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Myron Suvorov
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How Library Daylight Shaped Modern Librarianship in the US: A Historical Analysis



Library Daylight: Tracing the Origins of Modern Librarianship




Libraries are essential institutions that provide access to information, education, culture, and entertainment for people of all ages, backgrounds, and interests. But how did libraries become what they are today? How did librarianship emerge as a distinct profession and discipline? And what can we learn from the history of libraries and librarians?




1874 1922 daylight librarianship library modern trace



Introduction




In this article, we will explore the origins of modern librarianship in the United States from 1874 to 1922, a period that witnessed significant changes in society, technology, and culture. We will use the concept of library daylight as a guiding theme to illuminate the key developments, challenges, and achievements of librarianship during this time.


What is library daylight?




The term library daylight was coined by Rory Litwin, a librarian and publisher who edited a collection of essays titled Library Daylight: Tracings of Modern Librarianship, 1874-1922 (2006). According to Litwin, library daylight refers to "the light that libraries shed on society, and the light that society sheds on libraries" (p. ix). It also implies "a critical perspective that looks at libraries in their social context, rather than as isolated institutions" (p. ix).


Library daylight is a useful metaphor to understand the history of librarianship, because it highlights the dynamic relationship between libraries and their environment. Libraries are not only influenced by external factors, such as politics, economics, culture, and technology, but also shape them through their services, collections, policies, and values. Libraries are both reflective and transformative agents in society.


Why is it important to study the history of librarianship?




Studying the history of librarianship can help us gain a deeper appreciation of the role and purpose of libraries in the past, present, and future. It can also help us understand the origins and evolution of library concepts, principles, practices, and challenges that are still relevant today. Moreover, it can inspire us to learn from the achievements and mistakes of previous generations of librarians, and to critically examine our own assumptions and perspectives.


How did librarianship evolve from 1874 to 1922?




The period from 1874 to 1922 was a crucial era for the development of modern librarianship in the United States. It was marked by three major trends: the rise of professionalism and public libraries, the challenges and opportunities of modernization, and the reflection and critique of library ideals and practices. We will discuss each of these trends in more detail in the following sections.


The Rise of Professionalism and Public Libraries




One of the most significant developments in the history of librarianship was the emergence of librarians as a distinct group of professionals with specialized knowledge, skills, and standards. This was closely linked to the growth and popularity of public libraries, which became widely recognized as vital institutions for education, culture, and democracy.


The influence of Melvil Dewey and the American Library Association




A key figure in the professionalization of librarianship was Melvil Dewey (1851-1931), who is best known for inventing the Dewey Decimal Classification system, which is still widely used to organize library materials. Dewey was also a visionary leader who advocated for library reform, education, cooperation, and service. He founded the first library school in the United States at Columbia University in 1887, and was one of the founders of the American Library Association (ALA) in 1876. The ALA is the oldest and largest library association in the world, and plays a major role in promoting and supporting librarianship.


The development of library education and standards




The establishment of library schools and the ALA contributed to the development of library education and standards, which were essential for defining and advancing librarianship as a profession. Library schools provided formal training and certification for librarians, while the ALA created committees and publications to set guidelines and best practices for library work. For example, in 1904, the ALA published the first edition of the ALA Catalog, which recommended a list of books for small public libraries. In 1914, the ALA adopted a code of ethics for librarians, which outlined the principles and responsibilities of professional conduct.


The expansion of public libraries and services




The professionalization of librarianship was also driven by the expansion of public libraries and services across the United States. Public libraries are libraries that are funded by taxes and open to all members of the community. They provide free access to books, magazines, newspapers, and other materials, as well as programs and activities for various audiences. The number of public libraries in the United States increased from 682 in 1876 to 9,027 in 1922, thanks to factors such as philanthropic donations, legislative support, civic movements, and population growth. Public libraries also expanded their services to meet the diverse needs and interests of their users, such as children, immigrants, workers, students, women, and rural residents.


The Challenges and Opportunities of Modernization




Another major development in the history of librarianship was the impact of modernization on libraries and society. Modernization refers to the process of social, economic, cultural, and technological change that occurred from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. It was characterized by phenomena such as industrialization, urbanization, immigration, mass production, mass communication, mass consumption, and mass culture. Modernization posed both challenges and opportunities for libraries and librarians.


The impact of industrialization and urbanization on libraries




Industrialization and urbanization were two key aspects of modernization that transformed the physical and social landscape of the United States. Industrialization was the shift from an agricultural to a manufacturing economy, which increased productivity, wealth, and innovation. Urbanization was the growth of cities due to migration from rural areas or abroad, which increased population density, diversity, and complexity. Both industrialization and urbanization had significant implications for libraries. On one hand, they created new demands for information, education, entertainment 71b2f0854b


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