Sunday, February 03, 2008

Public Library as Dependent Variable

This article was most interesting to me because it took the study of social science and history as that which could work under the same methods as other scientific study. It seems that Williams viewed most of the arguments as faulty because they did not have enough proof to really back them up. For example, Williams shot down Shera’s blanket statement that his theories were “equally applicable elsewhere” as an untested hypothesis, and that which “ignores differences in library development that might be the result of the variables of time and region.”
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.

1 comment:

Greg Downey said...

Keep the objections to Carnegie library development in mind in a few weeks when we read Van Slyck's Free to all ... there's a more complicated story there.