August 14, 2015 "People's History" of Public Libraries Is Subject of Book Discussion

Book Features Testimonies from Users on Why They Love Libraries

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public Contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221

The public library is a “part of our lives,” argues a new book on the history of American libraries as told through the testimonies of those who use them.

In “Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library” (Oxford University Press, 2015), library historian Wayne A. Wiegand makes the case for why the library has survived and flourished in the 21st century, “despite dire predictions in the late 20th century that public libraries would not survive the turn of the millennium.”

Wiegand will discuss and sign his book on Tuesday, Sept. 15, at noon in the Montpelier Room, located on the sixth floor of the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. This Books & Beyond event, hosted by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, is free and open to the public; no tickets are required. Co-sponsors are the Virginia Library Association, the Maryland Library Association and the University of Maryland College of Information Studies.

“Part of Our Lives” traces the history of United States public libraries since 1850. Wiegand did research using newspaper articles, memoirs and biographies to present a picture of Americans, both famous and not-so-famous, and to show why they value libraries not only as civic institutions but also as social spaces for promoting and maintaining community. Much of his research was conducted at the Library of Congress.

Wayne A. Wiegand is the F. William Summers professor emeritus at the School of Information at Florida State University. He is one of the nation’s leading library historians.

Wiegand will be introduced by William Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency and one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the U.S. Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, NEH supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.

Wiegand’s research on the history of the American public library for his book, “Part of our Lives,” was supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at

The Library’s Center for the Book, established by Congress in 1977 to "stimulate public interest in books and reading," is a national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages through its affiliated state centers, collaborations with nonprofit reading promotion partners and through the Library’s Young Readers Center and the Poetry and Literature Center. For more information, visit


PR 15-135
ISSN 0731-3527