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  • Ideology and Libraries: California, Diplomacy, and Occupied Japan, 1945–1952 by Michael K. Buckland, with the assistance of Masaya Takayama
  • Noah Lenstra
Ideology and Libraries: California, Diplomacy, and Occupied Japan, 1945–1952
by Michael K. Buckland, with the assistance of Masaya Takayama
HARDCOVER, $75.00, EBOOK, $45.00
ISBN: 978-1-538-14314-8

Michael Buckland's new book is animated by the central question of "why different libraries do and should develop differently" (xi). He explores this topic through a wideranging, erudite examination of the American and Japanese men and women who together, between 1945 and 1952, created a new form of Japanese librarianship. At its best, the book has a sweeping documentary quality, complete with a where-are-they-now "Afterwards" chapter detailing what happened to the main cast of characters in the years after the Allied occupation of Japan ended in 1952. The book falls short in its contextualization of these efforts from the vantage point of the Japanese public that these librarians served. Nonetheless, the book stands as a sturdy reminder of the complex forces that condition the diffusion of new ideas about information over space, time, and cultural boundaries.

Ideology and Libraries attempts to knit together two universes: information and libraries. It does so by challenging information scientists who may not have the benefit of working in libraries, as Buckland did, to think seriously, rigorously, and critically about the historical evolution and spread of library models. The book concludes with a discussion that compares the history of public librarianship in the first half of the twentieth century to Wikipedia and YouTube. The final line of the book "calls for a deeper understanding of ideology and libraries" in information science (149).

The book itself consists largely of what Buckland calls a "description" of the events that took place in Japanese librarianship between 1945 and 1952 and the historical forces that led up to those events (142). Featured in that historical backdrop are the creation and promulgation of the California County Library System, an effort to transform the California State Library into a central node in a statewide library system that would encompass the entire population of the state. Similarly, occupation-era librarians focused on creating a Japanese national library system in the mold of California's state system. Buckland takes care to describe previous efforts of American librarians and policy makers to spread the American model abroad through libraries set up by the US government in Mexico, South Africa, India, and Egypt, among other countries. Buckland argues that these two efforts—the California County Library System and US libraries abroad—coalesced in ways that allowed the US to shape Japanese librarianship during the Allied occupation.

Before the US occupation, Japanese libraries, by and large, had a custodial orientation, focusing more on safeguarding texts than on providing access to them. When the outreach- [End Page 351] and adult education–oriented American librarians arrived, this situation changed remarkably fast. The first instantiation of American librarianship in Japan came in the form of twenty-three public libraries set up across the country and run by the US military, ultimately under the authority of General Douglas MacArthur (52). These libraries were typically staffed by Americans who worked with Japanese advisors to help bridge the language gap. As in US public libraries of the time, these public library-like institutions "became community centers" (56), offering both circulating collections and a wide range of outreach and programming services, including "classes in the English language, square dancing, and other educational entertainment" (57). One is left wanting more information about how the radical shift from closed stacks and standoffish librarians to square dancing in the library was received by Japanese patrons and how these efforts to transform public libraries into education centers in the American mold influenced and shaped popular understanding of the aims and missions of public libraries in Japan.

The book is at its best when it wrestles with the thorny and contradictory impulses that led "left-leaning progressives" like librarian Philip Keeney to join the US military and become part of the Allied occupation's efforts to restructure Japanese libraries (63). Before...