Libraries & Culture 38.4 (2003) 424-426
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A Bibliography of Texas Library History 1685-2000 and A Chronology of Texas Library History 1685-2000. Compiled and edited by Donald G. Davis Jr. Austin, Tex.: Eakin Press, 2002. xx, 158 pp.; xv, 199 pp. $57.95 set. ISBN 1-57168-716-5, 1-57168-715-7. [End Page 424]
These two volumes form a compendium of Texas library history so thorough that they are not likely to be updated in reference book format for at least a quarter century, if ever. Even today, with so many familiar reference tools available mostly (or only) online, several factors had to be in harmony to result in such a work appearing in the comforting familiarity of gold-embossed buckram boards. It is not entirely flattering to an institution of such central importance to the transmission of culture (small and large c) as the library that the output of scholarly work that examines the whole picture or long-term realities—history, in other words—is so much more modest than that which deals with current actualities or immediately perceptible trends. That said, one must admire the thoroughness that Davis, greatly augmenting the work of A. E. Skinner, has brought to the organizing and control of this subdiscipline. In his preface, Davis notes that, excepting ephemera (including newspaper articles), he will search the entire range of publications—"monographs, reference works, journal articles, master's theses, and doctoral dissertations" (xi-xii)—for library material with historical perspective. Despite this inclusiveness and loosely drawn parameters for definitions of two of the three key terms, it should be mentioned in regard to comprehensiveness that I randomly checked volumes of Library Literature and Library and Information Science Abstracts over a wide time period as well as the Handbook of Texas Online and the Cumulative Index of the Southwestern Historical Quarterly without finding obvious omissions from the Bibliography.
One last caveat concerns the third limiting concept. Though Texas was a republic for only nine years, its sense of a special identity within the United States is almost as thoroughly fixed in the public consciousness as is Scotland's within the United Kingdom, despite the latter's centuries as an independent monarchy and millennia as separate people(s). Looking at this phenomenon from the other direction, most people would be surprised to find a substantial reference study dealing only with the state of Pennsylvania, despite its population, cultural richness, and relative antiquity. Texas, owing to its size, its geographical and cultural diversity, and even its chutzpah, makes most people willing to take it on its own terms.
In deference to Skinner's pioneering Texas Library History: a Bibliography (Phoenix: Oryx Press, l983), Davis has organized the material in A Bibliography of Texas Library History 1685-2000 under the same twelve chapter headings and has also used Skinner's introductory essays. Since they are very well written, this decision can scarcely be faulted, though it would have been helpful to have updated some of the statistical comments to reflect the much greater scope of the new work. For example, in the introduction to chapter 12, "Biographical Studies," Skinner notes that "this section, containing entries for some eighty individuals, is the most extensive in this compilation" (55). Though the statement is the same in the new work (86), Davis in fact has 133 individuals listed and 346 entries, compared to 151 in Skinner. The references in the essays, of course, are updated so that one can quickly turn to the numbered entry in each chapter's bibliography that supports whatever generalization is being made: the reference to The Texas Almanac as a cultural artifact (page 7 in the chapter "Reading Interests") changes the entry number for McGregor's study from number 32 to number 47; the reference to Ashbel Smith, the "Benjamin Franklin of Texas" (page 87 in "Biographical Studies"), reflects the increment from nearly two decades of added scope as well as a more thorough sifting of the literature in the alteration from number...