- Library Daylight: Tracings of Modern Librarianship, 1874–1922
Libraries have been around ever since some clever Sumerian organized his tablets, but Library Daylight: Tracings of Modern Librarianship, 1874–1922 makes libraries and librarianship seem like positively new ideas. The thirty-six articles collected in Library Daylight span forty-eight years in the brief history of modern librarianship, outlining a vibrant period in the development of an emerging profession.
Library historian Suzanne Stauffer provides a brief but informative introduction that serves as both an exposition for the compiled articles and a survey [End Page 116] of the major trends affecting librarianship during the period covered. Subsequently, Litwin has compiled public domain articles originally published between 1874 and 1922 in The Nation, the Atlantic Monthly, the LibraryJournal, ALA conference proceedings, and various academic journals as well asin major metropolitan newspapers. Authors include luminaries such asMelvil Dewey, Gratia Countryman, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., and John Cotton Dana alongside rank-and-file librarians, newspaper reporters, and anonymous authors. The articles are presented chronologically and prefaced by brief citations.
Library Daylight gives the thoughtful reader access to the professional and social dialogue at the time involving the American public library, providing historical context for perennially hot issues. Topics covered are instantly familiar to today's librarians and include education for librarianship (Melvil Dewey's "Columbia Library School" ), censorship (George T. Clark's "Improper Books" ), the status of women in the profession (Dewey's "Women in Libraries: How They Are Handicapped" ), and the potential effects of emerging technology (Richard Garnett's "The Telegraph in the Library" ). The cumulative effect of these articles is marvelous. Many articles would not appear out of place in a contemporary publication, the only giveaways being references to then-current technologies and the occasional outburst of dated, humorously florid language. (One anonymous author offers up the gem: "Especially does the presiding genius of the information desk have the reputation of one who scorns the delights of vagueness and lives laborious days in clearing the cobwebs of dubiety from his mind and in flooding its every nook and corner with the pitiless glare of the light of positive knowledge" .)
While contributions from library "celebrities" like Dewey and Countryman are fascinating, the real nuggets in Library Daylight are those articles that serve as windows into the workaday aspects (be they mundane or slightly bizarre) of the American public library. These include the San Francisco Call's charming 1904 announcement, "Wild Flower Show at the Free Library" (109), and the San Francisco Examiner's 1920 "Ankles of Library Girls Seized as They Stack Books" (223). The majority of articles, however, display the optimistic nature of the American library, both public and academic, and the library's emerging function as a democratizing agent in society. The few articles that concern British libraries only serve to underscore the profound intellectual and social innovations of the emerging American library paradigm.
Even though the articles are carefully selected and are all of considerable interest, this collection suffers as a result of its presentation. Although ordering articles chronologically lends Library Daylight an appealing narrative flow and provides a simple collocation of topics (considering that particular issues tend to naturally "cluster" on the timeline), a thematic organization would have been of much service to the reader. The overall value of the volume also would have been enhanced by brief introductions to the individual articles, including biographical information concerning their authors. A final quibble is the frequency of typos that litter the text.