Information Hunters: When Librarians, Soldiers, and Spies Banded Together in World War II Europe

Oxford Univ. Jan. 2020. 296p. ISBN 9780190944612. $34.95. HIST
In this new work, Peiss (history, Univ. of Pennsylvania; Hope in a Jar) takes a close look at the involvement of librarians and archivists in World War II. The author’s interest in this subject was inspired by her late uncle, Reuben Peiss, part of the Library of Congress European Mission (LCM); a group of librarians, archivists, and other scholars who worked to collect and preserve records and publications to aid the military, becoming unlikely intelligence agents in the process. They worked with soldiers to seek out useful documents and published materials during the war and the postwar occupation. At the same time, vast amounts of material were sent back to U.S. libraries and archives, building research collections and repositories. Peiss argues that the work of the LCM advanced the practice of library science, creating new techniques, technologies, and processes to improve the field. The author is not, however, uncritical of the LCM’s ethical and privacy practices.
VERDICT This well-written and astutely researched book makes the wartime work of librarians engaging and engrossing. Those fascinated by intelligence missions or keen on the history of library science will appreciate this excellent read.
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