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February 13, 2012

Woman’s Building Library at 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition Is Subject of Book Discussion

On May 1, 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago opened its gates to an expectant public eager to experience firsthand its architectural beauty, technological marvels and vast array of cultural treasures gathered from all over the world. Among the most popular of the fair’s attractions was the Woman’s Building, a monumental exhibit hall filled with the products of women’s labor, including more than 8,000 volumes of writing, by women and collected by women -- the first important library of its kind. Hundreds of thousands of women visited the library and took what they learned to develop local libraries.

"Right Here I See My Own Books: The Woman's Building Library at the World’s Columbian Exposition" (University of Massachusetts Press, 2012) examines the progress, content and significance of this historic first effort to assemble a comprehensive library of women’s texts.

Authors Sarah Wadsworth and Wayne A. Wiegand will discuss and sign their book on Friday, March 2, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Whittall Pavilion, located on the ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is sponsored by the Center for the Book as part of its Books & Beyond author series. It is free and open to the public; no tickets are required. The co-sponsors are the Washington Area Group for Print Culture Studies and the National Women’s History Museum.

Wadsworth and Wiegand did much of their research in the rich collections of the Library of Congress. By weaving together the behind-the-scenes story of the formation of the Woman’s Building Library and the stories between the covers of books on display, the authors firmly situate the Woman’s Library within the historical context of the 1890s. Interdisciplinary in approach, their book demonstrates how this landmark collection helped consolidate and institutionalize women’s writing in conjunction with the burgeoning women’s movement and the professionalization of librarianship in late-19th-century America.

Sarah Wadsworth is associate professor of English at Marquette University and author of "In the Company of Books: Literature and Its ‘Classes’ in Nineteenth-Century America" (University of Massachusetts Press, 2006). Wayne A. Wiegand is F. William Summers Professor of Library and Information Studies Emeritus at Florida State University and author, most recently, of "Main Street Public Library: Community Places and Reading Spaces in the Rural Heartland, 1876–1956."

"Right Here I See My Own Books" is also the subject of a discussion on Facebook. The Books & Beyond Book Club is available at www.facebook.com/booksandbeyond/. Here readers can discuss books, the authors of which have appeared or will appear in this series. The site also offers links to webcasts of these events and asks readers to talk about what they have seen and heard.

Since its creation by Congress in 1977 to "stimulate public interest in books and reading," the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress (www.Read.gov/cfb/) has become a major national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages, nationally and internationally. The center provides leadership for 52 affiliated state centers for the book (including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and nonprofit reading-promotion partners and plays a key role in the Library’s annual National Book Festival. It also oversees the Library’s www.Read.gov website and administers the Library’s Young Readers Center.

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PR 12-035
02/13/12
ISSN 0731-3527

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