Volume 50, Number 3 (July/August 2015)

History with an Impact: The Most Cited Articles in the Journal of Library History and its Successors over the Past Fifty Years

Edward A. Goedeken

p. 285-314


The Journal of Library History established itself in 1966 as a leading venue for publishing scholarship addressing libraries and librarianship. In recognition of the journal’s 50th anniversary, this study uses data derived from Google Scholar to identify the articles in JLH and its successors that have been cited most often.  Additionally, this essay reveals the journal has contained scholarship that cites library history both inside and outside the discipline of library and information science.

What Happens When You Push This? Toward a History of the Not-So-Easy Button

Rachel Plotnick

p. 315-338


In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – well before concepts like usability, user-centered design, or human factors existed – producers and consumers began negotiating issues about pushing buttons. This article details the conflicts that occurred between creators and their users around the push-button interface. While button enthusiasts imagined a new breed of user who could control, communicate, and consume with the simple touch a finger, reports of actual experiences tell a different story about first-generation button pressers. The study interrogates how rhetoric about buttons as “easy” persists today, overwriting complexities and challenges that occur when interacting with information and communication technologies.

Information in the Novel and the Novel as Information System: Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit and Margaret Drabble’s Radiant Way Trilogy

Carol Colatrella

p. 339-371


Each realist novel collects, interprets, and transmits information about what it means to be human in a certain time and place. Part of information history, realist novels help us understand the psychology of human beings and the dynamics of their political and social interactions. Although fictional, novels contain information about material conditions, social customs and values, the organization of institutions, and individual perceptions and identities. Readers understand that each novel includes, constitutes, and transmits information. Novels are not reference books; rather they are “information systems” that describe fictional worlds with critical relevance to our understanding of history, politics, social organization, and individual development. Describing material conditions, information in the realist novel outlines socioeconomic and political conditions and problems. This essay looks at two cases: Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit (1855-1857) and Margaret Drabble’s Radiant Way trilogy of novels--The Radiant Way (1987), A Natural Curiosity (1989), and The Gates of Ivory (1991). These works offer accounts and critiques of social hierarchies and inequities by incorporating historical and social information into their overall thematics of plot, character, and setting.

The Djogdja Documenten: The Dutch-Indonesian Relationship Following Independence through an Archival Lens

Michael Karabinos

p. 372-391


This article is an overview of a story highlighting a collection of displaced archives caused by the decolonization process. In the midst of Indonesian revolution against Dutch colonial rule, the intelligence agency of the Dutch army seized official documents from Indonesian government offices that would become known as the Djogdja Documenten. Despite coming from various sources originally, these documents were transformed into a single collection through the act of Dutch seizure. By reviewing the documents in questions, searching for references to them in literature, and doing research in the archive of the National Archives of the Netherlands, I follow the post-independence relationship between the two countries starting just after the transfer of sovereignty, through President Sukarno’s anti-colonial “Guided Democracy” period, and ending with President Suharto’s New Order and the increase in diplomacy between the two countries.

Paper, Information, and Identity in 1920s America

Craig Robertson

p. 392-416


In the first half of the twentieth century, the increasing use of documents to record everyday interactions generated information that became the basis of official identification practices. Based on this change, this article makes two arguments: 1) the increased use of documents in identification redefined identity in terms of procedure (systematic recordkeeping) and 2) it made concrete a relatively new conception of information as a “substance” that had presence in the world and was objective. Thus, the objectivity that became central to identification was tied to an object, to paper, that facilitated an understanding that these documents “contained” objective information.

Perspectives on Information History:
A Perspective on the Larger World: Newspaper Coverage of National and International Events in Three Small US Cities, 1870 – 1920

Melissa G. Ocepek, Unmil Karadkar, and William Aspray
p. 417-440


This paper explores one of the principal channels through which residents of a small US city became knowledgeable about the world beyond their community—the newspaper. This exploratory study examines and compares newspaper coverage in three small cities in the United States—one from the South (Galveston, Texas), one from the Western Expansion (Boise, Idaho), and one from the more established East Coast (Fitchburg, Massachusetts). This study examines news events from 1870 (the post-Civil War Reconstruction era) to 1920 (just after the First World War and prior to the economic boom that followed the war, often known as The Roaring Twenties).

This issue is available on Project MUSE