Author Archive: Wayne A. Wiegand


“Baseless Hysteria”?

May 31, 2016

Section 215, which became known as the “library records provision,” not only allowed law enforcement agencies to secretly monitor electronic communications emanating from libraries, it also required librarians to turn over patron information if requested and even imposed a gag order on those forced to comply, thus preventing them from telling anyone. ALA opposition to … Continue reading “Baseless Hysteria”?



Artwork for the 1958 National Library Week campaign

National Library Week

April 13, 2016

By any measure, the event was a huge success: Some 68 million subscribers to 22 national magazines could read well-placed articles about libraries. A total of 170 million homes served by radio and TV could hear or view 14 network programs on libraries. Readers could glean 11,607 stories celebrating libraries running in newspapers at the … Continue reading National Library Week


US President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey at the Dartmouth College commencement, June 14, 1953. Courtesy of Dartmouth College Library

The Freedom to Read

March 15, 2016

Eisenhower’s words shocked many because they constituted his first public challenge to McCarthyism—an ethos enveloping the country at the time and fed by Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.), who inferred communist conspiracies everywhere in American culture, including books on the shelves of 194 information libraries that the US State Department operated in 61 foreign countries. Like-minded … Continue reading The Freedom to Read


First page of War Libraries: Official Organ of the War Service Committee, American Library Association, 1918.

The Library War Service

February 18, 2016

The ALA established its Library War Service in 1917 to provide books and library services to US soldiers and sailors both in training at home and serving in Europe. This second book drive in early 1918 generated 3 million books, many going overseas, others ending up on the shelves of 36 training-camp libraries erected through … Continue reading The Library War Service


Card from the first American Library Association conference in Philadelphia, October 4-6, 1876, possibly showing the library of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Present at the Creation

January 29, 2016

The forces that brought them together were diverse. In 1875, US Commissioner of Education John Eaton was looking for a venue to announce a Special Report on Public Libraries he planned to publish the next year. On July 2, he asked Boston Public Library Director Justin Winsor about a library conference. (We don’t know whether … Continue reading Present at the Creation


Main Street Public Library

Main Street Public Library

September 27, 2011

One day in the mid-1990s Doug Zweizig and I were having lunch on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, where we both taught. I was contemplating a history of the small-town American public library, I told him, but wanted a fresh perspective. Eighty percent of public library systems existed in towns of fewer than 25,000, I … Continue reading Main Street Public Library