Volume 49, Number 2 (May/Jun 2014)

The Development of Public Libraries in the United States, 1870-1930: A Quantitative Assessment

Michael Kevane and William A. Sundstrom

pp. 117 - 144


The period 1870–1930 witnessed the emergence of the local public library as a widespread and enduring American institution. We document the expansion of public libraries in the United States using data drawn from library surveys conducted by the federal Bureau of Education. We then review causal accounts for that expansion. Exploiting cross-state and temporal variation in the data, we use statistical techniques to assess a number of plausible demand and supply factors affecting the pace of library development. Social and economic variables in the analysis include state income or wealth, urbanization, ethnic composition, and gender ratios. We also examine the effect of institutional innovations, such as state library commissions and library associations, which likely affected the establishment of public libraries. We confirm that library expansion was robustly related to urbanization and greater ethnic (immigrant) diversity, and to institutional innovations, and was greatly delayed in southern states.

Rise of the Shadow Libraries: America’s Quest to Save Its Information and Culture from Nuclear Destruction during the Cold War

Brett Spencer

pp. 145 - 176


This article argues that the ultimate goal of American doomsday planners during the Cold War was to defend informational and cultural materials from nuclear destruction. American leaders of the time hoped to protect the vital documents that the nation would need to function after a war, as well as safeguard materials related to the nation’s cultural heritage. Planners used vaulting, dispersal, and duplication as their three main protection strategies, and these strategies gave rise to “shadow libraries”, remote storage facilities often constructed underground.

“Cameroon is just like Bolivia!”: Southern Expertise and the Construction of Equivalency in South-South Scientific Collaborations

Kate M. Centellas

pp. 177 - 203


Focusing on Bolivia and Bolivian researchers, this article discusses the emergence of South-South scientific and technical collaborations in the context of social change. Using ethnographic and historical data, I describe how these are predicated upon, and create, Southern forms of expertise via the construction of equivalency. I define this as how Southern experts are recognized on the basis of embodied experience and their production of Southern geopolitical, historical, and scientific similarities. This does not erase place from scientific knowledge but valorizes it, making locality a key criterion for expertise, at least in some contexts. This challenges the very histories and legacies of scientific knowledge production in the Global South, how authoritative scientific knowledge is evaluated, and who is defined as a scientific expert.

In Search of the Grail: The Conceptual Origins of the Encyclopedia Africana

Michael Benjamin

pp. 204 - 233


Until Encyclopedia Africana appeared in 1999, an encyclopedia offering comprehensive summaries by persons of African descent about persons of African descent throughout the world, eluded scholars. Scholars attribute the project’s idea to W.E.B. Du Bois. But archival evidence tells us the conception of an “Encyclopedia Africana” emerged independent of him. Proceeding from an effort contemporaneous to Du Bois’s project backward to a much earlier conception of this publishing goal reveals that the idea to publish an encyclopedia of the African Diaspora was not handed down by its intellectual elites but bubbled up to meet the needs of its ordinary lives.

Working class women’s education in Huddersfield: A case study of the Female Educational Institute Library 1856-1857

Teresa Gerrard and Alexis Weedon

pp. 234 - 264


The Huddersfield Female Educational Institute claimed to be the first in England established for working-class women. It had close ties to the men’s Mechanics’ Institute and it’s origins lie in that nineteenth century movement for British working-class education. The article adds to existing research on gender and library use by examining the factors that shaped working-class women’s education in 1850s. Using the Female Institute’s library records (1856-1857), the authors analyse the borrowing habits of its members. They compare the origins of the Female Institute with its male equivalent and demonstrate how middle-class definitions of working-class masculinity and femininity shaped education.

This issue is available on Project MUSE