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  • Oasis of Culture: A History of Public and Academic Libraries in Nevada
  • David M. Hovde
Oasis of Culture: A History of Public and Academic Libraries in Nevada. By James W. Hulse. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2003. xi, 155 pp. $24.95. ISBN 0-87417-544-5.

The author of this work has written numerous books and articles on the history of Nevada. These works range from mining and land policy to the history of the federal court, socialism, higher education, the University of Nevada, and general histories of the state. In this work, as the title suggests, the author attempts to cover the history of both public and academic libraries in the state beginning in the 1860s. It should be noted that Spanish colonial, Hispanic, and tribal libraries are not discussed.

The work is a highly readable, chronological narrative exploring prominent individuals as well as high points in library development and legislation. In the introduction the author briefly places the topic in the context of broader American public library developments by citing a few of the standard works. The first chapter, four and one half pages long, discusses the first forty years of statehood beginning in 1865 and covers reading clubs and subscription libraries, early legislation, an early promoter of libraries, and Reno's Carnegie Library.

The next two chapters deal with the state library and its evolution from a reference collection for state officials to what it is today. The author presents what is found in most library histories of this type: senior officials and their accomplishments, legislation, funding levels, and facilities growth. Embedded in this portion of the work is a page-and-a-half discussion of the founding of the Nevada Library Association and a half-page on the "electronic era." [End Page 103]

The following three chapters discuss public library development in the various counties. Two chapters cover one county each, including the cities of Reno and Las Vegas, and the third the remaining fifteen counties. Within these chapters are fascinating stories that beg for more detail about a used ambulance and potato chip truck serving as bookmobiles. One also wishes to know more about individual women and women's clubs like the Twentieth Century Club of Elko, the Home Maker's Club in Wells, and the Women's Club of Ely that were the driving force in the initial phases of library development in many communities. Some of these early efforts were intended not just to create libraries but to serve as educational institutions for children who sought education beyond the eighth grade.

The final three chapters deal with state-supported higher educational institutions. They cover topics much like the others: champions of library development, donors, facilities, and budgets that rapidly become inadequate—all in the midst of slow and steady progress.

This is a story of struggle and perseverance, of inadequate funding and facilities, and of playing catch-up with the rest of the country. The author covers a good deal of ground in 120 pages, with many names, facts, and figures. Thus some of the topics covered leave the reader wanting to know more of the story. However, despite the brevity in some areas, the work is a good introduction to the topic and a welcome addition to the literature.

David M. Hovde
Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana


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pp. 103-104
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