"The Ubiquitous American Library" Discussed
On Oct. 31, noted library historian Wayne A. Wiegand of the Department of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, presented a talk at the Library called "The Ubiquitous American Library: A Look at an Understudied Yet Essential Reading Institution in the Twentieth Century."
Sponsored by the Center for the Book and presented in conjunction with the American Studies Association's 1997 Annual Convention, Mr. Wiegand's presentation was the second Center for the Book lecture in a project aimed at developing a multi-volume history of libraries in American culture. The first lecture, "Readers & Libraries: Toward a History of Libraries and Culture in America," was presented by Kenneth E. Carpenter on Sept. 25, 1995 (see LC Information Bulletin, Oct. 16, 1995) and is available from the Center for the Book.
In his presentation Mr. Wiegand cited historical literature and statistics demonstrating that although libraries are to be found in almost every community in America, they are still one of the most understudied institutions. He concluded that until scholars explore more deeply the history of the American library as a "reading institution" that is an integral part of American democracy, librarians would continue to misunderstand their place in society even as they plan for the future.
Mr. Wiegand's talk will be published at a later date.
Library History Advisers Meet
In conjunction with Wayne Wiegand's Oct. 31 lecture, the Center for the Book hosted a distinguished group of book and library historians who are serving as advisers for the project to develop a multivolume history of libraries in American culture.
Kenneth Carpenter and Mr. Wiegand, the editors of the projected work, circulated a document that served as the basis for discussion. Several alternative approaches to organizing the history were presented in the paper, along with a provisional list of topics to be covered. Drawing on discussions at an earlier meeting at the Library, Mr. Carpenter noted that whatever broad themes the new work might emphasize, it must also "encompass much detail about the functioning of libraries," since no other historical project is likely to cover "the nitty gritty of librarianship."
Issues discussed by the advisers included: intended audience -- general, scholarly or both?; whether the work contemplated was basically to be "encyclopedic, synthetic or interpretive?;" the possible use of "libraries as knowledge institutions" as a basic theme; the possibility of focusing on "questions to be asked" instead of particular themes; the desirability of focusing on particular libraries in specific places (the library as "site"); the possible roles of historical case studies; and how the proposed work might best take advantage of "the enormous reservoir of research that already had been done on libraries." Mr. Carpenter and Mr. Wiegand welcome comments on their proposal.
Center for the Book Director John Y. Cole is leading the project advisory board during its development. The board of distinguished historians includes "corresponding members" from Canada, England and France. Advisory board members participating in the Oct. 31 meeting were: (executive committee members are designated by an asterisk): Jane Aikin, National Endowment for the Humanities; Thomas Augst*, Harvard University; Phyllis Dain; Donald G. Davis, Jr.*, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Texas; Dee Garrison, Rutgers University; James N. Green*, Library Company of Philadelphia; Neil Harris*, University of Chicago; Edward G. Holley, University of North Carolina; Carl Kaestle, Brown University; Elizabeth Long*, Rice University; Marcus A. McCorison; Richard Newman, De Bois Institute; Joanne E. Passet*; Barbara Sicherman*, Trinity College; and Ian Willison, University of London.
Library History Seminar X
The Library of Congress will host Library History X in Washington on Oct. 23-27, 2000. The topic will be "National Libraries: Interpreting the Past, Shaping the Future." As part of the Library of Congress's bicentennial commemoration, the seminar will be expanded beyond its usual historical scope to include papers about national libraries today and in the future. The seminar co-chairs are John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book, and Winston Tabb, associate librarian for Library Services. Individuals interested in presenting papers should contact John Y. Cole, Center for the Book, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540-4920.
Library history seminars are held approximately every five years in cooperation with the American Library Association's Library History Roundtable and the journal Libraries & Culture, published by the University of Texas Press. Library History Seminar IX was held March 30-April 1, 1995, at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The topic was "Philanthropy and Libraries."
"Marks in Books" Proceedings Published
Papers from "Marks in Books," a January 1997 conference at Yale University, sponsored by the Bibliographical Projects Committee of the Bibliographical Society of America, with support from the Center for the Book, have been published in the December 1997 (Vol. 91, No. 4) issue of The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America. Conference organizer Roger E. Stoddard of Harvard's Houghton Library edited the issue.
Jefferson Building Exhibition to Close July 6
"Book Palace of the American People," a popular exhibition in the Library's Great Hall that marks the centennial of the opening of the Thomas Jefferson Building, will close on July 6.
John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book and one of the exhibition's organizers, presented a live television tour of the exhibition on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" on Dec. 18. He emphasized the enthusiastic public reaction to the building's opening on Nov. 1, 1897, pointing out the postcards in the exhibit that called the structure "the world's most beautiful building." More than half of the 165 items on display are from the private collections of Library of Congress employees. Mr. Cole explained that the Library would welcome, for its archives, additional items relating to the building's opening or its history. He also told C-SPAN viewers about the richly illustrated 320-page book about the building that was recently published by W.W. Norton: The Library of Congress: The Art and Architecture of the Thomas Jefferson Building (1997).
Items on display include paintings, mirrors, trinket boxes, scissors, letter openers, watch fobs, buttonhooks, trays, paperweights, napkin rings, plates, cups and saucers, spoons, plaques and pillows.
Jefferson Building Symposium Proceedings to Be Published
The U.S. Capitol Historical Society will publish a volume based on the Nov. 14 symposium on the art and architecture of the Jefferson Building, which was cosponsored by the Center for the Book. "This was our most successful symposium ever," said Donald Kennon, the society's chief historian. "We had an overflow crowd of more than 200 people and continue to receive inquiries about the program and the building itself. For further information, contact the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, 200 Maryland Ave. N.E., Washington, DC 20002-5796.