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October 12, 2021
9781421441504
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v2.1 Reference

American Public School Librarianship

A History

The first comprehensive history of American public school librarianship.

"Can I get a library pass?" Over the past 120 years, millions of American K–12 public school students have asked that question. Still, we know little about the history of public school libraries, which over the decades were pulled together and managed by hundreds of thousands of school librarians. In American Public School Librarianship, Wayne A. Wiegand recounts the unseen history of both school libraries and their librarians.

Why, Wiegand asks, did school librarianship turn out the way it did? And what can its history tell us about limitations and opportunities in the coming decades of the twenty-first century? Addressing issues of race, social class, gender, and sexual orientation (among others) as they affected American public school librarianship throughout its history, Wiegand explores how libraries were transformed by the Great Depression, the civil rights era, Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs, and more recent legislation like No Child Left Behind, Common Core, and the Every Student Succeeds Act. Wiegand touches on censorship, the impact of school segregation on school libraries, disparities in funding that fall along lines of race and class, the development of school librarianship as a profession, the history of organizations like the American Association for School Librarians, and how emerging technologies affected school librarianship.

Wiegand clarifies the historical role of the school librarian as an opponent of censorship and defender of intellectual freedom. He also analyzes the politics of a female-dominated school library profession, identifies and evaluates the profession's major players and their battles (often against patriarchy), and challenges the priorities of librarianship's current agendas, particularly regarding the role of "reading" in the everyday lives of children and young adults. Filling a huge void in the history of education, American Public School Librarianship provides essential background information to members of the nation's school library and educational communities who are charged with supervising and managing America's 80,000 public school libraries.

About the Author

Wayne A. Wiegand is the F. William Summers Professor of Library and Information Studies Emeritus at Florida State University. He is the author of Irrepressible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey and Part of Our Lives: A People's History of the American Public Library.

Endorsements

"American Public School Librarianship is a comprehensive and panoramic thematic analysis of the development of the US public school library and its leadership from the nineteenth century to the present. Written with energy and clarity by a distinguished historian, this is a rich story of myth, rhetoric, and survival."

- James G. Neal, University Librarian Emeritus, Columbia University

"All of us, as readers, have been molded by school libraries and school librarians, and yet their story has never been told. Wayne Wiegand, the dean of American library historians, has produced a definitive and engaging account of this ubiquitous institution, which has always encouraged children to read some kinds of books but not others."

- Jonathan Rose, Drew University, author of The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes

"Wayne A. Wiegand has written a masterful history of school libraries and librarianship. Prodigiously researched and beautifully written, his book makes an original contribution to the history of childhood and public education, of women and the professions, and of reading and print culture. A splendid achievement."

- William J. Reese, University of Wisconsin–Madison, author of Testing Wars in the Public Schools: A Forgotten History

"Wiegand deftly weaves together an amazingly broad range of primary and secondary sources documenting relevant aspects of the American histories (plural) of reading, childhood, print technology, education, civil rights, and sociocultural history from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century. The focus is on school libraries in the lives of young people, which begins with their access—or lack of access—to school libraries and the role that a range of factors, including but not limited to race, class, sex, and age, play according to the their time period and location."

- Christine A. Jenkins, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, coauthor of Representing the Rainbow in Young Adult Literature: LGBTQ+ Content since 1969

"Wiegand's American Public School Librarianship traverses the origins and ideas that shaped school librarianship and probes opportunities for continued development. This work is for all researchers and practitioners who engage with the often complex intersection of learning communities and the information professions."

- Marcia A. Mardis, Florida State University, author of The Collection Program in Schools: Concepts and Practices
Johns Hopkins University Press
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