Institutions of Reading
The Social Life of Libraries in the United States
How libraries in their many forms have altered invidual experience and shaped public culture
Tracing the evolution of the library as a modern institution from the late eighteenth century to the digital era, this book explores the diverse practices by which Americans have shared reading matter for instruction, edification, and pleasure. Writing from a rich variety of perspectives, the contributors raise important questions about the material forms and social shapes of American culture. What is a library? How have libraries fostered communities of readers and influenced the practice of reading in particular communities? How did the development of modern libraries alter the boundaries of individual and social experience, and define new kinds of public culture? To what extent have libraries served as commercial enterprises, as centers of power, and as places of empowerment for African Americans, women, and immigrants?Institutions of Reading offers at once a social history of literacy and leisure, an intellectual history of institutional and technological innovations that facilitated the mass distribution and consumption of printed books and periodicals, and a cultural history of the symbolic meanings and practical uses of reading in American life.In addition to the editors, contributors include Elizabeth Amann, Michael Baenen, James Green, Elizabeth McHenry, Barbara Mitchell, Christine Pawley, Janice Radway, James Raven, Karin Roffman, and Roy Rosenzweig.
"A much-needed addition to the field of library history, a field in which a great deal of research remains to be done. It will be useful also to cultural historians and scholars interested in the history of the book. . . . One of the real strengths of the work is the fact that it addresses issues from colonial times up to the present and into the future, presenting an overview of current scholarship in the field."—Thomas G. Knoles, American Antiquarian Society
"These remarkable essays excel at situating library history in broader contexts—American intellectual and cultural history, the politics and economics of gender, the changing technologies for reproducing print. Collectively they move library history firmly into the center of the 'history of the book' in demonstrating its connections to structures of knowledge and the social history of reading. An important book."—David D. Hall, Harvard University
"Together, the essays represent a fresh integration of the work of classic library historians with perspective for their cultural and social history colleagues. In so doing, they offer new insights into a traditional, if often neglected, object of study - the historical role of libraries in American society."—The Journal of American History