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Contemporary Libraries: 1900s-2000s

Let's begin with an overview of the contemporary libraries section of the course. Watch the Contemporary Libraries video at Vimeo.

"By the early twentieth century, government-sponsored community organizations like the agricultural extension agency, the school system, and the public library routinely provided access to standard forms of print that included informational genres, such as newspapers, pamphlets, textbooks, and other reference books, as well as literary genres, such as poetry, plays, and novels. Millions of ordinary Americans— those who lived unremarkable lives in relative anonymity— encountered officially sanctioned print, whether at work, school, church, or in the home. In terms of sheer numbers, public libraries continue to have an extraordinary impact." (Pawley, 2013, 3)

Dig DeeperDig Deeper
Read Pawley, Christine (2013). Introduction. In, C. Pawley & L.S. Robbins, Print Culture History in Modern America: Libraries and the Reading Public in Twentieth Century America. University of Wisconsin, 3-6. Also available as ebook.

During the 20th century, a shift was made from paper to other formats of information. The growth of information was staggering.

Mechanics Institute 1942 PDLibraries were impacted by war, poverty, and an array of social and political issues. Services expanded to include those with special needs, those living in remote areas, and recent immigrants speaking many languages. Libraries expanded their missions to include everything from storyhour and homework help to job fairs.

The image on the right shows the Ballarat Mechanics Institute Library in 1942 in Victoria Australia.

Rapid changes in technology effected both communication and formats of information. It also had a tremendous impact on library management including automation of library systems including circulation and reserves. The reference interview shifted multiple times from face-to-face to telephone-based to web-based tools. The ability to instantly access information around the world changed how people viewed information. From basic reference questions to scholarly search, library users could instantly connect with librarians and resources.

Virtual libraries allowed librarians to reach beyond the walls of the library including websites, social networks, and online reference services through chat and video conferencing. Access to virtual collections including e-books, electronic databases, and digital image collections increased access beyond the library walls.

Dig DeeperDig Deeper
Read A Century of Change: The Evolution of School Library Resources: 1915-2015. Knowledge Quest, Knowledge Quest, 43(4), 62-70.

Let's explore libraries of the 20th century.

Resources

Pawley, Christine (2013). Introduction. In, C. Pawley & L.S. Robbins, Print Culture History in Modern America: Libraries and the Reading Public in Twentieth Century America. University of Wisconsin, 3-6. Also available as ebook.


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