Libraries Without Borders: New Directions in Library History

ALA Editions. Nov. 2023. 216p. ed. by Steven A. Knowlton & others. ISBN 9780838936634. pap. $69.99. PRO MEDIA
This enriching volume of essays, edited by Knowlton (librarian for history and African American studies, Princeton Univ.), Ellen M. Pozzi (educational leadership and professional studies, William Paterson Univ.), Jordan S. Sly (humanities and social science librarian, Univ. of Maryland, College Park), and Emily D. Spunaugle (humanities and rare books librarian, Oakland Univ.), deftly examines the role that libraries play in their communities, as seen through a lens of social justice, equity, and inclusion. During the early 20th century and up to the end of World War II, libraries were considered neutral spaces, but research suggests the opposite was true. Segregation laws led to a deficit of library access in Black communities, and library staff were predominantly white, middle-class individuals. By the dawn of the civil rights movement, patrons and librarians began to demand greater access to information for everyone. Standout essays include “Locating Activism and Memory” and “Illuminating Diversity in Historical Research and Education,” which offer new conceptualizations of U.S. history. Other essays, such as “Getting Started: Research in the History of American Libraries,” are more academic in their approach.
VERDICT This robust collection, originally presented at the 14th Annual Library History Seminar, should appeal to those interested in the history of librarianship and the intersection of social justice and libraries.
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