The Library: A Fragile History

Basic. Nov. 2021. 528p. ISBN 9781541600775. $35. HIST
The concept of a library has changed throughout the ages, but as this comprehensive history of libraries indicates, the problems that plague libraries have remained the same. Being in the middle of political battles and torn apart in war is destructive, but apathy and neglect can be just as dangerous, argue Pettegree and Der Weduwen, both historians at the University of St. Andrews. They make their case through anecdotes about the people who have collected books and larger considerations of historical trends in books and political movements. This fascinating if dense book aims to be a world history, yet the focus is mainly European and American; forays into other regions tend to consider colonial influences above the local practices. Despite this weakness, the book has important criticism of bad practices in libraries and their institutions (e.g., the American Library Association), which provides necessary modern context, as many of the struggles around the role of politics in libraries are ongoing.
VERDICT This is sure to be a new addition to library and information school curricula and will be fascinating for all bibliophiles and people who want libraries to survive and improve.
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