Part of Our Lives

Part of Our Lives : A People's History of the American Public Library

3.67 (157 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

Despite dire predictions in the late twentieth century that public libraries would not survive the turn of the millennium, their numbers have only increased. Two of three Americans frequent a public library at least once a year, and nearly that many are registered borrowers. Although library authorities have argued that the public library functions primarily as a civic institution necessary for maintaining democracy, generations of library patrons tell a different story. In Part of Our Lives, Wayne A. Wiegand delves into the heart of why Americans love their libraries. The book traces the history of the public library, featuring records and testimonies from as early as 1850. Rather than analyzing the words of library founders and managers, Wiegand listens to the voices of everyday patrons who cherished libraries. Drawing on newspaper articles, memoirs, and biographies, Part of Our Lives paints a clear and engaging picture of Americans who value libraries not only as civic institutions, but also as public places that promote and maintain community.
Whether as a public space, a place for accessing information, or a home for reading material that helps patrons make sense of the world around them, the public library has a rich history of meaning for millions of Americans. From colonial times through the recent technological revolution, libraries have continuously adapted to better serve the needs of their communities. Wiegand demonstrates that, although cultural authorities (including some librarians) have often disparaged reading books considered not "serious," the commonplace reading materials users obtained from public libraries have had a transformative effect for many, including people such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Moyers, Edgwina Danticat, Philip Roth, Toni Morrison, Sonia Sotomayor, and Oprah Winfrey. A bold challenge to conventional thinking about the American public library, Part of Our Lives is an insightful look into of America's most beloved cultural institutions.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 344 pages
  • 182 x 254 x 17mm | 616g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 20 illus.
  • 0190660295
  • 9780190660291
  • 992,893

Review quote

With most histories over the decades emanating largely from practitioners and educators in the library field, a persistent criticism has been researchers' reluctance to engage more fully with the literature and methodologies of wider history and other disciplines. There are exceptions to this pattern, however; and Wayne Wiegand is categorically one of them. His work has embraced the 'new history' of recent decades, including the use of critical cultural theory,
especially that relating to place and community. For good reason, Wiegand is regarded as the 'Dean of American library history studies'. * Social History

* Authored by one of the titans of American library history, this volume is a celebration of the transformative role public libraries have played in US society since the second half of the 19th century. . . . A good read for anyone, librarian or not."-CHOICE This lively and engaging book explores Americans' love affair with their local libraries. Brimming with fascinating detail and vivid comments from ordinary library patrons, Wiegand's account shows how this key public institution has captivated those it sought to serve for more than 150 years by enabling them to find information they needed, a quiet yet social place for reflection and reading material to fill enjoyable leisure. Part of Our Lives should be
read by everyone who remembers the thrill of getting that first library card, feeling spellbound during story hour, or the satisfaction of finding the perfect book." * Janice Radway, Professor of American Studies, School of Communication, Northwestern University * Wiegand is as much a historian of reading as he is of libraries and librarianship. This means he is in a position to mount a strong defense of the value of leisure reading * its power to inform, bond, and enlighten, as much as entertain * Readers interested in public libraries, but also American economic, political and social history will find this book fascinating. * Billings Gazette * ...compelling and oftentimes amusing read... * Library Journal * In seeking the patron's perspective, Wiegand finds that the library's role in popularizing reading and providing community spaces is just as crucial to the people the library serves. * Publishers Weekly
* Millions of us have come through public library doors to find purpose, shelter, story, a sense of belonging, and much, much else. As Part of Our Lives reminds us, this legacy deserves the investment of hard work and imagination that will be required to keep the doors open. * Los Angeles Review of Books

* This is a must-have book for all public, library-school, and college libraries and one that should be read by all librarians. * starred review, Booklist * I finished Part of Our Lives appreciating its readability and the ground-level perspective it provided readers A Part of Our Lives expands one's contextual understanding of libraries Anyone teaching a course in United States history or the history of American education would benefit from what Wiegand has to offer because of the connection between schools and libraries in society. * History of Education Quarterly * Authored by one of the titans of American library history, this volume is a celebration of the transformative role public libraries have played in US society since the second half of the 19th century. . . . A good read for anyone, librarian or not."-CHOICE This lively and engaging book explores Americans' love affair with their local libraries. Brimming with fascinating detail and vivid comments from ordinary library patrons, Wiegand's account shows how this key public institution has captivated those it sought to serve for more than 150 years by enabling them to find information they needed, a quiet yet social place for reflection and reading material to fill enjoyable leisure. Part of Our Lives should be
read by everyone who remembers the thrill of getting that first library card, feeling spellbound during story hour, or the satisfaction of finding the perfect book." * Janice Radway, Professor of American Studies, School of Communication, Northwestern University * Wiegand is as much a historian of reading as he is of libraries and librarianship. This means he is in a position to mount a strong defense of the value of leisure reading * its power to inform, bond, and enlighten, as much as entertain * Readers interested in public libraries, but also American economic, political and social history will find this book fascinating. * Billings Gazette * ...compelling and oftentimes amusing read... * Library Journal * In seeking the patron's perspective, Wiegand finds that the library's role in popularizing reading and providing community spaces is just as crucial to the people the library serves. * Publishers Weekly
* Millions of us have come through public library doors to find purpose, shelter, story, a sense of belonging, and much, much else. As Part of Our Lives reminds us, this legacy deserves the investment of hard work and imagination that will be required to keep the doors open. * Los Angeles Review of Books

* This is a must-have book for all public, library-school, and college libraries and one that should be read by all librarians. * starred review, Booklist * To say that this is a powerful book is an understatement: the author intersperses statistics with hundreds of personal stories, weaving a narrative that is both scholarly and down-to-earth at the same time, illustrating how changes and directions within public libraries were influenced by the challenges of the time while still affecting the lives of their patrons one person at a time really enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it as a "feel-good" book full
of stories and statistics related to how the American public library has made a mark on the lives and communities it has served during the last two hundred years. * Brad Eden, Journal of American Culture *
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About Wayne A. Wiegand

Wayne A. Wiegand is F. William Summers Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Studies at Florida State University and former director of the Florida Book Awards. Often referred to as the "Dean of American library historians," he is the author of more than one hundred articles and numerous award-winning books, including An Active Instrument for Propaganda: American Public Libraries During World War I and Irrepressible Reformer: A Biography of
Melvil Dewey. In 2008-9, he was a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow to support his research on the American Public Library. He now lives in the California Bay area.
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Rating details

157 ratings
3.67 out of 5 stars
5 21% (33)
4 40% (63)
3 26% (41)
2 11% (17)
1 2% (3)
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