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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"

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Reactions to this week

This week's readings were really provocative, I thought. I totally agree with Jacob about the insertion of a novel as evidence for a major argument in the Beck article. Usually if historians are going to use a novel they use more than one and they talk quite a bit about what they are trying to tease out of the novel and why. Surely there must be a better source than this. I found myself writing "how do you know this"at several points in this article -- the whole thing just seems weak on evidence to me.

But beyond that I have some other issues too. Beck treats the Russian emigres as a monolothic group, but I doubt that they were. And it seems to me that at least some of the Russian immigrants created their own reading rooms and libraries, which were later absorbed into the public library. This fits with what I'm currently reading about German-American immigrants, who, in keeping with the European tradition they came from, formed their own societies which sometimes included reading rooms and rental libraries, as well as a vibrant press. So, public libraries may have beem competing with other kinds of community resources that they were unaware of. In my readings about German-Americans I see that there is a generational aspect to all of this too; as the children of the immigrants become more assimilated the needs and outlook of this community changes. The article on Latino outreach seems to reflect some of these issues in a more proactive and contemporary way I thought.

Anderson's article about the 135th Street Branch really tries to lay out the different elements in the community. I hope we'll talk more about the figure of Miss Rose. I've been thinking about her quite a bit in the context of Bridget's observation, but it is hard for me to view her impact as anything other than benign in the context of that time and place. I really liked the notion of the Schomburg Collection--now a world-famous collection-- as, in its origins, a kind of validation of black history and culture. I'm really interested in the symbolic value that is attached to library collections and it was intriguing to read about it in this context. As other have already mentioned, the ideas of the library's patrons play an important role too, pointing up some of the differences in that element of the community also -- DuBois'' opposition to Schomburg's curating his own collection because Schomburg lacked a college degree, for instance. Of the articles we have read thus far, this one by Anderson was the most satisfying to me as good social history. I hope she'll write more.

Sorry to be delayed in my blogging--the blog was down yesterday when I tried to post. See you soon...Barbara


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