Monday, March 03, 2008

Readings for Week 7: Libraries and War

Good morning, class...we are classmates Ruby LeGault and Amanda Kramer. The following text is a brief overview of our week's reading along with questions suited for discussion.

First article
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)?

Second article
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?

Third article
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?

Fourth article
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
and history.

“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.)?

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