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LIS 950: Libraries and community

The purpose of this seminar is to explore an important topic in library and information studies in depth — in all its intertwined historical, cultural, philosophical, and political aspects — through a graduate reading/discussion seminar. The topic varies each time the course is taught; this time around, we will focus on "libraries and community"

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Thoughts & Discussion for Friday on Free to All

I agree with you, Irene, that the last two chapters do not seem to be historically rich as the rest of the book. I was disappointed the book was not enriched by first person accounts relating their library experiences (especially in terms of immigrant children) - though I recognize Van Slyck says there are not enough records about this.

I found it interesting, both Apostles of Culture and Free to All discuss feminization of librarianship and library efficiency. Van Slyck mentions Bertam's emphasis on reducing "elaborate architectual expression" which led to smaller appropriations given to the Carnegie libraries which in turn resulted in "substantially smaller annual maintenance funds." Further, she adds that "library boards were more included to hire lower-paid females for library work." Here, female librarianship is considered a convenience. In Apostles, we read about female librarians as genteel hostesses. How do we reconcile (if that is the case) these views of the feminization of librarianship?

Van Slyck also elaborates on the role of a centrally located charging desk playing a major part in library efficiency and its perception within the library, especially when it was no longer considered a barrier to books. My first thought was whether this "ideal" was carried out today. We now have information desks, reference desks, and circulation desks, so instead of one point of contact, we generally have two. Other libraries have even implemented a triage system. I would be interested to hear other's reactions to Van Slyck's emphasis on the role of the charging desk and how/why it evolved into several service points in the library.

Unlike Apostles, which discusses the East, Van Slyck mentions how in the West, it was "more common for middle -class women to take responsibility for establishing town libraries. Western women were so active in establishing and administering libraries for their towns that in 1933 the American Library Association credited women's clubs with initiating 75 percent of the public libraries then in existence." One question I thought I would throw out into the open is what were the club women's responses to Carnegie libraries (for instance, we read the club women tended to take on the siting strategies of local churches to in order for readers to pursue more wholesome activities)?


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