History Log for History of Libraries- LIS 580- Spring 2019- IUPUI
The history log contains twenty articles, with two from each of the six sections of the course. At least welve entries are from professional journal articles. The remainder are from articles, blogs and websites. Each entry includes a complete citation and a few sentences about what was learned and why it is cool. The assignment will be shared with classmates on Canvas in the discussion tab with the top three favorites indicated by an emoji, icon or color. One peer’s log not previously read will be shared and a thoughtful reply given to the peer. Checklist: 20 items (8 points), 3 favorites featured (1 point), Peer log reply with item comment (1 point).
Intrator, M. (2007). “People were literally starving fo any kind of reading”: The
Theresienstadt Ghetto Central Library, 1943-1945. Library Trends, Volume 55, Number 3,
Winter 2007, pp. 513-522.
Miriam Intrator, currently the Special Collections Librarian at Ohio University, explores the story of the Theresienstadt or Terezin Jewish Ghetto Central library in Prague, asserting that,”reading functioned as a crucial tool of comfort, learning, and escape” for the inhabitants. This means of resistance was enabled by the Nazis’ attempt to make the ghetto a “model camp” to deceive human rights groups and disguise their true genocidal intentions. The Czech town of Terezin was an ancient fortress, just outside of Prague, complete with walls and a moat, as well as a prison and barracks. (You can learn more about Terezin at the Jewish Virtual Library.) The Jewish population of Terezin grew as Jews from all over Europe arrived; eventually they were shipped further east to be murdered at death camps. Many individuals imprisoned in this camp originated from the ranks of the elite, and were wealthy, highly educated, and talented prominent artists of all disciplines. (Intrator notes that the group was intentionally selected because their sudden disappearance might be more noticeable.) Because the Germans wanted to present the town as “normal”, despite its horrific conditions, a facimile of “normal life” was allowed to go on, complete with cultural activities, including a library. Intrator uses primary sources, such as poetry, writings, reports, diaries, memoirs, to illustrate the signficant demand for library materials and the ways it facilitated “intellectual and spiritual resistance” (p. 515). She writes, “Through its very normalcy as an institution of leisure and learning, the library provided a means for prisoners to resist Nazi attempts to completely humiliate, dehumanize, and annihilate them” (p. 513).
This article prompted me to learn more about Terezin or Theresienstadt as the Germans called it. Intrator provides intriguing insights into the lives of those touched by the library, from patrons who wrote such lines of poetry as, “I am lying abed and would like to read something…” to library staff, such as the director Emil Utitz, a professor of philosophy and psychology, and librarians Else Menken and Hugo Friedmann. Of the many library staff, only Utitz and his assistant Kathe Starke survived. Thanks to Utitz, an opera composed by two artists in the camp survived though its authors did not, as the Nazis quickly ascertained the production was a brutal satire of the Nazis and Hitler.
Tancheva, Korneila (2005). Recasting the debate: the sign of the library in popular culture.
Libraries & the Cultural Record, 40(4), 530-546.
Tancheva’s essay is an exploration of the interpretive possibilities of library images present in three films, The Name of the Rose, The Wings of Desire and Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. She investigates the relationship between the visuals and symbolism of the libraries portrayed in the films, and their meaning in cultural context. She argues that “meaning is contingent on context”, and is symbolic based on the interpreter’s, or audience’s perspectives. She begins with a discussion of the previous scholarly literature on the subject of libraries and librarians in popular culture in film, books and other media and aims to go beyond analysis of negative and positive stereotypes. The author cites the work of McReynolds (1985) and The Radfords (2001) who deployed gender analysis and Focault’s discourse analysis respectively (p.531). She asserts McReynolds concludes that negative stereotypes are located in misogynistic attitudes based on the assumed feminization of the profession and space. Tancheva also asserts that the Radfords situate their arguments on “Foucault’s understanding of the library as an institution for control of knowledge and truth” and that the role of the feminized librarian is to “diffuse” , “the power and fear of rationality,” (p. 531).
Tancheva’s exploration of themes associated with library representation covers the library as a place of fear, a cathedral, a place where users are humiliated and librarians act as gatekeepers and policeman. Metaphors commonly associated with libraries include those of control, and mystery, death, tombs, labyrinths, silence and humiliation (p.531). This essay proposes a model of cultural analysis that places weight on the participation of the audience and on the fluidity of this sign in culture.
This is one of my absolute favorite, if not favorite article of all the readings encountered in this class because it touches on topics and theories I explored in depth in my graduate program in Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Louisville. The study of gender and popular culture fascinated me then and now, so it was with interest and pleasure that encountered it in the equally fascinating area of library history.
Houston, G.W. (2008). Tiberius and the libraries: Public book collections and library
buildings in the early Roman Empire. Libraries & the Cultural Record, 43 (3), 247-269.
Houston explores what he asserts is a gap in the scholarship of library history in the era of the Roman emperor Tiberius (14-37 B.C.E.), arguing that linking extant information and placing it in a larger context reveals this overlooked period to be precedent setting and a “transitional and formative” time “in the history of Roman libraries (p.260).” This article appealed to me deeply due to my perhaps rather odd fandom of the BBC’s 1976 production of I,Claudius, starring Derek Jacobi, Sian Phillips, Brian Blessed, John Hurt and George Baker. I must have watched it twenty times or more and own the collector’s box set. I’m also a fan of the books by Robert Graves the series is based on, and have read it over many times as well. Because of this peculiar attachment to the historical figures in the fictitious version of Roman history, I found this article totally fascinating. The TV series and the books characterize Claudius and Tiberius as scholars, and lovers of literature and libraries.
Finley, Susan (2014). Census Library of EphesusL The man and the city behind the famous
facade. Libra, 64(3), 277-292.
Susan Finley discusses the Celsus Library of Ephesus, and the man who inspired the library, as well as the historical context and significance of the city and the city in the Roman empire. The author develops her thesis that Celsus the man and the library he inspired to be built worked as a “bridge” between “Greek and Roman cultures (p. 277).”
I enjoyed this article because ancient libraries fascinate me, and this was an area of ancient history I am unfamiliar with. Perhaps someday I will visit the reconstructed site armed with this interesting information!
Bagneux-Olsen, O. (2013). The memory library: How the library in Hellenistic Alexandria worked. Knowledge Organization, 41 (1), 3-13.
The author discusses questions he asserts are yet unanswered about the practical workings of the Library of Alexandria. For example, “how was its literature classified and retrieved?” Olsen-Bagneux argues that previous scholarship errs by projecting modern library practices and structures into the past, ignoring the cultural and intellectual context of the times. The most astonishing argument made in this article relates to the nature of memory as a mental construct. The article is divided into three parts, “The Dead Library”, “The Living Library” and “The Memory Library.” The “Dead Library” refers to the physical structure of the library, and physical scrolls, how they were organized and retrieved. “Living Library” refers to how human beings themselves were conceptualized as libraries, and analyzes how the scholar in antiquity “was able to store, search, remember and quote enormous amounts of literature from memory.” The final piece, “The Memory Library” argues that the dead and living libraries combined in the actual working of the library and that “the actual physical library could be sung”, just as the literature of the time was “sung”.
from the third century BC to the fifth century AD. Library History, 24(4), 307-312.
Rhis Ranasinghe of the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, discusses Buddhism’s influence of the “origin of libraries in Sri Lanka from the third century BC to the fifth century AD. She argues that the education and religious systems evolved concurrently creating a fertile ground for a rich library tradition in this country. She also examines the roles of monks and kings in the development of the library tradition in Sri Lanka. This article was interesting to me because I have a somewhat vague interest in Buddhism and the novel Anil’s Ghost (set in modern Sri Lanka) had an impact on me about ten years ago. The connection between temples, schools and libraries connected with my understanding of medieval libraries in Europe.
Satterley, R.(2008). The libraries of the Inns of Court: An examination of their historical
influence. Library History, 24(3), 208-219.
Satterley discusses the history of London’s Inns of Court and their libraries, focusing on the period of the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. She first posited that the broad subjects and topics of the library materials were due to the early “finishing school” for gentry nature of the institutions, which only later as the legal profession’s education became more formalized took precedence over other activities and topics. Upon researching the topic by examine the accession records and catalogues of each individual library (Middle, Inner, etc.) did she conclude that the wide range of subject matter was due to the role of large bequests that formed the basis of the collections. In addition to the history and nature of the collections of the Inns of Court libraries, the author also connects the Inns to the print trade of the era, and explores the relationship between printers, booksellers and the legal profession.
I enjoyed this article because it placed this institution which is familiar to me from many a historical novel set in England into the larger context of the society and history of England. I was also interested to read about the connection to America and the future United States with regard to explorers and the Virginia Company. The article reinforced for me that the study of library history is a way to explore the workings and values of larger society.
Roberts, Daphne & Duckett, Bob (2006). The Bradford Library and Literary Society, 1774-
1980. Library History, 22(3), 213-226.
Roberts and Duckett examine the history of the Bradford Library and Literary Society which was for over two hundred years a “major cultural institution for the town’s prosperous middle classes.” The article “describes and discusses” the members, finances, administration and other workings of the library including the librarians and the book collection. The title of this article caught my eye due to my long standing interest in the Bronte family, as I recognized the location from the many biographies and other books I’ve read on the topic. Sure enough, Patrick Bronte, the father of the Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte is listed as a member! The Bradford Library was a “proprietary library”, owned by the members. It served the needs of the educated professional community and gentry. The institution weathered many ups and downs, from an embezzling lady librarian to the economic downturns of the the world wars. Surprisingly the Public Library Act of 1850 did not produce as many public libraries as might be imagined, so it did not negatively impact the Bradford Library and Literary Society. I was amused by the disagreements of members and complaints of patrons. Apparently the “novel faction” and serious reading faction were often at odds, and one patron complained that he could place his name on a waiting list for newer fiction, but his getting a copy depended on him “living long enough”!
Cole, J.Y. (2005). The Library of Congress becomes a world library, 1815-2005. Libraries &
the Cultural Record, 40 (3), 385-398.
Cole writes on the history of the Library of Congress, discussing its transformation from an institution designed to serve Congress into a national library and a “world library”, with a collection as diverse as the American people themselves. The author notes that the influence of Thomas Jefferson’s “concept of universality eventually became the rationale for the library’s comprehensive collecting policies”, though the full affect was not evident until after the Civil War. I find it fascinating that the influence of such a singular person is felt today, particularly the complex figure of Jefferson, who embodies the contradictions in America and its history. The article further explores each significant era in the LOC’s history in detail, but I found its discussion of the expansion of the purpose from an institution that primarily served Congress into a universal world library that supports research and scholarship the most interesting part.
Roe, George (2010). Challenging the control of knowledge in Colonial India: Political ideas in the work of S.R. Ranganathan. Library & Information History, 26(1), 18-32.
Roe’s article is an, “attempt to reassess Ranganathan, placing his work within its historical and political context (p.19).” The author asserts that the ground breaking library theorist’s work is more relevant today than ever, and has profound potential to impact libraries in the “electronic age.” In particular, Ranganathan’s emphasis on free access to knowledge for all and has implications for the role libraries have to play in regard to social justice issues. Roe argues that this work fills a gap in previous scholarly studies that have failed to incorporate the importance of the Indian Independence movement and struggles to throw off British colonizer’s rule. I enjoyed this article because it places Rangnathan’s rules in historical context, one which as a student of British history and an interstate’s in India particular resonated with me. I was also very interested in the connection Raganathan made between open access libraries and the extension of democracy. Some readings from this course that I’ve encountered have pushed back on the common upbeat perception of libraries as ahistorical bastions of freedom of expression and access (for instance histories dealing with Jim Crow era discrimination and Apartheid in South Africa’s libraries). This article is another piece in the puzzle furthering my understanding of the many facets and nuances of library history.
Boyd, Donald C. (2007). The book women of Kentucky: the WPA pack horse library project,
1936-1943. Libraries & the Cultural Record, 42(2), 111-128.
Boyd’s article explores the Works Progress Administration project that facilitated the expansion of access to books to the people of Appalachia in Kentucky. The notion of local women gaining employment by delivering books for information, education and recreation to remote mountain populations is very charming and interesting, but what is the most fascinating to me about this topic is the cultural roots of distrust that formed a barrier that was overcome to make this a successful program. The work done by this program symbolizes the best of what libraries and librarianship has to offer communities, especially those that are marginalized. This was one of my favorite course readings.
Gaffney, Loretta (2013). ‘Is your public library family friendly?’ Libraries as a site of
conservative activism, 1992-2002. In, C. Pawley & L.S. Robbins, Print Culture History in
Modern America: Libraries and the Reading Public in Twentieth Century America.
University of Wisconsin, 185-199.
Any observe of current affairs knows the culture wars of the ’90s are long from over. Gaffney’s exploration of the history and activism of the FFL (Family Friendly Libraries) is situated at “the intersection of media studies and library history.” The author concludes that this issue is not merely an argument about specific materials or policies, but, “about the purpose of the library and who shall have the right to determine it (p.186).” I was most struck by the Louse Robbins quote,”when the cultural discourse is contested, the institutions charged with the transmission of culture become arenas of contest.” Robbins was writing about a civil rights era event, but that quote applies to not only the culture wars of the 90’s discussed by Gaffney in 2013, but to the state of libraries in 2019 as well. One piece missing from the discussion of the origins of the pro-family movement and its emphasis on hot button issues like abortion and gay rights, and its location in reactions to huge social shifts in the 1960’s is the piece that racism played in this movement’s beginnings. It is my understanding that current thought on how abortion became such a massive political motivator in the evangelical community is that white fears about de-segregation impacted the development of this movement. Though the author cites the sexual revolution, gay rights and Vietnam war controversy played a part, but doesn’t discuss civil rights and desegregation, which I think is a necessary component to this issue.
Lehmann, Vibeke (Winter 2011) Challenges and Accomplishments in U.S. Prison Libraries.
Library Trends, 59(3), 473-489.
Lehmann writes on the “evolution of prison library services in the United States and the changes in the roles and purposes of prison libraries over the last two centuries (p.490).” Standards and guideline developments, prison population characteristics and needs and libraries’ response to them are examined. The author also identifies successful programs and services, collection development polices, law library services, literacy efforts and resources for re-entry to society for prisoners. Given the high rates of incarceration (the U.S. is the leader in the developed world for imprisoning its own citizens) and the disproportionate impact on poor communities and people of color, and no-English speakers this is a topic ripe for social justice activism, a natural place for library work. The author asserts that, “incarcerated persons have a large number of unmet needs, which translate into a high demand for information, learning materials, and self-improvement resources”…and that, “the library…can play a vital role in meeting these needs (p.494.)” I found the article’s discussion of the challenges and successes related to this area to be very enlightening. One facet that I had not considered is that though they themselves are a marginalized and vulnerable population, access to the internet and communication can also present a threat to victims of violent crime. This is complex terrain in which security and access to information must both be considered.
Today and Tomorrow
Cloonan, Michele Valerie (Summer 2007). The paradox of preservation. Library Trends,
Cloonan concludes her article with a handy phrase for understanding the complex topic of preservation, writing, “we can preserve some things some of the time; but not everything all fo the time, and we cannot operate purely under an old custodial model (p.145).” The mission and purpose of libraries, archives and museums has changed from one of a storehouse to one of outreach and expansion of access. This change, and the ever evolving definition of preservation, create a paradox in the area of cultural heritage preservation. Using case studies the author illustrates that the current emphasis on “community input may lead to new preservation strategies –and to new ways of defining preservation.” This is a fascinating topic. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of the Nag Hammadi find and the shocking anecdote that the author’s request to see them twenty-six years ago was met by the librarian pulling them out of the drawer of his desk! What?! Would the codices have been better preserved if left undisturbed in eathernware jars under the ground? Yeah, kinda! There is something so tantalizing to the mind of a librarian about the image of something so valuable being treated so casually, from the burning of the papyrus by Muhammad Ali’s mother in her oven, to the casual neglect by the librarian, it makes one’s mind reel.
Billington, James (2015). The Modern Library and Global Democracy. In A. Crawford (Ed.),
The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History, Princeton University Press.
James Billington (1929-2018) (the former Librarian of Congress and cultural historian) closes out The Meaning of the Library with this wide ranging essay that aims to explore, “whether or not” the ‘quintessentially Enlightenment ideal” of the Jeffersonian optimism about linear progression of knowledge and general human progress is “sustainable” or “realistic.” Billington’s essay is surprisingly optimistic and rosy considering he was a historian. (By that I mean history does not usually lend itself to happy endings.) Reading this essay at this historical moment in 2019 is surreal, to put it mildly; his hopes for the future of democracy in Russia seem shockingly naive. Having said that, his assertion that librarians are even more important in the digital age and his description of libraries as the key to sustainable democratic society ring true to my ears. I hope he’s right about that, considering how off the mark his hopes for Russia seem to me in this moment in time.
McCrossen, A. (2006). “One cathedral more” or me pounding places for bummers”? The
cultural politics of leisure and the public library in Gilded Age America. Libraries &
Culture, 41 (2), 169-188.
McCrossen’s article places the development of public libraries within the context of U.S. cultural history, focusing on the Gilded Age and the Progressive era. She asserts that libraries were “shaped” by “the triumph of consumer capitalism, the dominance of hierarchy as an organization principle, and the process of sacralization (p.169).” The article is an excellent overview of the period and topic, but the most interesting piece for me is the tension between the ideal of progressive reformers of the library as a sacred space and the cultural anxiety about leisure and the growing mass culture/ the “public.” In this frame, (in the minds of library bigwigs and reformers) could either be “high” or “low”;that is to say that it could be a civilizing moral influence or “prurient and vulgar (p.171).” Public demand for novels and the entertaining forms of media, such as newspapers and periodicals was equated by elites with cheap theater thrills and carnivals, where as uplifting informative reading could be “transformative.” This civilizing mission shaped the position of librarian as a “mediator between the people and print” in the frame of cultural hierarchy. The author writes, “Public libraries..stood in the middle ground between the serious and popular–their mandate was to meet the public’s demands, but their goal was to improve, indeed to shape, its tastes (p.174).” One of the most interesting aspects of this article is the author’s observation that the ethics of Protestantism was a huge influence on the formation of libraries, and with it came a suspicion of leisure and idleness. A tangent of this cultural thread can be found in the idea that if reading must be done, it should be done with a purpose, otherwise libraries might not be quite as respectable as they claimed to be!
Kruk, M. (2015). Carol Kennicott’s dilemma. The Australian Library Journal, 64 (1), 48-56.
The author launches into an exploration of the dilemmas in modern librarianship via a discussion Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis. Kruk links questions of what libraries are actually for, to the what societies are actually for; what is their purpose? The history of U.S. libraries is compared to Australian library history, as are the historical forces that shaped each nation, which though similar, were significantly different to impact the formation of libraries. One main difference is the nature of the population and the disconnection of the U.S. from the “mother country”, versus Australia which continues to deeply identify with Great Britain. The question, “Should libraries make people happy or make them more kowlegable?” is connected by the author to general reflections and anxieties about social organization (p.49). Again and again in library history another question arises, can people be trusted to chose their own books? The author asserts that the absence of a foundation myth in Australia and its history as an “outpost of the British empire” make Australian culture “derivative p.53).” Only in 1984 did Australians stop being classified as British subjects. With this frame in mind, Kruk asserts that Australian library history is a colonial history. On top of this element, the dominance of Utilitarian political ideology makes Australian libraries pragmatic, practical places, with more popular fiction than classics and practical leisure pursuits. Kruk concludes Australian librarianship should reflect on its priorities, and be “bolder.”
I found the observation about how tightly intertwined culture values and historical events expressed in libraries very interesting. I discovered this article while searching for resources for Actio 5 which involved analyzing a primary film source about libraries. During that research I discovered this charming and amusing video about Australian libraries.
Heller-Roazen, D. (2002). Tradition’s destruction: on the Library of Alexandria. October,
100, 133-153. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/779096.
Heller-Roazen discusses the inextricably intertwined history of the destruction of the Library of Alexandria and the library itself. The author discusses contemporary accounts of the institution and also the construction of the historical memory of the place and what it represents in the Western imagination. This piece, which aims to be something different from the typical scholarly history nonetheless covers in great detail people associated with the library and its history, as well as the larger cultural significance the place and the idea of the place hold in the world of the mind. This piece was useful for the short story I wrote for an assignment. It helped me to imagine what the real library might have been like and also to capture what the idea of it is in the imagination of the world.
Fiorio, S.F. (2019). The killing of Hypatia. Lapham’s Quarterly.
This article/blog post is absolutely fascinating. The author covers in nuanced detail the facts related to the 5th century philosophy and martyr to intellectual freedom Hypatia, who was brutally murdered by a mob of Christian fanatics. It’s not only good history but a cracking good story. The blog/article was instrumental in the creation of my short story “I,Librarian” and inspired me a great deal.
Library of Congress. (N.D.). The Library of Congress: A timeline. loc.gov.
This straightforward timeline of the history of the Library of Congress is a very useful resource for understanding the evolution of the national library of the United States. I was able to use it for an assignment for the class comparing the British Library to the LOC and it was very helpful. Sometimes the simplest arrangement of information is the best way to convey events over time.