The American Public Library and the Problem of Purpose
AUTHOR: Patrick Williams
PUBLISHER: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
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The problem of purpose in the title is the 130-year debate within the library community over the proper place for the library in society. Chapters discuss roles for public libraries from the founding of the Boston Public Library with its clear educational purpose through attempts at rational planning for library roles in the 1980s. The controversy about the place of popular fiction in American libraries in the late 19th century; the militant outreach efforts during the early decades of the 20th century; the adult education phase during the 1920s to 1940s; and the library as an information nexus for the people during the late 1960s and 1970s are additional topics covered. The style is highly readable and provides important historical insights that should be of interest not only to library educators and students, but to any public librarian concerned with current service roles. "Library Journal"
Since the mid-1800s, when the first American public libraries were established, the proper role of the library as a public institution has been debated within the professional community. A systematic examination of that debate, this study provides an historical survey of the public library's view of itself--its development, social and educational functions, and larger purposes within American society.
Williams begins with a discussion of the creation of the Boston Public Library. He assesses public satisfaction with the services that libraries have consistently provided, including books for the recreational reader, materials and assistance to students, and children's programs designed to make books attractive and interesting to younger readers. He looks at the changing aspirations of the community of librarians, which has envisioned the institution variously as an agency for continuing education, a civic center of inspiration and uplift for the people, and a center for the political enlightenment of the masses. The author maintains that the gulf between public and professional perceptions needs to be addressed by present-day librarians, who continue to be faced with conflicting notions of what the library's role should be. He suggests that the professional community must sooner or later integrate a broader vision of the library's purpose with the expectations of the public it is intended to serve. Both entertaining and informative, this book offers new insights and historical perspectives that will be of particular interest to the fields of library science and American social and intellectual history.
PUBLICATION DATE: 11/2/1988
CATEGORY: Language Arts & Disciplines