Books, Buildings and Social Engineering : Early Public Libraries in Britain from Past to Present book cover
1st Edition

Books, Buildings and Social Engineering
Early Public Libraries in Britain from Past to Present

ISBN 9780815399285
Published December 18, 2017 by Routledge
486 Pages

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Book Description

Public libraries have strangely never been the subject of an extensive design history. Consequently, this important and comprehensive book represents a ground-breaking socio-architectural study of pre-1939 public library buildings. A surprisingly high proportion of these urban civic buildings remain intact and present an increasingly difficult architectural problem for many communities. The book thus includes a study of what is happening to these historic libraries now and proposes that knowledge of their origins and early development can help build an understanding of how best to handle their future.

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction; Part 1 Contexts: The public library and society, 1850-1939: Periodisation, social control and social engineering. Part 2 Periods of Public Library Design: Pioneer public library buildings, 1850-1883; Public library buildings in the age of serial philanthropy, 1883-1914; Modernism and the public library between the wars. Part 3 Thematic Studies: Readers help themselves: the open access revolution; Children's libraries; The library as monument and machine. Part 4 The Past in the Present: New for old?; Conclusion; Appendix; Select bibliography; Index.

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Alistair Black is Professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, Simon Pepper is Professor of Architecture, Liverpool University, UK and Kaye Bagshaw is the Research Officer for the AHRB-funded project 'Early public libraries in Britain' at Liverpool University.


’By providing pictures from the past and vivid descriptions of library buildings that are still in use, Black, Pepper and Bagshaw...have written a book that will encourage members of both professions to look at public libraries in a new way. Their enthusiasm for their topic springs from the page and it will make you want to visit and/or revisit the places they describe...Architects, librarians and those with an intelligent interest in cultural history will find it a volume to cherish and enjoy.’ Bob Usherwood, The University of Sheffield, UK 'A solid, well produced work from three respected and authoritative library historians outlining the "socio-architectural history of British public library buildings between 1850 and 1939". The "Palaces of Culture" have never been thoroughly researched and written about , and the authors are to be congratulated on their sterling and pioneering efforts to throw light on this seminal period in our professional history. ...a welcome addition to the professional literature' New Library World, Vol 111 No3/4, 2010 'This substantial and scholarly publication is a valuable addition to the literature of both library and architectural history ... Big, thick, scholarly books on library history are thin on the ground, and this study is to be welcomed.' Library & Information History, March 2010 '...groundbreaking study of pre-1940 public library buildings. Not just the buildings, but how they came to be what they are, how developing ideas of professional practice influenced design and how they were used and regarded. ... a thoughtful and wide-ranging socio-architectural study of public librarianship before the 1939-1945 War. This book is a landmark in library historiography and a reference resource for library history.' Reference Reviews, Vol 24, no 2, 2010 'Books, Buildings and Social Engineering is library and architectural history at its vibrant, challenging best. It offers important insights into why public library buildings an