Volume 48, number 1 (February-March 2013)


By Robert S. Martin and Bernadette A. Lear

pp. 1 - 7


Every state in this country has a state library agency, and yet these institutions are among the least studied and least understood agencies in the library constellation. While library education programs offer multiple courses on school, public, academic, and special libraries, not one offers a course on state libraries.

The Origins of a State Library: New Jersey, 1704–1824

By John T. Shaw

pp. 8 - 25


State libraries began to form in the United States around 1800, but the collections on which some were based had been established long before. The New Jersey State Library provides an example of this pattern. Though the generally recognized date for its founding is March 18, 1796, by that time the library’s collection had already been serving the needs of the state government for much of the eighteenth century. Drawing on entries in the New Jersey General Assembly’s minutes, this article provides an account of the growth and use of this collection beginning in 1704. It goes on to describe the evolution of this legislative reference collection to a state library, and concludes with a brief look at the library after 1796.

A State Library Transformed: Pennsylvania, 1878–1921

By Bernadette A. Lear

pp. 26 - 49


The Gilded Age and Progressive Era were pivotal times for those state libraries founded in the colonial era. Like many such institutions, the State Library of Pennsylvania (SLP) was initially established to archive and supply information pertinent to legislators and government officials. Into the 1860s, staff found the notion of circulating collections “simply preposterous” and affirmed that SLP’s mission was to “facilitate the business of government.” Yet after the Civil War, successive state librarians broadened SLP’s concerns, activities, collections, and spheres of influence. Examination of librarians’ reports, news coverage, and other sources illustrates how their vision of the possibilities and responsibilities of state libraries expanded over time, embracing the concerns not only of government officials, but also citizens, fellow practitioners, and posterity.

Letters to Lucy Johnston: Addressing the Need for Literature on the Kansas Prairie

By Diana Weaver

pp. 50 - 67


A majority of the pioneer settlers of Kansas migrated from cities in the eastern United States. A profound hardship to the newcomers was the lack of books. Women's clubs quickly formed in many settlements, determined to recreate the literary culture left behind. Under the leadership of women's club activist Lucy Johnston, a system of traveling libraries was developed in Kansas. Letters written to Johnston at the start of the program reveal the acute yearning for books on the prairies and the power of disenfranchised women to rally for a cause in turn-of-the-century Kansas.

Depoliticizing the California State Library: The Political and Professional Transformation of James Gillis, 1899-1917

By Debra Gold Hansen

pp. 68 - 90


This article examines the career of James Gillis, California’s state librarian from 1899 to 1917. It reviews the role politics played in library staffing prior to Gillis’s appointment and considers the extent to which Gillis filled his own staff with patronage hires. It then discusses why and how Gillis ended the state library’s spoils system and professionalized operations. While duly crediting Gillis’s importance as a library administrator, this article highlights the role California’s Progressive movement played in the state library’s modernization.

“My Duty and My Pleasure:” Alice S. Tyler’s Reluctant Oversight of Carnegie Library Philanthropy in Iowa

By Shana L. Stuart

pp. 91 - 111


In 1900, the Iowa Legislature authorized the creation of the Iowa Library Commission, which immediately hired Alice S. Tyler as its first secretary to promote library growth. During her tenure of thirteen years, there was phenomenal growth in the number of libraries and library buildings. The growth was due primarily to Carnegie monies for buildings, which Iowa’s communities individually and enthusiastically pursued without official oversight by Tyler. It is evident from Tyler’s publications that she was not a proponent of Carnegie funding, and her writings reveal the strategies she developed to attempt to mitigate the perceived negative consequences of Carnegie library grants.

“Interested In Public Libraries”: J. O. Modisette and the Contributions of a Louisiana Library Commissioner

By Florence M. Jumonville

pp. 112 - 133


J. O. Modisette (1881-1942), a small-town Louisiana attorney, was “interested in public libraries” and resolute that every Louisianan deserved the opportunity to read. As a longtime member of the Louisiana Library Commission, Modisette supported the library cause by doing the commission’s legal work, seeking grant funding, and publicizing the commission—all free of charge. This biographical sketch examines the role of a library trustee during a formative period of library development and illustrates Modisette’s productive collaboration with the library community to place libraries within reach of all the people of Louisiana.

Struggles Within: Lura G. Currier, The Mississippi Library Commission, and Library Services To African Americans

By Karen Cook

pp. 134 - 156


Lura G. Currier was director of the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC) from 1957–1967. She earned an international reputation for her tireless work to expand public library services. A state employee, Currier felt obligated to obey Mississippi laws requiring the racial segregation of libraries and of Mississippi Library Association activities, contrary to American Library Association policies and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Examination of Currier’s prolific and expressive correspondence provides a rare glimpse into the professional life and mind of a southern white librarian struggling to reconcile her professional ethics and standards with the realities of segregation.

Carma Zimmerman Leigh and the Diffusion of Cooperation Through California Libraries, 1951-1972

By Cindy Mediavilla

pp. 157 - 177


The diffusion of innovation is a multilayered process that involves five main steps: knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation. Between 1951 and 1963, California State Librarian Carma Zimmerman Leigh utilized several methods to introduce and eventually develop public library cooperative systems statewide. But the process was not easy. A study, conducted by Ed Wight, provided the knowledge needed to persuade the state’s librarians to adopt (or decide on) a library master plan for California, which was finally implemented with the passage of the Public Library Development Act in 1963. Confirmation occurred shortly afterward with the successful creation of public library systems statewide.

This issue is available on Project MUSE