by reading books one wants to read, he also felt there were some books a person just must NOT read. While I can understand this, the list he provided made the line very thin- how can one say yes to some things and no to others, and in doing this, who exactly is meant to be the final judge on what is and isn’t a “proper subject for contemplation by all”?
Going back to the business aspect of the library, I thought the detail Perkins went into shows a lot about how fledgling and open to interpretation the library was. While things like a catalogue or a record and delivery and return of books might seem like common sense, the basics had to be laid down first for us to get to that point. His minute descriptions of the library give a lot of credence to the idea that early library science focused to a very large degree on the practical side of cataloguing, policing, etc. I think Perkins did recognize that a librarian was meant to serve the public too though, as we see when he states it is the librarian’s duty “not only to give out and take back books, but it ought to keep its friends and to make new ones.” While this makes sense, I feel as though the burden of pressure to be both friendly and efficient at the same time must have been overwhelming at times.
This idea is somewhat questionable to me, as there was no way he could force people to go to the library, and even if they did go, there is no guarantee that they would read the “right” material that would force them around to his way of thinking.
Although Ticknor did believe in “healthy general reading,” on the whole his aristocratic beliefs were reflected in the people that ran the libraries, which not only offended many patrons, but their belief that they knew best left them “totally unfamiliar with the needs, capabilities, and aspirations of the common man.”
This effort to educate the uniformed and unwashed continued to prove unsuccessful mostly due to continuing holier than thou attitudes, until finally librarians began to question just what their mission was supposed to be. Some seemed to feel providing people with the popular literature that they seemed to want was enough, others felt it was time to admit that the library’s real audience were middle class people- but Harris says that continuing endowment of libraries by millionaires like Andrew Carnegie let the idea of library as social improver of the masses continue for a long time despite evidence to the contrary.
This idea was generally let go in favor of the idea of the library as upholder of democracy and “people’s right to know,” but in general this went hand in hand with the final acceptance that the library’s real audience were people of a position similar to the librarians running the institutions. Overall, Harris took a very cynical outlook, going so far as to say that libraries are no longer considered important, and may be facing extinction if a better expression of purpose is not devised.
Dain too mentions Ticknor and other’s wish “the lower classes could be integrated into society through education,” she also states that it makes sense that people with money would create libraries. After all, as she said, who else would have the time or capital to do so in the days before tax supported libraries? In further discussion, Dain also brings up Harris’s point that most librarians were middle class. While she agrees it is possible the middle class attitude had a certain effect on the patrons, she again says, who else could have done the job, because “bookish people, like intellectuals generally, seldom came from the unpropertied and poorly educated masses.”
In relation to whether to give popular fiction to patrons, Dain characterized the problem to be largely one of maintaing credibility- for if the library was intended to uplift and educate, it was hard to imagine that “they abandon cannons of literary taste to cater to the less sophisticated,” which she believes we are still dealing with in modern libraries.
Monday, February 04, 2008
In her analysis of Garrison, Fain quotes: "librarians tended to 'serve' the reader, rather than to help ... [they] felt a a strong obligation to meet the needs of the public and were self-consciously sensitive to requests and complaints of the client," (Garrison quote by Fain, 103).
F. B. Perkins suggests the following: "... a perfect librarian is bound to be courteous and kind, attentive and accommodating, not only to the polite and considerate, but also to the evil and the unthankful," (Perkins, 427). Perkins goes on to say, "so far as circumstances permit, the library should do whatever is asked of it," (Perkins, 428).
Questions: To what degree are public service roles the same today? How do they differ? Does the public dictate the actions of the public library, or does the public librarian dictate the actions of the patron? Is there a balance? Is the public library of today (21st century) more involved with the community, inside and outside the structure of the library itself?
In F. B. Perkins "how-to" the public library is compared to a small business in its function for a small town - regarding this small business management, he states "a small library ... depends, if not even from month to month, certainly from year to year, upon the continual watchfulness, tact, and alertness with which not the wishes of learned men, but the public demand for entertaining reading is understood and met and gratified and managed," (Perkins, 420).
Questions: To what degree does the public library still refrain from functioning for the scholar, and rather exist for the public at large, the community, the working person? Is the public library of today still generally concerned with the "stuff in it" (i.e. books over the people), or do the people (staff included!) play a larger role in todays efforts within the library system?
In Michael Harris' revisionist historical interpretation, he mentions the taboo nature of censorship in libraries, and how in the libraries developmental stages, censorship was indeed "frequently used in the pages of professional literature ... [and] the librarian was responsible for keeping certain books from the public," (Harris, 2511).
Questions: To what degree does censorship play a role in libraries today (think about the library of the future scandal in San Fransisco), and how does a library guard against censorship, if it is as taboo as Harris mentions? Is there a difference in book "censorship" in public verses academic libraries (consider the function of a locked case in a library)? What about banned books, and how they are kept out of public schools, and to what degree out of public libraries?
In Elaine Fain's article the matter of user retention appears - as it does in the Harris article - and the issue if tossed around with unknown results. She emphasizes that "one could entice or browbeat an adult into entering a public library, but there was no way to force him to stick ... public libraries were faced with the problem of attracting and keeping clientele," (Fain, 102). Similarly, but more dramatically, Harris 'sweepingly' states at the end of his article that "people no longer see the library as important," (Harris, 2514).
Questions: What methods of retention are in place for the public libraries of today? Is keeping the community in the library still a problem? In cities where academic libraries are more prevalent, does the public library suffer? What "marketing" strategies are utilized for public libraries today, and how do some of these strategies crossover into other types of libraries, or other public institutions?
Regarding the Dain article:
Dain (263) notes that "generalizations about attitudes and motives of the early librarians must be limited due to the lack of substantive studies upon which to base such assessments". In a field populated by experts with history and\or English backgrounds why has so little been written about the field of librarianship?
Dain (262): How has the historically "conservative motives" and "ameliorative means" of early library leaders such as Ticknor affected the way we ask for funding and position ourselves in the past and in the present?
Dain (264) suggests that there was a desire for libraries to be taken seriously in early librarianship. Serious books and a scholarly disposition was a hallmark of the orientation of the day. To what degree did this affect the materials collected and the populations served?
Dain (266): According to Amitai Etzioni "low effectiveness in achieving institutional goals is characteristic of organizations". In what ways have libraries achieved their goals or failed to meet them? In what way have the goals changed?
Kristina and Petey (group 3).
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Williams also described the democratic tradition theory as a myth used by librarians partially because the plea for a library in the name of democracy was the most likely to succeed. While this makes sense, I can see why this idea has endured, because it is rather noble sounding.
In discussing the theory of social control in the creation of libraries, Williams again highlighted the lack of real evidence in support of this. While there were certain, as he called it “typologies” that described the phenomenon, the case of the libraries endowed by Andrew Carnegie seemed to be in opposition to this, because he took very little interest in directing the mission of the libraries.Overall, while I can understand Williams assertion that we need concrete evidence to make theories about the development of the library, it doesn’t seem quite that simple. Especially if we try to go back to the very beginning days of the library, much of that evidence is hard to find now, and generalities now almost seem like it would be the closest we can come to any real understanding. Where he certainly did seem to get it right was in saying that a library is the summation of many different causes, all of which probably did have a big impact on how the library developed.
I think it is worth some thought then that the first libraries had a lot more to do with rich white men leaving their mark on the world and cities achieving national distinction rather than people actually wanting read. Perhaps this had something to do with the decreased literacy and lack of free time of the time period?
One quote that I really enjoyed was George Ticknor's statement in a letter, "in its main department and purpose should differ from all free libraries yet attempted...one in which popular books...should be furnished in such numbers of copies that many persons, if they desired it, could be reading the same book at the same time." This idea seems a very revolutionary one for the time, in that previous to the library, it would have been impossible for this occurrence to even happen. Ticknor's idea is especially novel in relation to Quincy's seeming desire to legislate what people could and could not read.
Finally, it was really cool to read about when people first actually did take a vested interest in the public library, as it seemed to coincide with the very beginning of the industrial revolution, when people had some (if somewhat small at the time) way to better themselves with a large proliferation of jobs. While Shera raised the possibility that the library was a way for rich white men to get control over the lower classes, it seems as though the availability of books became a way for them to "raise...out of the ranks of the day laborer and into the middle class."
His statement that some people felt it "to be the duty of the State to supply boys and girls with dime novels," was interesting also, because although perhaps dime novels are not the best choice of reading material, at least it serves as a segueway into reading, which would perhaps lead to more worthwhile material. Without that initial spark, perhaps some people never would have taken an interest in reading for pleasure at all.
Finally, I have to wonder what Quincy meant when he said that when he stated that "the usefullness of a free library may increase in inverse ratio to the circulation of its books." Again, while he may have had opinions about quality of literature, I'm not sure I agree that it should be his and other "educated" men's responsibility to decide which books are useful and which are not.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
I am just loving all the reading I've done so far for this course (and I will nerdily admit to being a week or so ahead in the reader), and I'm rearranging my mind to make room for more furniture!
Seriously, the Harris article and the reactions to it are pure unadulterated awesome. I hope we get a chance to talk through how some of the attitudes attributed to various parties (from donors to patrons to government to librarians themselves) persist in modern librarianship, because I was seeing an awful lot that feels familiar...
My apologies to everyone for the contentless post -- I'm just happy and wanted to share.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Here are the questions and comments group 2 came up with for the readings for class on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
Theresa and Emily
J. P. Quincy, Free Libraries
Jesse Shera, Causal factors in public library development
Shera writes “The belief was widely held that reading was a ‘good’ thing in itself and that the act of reading tended to elevate the reader, and this faith in the printed word as an instrument for the building of character is often expressed by the proprietors of corporation libraries” (238). Based on Quincy’s article, would he agree with this assessment of the power of reading?
Robert V. Williams, The Public Library as the Dependent Variable: Historically Oriented Theories and Hypotheses of Pubic Library Development
Williams gives us the main theories and shows us how they fail and provides us an alternative, but where do we start? Especially given the fact that “our community of scholars is small and the issues so diverse” (Williams, 330). Do you believe that one of these theories provides us with a better starting point? Williams writes “The three candidate theoretical explanations of public library development considered thus far have all treated the library as a dependent variable, subject to factors within the social system but having no direct effect on the social system or, indirectly, on itself” (Williams, 338). How does this tie in with Quincy’s view of libraries as a moral center in the community? If the initial expectation of libraries was to have a specific effect on the community, what are the implications of overlooking this effect in historical research? How would one study the impact of the library on its community?