Twenty-nine years ago I assumed editorial responsibilities for this journal. In 1977 the four issues of volume 12 expressed some of the aspirations of a young and enthusiastic editor. As I prepare to turn the journal over to other capable hands, some reflections are in order. Since the summer 2005 (40, no. 3) issue will be an oversized special issue and a smaller issue with index will conclude the volume, this issue is the appropriate one for an expression of thanksgiving.
The guiding theme behind some of the directions outlined in those first statements was that this journal and library history in general needed to enter the mainstream of the historical profession as well as librarianship and to be a meeting point for those concerned with the role of libraries in society. Too often mainstream historians and library historians have not read, let alone grappled with, each other's relevant, scholarly literature. In short, library history deserves serious consideration by both historians and the library profession, not to speak of general readers.
Thus, the journal needed to serve as a catalyst in communication with cultural historians of archives, books, and libraries wherever they were, bringing their variety of insights and research results for the benefit of fruitful cross-pollination. In addition to broadening the reading audience and the universe of contributors, the journal aimed to include first-rate original research articles; a variety of scholarly notes, essays, and reports; a sizable section of readable book reviews, many of which would be on books not reviewed elsewhere; and a noteworthy bookplate on the cover, accompanied by a brief explanatory essay. All this was to be subject to rigorous editorial scrutiny to ensure dependable quality. The fact that since 2001 the journal has been included in the online database Project Muse, an endeavor of Johns Hopkins University Press, suggests one measure of success. It has exposed the best in library history to a global audience.
One recent and excellent example of this synthesis actually at work is the fine monograph by Carl Ostrowski, Books, Maps, and Politics: A [End Page 111] Cultural History of the Library of Congress, 1783-1861 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2004). The author, a professor of English in Tennessee, makes outstanding use of a full range of relevant literature, including cultural history, institutional studies, and theoretical works, as well as source newspapers and journals and archival repositories. That this journal is cited numerous times indicates that the author has done his homework. Would that all historians would cast as wide a net.
Whether we have ultimately succeeded or not, others will need to judge. Some have done so, and others no doubt will do so. Edward A. Goedeken, most recent author of our biennial reviews of the literature of American library history, and Jean-Pierre V. M. Hérubel have written several essays that analyze the content of the journal over time. A brief historical survey of the journal appeared as "Advancing the Scholarship of Library History: The Role of the Journal of Library History and Libraries & Culture" by Jon Arvid Aho and the editor in a publication of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress (2000) that bears the title Library History Research in America: Essays Commemorating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Library History Round Table, American Library Association. It also appeared in the winter 2000 (35, no. 1) issue of this journal. This piece chronicles the journey the journal has taken, particularly in recent years.
Meanwhile, our thanks go to the many authors and reviewers who have conscientiously striven to produce excellent work, frequently responding in humility to the comments of knowledgeable referees. We have consistently produced a journal that an increasing number of folk seem to appreciate, either as eager contributors, or faithful readers, or both. To refine one's manuscript—whether article, essay, or review—is not always a pleasant task for anyone, but it is necessary in scholarly writing.
The support of the editorial board members through the years has meant much for the consistency of the journal and the encouragement of the editorial office. These busy faculty members from Austin and...