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Part of our lives : a people's history of the American public library

Author: Wayne A Wiegand
Publisher: New York : Oxford University Press, 2017. ©2015
Edition/Format:   Print book : English : [Oxford University Press paperback edition]View all editions and formats
Summary:
"Despite dire predictions in the late twentieth century that public libraries would not survive the turn of the millennium, their numbers have only increased. Two of three Americans frequent a public library at least once a year, and nearly that many are registered borrowers. Although library authorities have argued that the public library functions primarily as a civic institution necessary for maintaining
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Genre/Form: History
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Wayne A Wiegand
ISBN: 0190660295 9780190660291
OCLC Number: 989038860
Description: 331 pages ; 26 cm
Contents: So much more than information --
"Improv'd the general conversation of Americans" : social libraries before 1854 --
For "plain people" : the American public library, 1854-1876 --
"The best reading for the greatest number at the least cost", 1876-1893 --
"The liberty to read what they will and when" : the Carnegie era, 1893-1917 --
"Habitations on a literary map", 1917-1929 --
"One island of refuge" : the Great Depression and World War II, 1929-1945 --
"Winning the battles of daily life", 1945-1964 --
"An individual meaning to each user", 1964-1980 --
"Library paste is a precious part of social glue", 1981-2000 --
Information, reading, and place, 2001-present.
Responsibility: Wayne A. Wiegand.

Abstract:

"Despite dire predictions in the late twentieth century that public libraries would not survive the turn of the millennium, their numbers have only increased. Two of three Americans frequent a public library at least once a year, and nearly that many are registered borrowers. Although library authorities have argued that the public library functions primarily as a civic institution necessary for maintaining democracy, generations of library patrons tell a different story. In Part of Our Lives, Wayne A. Wiegand delves into the heart of why Americans love their libraries. The book traces the history of the public library, featuring records and testimonies from as early as 1850. Rather than analyzing the words of library founders and managers, Wiegand listens to the voices of everyday patrons who cherished libraries. Drawing on newspaper articles, memoirs, and biographies, Part of Our Lives paints a clear and engaging picture of Americans who value libraries not only as civic institutions, but also as social spaces for promoting and maintaining community. Whether as a public space, a place for accessing information, or a home for reading material that helps patrons make sense of the world around them, the public library has a rich history of meaning for millions of Americans. From colonial times through the recent technological revolution, libraries have continuously adapted to better serve the needs of their communities. Wiegand goes on to demonstrate that, although cultural authorities (including some librarians) have often disparaged reading books considered not "serious" the commonplace reading materials users obtained from public libraries have had a transformative effect for many, including people like Ronald Reagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Oprah Winfrey. A bold challenge to conventional thinking about the American public library, Part of Our Lives is an insightful look into one of America's most beloved cultural institutions"--

"Part of Our Lives challenges the conventional idea that public libraries are valuable mostly because they are essential to democracy. Instead, this book uses the voices of generations of public library users to argue that Americans have loved their libraries for the useful information they make accessible; the public spaces they provide; and the commonplace reading materials they supply that help users make sense of the world around them"--

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With most histories over the decades emanating largely from practitioners and educators in the library field, a persistent criticism has been researchers' reluctance to engage more fully with the Read more...

 
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