Sunday, February 03, 2008

Causal Factors in Development

In this article, the thing that most surprised me was the statement that libraries were "forced on society." The availability of a large amount of books on a variety of topics for free is like second nature to me. The fact that people once had to try and find books they needed for research in a time when there was no centralized way to communicate is therefore completely shocking to me.
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 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."

1 comment:

Greg Downey said...

Another aspect of the shift to the industrial revolution is the change from apprenticeship forms to factory forms -- skill is embodied in machines designed increasingly by managers and engineers rather than imparted by mentors to learners. At the same time, elementary school, high school, and "continuation school" (think "work/study" for 12-year-olds) are increasingly expected to serve as job-training and sorting sites for a mass urban society. Thinking about how books -- especially textbooks and self-help books -- fit into this industrialized learning model might be interesting.