Free to All: Carnegie Libraries and American Culture, 1890-1920 / Edition 226

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Familiar landmarks in hundreds of American towns, Carnegie libraries today seem far from controversial. In Free to All, however, Abigail A. Van Slyck shows that the classical façades and symmetrical plans of these buildings often mask a complex and contentious history.

"The whole story is told here in this book. Carnegie's wishes, the conflicts among local groups, the architecture, development of female librarians. It's a rich and marvelous story, lovingly told."—Alicia Browne, Journal of American Culture

"This well-written and extensively researched work is a welcome addition to the history of architecture, librarianship, and philanthropy."—Joanne Passet, Journal of American History

"Van Slyck's book is a tremendous contribution for its keenness of scholarship and good writing and also for its perceptive look at a familiar but misunderstood icon of the American townscape."—Howard Wight Marshall, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians

"[Van Slyck's] reading of the cultural coding implicit in the architectural design of the library makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the limitations of the doctrine 'free to all.'"—Virginia Quarterly Review

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This history of the Carnegie libraries was written by an assistant professor of architecture, art history, and women's studies at the University of Arizona. A revision of the author's Ph.D. dissertation in architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, the work examines the funding, design, staffing, and use of monumental urban central libraries and more functional urban branch libraries and small-town libraries. This is interpreted in the context of the professionalization of both architecture and librarianship and of the role of class in the large urban areas and of gender in the small towns. Van Slyck's study is based on extensive archival research concentrating primarily on Carnegie libraries in 13 cities and towns in 11 states and includes numerous illustrations. This broadly conceived work makes a contribution not only to architectural and library history but to social history as well.-Thomas F. O'Connor, Manhattan Coll. Libs., New York
A comprehensive social and architectural history of the Carnegie program of philanthropy that produced some 1,600 US public library buildings. Looks at the conflicting motives of the many people involved in building and staffing the libraries, and discusses trends such as the growing number of female librarians and immigrant library users. Of interest to architectural and social historians, librarians, and preservationists. Includes b&w photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226850320
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/1998
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 226
  • Pages: 294
  • Sales rank: 1,137,889
  • Product dimensions: 6.63 (w) x 9.38 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

One - Giving: The Reform of American Library Philanthropy
Librarians vs. Architects
Andrew Carnegie Enters the Philanthropic Game
Carnegie's Reform of American Philanthropy
Defining "The Modern Library Idea"
Designing the Modern Library
Carnegie's Reform of American Library Architecture
Redefining the Nature of Library Use
Two - Making: The Marketing of Library Design
The Culture of Professionalism
The Library Bureau and the Modern Library
The Impact of the Carnegie Library Program
Three - Taking: Libraries and Cultural Politics, Part I
Cultural Politics in Larger Cities
The Impact of the Carnegie Library Program
Building the Central Library
Building Branch Libraries
Four - Taking: Libraries and Cultural Politics, Part II
Cultural Politics in Smaller Towns
Carnegie's Reception in Small-Town America
Male and Female Visions of the Library
The Temple in the Park
Five - Working: The Feminization of Librarianship
Engendering American Librarianship
Engendering Library Design
Transcending the Limits of the Gendered Work Station
Six - Reading: The Experiences of Children as Library Users
Coming of Age in the Small-Town Library
Claiming New Space in Urban Branches
Appendix 1: Notes on the Erection of Library Buildings
Appendix 2: Carnegie Libraries Sampled in Table 4.1 and Graphs 4.1-4.5
I. Primary Sources
II. Secondary Sources

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