New Book: A People's History of the American Public Library

You've gotta love a good "people's history." In my formative undergrad years, I remember working at a local bookstore and being exposed to Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

It. Blew. My. Young. Mind.

And now a law librarian colleague (Thanks, Randy!) has brought a new "people's history" to my attention. It's called Part of Our Lives: A People's History of the American Public Library.

Despite dire predictions in the late twentieth century that public libraries would not survive the turn of the millennium, their numbers have only increased. Two of three Americans frequent a public library at least once a year, and nearly that many are registered borrowers. Although library authorities have argued that the public library functions primarily as a civic institution necessary for maintaining democracy, generations of library patrons tell a different story. 

In Part of Our Lives, Wayne A. Wiegand delves into the heart of why Americans love their libraries. The book traces the history of the public library, featuring records and testimonies from as early as 1850. Rather than analyzing the words of library founders and managers, Wiegand listens to the voices of everyday patrons who cherished libraries. Drawing on newspaper articles, memoirs, and biographies, Part of Our Lives paints a clear and engaging picture of Americans who value libraries not only as civic institutions, but also as public places that promote and maintain community.

From the editorial reviews:

"This is a must-have book for all public, library-school, and college libraries and one that should be read by all librarians." -- starred review, Booklist

"Readers interested in public libraries, but also American economic, political and social history will find this book fascinating." --Billings Gazette

This is definitely going on the current reading list. Along with this book, I am also currently reading Divergent Paths, We Should All Be Feminists, and Between the World and Me. Challenging and insightful stuff.


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