IS 510


Week 5 Readings

Dick, Archie L. “Epistemological Positions and Library and Information Science.” The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy 69, no. 3 (1999): 305–23.

Ugh, this week’s readings made me feel like I was in my PhD program again. While I generally love theory, epistemology and ontology were perhaps my least favorite theoretical avenues. Though I will admit, that I am not sure how I would have made heads or tails of the reading had I not already read many of the sources he quoted. Dick laments that epistemology is an underutilized methodology in LIS studies.Dick makes it clear and easy to understand why the study of knowledge in relation to libraries, users, and practitioners is a sticky and potentially contentious theoretical minefield. I was glad to see he incorporated Stuart Hall into his discussion, as too often scholars (especially political economists) ignore the role culture has in the formation of meaning. I found his suggestion of a holistic positivist approach to epistemology (or in other words an interweaving of alternative epistemologies) rather intriguing because in many ways he was describing critical studies (i.e. the interweaving of various theoretical perspectives to undertand how meaning is made in media.)

Dick, Archie L. The Hidden History of South Africa’s Book and Reading Cultures. University of Toronto Press, 2012.

Pawley, Christine. “Hegemony’s Handmaid? The Library and Information Studies Curriculum from a Class Perspective.” The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy 68, no. 2 (1998): 123–44.

This reading also reminded me of my former graduate school days. I agree whole-heartedly with Pawley that social theory should be included in LIS curricula and even perhaps in all forms of graduate study. I have spent a lot of time teaching about how  hegemony and ideology function in media and various other institutions and will admit to not having given much thought to the role they play in the custruction of what libraries are and how libraries work, but it makes total sense. For a kid from a very working class family, the library was an escape, a way to envision something more for myself. Now that I am much older and have to some extent broken free from my working class background, and because of my education, I have the ability to look more critically at the ways in which libraries have both maintained class (and racial) devides and how they have worked to empower the disenfanchised. I think if more students were introduced to social theory in LIS programs then perhaps libraries of the future might truly be revolutionary (something we might need in the age of mis- and dis-information.)


Annotated Bibliography

Cook, Terry. “‘We Are What We Keep; We Keep What We Are’: Archival Appraisal Past, Present and Future.” Journal of the Society of Archivists 32, no. 2 (October 1, 2011): 173–89.

eBlackCU. Scott Bonner, Ferguson Municipal Public Library, Information City Lecture Series, 2014.

Scott Bonner, the Director of the Ferguson Municipal Public Library talked about the the role of his library during the unrest in Ferguson after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent grand jury decision. Bonner noted that his main goals during this time were 1) as long as the safety of his staff and patrons could be relatively assured he wanted to keep the library open, and 2) he wanted the library to keep serving the community as much as possible and in any way possible. Based on the fact that the library was only closed for 1 1/2 days and they were able to offer their regular services and took on the additional roles of school, counseling services, small business advice, etc…, I would say he was successful. I was especially impressed with his healing kits for your children to help them cope with the trauma they had just lived through. It really drove home how a public library is really more than a building with some books, it can be the home and heart of a community. A message that connected nicely to the readings by Martin and Weigand.

Flinn, Andrew. “Community Histories, Community Archives: Some Opportunities and Challenges.” Journal of the Society of Archivists 28, no. 2 (October 1, 2007): 151–76.

Henk, Mandy. Ecology, Economy, Equity: The Path to a Carbon-Neutral Library, 2014.

This reading ties in nicely with the Wilkin and Willinsky readings for this week. While Wilkin sees the networked library as the hope for the future and Willinsky makes an argument for Open Access as the publishing path of the future, Henk asks us to think about the toll these types of library interventions have on the environment. Henk posits that the responsible library, one that is truly fulfilling its mission, will have a sustainability plan to preserve the cultural heritage and the planet for posterity. She asks us the question who we are as a profession and what that means in terms of sustainability. She suggests that the core values of the librarian: democracy, scholarship, and stewardship can and should be integral to an argument for sustainability.

Ketelaar, Eric. “Archives as Spaces of Memory.” Journal of the Society of Archivists 29 (January 1, 2008): 9–27.;

Having done a lot of work in archives all over the world, I really enjoyed this week’s reading on archives. Having especially worked in Soviet and Russian archives, I found this article interesting in light of Ketelaar’s comment that archives have a tripartite role to embody truth, justice and memory. My experience shows that often that truth is framed by who is in charge and who has access to what materials. I find it fascinating that the same material can be explored by scholars from different time periods and each might have a completely different take away, informed by the politics, economy and culture of the moment in which they did their reading. I find the suggestion that archives become part of an act of commemoration and healing very interesting because historically they so often have been about hiding secrets of the past. I love the idea though of making the archive a social space, making the archive more social and collaborative, though I fear their experience with the Polar Bear Project might be par for the course – people are realy only interested in their own histories.


Martin, Lowell A. Enrichment: A History of the Public Library in the United States in the Twentieth Century. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1998. 

Martin begins the book by discussing the two major ideological currents of the 19th & 20th century, Democracy and Capitalism, and how they created fertile ground for the growth of the American Public Library system, which is maintained by the government, funded by tax dollars, and open for all. Martin’s book is a social and institutional history of American libraries. He is interested in how the “public library is a natural outgrowth of American in the making.” In chapter 1, Martin briefly out lines moments in 19th century history that lead to and informed the birth of Public Libraries, such as: parish libraries, school district libraries, social libraries and circulating/subscription libraries. The second chapter explores the foundational years following the inception of the American Public Library system. The chapter highlights key figures who  helped to build libraries (like Andrew Carnegie) and to shape what those libraries should be and do, how they should be governed, how they should build their collections, and who should have access to them.

Wiegand, Wayne A. Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library. Illustrated edition. Oxford University Press, 2017.

Wiegand is interested in why Americans love their libraries and how they conceptualize the role of the libraries in their lives, how libraries shaped them and how they shaped the libraries they used. As a cultural historian, I love his approach to constructing the history of American libraries through the words of the people who used them. I think it gets much closer to his goal of discerning the role of ‘the library in the life of the user’ in a way that is perhaps more honest and more heartfelt than it would have been wading through dates and facts and data tabulated from surveys. The recounting of the way libraries shaped the lives of the people quoted got me thinking of what the library means to me and how much of my childhood was shaped by my time in the public library. I was not surprised by the friction caused when the American Library Association instituted their Library Bill of Rights, though I am saddened by the fact that 80 years later we are still struggling to preserve libraries as a locus of democracy, service, education and sanctuary.

Wilkin, John P. “Meanings of the Library Today.” In The Meaning of the Library, edited by Alice Crawford, 236–53. A Cultural History. Princeton University Press, 2015.

Wilkin, in defining the meaning of the library of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, invokes what he refers to as the four pillars of research libraries. For Wilkin, these pillars are especially important for the success of libraries of the 21st century. Curation is the most important aspect of libraries, it includes the selection, preservation, maintenance, archiving and promise of access to the cultural record. He notes that increasingly this includes non-book materials, especially digital objects. Wilkin notes that in the 21st century Engagement with research and learning will be about combining local activities, such as librarians embedded in departments with networked learning tools and environments that encourage collaboration. Like libraries of the past and present, he sees them creating and managing Spaces devoted to users and collections that are both local and networked. Wilkin see the fourth pillar as Publishing as an interplay between the library as local and the library as networked with the library being both curator and disseminator of information. This 21st century library is not without challenges, especially those posed by decreasing budgets, increasing costs, and environmental concerns. He suggests working at scale as a means for libraries to save time and money (more reliance on networked activity.)

Willinsky, John. The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship. Digital Libraries and Electronic Publishing. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2006.

In Chapter One Willinsky discusses the beginning of Open Access Publishing with the launch of the Public Library of Science’s PloS Biology, which promised to level the educational playing field with free and open access to all the articles in its online publication beginning in 2003. Willinsky outlines the various struggles for and against open access since that time (i.e. the struggle between the idea that open access is a public good and the wheels of capitalism.) I will admit to being a little shocked by the idea that a scholar would have to pay anywhere from $1500 to $3000 dollars to have their work published through open access channels. This would be unthinkable in the humanities, where salaries and grant sizes are significantly smaller. I would worry that huge publication fees would eventually prohibit some of the smaller grant research projects from getting their work published, thus inadvertently replicating and reinforcing a system that privileges the bigger named universities and the wealthy.