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Title:Libraries and the system of information provision in the 1930s' United States: the transformation of technology, access, and policy
Author(s):Nappo, Caroline
Director of Research:Schiller, Dan
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Schiller, Dan
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Black, Alistair; Jenkins, Christine A.; Passet, Joanne
Department / Program:Library & Information Science
Discipline:Library & Information Science
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Great Depression
Information Provision
Abstract:Examination of developments in technology, access, and policy reveals that American librarianship and the wider system of information provision underwent profound and far-reaching changes—a transformation—during the 1930s. With regard to technology, the 1930s saw the widespread adoption of microfilm, heralded by its advocates as a revolutionary tool that would transform information preservation and dissemination. The number of outlets for library services increased markedly as information was brought to more people, often in creative ways, and on an enlarged scale. Finally, policymaking for libraries, and information provision more broadly, assumed greater prominence. New federal agencies were established, new statistical series offered, and existing information programs were expanded. Librarianship has a long history of critical engagement in times of crisis. Using archival, primary, and secondary sources, I examine the 1930s using the system of information provision as a lens. While the 1930s’ US has been well-traversed by many scholars, no one has foregrounded the system of information provision as a site of transformation. I consider the system in its entirety, using technology, access, and policy as the key vectors of evidence of this transformation. The role of librarians is consistently foregrounded. Many librarians of the 1930s eagerly embraced visionary approaches with regard to imagining the future of libraries, and they were not afraid to act boldly on a range of economic, political, and cultural issues. “Transformation” alludes to different things depending on the context: sometimes it meant redefinition, sometimes it meant expansion, and sometimes a bit of both. The “system of information provision” includes but is not limited to librarianship. Although deeply concerned with the pursuits of libraries and librarians, my dissertation research reveals how library work intersected with that of historians, archivists, documentalists, and with other activities involving access to and preservation of information resources. “Information provision” is intended to gesture at this wider range of associated precepts and practices. Historians make some room for the 1930s, but leave pressing questions: what were the relationships between changes in technology, access, and policy in librarianship during the 1930s; and how were librarians agents in this overall process? This dissertation is an attempt to engage directly with these questions.
Issue Date:2015-04-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Caroline Marie Nappo
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015

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