American Library Association

views updated Jun 11 2018

American Library Association

50 East Huron Street
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Telephone: (312) 944-6780
Toll Free: (800) 545-2433
Fax: (312) 440-9374
Web site:

Nonprofit Organization
Members: 64,000
Revenues: $47 million (2006)
NAIC: 511130 Book Publishers

With more than 64,000 members, the Chicago-based American Library Association (ALA) is the worlds largest library association and the oldest. The ALA has chapters in all 50 states, its operations divided among 11 divisions to serve the needs of public libraries, school libraries, and college and research libraries; library trustees and advocates; information technology personnel; and other constituents. The ALA also hosts some 15 round tables, covering such subjects as Intellectual Freedom; Library History; Library Research; Social Responsibilities; Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange; and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender issues. The ALAs reach is also extended through a network of about 25 affiliated organizations. The association is governed by an elected council, the directives of which are carried out by a 13-member executive board.


As the public library movement began to take shape in the United States in the 1800s, a call came from a number of quarters for leading librarians to come together at a convention where they could exchange ideas and seek ways to advance the cause of public libraries. In September 1853 such a convention was held in New York City, and among the topics discussed was a proposal for a card catalogue that relied on punched slips of paper strung together. While the attendees made it clear that they intended to make the gathering an annual event, they were unable to form a permanent organization to organize future conventions.

More than 20 years passed before that dream was realized. In 1876 many groups converged on Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to meet during the United States centennial celebration. Librarians took advantage of this idea to finally schedule another conference. While no one person can lay claim to the idea, among the leading librarians who at least share the credit was Melvil Dewey, who in that same year of 1876 published the Dewey Decimal Classification system that would make him famous. For several years Dewey had wanted to establish a national organization for librarians and launch a library periodical, and now he took the lead in seeing that the conference actually took place. The three-day event was held in Philadelphia in August 1876, and out of it emerged a new national organization for librarians called the American Library Association, as well as an official publication of the group, American Library Journal.

The ALAs first president was Justin Winsor, an able administrator who was superintendent of the Boston Public Library at the time of his election but who soon left to become librarian of Harvard University. He, Dewey as secretary, and the associations vice-presidents drew up the ALAs constitution, which was published in Library Journal in March 1877. The creation of an executive board of directors, originally composed of five members, was one of the provisions, charged with making decisions for the ALA in between annual conferences. In reality, little happened outside of the conferences during these early days of the ALA.

Winsors tenure came to an end in 1885, and henceforth ALA presidents were elected at the annual conference and served only until the next gathering. Dewey took his turn in 1890 but poor health forced his resignation before the 1891 San Francisco conferences. There, K. A. Linderfelt, head librarian of the Milwaukee Public Library, was elected to succeed Dewey, but his term came to an even quicker end under even less auspicious circumstances. He was arrested for embezzlement, the stealing of public funds, and he was replaced as ALA president by William I. Fletcher. In ALA records, Linderfelt is not to be found because the associations secretary was instructed to record Fletcher as serving the entire term that would have been Linderfelts.


State library organizations also began to crop up during this period. In 1890 the New York Library Association became the first, and four more state associations followed that year, and another four a year later. In the meantime, the ALA also began to branch out in other ways. In 1889 the College and Library Section was formed, providing academic library administrators a forum to discuss matters that concerned them.

For many years the ALA had no true headquarters, essentially located wherever the organizations secretary resided. For the first 15 years that meant the desk of Dewey, wherever he happened to make his office in Boston. By the end of the 19th century, however, there was a clamoring for a permanent headquarters located at a major center of library work, although there was some disagreement over the purpose of the headquarters. Dewey saw it as a great central clearinghouse for new methods and ideas in the library field and a place to provide training, while Arthur E. Bostwick of the New York Public Library hoped the headquarters would become more of a social club. As for the location, New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., were all leading candidates, but in the end Boston was chosen because office space could be leased at a less expensive rate. Hence, in September 1906 the ALA moved into four rooms at 34 Newbury Street in Boston. Little more than a year later the lease was terminated and the association was once again looking for a permanent home. The offer of Pittsburghs Carnegie Library to provide free quarters was tentatively accepted, but because of some internal dissension the ALA decided instead to accept free space in Chicago at the John Crerar Library, which was under construction. Because of building delays, however, the ALA ultimately moved into the Chicago Public Library in September 1909.

The United States entry into World War I in 1916 afforded the ALA with an opportunity to move beyond a purely professional association to become something of a service organization. During the war, the ALAs Library War Fund financed libraries at the 32 military training facilities spread across the United States. The ALA also spent some of the money it raised on books for servicemen and launched a national donation campaign that netted 3.5 million books.

This experience during the war prompted the ALA to look for more ways to have an impact on the lives of Americans, leading to the 1919 proposal of what became known as the Enlarged Program. It was an ambitious slate of ideas, which included providing books and magazines to Coast Guard units and the American Merchant Marines, bringing library services to poorer sections of the country, and spending money to promote the library idea with the general public. While the goals may have been commendable, ALA leadership misread the organizations public profile and ability to raise funds outside of the time of war. Hence, a $2 million fund-raising campaign garnered just $80,000, and in late 1919 it was terminated, thus putting an end to the noble experiment.


The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

In response to this resounding failure, the ALA phased out the programs launched during the war years and sought to increase its membership and broaden its base of support and influence in the United States. An Activities Committee was also formed, in response to critics, to review the ALAs procedures and practices, resulting in some fruitful changes to the organization. The onset of the Great Depression in late 1929 hindered the ALA, as libraries suffered severe budget cuts, leading to the layoff of librarians and the inability of many ALA members to pay their dues. After several years, however, conditions began to improve, the government restored budgets and librarians went back to work, and the ALAs membership began to grow.

Aside from economic problems, the ALA in the 1930s also had to face challenges to intellectual freedom as another world war loomed. Some reading material was deemed totalitarian propaganda by some people, who called for it to be removed from library shelves. Some novels, such as John Steinbecks Grapes of Wrath, were considered by many to be subversive because of their socialist politics, while other works of fiction, such as Kathleen Winsors Forever Amber, were deemed immoral because of their sexual content. To combat the censorship initiatives, the ALA passed the Library Bill of Rights in 1939, which was followed by the formation of the Intellectual Freedom Committee. To ensure free access to information, however, the ALA possessed no power beyond the publicity it could bring to bear on the people or government entities engaging in censorship.

During World War II, the ALA resumed its campaigns to raise funds and collect books for military personnel. It also faced a new challenge; after years of dealing with the problem of unemployment among librarians, it now had to contend with a major shortage of librarians. Not only were many called to military service, but others took higher-paying jobs outside of the profession, as the wartime economy boomed and private-sector salaries grew because so much of the workforce was now in the service of the country. The final year of the war, 1945, saw the ALA finally move into its own headquarters after decades of depending on free space. The organization was able to acquire the McCormick mansion in Chicago for its permanent new home.

In the decade that followed World War II, the ALA struggled to find agreement on what direction to follow. It also had to contend with strained relationships with its divisions, in particular the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), which wanted greater autonomy. As a result, the ALA reorganized as a more decentralized operation. In 1952 the ACRL recognized its first local chapter, located in Philadelphia. During this period the ALA was able to successfully lobby for federal aid to libraries, resulting in the passage of the Library Services Act. It was also able to obtain funding from charitable organizations to become involved overseas in building libraries and establishing library schools.


In the late 1950s and early 1960s, while the ALA was still refining its working relationship with the divisions, the association considered another relocation of its headquarters. A plan to move to Washington, D.C., failed because of an inability to raise the necessary funds, and in the end the ALA decided to construct a new headquarters around its old building. The five-story L-shaped structure opened in stages and was finally completed in 1963. It was a time of optimism for the organization and the library movement it served because the federal government made new monies available. Later in the 1960s, however, as the war in Vietnam drained dollars from the common purse, budgets were cut.


The ALA is founded in Philadelphia.
Headquarters are moved to offices of the Chicago Public Library.
The ALA passes the Library Bill of Rights in response to censorship efforts.
The association moves into its first permanent home in Chicago.
New headquarters building opens in Chicago.
Banned Books Week is launched.
The ALA opposes the USA Patriot Act.

In the meantime, the ALA, like the country in general, was forced to take a stand on the civil rights movement sweeping the country, and decide whether it would allow libraries that discriminated against people on the basis of race, religion, or personal belief to be part of the ALA. In 1964 the association expressed an intention to employ every means at its disposal to ensure everyone had freedom of access to libraries. It was very much a paper policy, however, and discrimination continued in Americas libraries. The matter ultimately came to a head at the 1966 conference held in Detroit. The agenda listed but one item: Shall library institutional members in the ALA be open only to libraries that are integrated? While the meetings members unanimously adopted a recommendation to the council that the ALAs constitution be amended to eliminate discriminating libraries from the ranks of the association, the council at the midwinter meeting that year voted it down. Most of the council supported the spirit of the recommendation but were opposed to the mechanism proposed.

Finding agreement was always difficult for the ALA, which underwent regular reorganizations but remained in many respects a bureaucracy that had difficulty in changing or making decisions. It faced something of a revolution in the late 1960s when a group of members called for the formation of a Round Table on the Social Responsibilities of Libraries to give members a forum to express their concerns on such issues as race, violence, war and peace, inequality of justice and opportunity. Citing urgency, an attempt was made to skirt the approval process of the Committee on Organization, which was responsible for reviewing these kinds of requests, and its chairman accused the round tables organizers of making a brazen power play, one which if successful would establish a precedent for other pressure groups. Nearly two years would pass before the new round table would gain official status within the ALA, although it had already been allowed to meet and organize. The ALA also received criticism from within, as evidenced by the scornful remarks delivered by outgoing treasurer Ralph Blasingame, who maintained that the ALA was an old organization, run by old people, and unable to chart a course for the future. He advocated yet another reorganization, one that would place ten-year term limits on certain staff officers and allow for greater participation from younger ALA members.

As disturbing as Blasingames comments may have been, they did little to change the ALA, by this time approaching its first century in operation. Author Dennis Thomison offered a trenchant assessment of the association at this point in his history of the ALA through 1972. Highlighting a number of seeming contradictions, he wrote that the ALA was often resistant to change, sometimes utterly unpredictable, frequently right in the vanguard of American thought, and always determined in its principles. It has been, on occasion, an organization that has seen nothing wrong with being outspokenly liberal one moment and terribly conservative the next. He added, The membership is so diverse that ALA cannot possibly answer the call of every member. ALA will surely always be behind the demands of its outspoken dissenters, and just as surely, far in advance of its conservative constituency.

On the whole, the ALA became more of a liberal-leaning organization in the years following Blasingames scathing analysis. It had to face the challenge of new technologies that had a profound impact on libraries. In the 1940s libraries began to incorporate film strips into their holdings, making libraries more than just repositories of books. Now in the late 1970s and early 1980s, new media became available: videotape, videodisc, and audiocassettes. In 1980 at a meeting held in New York City, the ALA sponsored a colloquium to ponder an information agenda for the 1980s and provide libraries with some guidance on what material, and how much, they should now offer to their users. In the 1990s this debate would be renewed with the emergence of the Internet as a popular medium, as libraries began to buy computers and make them available to users to browse the Internet. In the early 2000s the ALA took on book publishers over the right of libraries to make electronic books available free online.

Some old battles for the ALA were also reengaged in the final decades of the 20th century. In 1982 the ALA had launched the annual observance of Banned Books Week and each year had no difficulty in finding books that some group wanted removed from the shelves of a library. On the one hand, the days when Catcher in the Rye was considered racy and kept behind the counter may have passed, but there were still sexually-explicit books that some groups opposed, and on the other hand Mark Twains Huckleberry Finn was regularly denounced for its racism, despite critical acclaim. The Internet also opened up new areas of censorship for the ALA to consider. Many libraries installed software filters on library computers to prevent users from viewing material that might be deemed offensive to others. The ALA opposed filters, maintaining that they compromised a librarys obligation to the free flow of ideas. In 1999 the organization also came under fire from conservative radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who opposed the ALAs intellectual freedom policy and launched a public campaign to force the ALA to remove a link on its web site to an explicit sex-education site for teenagers.

The ALA also found itself often at odds with the government. In the late 1980s it opposed a plan to turn over the organization of certain databases, such as census material, to private companies, which the ALA worried might make the material too expensive for libraries to purchase or simply focus on the data that had the most commercial value. In the early 2000s the ALA was especially upset over the USA Patriot Act, passed after the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, being opposed specifically to the provisions that allowed the Federal Bureau of Investigation access to library records to determine what kind of materials a person may have checked out. A resolution passed by the ALA called the act a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users.

In its 130th year of its existence, the ALA continued to find ways to make itself relevant. In 2006 it published its first-ever The State of Americas Libraries report, which noted that 89 percent of Americans surveyed were pleased with their public libraries, and most agreed they were underfunded. Libraries also continued to face numerous attempts to censor library materials. Hence, the ALA still had a significant role to play in serving as an advocate for libraries and the publics right to intellectual freedom.

Ed Dinger


American Association of School Librarians; Association for Library Collections & Technical Services; Association for Library Service to Children; Association for Library Trustees and Advocates; Association of College and Research Libraries; Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies; Library Administration and Management Association; Library and Information Technology Association; Public Library Association; Reference and User Services Association; Young Adult Library Services Association.


Egan, Timothy, Sensing the Eyes of Big Brother, and Pushing Back, New York Times, August 8, 2004.

Ferrell, Tom, Libraries Face Up to the New Technological Imperatives, New York Times, June 29, 1980, p. A20.

Harmon, Amy, Library Suit Becomes Key Test of Freedom to Use the Internet, New York Times, March 2, 1998.

Janofsky, Michael, What Would Dewey Do? Libraries Grapple with Internet, New York Times, December 2, 2002.

Kirkpatrick, David D., Publishers and Libraries Square Off over Free Online Access to Books, New York Times, June 17, 2002.

Murphy, Dean E., Some Librarians Use Shredder to Show Opposition to New F.B.I. Powers, New York Times, April 7, 2003.

Thomison, Dennis, A History of the American Library Association: 18761972, Chicago: American Library Association, 1978, 301 p.


views updated May 29 2018


LIBRARIES. The period 14501789 witnessed an unprecedented expansion in the publication, circulation, and readership of books. Such dramatic changes in patterns of literacy and book use are amply reflected in the history of libraries in the period.


By the late thirteenth century the scriptoria and companion book collections of the early medieval period had been eclipsed in importance by the rise of college libraries, particularly in Paris and Oxford. The most famous of these was the Sorbonne library in Paris, founded in 1287. Its 1290 catalogue lists over 1,000 manuscripts, and the library would expand to more than 2,500 volumes by the end of the fifteenth century. Equally important were the libraries of the studia (study houses) of the monastic orders. Over time, a body of regulations governing college and conventual libraries evolved. Many of these libraries employed sophisticated cataloguing and classification systems. While there was no single model of classification, most conformed to a recognizably Scholastic pattern, descending from theology, through philosophy and the other two university faculties of law and medicine, to logic, rhetoric, and grammar, with appropriate subdivisions where warranted by the quantity of books.

The expansion of private libraries in the late medieval period was closely related to the institutional libraries of the university colleges and study houses. Members of the three professionschurchmen, lawyers, and physiciansresponded to changing patterns of literacy and professionalization that demanded increased textual expertise with ever-expanding collections of professional textual materials.


This milieu fostered the bibliophilia of the first major humanist book collector, Francesco Petrarch (13041374). Petrarch's library was not only large for the age (some two hundred volumes), but unusual in that it contained not the canonical texts and core manuals of the professions, but the works of classical authors and the church fathers. In early-fourteenth-century Florence, Coluccio Salutati (13311406) and Niccolò de'Niccoli (c. 13461437), key figures of Florentine humanism, built up collections of around eight hundred volumes. Niccoli was one of the first systematic collectors of older manuscripts, which he knew to be more accurate than later copies. Both before and after the fall of Constantinople, Greek émigrés such as Manuel Chrysoloras (c. 13531415) in Florence introduced many important Greek texts previously unknown to Western libraries. The library of Cardinal Bessarion (14031472) was the most important such collection for the transmission of Greek texts to the West. Bessarion's library contained over 1,000 volumes and was bequeathed to the Venetian republic after his death. From Venice, they were copied and recopied to furnish Western libraries with Greek manuscript texts. Important institutional Renaissance libraries were established in Florence, with the 1444 San Marco library, and in Rome, with the Vatican library first of Nicholas V (c. 1450) and, subsequently and more permanently, Sixtus IV (14711484).

The religious conflicts of the sixteenth century had a major impact upon libraries, both positive and negative, in Protestant and Catholic Europe. Most dramatic was the dissolution of the monasteries in England in the 1540s and the dispersal and loss of thousands of medieval manuscripts. The college libraries of Oxford and Cambridge suffered similar, if less systematic, loss. In Germany the holdings of many monastic libraries were absorbed by existing town and court libraries. In the last half of the century the French Wars of Religion resulted in the destruction of many important ecclesiastical libraries. It is no coincidence that this period witnessed the first postmedieval renaissance of systematic bibliography, with the efforts of Conrad Gessner (Bibliotheca Universalis, 1545) in the Swiss confederation, John Bale (Illustrium Maioris Britanniæ Scriptorum, 1548) in England, and Flacius Illyricus (Catalogus Testium Veritatis Basle, 1556) in Germany.

The upheaval of the first half of the sixteenth century was countered by a considerable consolidation of library collections in the second half. This period witnessed the consolidation and foundation of important collections across Catholic Europe: the Escorial in Spain (1575), the Imperial Library in Vienna (reorganized in 1576), the new Vatican library of Sixtus V (1589), the Hofbibliothek in Munich (1558), and the Ambrosiana in Milan (1609). This chain of Catholic libraries presented a wall of orthodoxy across Europe, a self-conscious effort at intellectual containment of Protestant gains. In Protestant Europe a number of important collections emerged: the ducal library at Wolfenbüttel (1572) and the Bodleian Library at Oxford (1602) were the most important. These libraries marked a watershed in establishing permanent institutional locations for the medieval manuscript heritage and in amassing unprecedented quantities of printed books. The Ambrosiana, for example, amassed a collection of some 15,000 manuscripts and 30,000 printed books in the decades after its foundation. By 1666, the ducal library at Wolfenbüttel held over 55,000 printed books. Most had established, if highly restricted, hours of opening. Access was equally restricted to members of established circles of scholars. Private collections also grew in size, frequently providing the nucleus of both local and far-flung networks of learning. Such was the case with the libraries of Claude Dupuy (15451594) in Paris and Gian Vincenzo Pinelli (15351601) in Padua. Pinelli, whose library and collections housed the young Galileo while he was composing his Padua lectures, could boast of over 6,000 printed books and 700 manuscripts, making it one of the largest private libraries of the period.


This period saw continued consolidation and expansion of major collections and witnessed a growth in the political importance of libraries. Quasi-public libraries such as those of the de Thou family in Paris or Sir Robert Cotton (15711631) in London constituted loci of parliamentary intellectual activity and housed documents of great legal and historical importance. Their libraries were mirrored in the collections of legal and political élites across Europe. Conversely, Cardinal Mazarin's (16021661) formidable library in Paris (1643) became a powerful emblem of ministerial and royal authority: it was dispersedforbidden to be sold intact to a single buyerduring the Fronde of 1651. The reorganization of the French Royal Library (1661) under Jean-Baptiste Colbert (16191683) transformed that library into a formidable political symbol of the French monarchy and, through Colbert's patronage, into a unique locus of learning in Europe.

As a result of the new cultural importance of libraries in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and in response to the growing pressures of the print revolution, a recognizable discipline of library organization and classification developed. Gabriel Naudé (16001653) in his 1627 Advis pour dresser une bibliothèque (Advice for establishing a library) sought to establish universal principles for library organization and cataloguing sensitive to both the enormous growth of print and the intellectual needs of members of the republic of letters. The real home of library science during the Enlightenment would be Germany, where the subject of library organization was taught in the universities and where both professorial and university libraries were organized on a loose arrangement much indebted to both Naudé and Francis Bacon (15611626). This development reached its culmination in 1734, with the library at the University of Göttingen, the first modern university "research" library.

The major development of the eighteenth century was the expansion of vernacular book collections. These libraries favored romances and novels in addition to the traditional vernacular genres of religion and history. The new genres provided the backbone of the lending libraries and popular reading rooms, important new features on the European library scene in the eighteenth century. More books were increasingly available to more people, and levels of personal ownership of books increased across the social spectrum. Many of the older institutional libraries rushed to embrace the new ideal of the public library (though many had long functioned as quasi-public institutions): for example, the French Royal Library in 1720 and the Imperial Library in Vienna in 1726 both opened their doors as public libraries. In 1753, Britain finally had an institution to match its continental rivals with the establishment of the British Library. But it was the nationalization of the French Royal Library at the Revolution and its confiscation of former monastic holdings that would set the standard for the large national continental libraries of the nineteenth century.

See also Dissemination of Knowledge ; Education ; Humanists and Humanism ; Literacy and Reading ; Printing and Publishing ; Universities .


Dadson, Trevor J. Libros, lectores y lecturas. Estudios sobre bibliotecas particulares españolas del Siglo de Oro. Madrid, 1998.

Fabian, Bernhard, ed. Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland. Hildesheim, 1992.

Fehrenbach, R. J., and E. S. Leedham-Green, eds. Private Libraries in Renaissance England: A Collection and Catalogue of Tudor and Early Stuart Book-lists. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies. 5 vols. Binghamton, N.Y., 19921998.

Grendler, Marcella. "A Greek Collection in Padua: The Library of Gian Vincenzo Pinelli (15351601)." Renaissance Quarterly 33 (1980): 386416.

A History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland. 4 vols. Cambridge, U.K., forthcoming.

Hobson, Anthony. Great Libraries. London, 1970. A magnificently illustrated survey, with bibliography, of major Renaissance collections.

Nelles, Paul. "The Library as an Instrument of Discovery: Gabriel Naudé and the Uses of History." In History and the Disciplines: The Reclassification of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe, ed. D. R. Kelley, pp. 4157. Rochester, N.Y., 1997.

Nolhac, Pierre de. La bibliothèque de Fulvio Orsini. Paris, 1887. Reprint Geneva, 1976.

Robathan, Dorothy M. "Libraries of the Italian Renaissance." In The Medieval Library, edited by James Westfall Thompson, pp. 509588. New York, 1957.

Serrai, Alfredo. Storia della bibliografia. 11 vols. Rome, 19882001.

Sherman, William H. John Dee: The Politics of Reading and Writing in the English Renaissance. Amherst, Mass., 1995.

Stam, David H., ed. International Dictionary of Library Histories. 2 vols. Chicago, 2001.

Ullman, Berthold L., and Philip A. Stadter. The Public Library of Renaissance Florence: Niccolò Niccoli, Cosimo de' Medici and the Library of San Marco. Padua, 1972.

Vernet, André, ed. Histoire des bibliothèques françaises. 4 vols. Paris, 19881992.

Paul Nelles


views updated Jun 11 2018


A library is a collection of information resources, in all formats, organized and made accessible for study. The word derives from the Latin liber ("book"). The origin of libraries, keeping of written records, dates at least to the third millennium b.c.e. in Babylonia.

In antiquity, Judaica collections were first mentioned in ii Maccabees 2:13–14, where mention is made of a "treasury" of books established by Nehemiah (in the Temple?) that contained "books about the kings and prophets, the books of David (Psalms), and royal letters about sacred gifts." Another early library, the Dead Sea Scrolls, now comprises the remains of the library of the community living in Qumran shortly before and after the beginning of the present era. Fragments from the Cairo *Genizah reveal the existence of both public and private libraries in the geonic period.

Early Libraries

Communities, synagogues, and battei midrash were anxious to establish libraries. Libraries were found in almost every talmud torah in Italy. In the Verona talmud torah of 1650 there were rules which required a special room to be set aside for the library. Other Italian communities such as Ferrara, Reggio Emilia, Pisa, and Leghorn also had libraries, often enriched by the acquisition of private collections. The Amsterdam Sephardi community library, at their Talmud Torah school, is mentioned in 1680 by the bibliographer Shabbetai Bass in his Siftei Yeshenim.

Modern Libraries

The 19th century saw the development of libraries in public institutions. They were established as communal libraries, organizational libraries, libraries attached to rabbinical seminaries, and Judaica and Hebraica collections in national, public, and major university libraries. Before the end of the 19th century the Abrabanel Library was established in Jerusalem (1884) (see J. Chasanowich). This later developed into the Jewish National and University *Library.

communal libraries

The first of the modern Jewish communal libraries was established at Mantua at the end of the 18th century. Many communities in Germany established their own libraries. They were intended mainly for the use of teachers and young people. Libraries were found in major Jewish communities throughout Europe such as Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, and Breslau, as well as the communities of Vienna, Prague, Warsaw, Vilna, and Zurich. Most were destroyed or disbursed during the Nazi era but many have been reestablished, particularly in Eastern Europe subsequent to the fall of Communism in the early 1990s.

In the United States many libraries were established through synagogues and were designed to work closely with the synagogue religious schools and for recreational reading and studying for synagogue members.

In pre-state Israel there were very few communal libraries. After the establishment of the State of Israel great advances were made. They included community libraries ranging from the Yeshurun Synagogue Library in Jerusalem to special libraries meeting specific community needs.

organizational libraries

Jewish organizations on all continents have developed substantial libraries. Their holdings vary considerably according to the mission of the particular organization. In 1867, Albert Cohen, the representative in Palestine of Baron Rothschild, established a small library in Jerusalem, which was administered by Dr. London, physician in the Rothschild Hospital. Development of libraries was slow during the yishuv period and libraries were primarily the private initiative of individuals or such bodies as the *Histadrut. However, voluntary bodies interested in cultural work established popular reading and lending libraries, such as Jewish trade unions, Zionist and Socialist societies, women's organizations, and youth movements.

Originating with the *Haskalah movement, organizations throughout Europe established libraries as part of their ongoing operations. With the emigration of Jews from Europe to the Northern Hemisphere, Israel, and Australia organizational libraries blossomed.

In post-World War ii Europe organizations such as historical societies and local museums have taken responsibility for community collections where the community is no longer significant, and in many cases, no longer exists. In Israel, organization libraries such as museum libraries, corporate libraries, and special libraries house archival and historical documents providing primary research materials.

rabbinical seminaries

The first rabbinical seminary library was established at the Collegio Rabbinico Italiano, which was located first in Padua, and moved from there to Rome, Florence, and again back to Rome. The Breslau Jewish Theological Seminary library attained considerable importance as did the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary and the Hochschule (Lehranstalt) fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums. With the geographic shift to and expansion of Jewish life in the U.S. major collections were established, and remain at the fore-front of Judaica libraries, at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. Yeshivah libraries were established in Israel as well. The Central Rabbinical Library, attached to Hechal Shelomo, houses important collections saved from the Holocaust. The Chabad movement established rabbinic collections in their major centers as well and serve as libraries for their seminaries and as community libraries worldwide. Jewish teachers seminaries, in Israel, the United States, and the United Kingdom, have developed their own libraries.

Nazi Period

The persecution of European Jewry by Nazi Germany (1933–45) brought with it the wholesale confiscation of both public and private libraries. Some of the books were moved to the Institut zur Erforschung der Judenfrage in Frankfurt on the Main. Toward the end of World War ii, looted books were brought by the Nazis to central stores in southern Germany and western Czechoslovakia. When recovered after the war, mainly by a body called Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, they were returned wherever possible to the heirs of their owners; the more than 1,000,000 volumes that remained were distributed to Jewish libraries and cultural or educational organizations in Israel, America, and other parts of the Diaspora. With the fall of Communism in the early 1990s, collections of books both in complete libraries and scattered throughout the entire region of Eastern Europe became accessible again. Many books remained on site and others were disbursed and purchased by collectors and libraries primarily in the U.S., Europe, and Israel.

Jewish Sections in General Libraries

national and public libraries

Hebraica and Judaica collections have been included in great national and municipal libraries, for the preservation of Jewish literary and scholarly treasures since antiquity. The library of Alexandria contained the Septuagint and other Judeo-Hellenistic works. Medieval monastery libraries frequently contained Hebrew, particularly Bible, codices; records of persecutions, expulsions, book burnings and confiscations filled their shelves, as well as those of episcopal and princely palaces and of medieval universities. The interest in Hebrew studies produced by the age of Reformation and Humanism led many Christian scholars such as Johann Reuchlin and J.A. Widmanstad (1506–1557) to collect Hebrew manuscripts and books. Significant collections are found throughout Europe in national, royal, monastic, and municipal libraries, particularly in countries where great Jewish traditions were found such as Spain (El Escorial), Italy (Vatican and many others), the United Kingdom (British Library), France (Bibliotheque National), Germany (Deutsches Statsbibliothek), Denmark (Royal Library), Austria (National Library), Hungary (National Library), and Russia (State Libraries in St. Petersberg and Moscow).

Most notable in the U.S. is the significant Hebraica collection found in the Library of Congress; the New York Public Library and the Boston Public Library house significant collections as well.

In Israel, the Sapir Public Library in Petaḥ Tikvah was established at the end of the 19th century. The Jewish National and University Library (jnul) in Jerusalem fulfills a double function: to serve as the National Library to collect all print and non-print materials deposited in its collections on Jewish subjects to serve the general public; and to provide the university community with the required materials to support its curriculum. The jnul houses the largest collection of Judaica and Hebraica in the world and is the center for documentation of all Judaica and Hebraica collections. Library collections are found in the Knesset, various ministries, and other governmental organizations.

Public libraries in Israel are spread throughout the country and are found in most cities, towns, villages, settlements, and kibbutzim. They serve the local population primarily with Hebraica but also house local historical documents, record books, memorial books, and archival documents related to their specific community and to European and Middle Eastern communities from which their local population emigrated. Of particular note are kibbutz memorial books documenting the lives of their deceased members.

university libraries

University libraries in Europe have for many centuries collected Judaica and Hebraica to support their study of religion, the Judeo-Christian tradition, and humanities. Significant collections are found in major university libraries such as in the United Kingdom (Oxford University, Cambridge University, University of Manchester), in Italy (University of Bologna), the Ukraine (Vernadsky Library), and the Netherlands (Amsterdam University Library – Rosenthaliana).

In the U.S. there has been a significant growth of Jewish studies programs in academic institutions, and to support the university curriculum Judaica and Hebraica collections have blossomed in major large universities. Harvard University has the most comprehensive collection of contemporary Israeli culture. Columbia and Yale universities hold significant historical collections. The University of Pennsylvania acquired a very significant Judaica library (Dropsie College) and has placed itself among the most significant collections. Stanford University and University of Michigan are actively acquiring and are developing fine collections in Jewish studies.

Israeli universities house Judaica collections primarily to support the curriculum. Significant archival collections are found in all the universities. The universities are all linked through the Israel Center for Digital Information Services (malmad) set up in 1998 by the Israel Association of University Heads (Va'ad Rashei ha-Universita'ot) to serve as a joint framework (consortium) for the acquisition, licensing, and operation of information services to all the Israeli universities. Colleges, technical schools, and academies of art, music, and design each have significant collections related to their specialized fields.

Library Association

The Association of Jewish Libraries, an international organization established in 1968, promotes Jewish literacy through enhancement of libraries and library resources and through leadership for the profession and practitioners of Judaica librarianship. The association fosters access to information, learning, teaching, and research relating to Jews, Judaism, the Jewish experience, and Israel. The association publishes a scholarly journal, Judaica Librarianship, and hosts an online discussion group called Hasafran. The Israel Library Association supports librarians and libraries in Israel.

Library Catalog

Library catalogs in the modern sense were first published in the 17th century, but book lists are much older (see *Books; *Book Trade). Some from the 12th century were found in the Cairo *Genizah. Immanuel of Rome (13th century) mentions a catalog arranged according to subject matter. The first to introduce a systematic division according to subjects was *Manasseh Ben Israel (1604–1657). From the end of the 17th century sale catalogs began to be printed, such as those of S. Abbas and Solomon Proops, both of Amsterdam, or later the famous collection of David Oppenheimer. In modern times M. Steinschneider did pioneering work in the field of bibliography. The first scientific listing was his catalog of the Hebrew books of the Bodleian Library (1852–60). J. Zedner followed with his catalog of the Jewish books in the British Museum (1867). Today library catalogs are virtual and accessible over the Internet.

Libraries in the 21st Century

Library collections today encompass the wide range of information media available. They include manuscripts, historical documents, rare books, prints, archival collections, and contemporary literature. Included in these collections are also non-print materials in the areas of Jewish music, scores, and recordings in a multitude of formats, films, multimedia collections, and most recently electronic virtual collections.

In the last quarter of the 20th century an information explosion took place throughout the world. It has affected all libraries, including stand-alone Judaica libraries and Judaica collections found in general libraries. Shared cataloging allowed for libraries to enter their bibliographic records into a central database and for members to "copy" the cataloging record for its local use. oclc, in Dublin, Ohio was the first shared catalog. It was followed by the Research Library Group in Mountain View, California, which in 1989, in their Research Library Information Network (rlin), added Hebrew vernacular script capability for electronic cataloging. The academic and research libraries subscribed to the oclc and rlin systems and are active contributors of Judaica and Hebraica records to their databases. Concurrently, large library collections were purchasing integrated library systems to manage their collections and activities. Retrospective conversion of card catalogs to machine readable bibliographic records of major collections were undertaken and most were completed by the turn of the 21st century. With the rapid and ubiquitous development of the Internet and personal computers, access to library collections throughout the world changed dramatically. In the mid 1990s, with the expansion of the worldwide web, access to library catalogs, now online public access catalogs (opac), became accessible from all corners of the globe.

Libraries and Judaica collections, as part of institutions, developed websites featuring links to their holdings, listing web resources in Judaica, and highlighting online exhibitions and more recently digital collections.

The Israel Center for Digital Information Services, malmad, has taken the lead in establishing and maintaining electronic indexes such as rambi, the Israeli Union Catalog, and the Israeli Union List of Serials. Other public and private organizations have built extraordinary databases providing a wealth of information such as or

Digital collections featuring rare and unique materials from library collections are growing exponentially. Thejnul has pioneered the efforts in establishing numerous cooperative digital collections all freely available through their website. Some of the projects to date include an international database of ketubbot, which includes bibliographic descriptions and images from public and private collections worldwide, the Online Treasury of Talmudic Manuscripts, the National Sound Archives, and the Ancient Maps of Jerusalem, among others.

Virtual libraries are developing with electronic access to full texts of classical Judaic sources through databases such as the Bar-Ilan Responsa Project, the Otzar ha-Hochma database, and the Lieberman Institute for Talmudic Research database (which are currently all fee-based), while the German Compact Memory database and the Kiryat Sefer projects have free access to full texts of monographs and periodicals.

Currently a number of international digitization projects are underway. The Friedberg Genizah Project is amassing digital collections of fragments from the Cairo Genizah found in major collections at Cambridge University (U.K.) and at the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary (U.S.). Tel Aviv University (Israel) has undertaken a project to digitize unique Jewish newspapers found throughout the world.

Digitization of parts of collections are being done in numerous institutions in Israel, Europe, and the United States. Visual, audio, motion, and text files are being converted to digital format and are being made available over the Internet. "Born digital" periodicals have become more and more frequent such as the Edah Journal.

The library of the 21st century has changed significantly since ancient times. Its mission to collect and organize information to make it available for study has not changed over the past 2,000 years but the means in which it is accomplished has.

The following is a partial list of Judaica collections on the Web (source Princeton University Library and Amherst University Library).


Makor Jewish Community Library

Monash University – Humanities and Social Sciences Library – The Laura and Israel Kipen Judaica Collection, including the Giligich Yiddish Collection

University of Sydney – Fisher Library – Rare Books & Special

Collections – Archive of Australian Judaica


Juedisches Museum Wien

Osterreichishce Nationalbibliothek

Universitaet Wien – Bibliothek des Instituts fuer Judaistik


Albert and Temmy Latner Jewish Public Library of Toronto

Canadian Jewish Congress Archives Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada – Archives

Jewish Public Library (Montreal)

McGill University: Jewish Studies/McGill Catalog

National Library of Canada/Jacob M. Lowy Collection: old and rare Hebraica and Judaica comprising 3,000 printed books from the 15th to the 20th centuries, including 34 Hebrew and Latin incunables, more than 120 editions of Bibles in many languages. Strong in Italian Hebraica and in examples of Hebrew printing from Spain to the Orient.

University of Toronto Libraries/Catalog: largest Judaica collection in Canada

Ontario Jewish Archives


Mongui Maduro Biblioteka – Judaica Collection

Czech Republic

Jewish Museum in Prague – Library


Det Kongelige Bibliotek – Orientalia and Judaica


Helsinki University Library – Hebraica Collection


Alliance Israélite Universelle

Bibliotheque Medem

Bibliotheque Nationale (holds more than 30,000 Hebrew volumes)

Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine

Centre d'Etudes juives


Die Deutsche Bibliothek (Leipzig) – Anne-Frank-Shoah-Bibliothek

Germania Judaica: Koelner Bibliothek zur Geschichte des deutschen Judentums

Institut fuer die Geschichte der deutschen Juden – Bibliothek

Das Juedische Museum Westfalen – Bibliothek

Simon-Dubnow-Institut fuer juedische Geschichte und Kultur – Bibliothek

Stadt- und Universitaetsbibliothek Frankfurt am Main – Hebraica- und Judaica-Sammlung

Universitaet Potsdam – Moses Mendelssohn Zentrum fuer Europaeisch-Juedische Studien – Bibliothek

Zentralarchiv zur Erforschung der Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland


Israeli University Libraries

Bar-Ilan University Library

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev: Aranne Library

Hebrew University Libraries

Jewish National & University Library

Technion Library

Tel Aviv University Libraries

University of Haifa Library

Weizman Institute of Science Libraries

Israeli Archives/Research Centers

Abba Eban Center for Israeli Diplomacy

The Aviezer Yellin Archives of Jewish Education in Israel and the Diaspora

Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center

Central Zionist Archives: archives of the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency, the Jewish National Fund, Keren Hayesod, and the World Jewish Congress

Ghetto Fighters' House: Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Heritage Museum

Israel Museum/Library of Art & Archeology

The Jabotinsky Institute

The Melton Centre for Jewish Education

Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies

Rabin Center for Israel Studies

The Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive

Vidal Sassoon Center for the Study of Antisemitism/Catalog Access

The Yad Ben-Zvi Library

Yad Vashem Library


Centro di Documentazione Ebraica Contemporanea

Jewish Community of Venice – Renato Maestro Library and Archives

Archivio delle tradizioni e del costume ebraici "Benvenuto e Alessandro Terracini," Torino


Amsterdam University Library – Department of Judaica and Hebraica – Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana

Joods Historisch Museum Library

Leiden University Library – Oriental Department

New Zealand

New Zealand Jewish Archives


Institute of Oriental Studies, St. Petersburg

Judaica Library of the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow

Petersburg Jewish University


Uppsala University – University Library


Israelitische Gemeinde Basel – Karger-Bibliothek

Israelitischen Cultusgemeindein Zurich – Die Bibliothek

Zentralbibliothek Zurich – Hebraistik und Judaistik

South Africa

University of Cape Town – Jewish Studies Library

United Kingdom

British Library – Oriental Division

Cambridge University Library – The Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit

Leeds University Library – Cecil Roth Collection

Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies – The Leopold Muller Memorial Library

Oxford University – Boedlein Library

University College London – Library

University of Manchester – The John Rylands University Library Collection

University of Southampton Libraries – Special Collections

United States

Universities/Research Libraries with Judaica Collections and resources on the web

Baltimore Hebrew University

Brandeis University Libraries

Columbia University: Resources for Jewish Students

Cleveland College of Jewish Studies – The Aaron Garber Library

College of Charleston – Robert Scott Small Library – Special Collections – Jewish Heritage Collection

Florida Atlantic University Libraries – Molly S. Fraiberg Judaica Collections

The George Washington University – Gelman Library – I. Edward Kiev Collection

Gratz College/Tuttleman Library

Harvard University

Hebrew College Library

Hebrew Theological College

Hebrew Union College

Jewish Theological Seminary

Library of Congress: Hebraic Section

New York Public Library: Jewish Division

New York University Judaic Studies Resources

Ohio State University

Princeton University Library – Jewish Studies Resources

Reconstructionist Rabbinical College – The Mordecai M. Kaplan Library and Archives

Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies: Asher Library

Stanford University/Hebraica & Judaica Collections

Touro College Libraries

University of California at Berkeley/ Judaica Collections

ucla Library Collections: Jewish Resources

University of Judaism – Ostrow Library

University of Maryland – University of Maryland Libraries – S.L. and Eileen Shneiderman Collection of Yiddish Books

University of Michigan: Near East Division

University of Pennsylvania/Center for Judaic Studies

Yale University

Yeshiva University/Mendel Gottesman Library of Hebraica/Judaica

Archives/Research Centers

American Jewish Archives

American Jewish Historical Society

Bureau of Jewish Education of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties – Jewish Community Library

Center for Jewish History

Chabad – Lubavitch Library

Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York – Ivan M. Stettenheim Library

Jewish Women's Archives

Judah L. Magnes Museum – Library and Archives

Leo Baeck Institute

National Yiddish Book Center

Rutgers University: Center for the Study of Jewish Life

Simon Wiesenthal Center

Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Library

Yivo Institute for Jewish Research

[Isaiah Sonne /

Naomi Steinberger (2nd ed.)]


views updated May 18 2018


In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, librarians in the United States were among the many specialized groups aspiring to establish themselves as professionals. Aligning themselves with educators and attempting to establish their special expertise in the area of books and reading, librarians were necessarily sensitive to the views of the entrenched social hierarchy that held the power to grant them the status they sought.

The resulting ambiguities of purpose meant that libraries reflected changing values and social structures in the formative years of the profession to a greater degree than they influenced them, despite professional rhetoric to the contrary. The period was one of great growth for all types of libraries, but it was in public libraries that fundamental ideological struggles took place and in which the particular character and identity of American libraries was molded.


The year 1876 saw the publication of the U.S. Bureau of Education Report Public Libraries in the United States: Their History, Condition, and Management. Prepared for the nation's centennial, the report acknowledged the impressive growth in public libraries that had occurred in the two decades since the founding of the Boston Public Library and the first gathering of library enthusiasts.

Inspired by the encouraging figures in the report and facilitated by the orchestrations of Melvil Dewey (1851–1931), library leaders met at the centennial celebrations in Philadelphia in October 1876 and gave birth to the American Library Association (ALA). This, and the founding of the American Library Journal in the same year, signaled the beginning of the modern public library movement as well as the first stirrings toward the professionalization of librarianship.

Prominent in the early organizing efforts of the profession were three men, Justin Winsor, William Frederick Poole, and Charles Ammi Cutter, and their values, chiefly those of the prevailing social elite, were reflected in the emerging sense of the library's place in American cultural life. Winsor, director of the Boston Public Library, was elected first president of the ALA (1876–1885) and emerged as a respected spokesman for the profession. Poole, who created the standard index for access to nineteenth-century periodical literature, was librarian of the Boston Athenaeum, director of the Chicago Public Library, and later head of the prestigious Newberry Library. He succeeded Winsor as ALA president (1885–1887). Cutter, who devised a numerical system for organizing a library collection that is still in use today, was assistant librarian at Harvard before becoming head of the Boston Athenaeum. He served as Poole's successor as ALA president (1887–1889) and as editor of Library Journal (1881–1893).

All of these men shared, in varying degree, a New England–based sense of propriety and convention that valued gentility as the distinguishing mark of the cultivated person. This genteel tradition and the egalitarian notion that gentility could be learned, led to the concept of the library as an institution most closely aligned with education. Emerging naturally from such institutions as the lyceum and the athenaeum, the public library was seen to have a clear mission to serve as a repository for culture and as an agent for the cultural elevation of those it served.

The motives behind this point of view have been variously debated, broadly divided between those who see the library movement as a noble effort dedicated to the betterment of the common people, and those who see it as an imposition of the will of the cultural elite toward a perpetuation of shared beliefs, designed to uphold the status quo. In any case, the members of the profession saw themselves as qualified to make the value judgments necessary to assess the cultural status of users and to mold collections best suited to the goal of elevation.

Following the 1876 report, as libraries multiplied and collections grew, the necessity of having librarians dedicated to providing personal assistance to patrons became increasingly apparent. As librarians sought to define themselves, it became clear that the provision of reference service was a distinguishing feature of the profession. Reference collections were developed and reference rooms became a standard feature of library facilities, particularly in plans for new library buildings.


In this missionary phase, one consistently troublesome issue had to do with the place of fiction in the library collection. Widely considered to be merely a low form of entertainment, it was the view of many that fiction had no place in a serious library collection at all. Yet it was clear that patrons of the library expected to find fiction there.

Furthermore, some argued, it was clear that certain forms of literature—Hawthorne was one author who met with approval—met a higher standard and could arguably be said to contribute to the library's mission to elevate. Another theory held that frequent reading of "lower" forms of literature would cultivate an appetite for something better. A library that provided such "low" literature was thus both serving the public and fulfilling its mission at the same time.

There was consensus that a work judged to be immoral was unworthy of inclusion in a library collection. The standard of morality was considered to be so commonly held as to make such works apparent, despite the fact that disagreements arose as to just which titles were immoral. The struggle to arrive at some sort of standard by which literature, particularly fiction, could justifiably be included or excluded from library collections led to an 1881 survey by the ALA, the results of which included Horatio Alger, E. D. E. N. Southworth, and G. W. M. Reynolds among the questionable authors. The survey passed judgment on the value of particular works based on assumed standards of genteel behavior. Besides works identified as immoral, writes Patrick Williams, books that were "sensational, vulgar, sentimental, and inauthentic in their portrayals of the problems and predicaments of human beings and society" (p. 13) were also deemed objectionable.

The zeal for censorship spread, causing works such as Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1855) to be banned in 1881 by the Boston Society for the Suppression of Vice and Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) to be banned from a Concord, Massachusetts, library shortly after its publication in 1885. The assessment of Huck Finn neatly summed up the standards at work. The committee did not want to call it "immoral" but thought it "rough, coarse and inelegant, dealing with a series of experiences not elevating." In his response, Twain said that the ban would only increase his sales and would cause "purchasers of the book to read it, out of curiosity, instead of merely intending to do so after the usual way of the world and library committees" (Inge, pp. viii, ix).

Twain knew in 1885 what the library profession would only reluctantly admit by 1893 (when the ALA included a number of fiction and popular titles in its first book guide for libraries), that the public would read what it wanted despite the most well-intentioned attempts to guide it toward enrichment. Helped along by the advocacy of iconoclastic library thinkers such as the Denver librarian John Cotton Dana, the idea that the library could legitimately provide entertainment in the form of popular fiction as well as provide higher forms of literature gained greater acceptance. This point of view was reinforced by the fact that the forces of social change influenced by a great influx of immigrants and the growth of the working class had, by the end of the century, diminished the influence of the genteel model.

Nonetheless, remaining true to its perceived role as cultural advisor, the ALA began to publish lists of recommended books to guide libraries in developing collections that would be acceptable within what it saw as prevailing standards. New complications in evaluating literature had emerged as writers chose increasingly to write in a realistic mode, dealing with issues such as divorce, adultery, prostitution, and political matters that were thought to be unduly troublesome and provocative. Hamlin Garland's politically charged work was omitted from the ALA list in 1893, for example, and an 1896 meeting to create a supplement to the list found Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage (1895) unacceptable for inclusion on the grounds that it was "unrealistically profane."

The trend toward overt censorship became most intense in the first decades of the twentieth century. The ALA published a list of recommended titles in 1904, and the publishing and indexing concern H. W. Wilson Company published a list of its own in 1908. The lists were strikingly in accord, and the fiction omitted from them indicates the strict standards that were being imposed.

Herman Melville, Frank Norris, William Dean Howells, and the still difficult Hamlin Garland and Stephen Crane had important works omitted. All of Henry James's most important works were omitted, and Ambrose Bierce was excluded altogether. Subsequent catalogs in 1911 and 1914 showed an increasing intolerance for anything socialist or critical of the American way of life. Jack London and Upton Sinclair were often considered troublesome, and everyone, it seemed, agreed that Theodore Dreiser was generally unacceptable.

London's case in particular pointed up the contradictions at the heart of the assessment practices. Owning a personal library of some fifteen thousand volumes, London confessed an insatiable appetite for reading and praised the Oakland Public Library from which he borrowed heavily, yet much of his work, unquestionably informed by his voracious reading, was considered too unsettling for library collections.

With the advent of the First World War and the ensuing patriotic fervor, censorship reached a peak. The Library War Service, created to supply reading materials to military camps in the United States and abroad, created lists of acceptable books that found their way into general use in libraries outside the military. A book could be omitted from these lists as seditious simply for being insufficiently critical of the Germans. There was some dissent, but many librarians willingly continued in their roles as guardians of public sensibilities through the war years, after which the profession began to shift toward its present role as defender of the right and freedom to read guaranteed by the First Amendment.


While the New England cultural aristocracy dominated the thinking of the profession in its formative years, other forces were at work from the beginning. The young and ambitious Melvil Dewey, best known for the system of classification that bears his name, was instrumental in organizing the 1876 meeting and became an inexorable force in the development of libraries as we know them. It was Dewey who in 1876 convinced his employers, Frederick Leypoldt and R. R. Bowker, to create the American Library Journal as a spinoff from their Publishers Weekly. Dewey ran the Journal, which still exists as the important professional publication Library Journal, for the first years of its existence and used it as a forum for his highly technical ideas regarding library practices.

Dewey also helped found the Library Bureau, a concern that provided business equipment and further reflected his emphasis on innovative methods and materials. His eccentric and uncharacteristically disorganized financial and bookkeeping practices caused him difficulties in his business ventures, and in 1883 he returned to library work as librarian in chief at Columbia College.

Dewey had long recognized the need for librarianship to have a standard body of knowledge as well as schools to train practitioners if it was to be taken seriously as a profession. He saw his position at Columbia as the chance to make this come about. He had openly recruited women for library work for some time and employed a number of women on his staff at Columbia with plans to employ them as faculty in the library school he envisioned. When the first library class at Columbia was about to be held in 1887, seventeen of its twenty members were women.

Hearing of this, the school denied him a room. Dewey countered by cleaning out an old storeroom for use as a classroom and went ahead as scheduled. The conflict with the trustees over coeducation that ensued led to the establishment of Barnard College annex for women and the expulsion of Dewey in 1888. He moved to Albany and became director of the New York State Library; his library school followed him in 1889, transferred officially from Columbia.

Dewey was, by all accounts, an eccentric, egotistical, and difficult man who sooner or later alienated most of those with whom he came in contact. His business practices were suspect, his lack of regard for things intellectual and his obsessive attention to the minutiae of library work earned him the disdain of the established library elite, and he was at various times accused of anti-Semitism as well as impropriety with some of his devoted women followers. An absolute force in the creation of standards for the profession, in the development of professional education, and in advocacy for women professionals, he was also probably the most influential figure in the history of American libraries.

Dewey's championing of women for the profession reflected the more general view of the times that women were, by nature, well suited to librarianship. For those women—chiefly unmarried—who chose to work, librarianship, along with the other predominantly feminine emerging professions such as social work, teaching, and nursing, provided a perfect outlet for the virtues of domesticity with which women were thought to be naturally blessed.

The catalog of these virtues for librarians varied, but invariably among them was the intimation of an altruism that traded on the traditional view of libraries as institutions with a mission to serve. In other words, women librarians could experience the fulfillment of a productive working life and could also be expected to work for very little money. Women continued to be attracted to librarianship in ever-increasing numbers, becoming dominant in the profession by the advent of the Progressive Era and serving to shape the development of library programs toward meeting the needs of previously neglected groups.


It is significant that in creating his symbolic portrait of the restless and modern woman of the Progressive Era struggling against small-mindedness and outmoded points of view, Sinclair Lewis chose to make Carol Kennicott, the protagonist of Main Street (1920), a librarian. Carol gives up her library position and leaves St. Paul to marry a physician and move with him to the small town of Gopher Prairie.

At a social gathering Carol talks with the town librarian, Miss Villets, who expresses her disapproval with the large city libraries that allow "tramps and all sorts of dirty persons" to use the library. Carol responds that they are "poor souls" and that the "chief task of a librarian is to get people to read." Miss Villets replies that her feeling is "that the first duty of the conscientious librarian is to preserve the books" (p. 112).

This exchange sums up the conflicting forces at work in the profession as well as in America at large during the first decades of the twentieth century. The view of the library as a center for community programs and service to such groups as immigrants, laborers, and children was gaining momentum at the same time that settlement houses, the social work profession, and labor movements were developing. These movements challenged the traditional social hierarchy, one symbol of which was the library as a secular temple in which the finest expressions of human progress were enshrined and preserved for the use of those culturally equipped to appreciate them.

During the period from 1886 to 1917 the traditional view was reinforced, in the view of some, by the Carnegie program. Andrew Carnegie offered to build a public library for any community willing to take on the tax burden necessary to sustain the institution. Carnegie, the members of his organization, and the trustees of local libraries were of the upper class, and the library designs that met with their approval inevitably reflected their values.

The physical placement of the library in the community, the classical and monumental elements of the exterior designs, and the floor plans all reinforced a class-based hierarchy and a clear distinction between high and low culture. After the turn of the century, individual Carnegie libraries with a progressive view managed to implement open floor plans and children's rooms, and in larger cities the foreboding and grand central library was supplemented with modest branch libraries that brought services to people in the neighborhoods.

Some communities, such as Detroit, objected to the Carnegie program on the principle that it depended on tainted money. They felt it was hypocritical of Carnegie to pretend to be the benefactor of those whom he had exploited to make his millions. Carnegie, in a version of the waning cultural elevation theory, insisted that libraries were the emphasis of his philanthropy because of his belief in making resources available—particularly to the working class—that would help the motivated and industrious to realize their full potential.

While the working class appeared to maintain an admirable immunity to the concerted efforts to elevate them and to protect them from the harmful forces at large in America, the growth in public libraries facilitated by the Carnegie program nonetheless left a lasting legacy on the cultural landscape: 1,679 public libraries came into being with Carnegie funds, and the dissemination of openly available information and community service that resulted is now widely regarded as a distinguishing feature of American democracy.


The Library of Congress (established in 1800) underwent changes during the visionary leadership of Herbert Putnam (librarian from 1899 to 1939) that represent another important development in American libraries. (Notably, it was once again Dewey, at a critical juncture for the profession, who placed Putnam's name in nomination for the post.) Under Putnam's guidance, the Library of Congress, unique among national libraries in the world, reinforced the democratic ideal through a radical departure from established practice. Rather than exist only as the collection of record and as a resource restricted for the use of government agencies, the Library of Congress instead became a resource for all of the libraries of the land as well as a collection for the use of all Americans. The concept of shared cataloging embodied in Putnam's Library of Congress card service (in which libraries would purchase catalog cards from the Library of Congress, rather than each individually creating their own) revolutionized the way libraries worked and brought a cooperative model and a cohesiveness to the profession in America that could not otherwise have been easily accomplished.

Putnam's vision and the subsequent central role that the Library of Congress assumed was instrumental in moving the profession more firmly toward the mission that had begun to emerge, that of creating libraries that were egalitarian and oriented toward a less judgmental provision of service. Had libraries been successful in exerting the sort of considerable cultural influence initially identified as their professional duty, America would be a different place and many of the names in American literature that we readily identify and hold in high regard might be unknown to us.

See alsoBoston and Concord; Main Street; Museums; New York


Primary Work

Lewis, Sinclair. Main Street. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1920.

Secondary Works

Carrier, Esther Jane. Fiction in Public Libraries: 1876–1900. New York: Scarecrow Press, 1965.

Garrison Dee. Apostles of Culture: The Public Librarian andAmerican Society, 1876–1920. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003.

Geller, Evelyn. Forbidden Books in American Public Libraries,1876–1939: A Study in Cultural Change. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984.

Hamilton, David Mike. "The Tools of My Trade": TheAnnotated Books in Jack London's Library. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1986.

Harris, Michael H. "The Role of the Public Library in American Life: A Speculative Essay." University of Illinois Graduate School of Library Science Occasional Papers 117 (1975).

Heim, Kathleen M. The Status of Women in Librarianship:Historical, Sociological, and Economic Issues. New York: Neal-Schuman, 1983.

Inge, M. Thomas. Huck Finn among the Critics: ACentennial Selection. Frederick, Md.: University Publications of America, 1985.

Kaplan, Louis. "The Early History of Reference Service in the United States." In Reference Services, edited by Arthur Ray Rowland. Hamden, Conn.: Shoe String Press, 1964.

Rosenberg, Jane Aiken. The Nation's Great Library: HerbertPutnam and the Library of Congress, 1899–1939. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993.

Van Slyck, Abigail A. Free to All: Carnegie Libraries andAmerican Culture, 1890–1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Wiegand, Wayne A. The Politics of an Emerging Profession:The American Library Association, 1876–1917. New York: Greenwood Press, 1986.

Williams, Patrick. The American Public Library and theProblem of Purpose. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988.

Mark Woodhouse


views updated May 18 2018


Several factors contributed to the prevalence of libraries in the medieval Islamic world. First, manuscript books were relatively cheap. Papermaking technology arrived in the Islamic world in the eighth century, providing Muslims with a material cheaper than the papyrus used previously in the Middle East and far cheaper than the parchment and vellum made from animal hides used in medieval Europe. Moreover, the Arabic script with its cursive forms and many ligatures could be written much faster than the medieval versions of the Roman alphabet. Second, the medieval Islamic world was a literate culture. Men and even women of the upper and middle classes were almost always literate. Both religious and secular literatures were popular, and scholarly and literary attainments were respected. Islamic rulers, constantly hungry for legitimacy, collected books for the same reason they built monuments and patronized scholars and poets—to acquire reputations as cultivated rulers. Libraries of elegant manuscripts and learned treatises were thus appropriate possessions for kings and those who imitated them, and it was not uncommon for Islamic rulers, military officers, and high officials to have well-earned reputations for literary taste and scholarship. Third, books were central to Islamic religious life. Despite a stress on oral learning in medieval Islam, books were necessary to record the masses of traditions of the Prophet, legal rulings, information concerning transmitters of religious lore, and linguistic lore that were the raw material of the Islamic sciences. Even the oral transmission of knowledge usually involved the production of a dictated book, so that studying a book involved producing a copy of it. Fourth, medieval Islamic bureaucrats were accustomed to use books: encyclopedias of useful information, literary manuals useful for producing elegant official documents, literature for amusement, and such things as manuals of occult sciences. Finally, the Islamic law of waqf, charitable endowments, allowed Muslim bibliophiles to donate their books to the libraries of mosques and madrasas with reasonable hope that their collections would be maintained intact.

The earliest Islamic libraries were the collections of Qur˒ans that accumulated in mosques. Qur˒an reading was an important Islamic devotional practice, and both copying Qur˒ans and donating them to mosques were acts of piety. Larger mosques often acquired more diverse libraries, mostly through gifts. When a mosque was built or renovated, the donor often gave a collection of books as the basis of the library. Bibliophiles and scholars, particularly those who taught in a particular mosque, often willed their books to the mosque library. Books copied in class were often given to the mosque library. To this day, many of the most important collections of Islamic manuscripts are in mosque libraries—for example, al-Azhar in Cairo and Suleymaniyyeh in Istanbul.

There are records of royal libraries as early as Umayyad times, the earliest associated with the scholarly Umayyad prince Khalid b. Yazid. The zenith of Islamic royal libraries was in the Abbasid period. The Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun (r. 813–833) founded the Bayt al-Hikma, the house of wisdom, which was the center for translation from Greek, Syriac, and Pahlavi and which was the basis of a caliphal library that survived for more than a century. The Umayyad royal library at Cordova, founded by al-Hakam II (r. 961–976), was supposed to have had 400,000 manuscripts. The greatest of the royal libraries was that of the Fatimids in Cairo, founded in 1004 by the caliph al-Hakim (r. 996–1021). It survived, despite some vicissitudes, until it was ordered closed by Saladin in the late twelfth century and its collections were dispersed and partly destroyed. The royal libraries sometimes had aggressive programs of commissioning both the copying and the composition of books. Both the Abbasid Bayt al-Hikma and the Mogul royal library in Delhi commissioned extensive translations, in the latter case often of Sanskrit Hindu literature of all sorts. Most of the great illustrated and illuminated Islamic books are the product of royal commissions.

There were also public libraries known as dar al-˓ilm, houses of knowledge. These were more or less public libraries, often established for sectarian purposes. These institutions played a role in the establishment of madrasas, Islamic seminaries. With the rise of madrasas in the eleventh century, their libraries became increasingly important.

Size, Nature, and Organization of Premodern Islamic Libraries

Medieval accounts mention libraries containing hundreds of thousands or even millions of books, notably the royal libraries of Baghdad, Cairo, and Cordoba. Individual scholars are mentioned whose libraries consisted of some thousands of books. The higher numbers are scarcely credible. Istanbul, for example, has more than a hundred manuscript libraries or collections dating from Ottoman times, some four centuries old, yet in 1959 a careful survey indicated that there were only about 135,000 Islamic manuscripts in the city, the largest collection containing about ten thousand manuscripts. It certainly is credible, however, that the larger medieval Islamic libraries contained tens of thousands of manuscripts and that wealthy individual scholars and bibliophiles possessed libraries of several thousand volumes—collections dwarfing anything in Europe at the time.

At their finest, Islamic libraries were large, well-organized institutions with specially built facilities for book storage and reading, professional staff, regular budgets and endowments, catalogs, and even lodging and stipends for visiting scholars. Public access varied, depending on the nature of the libraries, but established scholars could generally gain access to most collections. Books were usually stored on shelves or in cabinets, stacked on their sides with a short title written on the upper and lower edge of the book to aid in finding it. (Traditional Islamic bookbindings do not usually contain the title or author.) Catalogs were either bound handlists, the waqf documents donating the books, or lists posted on the doors of the cabinet. Collections were organized by subject. Avicenna describes visiting the royal library in Bukhara, for example, where rooms were devoted to different subjects. Paper, pens, and ink were sometimes furnished for the use of patrons.

Smaller collections had less elaborate facilities. Most mosques and madrasas had libraries. Private libraries and individual books were often donated to such institutions as waqf, endowment, and the terms of the gift would be carefully recorded on the flyleaf. Donated collections were often kept as separate units. There were also family libraries. In a society where professions were often hereditary, some families produced scholars and clerics generation after generation for centuries. Not uncommonly a library would accumulate in the family home over many generations. Examples include the al-Husayni, al-Khalidi, and al-Budayri libraries in Jerusalem, each of which dates from the eighteenth century.

Destruction and Dispersal of Libraries

Islamic chronicles mention the destruction of many libraries, either deliberately or, more commonly, accidentally. Apart from a few places and times, warfare was endemic in the Islamic world and took its toll. Few surviving libraries in the Islamic world predate the older Istanbul libraries. While the story that the Muslim invaders burned the library of Alexandria has long been known to be false—it had been destroyed in Roman times—the sack of cities did often result in the destruction of libraries. Most of the major libraries of Abbasid Iraq were destroyed during the Mongol invasion. The Islamic library in Tripoli was destroyed when the city was sacked by the Franks during the First Crusade, beginning in 1095. The American invasion of Iraq in 2003 apparently resulted in the destruction of much of the collection of the National Library in Baghdad.

Sometimes the destruction was ideologically motivated. Mahmud of Ghazna burned the heretical works in the library of the wazir Isma˓il b. ˓Abbad and confiscated the rest. The books on philosophy and the natural sciences in the library of al-Hakam II in Cordoba were burned by the orthodox during his son's reign. The mass destruction of Arabic books was part of the Catholic kings' program to suppress Islam in Spain, including the burning of Arabic books in Granada at the order of Cardinal Cisneros. There also was a curious tradition of scholars destroying their own books at their death, either to suppress embarrassing or incomplete works or to avoid unauthorized transmission of hadith and other texts that ought to be transmitted orally.

Finally, lack of supervision led to the decay of many libraries, with books stolen by readers or dishonest librarians or lost to damp and insects, the latter a particular menace in South and Southeast Asia, where insecticide is still sometimes sprinkled between the pages of books.

The destruction of libraries in wartime was not always, or even usually, deliberate. Books were valuable, and thus were better stolen than destroyed. There is a report that when Constantinople fell to the Ottomans, the sultan ordered the surviving Greek manuscripts in the city collected for the palace library, and there can be no doubt that the size and quality of the manuscript collections in Istanbul are in good part the result of the imperial reach of the Ottoman armies. Likewise, many of the Islamic manuscript collections in Europe were, to some extent, the product of colonial wars. The great Islamic manuscript collections in Russia are the product of the Russian expansion into Central Asia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The treasures of the Mogul royal library were dispersed after the 1857–1858 mutiny, and many of the finest items ended up in London.

Libraries in the Modern Islamic World

With some exceptions, the library situation in modern Islamic countries falls short of the glories of the medieval period. Some premodern libraries have survived and prospered. In Ottoman Turkey a stable bureaucratic tradition and internal stability meant that most of the old waqf libraries survived as functioning institutions until they were taken over by the modern Turkish state. Several of the larger Ottoman libraries in Istanbul are still functioning, and the collections of most of the smaller libraries have been gathered in a central library in the Suleymaniyyeh mosque. Al-Azhar University in Cairo has a library that has functioned for centuries in one form or another.

Most of the libraries of the Islamic world are of more recent date. These may be divided into two classes: libraries of traditional type founded in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and Western-style libraries founded by colonial administrations or modern independent Islamic states.

Even after the occupation of most of the Islamic world by European colonial powers and the establishment of modern nation states in the Islamic lands, libraries continued to be established that, despite occasional appurtenances of modern libraries and the prevalence of printed books, were indistinguishable in style and purposes from those established centuries earlier. The libraries of the Muslim rulers and nobility of princely states in British India were royal libraries of the old sort—for example, the Raza Library in Rampur, based on a collection started by the Rohilla Nawabs of Rampur in the eighteenth century, and the Salar Jung Museum Library in Hyderabad, Deccan. New mosques and madrasas had libraries indistinguishable from those of previous centuries, apart from the presence of printed books. A notable example is the Mar˓ashi library in Qom, founded by a bibliophilic grand ayatollah in the mid-twentieth century, which emerged as a major library after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

The colonial period marked a major change, with the introduction of European-style libraries intended to promote the diffusion of modern knowledge and to support the new systems of education and, to a lesser extent, to support modern industry. At the top of the pyramid are national libraries, supported by depository laws and national bibliographies. In some cases, such as Egypt and Iran, these libraries emerged from earlier royal libraries and are themselves important repositories of Islamic manuscripts. In other cases, such as Pakistan, they are new foundations rivaled or overshadowed by older university and traditional libraries. The introduction of modern educational systems led to the creation of school and university libraries. University libraries are well established across the Islamic world, though in general only a few of the older universities have really major libraries: Istanbul University, American University of Beirut, and Punjab University in Lahore, for example. Many newer universities have very limited library facilities. The high cost of foreign monographs and periodicals poses particular difficulties for academic libraries in the poorer Islamic countries, and the lack of such materials is one of the most difficult problems faced by academics in the Islamic world. The increasing importance of computers and electronic resources is an additional burden that few academic libraries in the Islamic world can afford.

Elementary and secondary school libraries are generally weak or nonexistent. Public library systems are also usually inadequate and rarely have much priority in competition for scarce public resources. Public libraries exist in major cities, but much less commonly in provincial cities or small towns. Translations of foreign works are relatively scarce. Cultural factors sometimes hinder progress. Where public libraries exist, there may be restrictions on circulation, subscription fees, or educational requirements that hinder free access, as is the case for the best public libraries in Pakistan. The Islamic world has not yet had its Andrew Carnegie, endowing mass self-education through free public libraries. As a result, foreign institutions such as the British Council still play a significant role in providing library facilities, despite their existing only in the largest cities. The new Alexandria Library being built in Egypt in emulation of the ancient library deserves mention, though it is far from clear that it will be able to achieve its goal to become a world-class research library.

There have also been challenges applying modern library techniques. The mixture of Arabic and Roman script books has posed problems for cataloging and computerization. The Dewey Decimal System has been widely adopted, despite the inadequacies of its treatment of Islamic and Middle Eastern topics.

See alsoEducation ; Ma˒mun .


Atiyeh, George N. The Book in the Islamic World: The WrittenWord and Communication in the Middle East. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

Nadim, al-. The Fihrist of al-Nadim: A Tenth-Century Survey ofMuslim Culture. Edited and translated by Bayard Dodge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1970.

Pedersen, Johannes. The Arabic Book. Translated by Geoffrey French. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984.

Rosenthal, Franz. The Technique and Approach of MuslimScholarship. Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1947.

John Walbridge


views updated May 14 2018



Public Libraries. Community tax-supported public libraries that were free and open to everyone did not take root until the nineteenth century. Most public libraries were actually book collections or private libraries open to the public. For example, the foundations of the Boston Public Library date from 1673 with the donation of Robert Keaynes private collection of books, which was administrated by the town of Boston. In the mid eighteenth century probably no more than about ten or twelve community-owned library collections such as this were founded. However, many other kinds of libraries were founded, some private or quasi-private, some by membership only and those accessible to people who could pay a rental fee.

Demand for Books. Throughout the colonial era educated people collected books and possessed their own libraries. Most individual libraries contained less than a dozen books, but collections ranged in the thousands, such as John Adamss library of five thousand volumes

and William Byrd IIs twenty-three cases of three thousand books. Most libraries contained Bibles, almanacs, and devotional literature, but during the eighteenth century reading interests expanded to include books on science, politics, gardening, medicine, law, surveying, agriculture, conduct and civility, grammar, textbooks, drama, poetry, history, and education. Colonial booksellers stocked imprints from Britain as well as from colonial presses, which by 1762 numbered about 40. Between 1689 and 1783 colonial presses had printed, by one estimation, 100,000 titles. The proliferation of books and other printed items and the increase in literacy in the eighteenth century meant a surge of new booksellers in the colonies. By 1750, 121 booksellers had opened shops in five American cities: Boston, Charleston, Philadelphia, New York, and Newport. Between 1761 and 1776 the number had increased to 151.


ProprietorLocationFoundedAnnual FeeNumber of Vols.Longevity (in months)
Source: David Kaser, A Book for a Sixpence: The Circulating Library in America (Pittsburgh, Pa.: Beta Phi Mu, 1980).
William RindAnnapolis1763£11150+12
George WoodCharleston1763 1,00048
Garrat NoelNew York1763$53,000?12?
John MeinBoston1765£1-81,200 
Lewis NicolaPhiladelphia1767$2-3400-1,00051+
Thomas BradfordPhiladelphia1769  45+
Samuel GiffordCharleston1772£1  
William AikmanAnnapolis1773£111,200426
Joseph RathellBaltimore1773$4800+0
Samuel LoudonNew York1774£11,000-2,00032+
Robert BellPhiladelphia1774 2,00048+

College Libraries. College libraries built their early collections primarily through donations from philanthropists abroad and from colonial men of letters. Harvards library began with the bequest of John Harvards four hundred books. The College of William and Mary received donations from abroad and from prominent Virginia gentlemen, the largest of which was given by Gov. Francis Nicholson. In the eighteenth century, college libraries grew rapidly, though most suffered huge losses by fire or through the ravages of war. The largest of the libraries was at Harvard. From its modest beginnings in 1638 it grew to about 3,500 books in the eighteenth century before it was destroyed by fire in 1764. But two years later the library had grown from purchases and donations to 4,350 volumes, which doubled by 1783. William and Mary, Yale, and the College of New Jersey each had between 2,000 and 3,000 books before the Revolution, but many of these were destroyed during the war. Kings College and the College of Philadelphia had small libraries, but students at these colleges had access to larger libraries nearby.

Parish Libraries. Thomas Bray, an Anglican minister and commissary to Marylands Anglican parishes, is credited with planning the first parochial lending library. His purpose was to give poorer clergy the opportunity to educate themselves with theological, philosophical, and scientific books housed in nearby parish libraries. The first library, with 1,095 volumes, was created in 1696 in Annapolis, Maryland. With top priority given to the establishment of parish libraries by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (S.P.C.K.), more than thirty were founded in Boston, Charleston, New York, Philadelphia, and Maryland in the following three years. However, they were created mainly for clergy, and the public could use them only on a limited basis.

Subscription Libraries. Two other kinds of libraries, the subscription and circulating libraries, were more accessible to the public. The subscription libraries, also known as social libraries, were formed as clubs or voluntary associations by individuals who contributed to a general fund that was supported by annual contributions or subscriptions for the purpose of buying and maintaining books. In 1731 Benjamin Franklin founded the first of its kind, called the Library Company of Philadelphia, with a plan to have subscribers pay an initial fee of forty shillings to buy books and an additional annual fee often shillings to maintain the collection and add new books. Rules determined hours of access, fines for overdue books, limits on the number of books that could be checked out, fees for damaged books, and other collection-related concerns. Sometimes educational activities such as lecture series were offered by these libraries. By 1775 there were about seventy subscription libraries in the colonies.

Circulating Libraries. The most publically accessible library was the circulating library, a popular institution at this time in England, where there were about fifty in existence before 1762, when the first known American circulating library was organized in Annapolis, Maryland. These lending libraries were attached to booksellers shops or printing companies, and were places where readers rented books for a fee and for a certain period of time. Though the Annapolis library failed after a few months, eleven more successful replicas followed in urban areas such as Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Charleston before the Revolution. The number of volumes in each ranged from 150 to 3,000. They catered to men and women in trying to fill the increasing demand for literature, history, biography, and travel books. However, since both the subscription and circulating libraries cost users money, they were not available to everyone and therefore not actually public. In addition the circulating libraries were located only in cities that had booksellers and printers. At least one colony, Virginia, had neither a circulating nor a subscription library.


David Kaser, A Book for a Sixpence: The Circulating Library in America (Pittsburgh, Pa: Beta Phi Mu, 1980);

Malcolm Knowles, A History of the Adult Education Movement in the United States (Huntington, N.Y.: R. E. Krieger, 1977);

Huey B. Long, Continuing Education of Adults in Colonial America (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Publications in Continuing Education, 1976);

Jesse H. Shera, Foundations of the Public Library: The Origins of the Public Library Movement in New England, 1629-1855 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949);

Harold W. Stubblefield and Patrick Keane, Adult Education in the American Experience: From the Colonial Period to the Present (San Francisco, Cal.: Jossey-Bass, 1994).


views updated Jun 08 2018


LIBRARIES. What distinguishes libraries in the United States from all others in the world is their emphasis on access. While libraries in many countries collect and preserve those books and other materials that document national heritage, libraries in the United Sates have focused on building collections to meet their patrons' needs. Consequently, American libraries are unrivaled in their ease of use. But the history of the library cannot be told in a single story because there are three distinct types in the United States: academic, special or corporate, and public. Academic libraries are subsets of educational institutions, and their histories reflect the principles and philosophies of their parent organizations. Similarly, the history of special libraries, established by individuals with a particular interest in certain topics, or of corporate libraries, created to support researchers in an organization, parallel the histories of their founders and funders. Only the public library has a history of its own.

University libraries were the first to appear in America (beginning with the Harvard College Library in 1638). The availability of books for the young men who attended universities was an indication that the new nation valued education and knowledge. The presence of books was valued much more than services, but books were scarce, and more than a few British travelers wrote back to their fellow countrymen that the collections found in the United States were not worthy of the name of a library. Since the librarians were most often faculty members who had the assignment of looking after the books, university libraries were poorly funded and unevenly administered.

The history of libraries in America is essentially the story of public libraries. Public libraries grew in countless communities as a response to a growing democracy, but it was not until the nineteenth century that libraries became ubiquitous.

The public library that developed in the United States in the late nineteenth century was a prime example of the democratic institutions created to assimilate and integrate the diverse ethnic and cultural groups that had come to constitute America. By 1900 there were approximately two thousand public libraries in the United States. Most were either social libraries, supported by individual philanthropists with a special interest in the community, or subscription libraries, supported by fees paid by those patrons who wished to use the circulating collections.

It is no coincidence that the public library came onto the scene at the same time that large corporations came into existence. Mercantile libraries, especially in the East, were founded by and run for the benefit of businesspeople, and they became a source of great pride for many cities during the nineteenth century. Most library historians who have studied these institutions argue that the libraries served, primarily, an educational purpose. The self-improvement campaign that was evident in the middle class during much of the nineteenth century was exemplified by the belief that no knowledge should be foreign to the merchant, and therefore that the reading of books, newspapers, and magazines touching on any subject was professionally useful. These mercantile libraries also became the locus of informational lectures on a wide range of topics.

The Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, established in 1886, exemplified the type of library that was becoming common in many cities. Successful individual businessmen—such as Enoch Pratt, who called the library a symbol of democracy—established libraries in an effort to repay the community. The wealthy and well educated men who served on Pratt's board of trustees proclaimed that his new library was to be an institution "where neither wealth nor poverty, high nor low position in society nor any other distinction entitles the individual to special privileges before the law." Even if the rules were applied universally, the library was more a symbol of personal success than an open institution for information. The library in Baltimore was built as a closed-stacks institution, which could be used only with permission. Letters of reference had to be submitted to the head librarian.

The modern public library—the type that emphasizes access to information—emerged first in the guise of the Boston Public Library, established in 1852 as the first tax-supported municipal library. Even though it is popular among library historians to refer to the "public library movement," states and communities were reluctant to tax themselves to provide free library services. In 1849 New Hampshire was the first state to pass enabling legislation that allowed communities to levy taxes for public libraries. It took another fifty years for thirty-seven additional states to pass similar legislation.

Andrew Carnegie's philanthropy did more than anything else to accelerate the development of public libraries in towns across the country. In 1881 Carnegie made the first of a series of gifts that would link his name permanently to public library buildings. Motivations for Carnegie's philanthropy are sharply debated. Some argue that Carnegie's own experience as a self-made man led him to the recognition that access to books can lead to education, and, ultimately, wealth. Other historians have argued that Carnegie used library development as a form of social control, seeing in the library a way to instill standards of behavior and an appreciation of culture. Whatever the reason, between 1881 and 1919 Andrew Carnegie made grants for the construction of 1,679 public libraries in the United States.

His particular form of philanthropy had enormous influence: Carnegie gave money to municipal governments to build library buildings. The town or city had to promise to buy books and provide library staff. The latter requirement resulted in the growth of library education programs in universities and the creation of a professional organization—the American Library Association—that would campaign for universal library service in the United States. The topic most forcefully debated by the new organization was the nature of library collections. Many of the early professionals who worked in public libraries recognized that most readers had the greatest interest in books and magazines that entertained. Yet, the leaders of the profession argued that the role of the librarian was to encourage the reading of "good" books. The founders of the Boston Public Library, Edward Everett and George Ticknor, held opposing views on the type of collections the public library should contain. Ticknor believed that collecting and circulating the "pleasant literature of the day" would result in the cultivation of higher tastes in reading among the library patrons. Everett, who ultimately lost the battle, argued that the library should be a reference (noncirculating) library for scholarly purposes. The compromise reached at the Boston Public Library—a compromise between the "best books" and "the best that people will read"—was copied by libraries across the country throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

From the mid-nineteenth century until 1956, public libraries were guided by state legislation and professional principles. Reference services and children's services grew as more funding was applied to public libraries. In 1956 the federal government began to support the expansion of library services into rural communities. Federal funds were made available for professional training, construction of new library facilities, and research into library problems. By the 1970s, states began to think in terms of developing uniform library services that were administered by the main state library. Since then, technology-based networks have allowed states to offer more library services at less cost.

In the opening years of the twenty-first century, one aspect of the public library that is assuming more importance is its role as a place where members of a community can come together. Computer-based services are offered to all socioeconomic groups, but as home computers become more popular, the public library increasingly serves as a social safety net by ensuring access to information for those from lower economic levels, seeing this access as a right of all citizens. At the same time, many of the largest university libraries are deeply engaged in developing digital, or virtual, libraries, making resources for research and scholarship available through the Internet. To modern-day librarians, building collections of material that are available to anyone who has access to a computer is a natural extension of earlier services. It is uncertain how the availability of Web-based research materials will affect the concept of the library, but it does cause one to reflect on the extent to which the history of the library, until now, has been a history of buildings. As libraries move into a new era, there will be greater emphasis on information services available to scholars, researchers, and the general public.


Carpenter, Kenneth E. Readers and Libraries: Toward a History of Libraries and Culture in America. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1996.

Shera, Jesse H. Foundations of the Public Library: The Origins of the Public Library Movement in New England, 1629–1855. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949.

Van Slyck, Abigail. Free to All: Carnegie Libraries and American Culture, 1890–1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Deanna B.Marcum

See alsoHarvard University .


views updated May 21 2018


The political, economic, social, and cultural movements of the eighteenth century laid the groundwork for the rapid expansion and development of both public and private libraries in the nineteenth century. More numerous and varied, more public and accessible than in previous centuries, they were intimately connected to many of the broader cultural, political, and economic changes that were reshaping European societies.

In the case of public libraries, the most visible change was the accelerated transformation of princely or court libraries into public institutions. A fundamental shift occurred in the conception of such collections. They ceased to be repositories for the personal benefit of rulers and their courts. By declaring them open to the public, rulers recognized the right of a wider audience to study and enjoy their content. In addition, material support for these libraries moved from the princely purse to state or public funding.

Numerous factors contributed to this transformation. A growing sense of national identity required monuments to national culture and greatness. Opening them to the public encouraged national pride and—it was hoped—a loyal, educated citizenry.

State libraries grew through collecting, conquest, and purchase. In addition, the confiscation of ecclesiastical libraries, notably those of the Jesuit order following its dissolution in 1773 and of monasteries secularized in the wake of the French Revolution, vastly increased state library holdings. For example, the Hofbibliothek (Court Library) of Bavaria, in Munich, which opened to the public in 1790, added some 480,000 volumes, including 20,000 manuscripts, between 1799 and 1817.

Other political and cultural trends hastened the transition to state and national libraries. The foundation of learned societies and the spread of literacy to the middle classes by the mid-1700s had created a clientele for libraries. Liberal and republican ideals and the democratic revolutions of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries weakened monarchies and expanded the image of state libraries from symbols of national pride and culture to institutions for the service and education of citizens.

The modern sense of a national library as an institution performing national functions began to evolve during the nineteenth century with the recognition that its principal task was collecting the nation's publications. The earliest library to attempt this was the Bibliothèque Nationale (National Library) of France, which had benefited from legal deposit since 1537. It was the first library to call itself a national library, having been renamed during the French Revolution (1795).

A British national library was proposed in 1707 but did not emerge until 1752, and then it took the form of the British Museum Library; opened to the public in 1759, it only changed its name to the British Library in 1973. By 1800, nearly all European countries had recognized national libraries.

The use of public and national libraries was at first generally restricted to scholars and then, increasingly, to the university students, whose numbers expanded dramatically during the eighteenth century. The consumer revolution of the eighteenth century had, however, created increased leisure, expectations, and demand for goods and activities (including books and reading) that denoted social status. The dramatic increase during the last third of the nineteenth century in both secondary education and literacy (which by 1900 was above 50 percent even in the less advanced countries) created an expanding reading public. To meet its needs, the number and variety of popular reading institutions increased.

Popular libraries had antecedents in the feebased eighteenth-century circulating libraries run by booksellers and the reading rooms that emerged in coffeehouses. In addition, private citizens and social associations had started subscription libraries for the growing merchant and trade classes. These libraries continued to flourish, giving important stimulus to the book trade. By the century's end, the dramatic rise of popular literature in the form of newspapers, periodicals, and novels resulted in the creation of a new type of library: the public lending library, which emerged in 1780 in Germany. By 1800 most large cities and many smaller municipalities had libraries of this sort.

Private, commercial, and public circulating libraries persisted into the nineteenth century, expanding their scope and democratizing their appeal. Lending libraries were started not just in bookstores but in barbershops and in tobacconists', confectioners', and stationers' shops. As society industrialized, libraries for workers emerged. Nineteenth-century bourgeois national consciousness, linked as it was to moral reform, self-help, and the education of responsible citizens, shaped their development. The rich associational life of Europeans also played an important role. Educational and self-help societies like the mechanics institutes of the 1820s in England provided lectures, reading rooms, and lending libraries as a way of educating skilled workers. In France, where the public library system developed slowly, from 1862 onward the bourgeois Franklin Society advocated the formation of popular collections of "instructive works" to make French working men sober and responsible and to avoid social unrest. Chafing at restrictions on dress and on the type of literature in these libraries, however, unskilled workers often founded their own reading rooms. Cooperative societies of workers also founded libraries, and their numbers exceeded the number of public libraries before 1880. Between 1836 and 1854, the English workers of Carlisle established twenty-four reading rooms with 4,000 volumes and 1,400 members. Workers' libraries appeared in Germany during the revolutions of 1848 and again among local Socialist Party and trade union chapters in the 1890s.

Libraries for women also emerged in the late eighteenth century and expanded their scope in the nineteenth. The earliest rented, often by mail, those books deemed suitable for women. Women were avid readers of novels and the new magazines about women's issues. Despite heated debates about the propriety of women reading novels and going to public libraries to do so, by the century's end reading rooms had been established for women in public libraries and libraries for women had been established in factories.

Fueling the development of these libraries were not only the desires of working-class men and women for status and direct access to religious, political, and recreational literature, but also the anxieties of the upper classes about what they considered the dangerous classes and the upper-class desire to inculcate the values of what they considered responsible citizenship. The British Public Libraries Act of 1850 was the work of social reformers rather than the government. In France, the Ligue d'enseignement (Instructional League) persuaded employees to establish workers' libraries in factories in 1866. The Borromäus Verein was founded in Germany in 1845 as a society to promote good reading and establish libraries for Catholics of all classes. The convergence of the popular education and popular library movements resulted in the establishment of additional free, popular municipal libraries, and consequently commercial and private lending libraries declined.

Expanding access to libraries was accompanied by the steady development of ways to access library collections, from printed and card catalogs to uniform cataloguing rules and classification systems. With the professionalization of librarians, library science emerged as a distinct field of learning.

See alsoEducation; Literacy; Museums; Popular and Elite Culture.


Secondary Sources

Blasselle, Bruno. La Bibliothéque nationale. Paris, 1989.

Dalton, Margaret S. "The Borromäus Verein: Catholic Public Librarianship in Germany, 1845–1933." Libraries and Culture 31, no. 2 (1996): 409–421.

Everitt, Jean. "Co-Operative Society Libraries." Library History (Great Britain) 15, no. 1 (1999): 33–40.

Garrett, Jeffrey. "Redefining Order in the German Library, 1775–1825." Eighteenth-Century Studies 33, no. 1 (1999): 103–123.

Hammond, Mary. "'The Great Fiction Bore': Free Libraries and the Construction of a Reading Public in England, 1880–1914." Libraries and Culture 37, no. 2 (2002): 83–108.

Stam, David H. International Dictionary of Library Histories. 2 vols. Chicago, 2001. Extensive coverage of types of libraries as well as of individual libraries; useful bibliography.

Sturges, Paul. "Great City Libraries of Britain: Their History from a European Perspective." Library History (Great Britain) 19, no. 2 (2003): 93–111.

Tedder, Henry Richard, and James Duff Brown. "Libraries." In Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information. 11th ed. New York, 1911. A detailed treatment of libraries, especially in Europe and the United States; includes statistics from contemporary sources.

Susanne F. Roberts


views updated May 29 2018



The Lyceum Movement. Although the nations public libraries first opened their doors during the 1850s, their origins go back at least two decades earlier, to the Lyceum Movement founded by Connecticut educator Josiah Holbrook. Inspired in part by the democratic impulse of the American Revolution, lyceums were intended as a federation of adult educational organizations whose members would hold weekly meetings, for reading, conversation, illustrating the sciences, or other exercises designed for mutual benefit. By 1835 there were over three thousand lyceums spread through out the country and gradually began to accumulate book collections and build up archives filled with documents of local historical interest. In many areas the lyceums functioned as informal schools, compensating for the failure of traditional institutions to respond to popular educational needs. Women, in particular, became avid participants in the affairs of local lyceums, and the institution played an important role in breaking down educational barriers against them. Factory girls from Lowell, Massachusetts, were said to have saved their pennies to attend lyceum courses, but for the most part it was the middle classes that made up the audiences for lyceum lectures and courses. Public lectures typically featured discussions on literature or science, but toward midcentury the lyceums became an important venue for representatives of the various reform currents: womans rights advocates, abolitionists, and education reformers were frequent visitors to the lyceum podium.

The Free Public Library. Early attempts at establishing public libraries often consisted of no more than a call by individuals to open the lyceum collections to the general public. Expressing an egalitarian optimism typical of American intellectuals before midcentury, Francis Wayland urged members of the Providence Athenaeum in 1838 to make available to the average citizen of Providence, Rhode Island, all the reading which shall be necessary to prepare him for any situation for which his cultural endowments have rendered him capable. In the view of reformers, libraries would serve as the arsenals of a democratic culture by developing an intelligent and informed citizenry. Significantly, they viewed the public library campaign as an important extension of the common-schools movement. Bostons tireless advocate George Ticknor considered the public library the crowning glory of the public schools system, recommending the issue of special library tickets for school children in order to create the reading habit early in life. By 1850 this impulse had moved considerably beyond the call to open private collections. In Boston, Ticknor and former governor Edward Everett, both allies of Horace Mann, had managed to win public funding for a city library, and their achievement was reinforced by similar successes elsewhere. New Hampshire legislators voted in 1849 to permit public funding for libraries open to the free use of every inhabitant of the town or city for the general diffusion of intelligence among all classes of the community, making it the first state in the Union to do so. The state of Massachusetts followed with similar legislation in 1851, to be joined by Maine (1854), Rhode Island (1867), and Connecticut (1869). By the mid 1870s most major towns in New England had established public libraries, and their popularity was noted by U.S. commissioner of education William T. Harris, who recognized the library as one of the most efficient auxiliaries of the public schools. Melvil Dewey, for whom the Dewey decimal system would later be named, founded the American Library Association in 1876.

Struggle. Outside of New England, the success of the public library campaign was more modest. The largest collections in the United States remained in private hands. The John Jacob Astor Library in New York City, with 100,000 volumes the largest collection in the United States at the time, opened its doors in 1854 but only to a limited, private readership; within twenty years it had added another 135,000 volumes to its collection. Harvard University, with 72,000 books, was closed to the public as well. The Library of Congress at Washington, by comparison, contained a modest 50,000 volumes during

this period, and the largest of the public libraries, at Philadelphia, just 60,000. In this situation, social welfare agencies very often attempted to fill the void. In New York, for example, after efforts to establish a free public library there failed in 1858, the YWCA established its own library and attempted to make its collection available to working women. One of its librarians described the atmosphere by the librarians desk in the evening, when the women and girls from the shops and factories are free. Andthe jostling crowd presses in, embarrassed and awkward, half awed by the very beauty and refinement of the place, and abashed at the sight of so many books. Though it would not be until 1895 that New York would establish a free public library of its own (based, in part, on the Astor collection), by 1877 the notion that Americans from every background should have ready access to quality reading materials, a corollary of the common-schools ideal, had become fixed in the popular mind as one of the distinguishing features of life in America.


Sidney H. Ditzion, Arsenals of a Democratic Culture: A Social History of the American Public Library Movement in New England and the Middle States from 1850 to 1900 (Chicago: American Library Association, 1947);

David B. Tyack, George Ticknor and the Boston Brahmins (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967).


views updated May 23 2018


Renaissance libraries were important centers of learning and culture. More than just collections of books, they gave scholars a place to study languages and to explore ancient ideas. Many libraries treated books and manuscripts as works of art, prized as much for their beauty as for their content. They often displayed volumes alongside cabinets of interesting objects—ancient artifacts*, natural wonders, or scientific instruments. From the private collections of individuals to the glorious libraries of royal courts, libraries formed the focus of Renaissance scholarship.

Early Humanist Libraries. During the Renaissance, humanist* scholars kept some of the finest book collections in Europe. The Italian poet Petrarch, the scholar most associated with the birth of humanism, called book collecting his "passion." His private collection contained about 200 volumes. Most of them were ancient works in Latin and writings by the early leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. Petrarch carried his books with him in his travels throughout Italy.

Other humanists also kept notable libraries. One of the most impressive private collections belonged to the Italian scholar Giovanni Picodella Mirandola. His thousand-volume library contained more than 100 Hebrew manuscripts—one of the largest such collections in all of Italy. Pico's other volumes ranged from literature of his day to ancient Latin texts on religion, philosophy, and science.

Church Libraries. Since the Middle Ages, religious houses had served as centers of learning in Europe. Catholic monasteries often held rich collections of manuscripts. During the Protestant Reformation*, many Protestant states broke up the monasteries. Their holdings fell into the hands of courts, universities, and private individuals. In Catholic lands, however, monastic* libraries became tools for renewing the church.

The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church kept some of the most impressive private collections in Europe. Many cardinals associated with humanist scholars and took an interest in recovering ancient texts from both pagan* and Christian traditions. Some cardinals kept quite small collections, while others had as many as a few hundred volumes. The largest library belonged to Bessarion, a Greek monk who had moved to Italy in the 1400s and become a cardinal in the Catholic Church. He owned more than 1,000 volumes, with a strong focus on Greek manuscripts.

Cardinals' libraries increased in size and splendor as the Renaissance progressed. Founded in the early 1600s, the library of Cardinal Federico Barberini (the nephew of Pope Urban VIII) became one of the richest in Rome. It was second only to the Vatican Library, founded around 1450 by Pope Nicholas V. Although popes had kept collections of books and documents for centuries, Nicholas wanted to open a library "for the common convenience of the learned." His own collection became the core of the new library, which occupied three rooms in the Vatican. By the late 1500s it had expanded to several thousand texts and required a building of its own. However, the popes of the early 1600s no longer made the collection open to the public. Only those with special permission could enter for a few hours at a time on certain days.

Court Libraries. Kings, queens, and other nobles kept some of the finest libraries in Europe. Developed partly to house accounts and legal documents, court libraries became important centers of scholarship. Naples was home to the oldest major court library in Italy. Started in the 1200s, it grew dramatically in the mid-1400s under the patronage of Alfonso, the king of Aragon and Naples. Other major libraries in Italy included the collections of the Gonzaga family in Mantua, the Visconti in Milan, and the Este in Ferrara. Each of these noble families possessed hundreds of manuscripts.

In 1520 the humanist scholar Guillaume Budé established the new royal library of the French king Francis I at Fontainebleau. Within 25 years, the collection had grown to about 2,686 volumes. By the end of the 1500s the library had been moved to Paris. One of the largest court libraries of the Renaissance was the Escorial near Madrid in Spain. In addition to its books, this library housed a large collection of mathematical and scientific instruments. It also served as a personal spiritual retreat* for Spain's king Philip II.

The court library had its greatest impact in Germany and central Europe. In the German city of Augsburg, the wealthy merchants and bankers of the Fugger family created a library based on Italian models and even hired an Italian architect to design it. The Fugger collection later became part of the court library of Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria. In the late 1500s, books taken from Catholic monasteries enriched the court libraries of Protestant Germany. The library at Wolfenbüttel, in northern Germany, eventually became the largest in all of Europe. By the middle of the 1600s, it held more than 100,000 volumes.

Private and Public Libraries. Private book collections grew throughout the Renaissance. Many professionals, such as lawyers and doctors, kept large private libraries of books about their areas of interest. Especially in northern Europe, such private libraries were used for both teaching and study in a number of fields.

Some private collections helped to promote new ideas. For example, physician Nicolò Leoniceno, who taught medicine at the University of Ferrara in the late 1400s, kept a large collection of scientific texts. Among them were over 100 Greek works covering every major area of science. Libraries such as his helped to revive interest in ancient Greek medicine. Similarly, collections of Greek mathematical manuscripts led the rebirth of mathematics in the 1500s.

During the Renaissance many "private" collections became semipublic, providing places for scholars to meet, study, and exchange ideas. A few libraries took on a form similar to the modern public library. In 1444 the library of the monastery of San Marco in Florence opened its doors to the public. Like later public libraries, it began as a private collection, originally belonging to humanist Niccolò Niccoli. Another important public library opened at Oxford University in 1602. English politician and writer Francis Bacon said that he hoped the new library would serve as "an ark of learning."

(See alsoBooks and Manuscripts; Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel; Humanism; Medicine; Popes and Papacy. )

* artifact

ornament, tool, or other object made by humans

* humanist

referring to a Renaissance cultural movement promoting the study of the humanities (the languages, literature, and history of ancient Greece and Rome) as a guide to living

* Protestant Reformation

religious movement that began in the 1500s as a protest against certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church and eventually led to the establishment of a variety of Protestant churches

* monastic

relating to monasteries, monks, or nuns

* pagan

referring to ancient religions that worshiped many gods, or more generally, to any non-Christian religion

* retreat

quiet, private, or secure place

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