Civic Space/Cyberspace: The American Public Library in the Information Age

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In Civic Space/Cyberspace, Redmond Kathleen Molz and Phyllis Dain assess the current condition and direction of the American public library. They consider the challenges and opportunities presented by new electronic technologies, changing public policy, fiscal realities, and cultural trends. They draw on site visits and interviews conducted across the country; extensive reading of reports, surveys, and other documents; and their long-standing interest in the library's place in the social and civic structure. The book combines a scholarly, humanistic, and historical approach to public libraries with a clear-eyed look at their problems and prospects, including their role in the emerging national information infrastructure.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Molz, currently professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, and Dain, now emeritus, were colleagues at the now-defunct Columbia School of Library Service. Both are also celebrated library historians. Dain's The New York Public Library: A History of Its Founding and Early Years NYPL, 1972 is a definitive account of that august institution. Molz's National Planning for Library Service, 1935-1975 ALA, 1984, one of my favorites, is a readable, fundamental work on the subject of the federal role in library support. The curiously inconclusive work under review here is a detailed overview of modern public library history combined with a trip through contemporary to 1998 developments. It is a great feat of evidence and witness collecting and thus will become an important work of record. The portrait of the public library that emerges from five perspectives sees conflict over the mission, funding, and governance; difficulty maintaining the case for a federal responsibility for library service; and uncertainty over the impact of technology on the institution's future. Despite overwhelming evidence of a spirited movement that propels library service to the great majority of Americans, adults and children alike, Dain and Molz seem ambivalent about the future of libraries and fearful that technology may replace the book. Their volume is a must read, if only for the rich detail of its rendition of the condition of the modern library, but, fellow librarians, don't expect reassurance that its glorious history and current strength makes the future of the public library secure. All Dain and Molz will conclude is that it "is intensely interesting."--John Berry, "Library Journal"
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262133463
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 3/3/1999
  • Pages: 275
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Redmond Kathleen Molz is Professor of Public Affairs at the School ofInternational and Public Affairs, Columbia University.

Phyllis Dain isProfessor Emerita of Library Service at Columbia University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 The Mission: Consensus and Contradiction 11
2 The Institution: Governance and Funding 45
3 The National Perspective: The Federal Role in Library Development 89
4 The National Perspective: The National Information Infrastructure 123
5 The Institution: Services, Technology, and Communities 183
Appendix 217
Notes 223
Index 249
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