The University of Wisconsin Press

Print Culture / History / American Studies

Libraries and the Reading Public in Twentieth-Century America
Edited by Christine Pawley and Louise S. Robbins

Print Culture History in Modern America
James P. Danky, Christine Pawley, and Adam R. Nelson, Series Editors

“The focus on libraries not as cold, impersonal institutions engaged in promulgating top-down policies but rather as spaces populated by people with diverse backgrounds, needs, and values is what makes this volume valuable.”
—Joan Shelley Rubin, University of Rochester

For well over one hundred years, libraries open to the public have played a crucial part in fostering in Americans the skills and habits of reading and writing, by routinely providing access to standard forms of print: informational genres such as newspapers, pamphlets, textbooks, and other reference books, and literary genres including poetry, plays, and novels. Public libraries continue to have an extraordinary impact; in the early twenty-first century, the American Library Association reports that there are more public library branches than McDonald’s restaurants in the United States. Much has been written about libraries from professional and managerial points of view, but less so from the perspectives of those most intimately involved—patrons and librarians.

Drawing on circulation records, patron reviews, and other archived materials, Libraries and the Reading Public in Twentieth-Century America underscores the evolving roles that libraries have played in the lives of American readers. Each essay in this collection examines a historical circumstance related to reading in libraries. The essays are organized in sections on methods of researching the history of reading in libraries; immigrants and localities; censorship issues; and the role of libraries in providing access to alternative, nonmainstream publications. The volume shows public libraries as living spaces where individuals and groups with diverse backgrounds, needs, and desires encountered and used a great variety of texts, images, and other media throughout the twentieth century.

Christine Pawley and Louise S. Robbins have both served as professor and director of the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Pawley’s publications include Reading Places: Literacy, Democracy, and the Public Library in Cold War America. Robbins is author of The Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown: Civil Rights, Censorship, and the American Library.


“Recommended for librarians and print culture enthusiasts; the content ranges widely enough to pique varied interests.”
Library Journal

“*‚ÄúThis reader is especially gratified to see so many of the essays in this valuable collection infused with the insights of contemporary critical social theory.”
Library and Information History

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Of Related Interest:
Cover of the book has a red background with a black and white image of individuals writing at the bottom of the page.Education and the Culture of Print in Modern America
Edited by Adam R. Nelson and John L. Rudolph
“This welcome volume conceives of education broadly enough to encompass children and adults, Catholics and Protestants, books and television, African Americans and whites, the hearing and the deaf.” —Joan Shelley Rubin, University of Rochester


September 2013
LC: 2012040073 Z
292 pp.   6 x 9   9 b/w photos

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Paper $39.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-29324-6
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Updated June 26, 2013

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