Monday, February 11, 2008

Ambivalence and Paradox

Phyllis Dain’s article was an answer to Harris’s, and one of her main arguments was similar to Robert William’s article in our earlier readings, which is that studies of library history tend to generalize small instances as being indicative of the whole, which we see very clearly when she states “a new set of beliefs has been postulated without rigorous analysis, solid verification, or appreciation of complexity.”
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.

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