Library Chronicles

A picture of a red library building with a horse-draw carriage in front of it.
Postcard of the Brooks Memorial Library at Brattleboro, Vermont.  Image and caption from American Library Association Archives.

The notes below offer histories of specific libraries from around the world.  Some notes offer general histories, while others focus on specific collections, facilities, and programs.  Libraries have played versatile, broad roles in many communities, serving as reading places as well as community centers for food drives, plays, town meetings, knitting bees, celebrity talks, and more.  Please consider submitting the history of your library!



Note: (March 7, 2017): The Santa Monica Public Library: An Illustrated History

By Kathy Lo

Author Bio: Kathy Lo joined Santa Monica Public Library in 2006 and is a Librarian II in the Reference Services Division, specializing in the Image Archives collections. Her deep interest in archives and visual history can be traced back to a childhood filled with trips to libraries and museums. Currently Kathy is working with colleagues to digitize and preserve the library’s unique resources, such as the historical city directories and microfilm reels of the city’s paper of record. By building on existing collaborations in the long term, she hopes to explore the intersection of personal and public histories and expand the library’s role in telling stories through those histories.

Introduction from the Editor: A beautiful example of local library history!  Richly illustrated, the author showcases SMPL as a center of local culture.   From the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of the nineteenth century to the environmental design campaigns of the twenty-first century, this tapestry of historical photos documents how SMPL reflected the social movements of its times.  The author includes captions and a chronology covering fascinating and noteworthy facts from SMPL’s history, such as its role in pioneering story times on the American West Coast.  Read Ms. Lo’s book here: The Santa Monica Public Library: An Illustrated History.  Special thanks to Susan Lamb, Interim Principal Librarian, for sending this link to LHRT News and Notes.–Brett Spencer, Editor 


Note (March 6, 2017): History of the Margaret H. McAllen Memorial Archives of the Museum of South Texas History

By Phyllis Kinnison

Author Bio: Phyllis Kinnison, MLIS, is the Archivist at the Margaret H. McAllen Memorial Archives of the Museum of South Texas History.

Introduction from the Editor:  Ms. Kinnison’s inspiring post recounts how one archives grew from a collection of land deeds to a robust, museum-based research library covering topics ranging from water conservation to Mexican War history. With thousands of photos, maps, and documents, the Archives now serves patrons from many fields who are interested in Mexican history, United States history, and the history of how the two national cultures streamed together in the Borderlands to produce a rich heritage.  Thanks Ms. Kinnison for this post, it humbles me to learn about amazing archivists like Margaret H. McAllen who laid the foundation for the modern libraries and archives we enjoy today.   Click this link to read Ms. Kinnison’s full essay: History of the MOSTHistory archives

Margaret McAllenreadingroomMOSTH

Archivist Margaret H. McAllen and the Reading Room of the Margaret H. McAllen Memorial Archives.

P. S.  I also encourage blog readers to check out the fascinating exhibits and creative programming at the Archives and Museum!:


Brett Spencer,



Note (March 6, 2017); In Vivid Colors: The Impact and Relevance of the Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University

By William Blick

Author Bio: William “Bill” Blick is an Assistant Professor and Electronics Resources Librarian at Queensborough Community College of the City University of New York. He has published articles on popular culture, open access movement, literature, film studies, and library history. He has presented papers at academic conferences in as diverse places as Poland and Ireland on library and literary related topics.

Introduction from Editor:  This interesting post illustrates how libraries helped sustain the rise of social history scholarship over the past several decades. Scholars once focused their efforts on elite individuals and small groups, but modern scholars across many fields have rightfully made social history a huge part of academic scholarship.  It is essential for everyone to note that this new wave of scholarship about popular culture is only possible because of the preservation and collecting efforts of faculty, librarians, archivists, and staff of libraries like the ones at Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green University.   The University founded the Library thanks to the donation of an exceptional collection of popular culture materials from Dr. Ray Browne.  The Library has blossomed through generous gifts over several decades to become “a landmark for cultural critics and scholars” as Mr. Blick notes.   The collection now includes everything from an E.T. mask to McDonald’s Happy Meal toys!  What other treasures does it contain?  Read Mr. Blick’s full essay here to find out: In Vivid Colors: The Impact and Relevance of the Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University.   and check out some of the Library’s fascinating collections at


Brett Spencer


Note (August 22, 2016): Cold Libraries: United States Information Agency Libraries during the Cold War 1953 – 1991

By Andrew Hart

Author Bio: Andrew Hart is a reference librarian for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Library in Columbus, Ohio. Before working for the Bureau, Andrew was a prison librarian for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. He is very much interested in how libraries helped shape history and how libraries evolved over time. Andrew holds a B.A. in Criminology from The Ohio State University, and an M.L.S. from Clarion University. He is currently pursuing a second master’s degree in Social Science from Ohio University. Andrew is an Ohio Certified Public Librarian.

Introduction from the Author: During the Cold War, the United States desired to show the world that the U.S. culture and way of living (provided by capitalism) trumped life under communist rule. The United States Information Agency  fulfilled this lofty mission by providing information about America to communist countries through its famous Voice of America (VOA), a radio broadcasting program, and by a less famous medium, libraries and information resource centers… Click this link to read Mr. Hart’s full essay:  Cold Libraries.

Note (July 29, 2016): The Women’s Library and Information Center in Turkey: A Brief History

By Raymond Pun, First Year Student Success Librarian

Author Bio: Raymond Pun is the first year student success librarian in California State University, Fresno. He has worked in NYU Shanghai and NYPL as a reference librarian. He holds a B.A. in History and M.A. in East Asian Studies from St. John’s University and an M.L.S from CUNY Queens College. He is interested in library history in global perspectives.

A pciture of a library with a gate in front of it

Image by Creator: Ara Güler [Attribution or Copyrighted free use], via Wikimedia Commons

Today the Republic of Turkey is undergoing a transformation both internally and internationally. It is one of the most important countries in Europe since it bridges to the Middle East as well.  It is currently a democratic republic under the leadership of a President and Prime Minister.

Since the 1980s, Turkey has been governed by a series of military coups and by other entities that have repressed leftist politics and adopted a strongly patriarchal political system. Responding to the dynamic shift of social and cultural politics, a group of women were inspired to form a major movement to challenge the coups. These women organized conference meetings, led demonstrations, and campaigned against sexual harassment and violence towards women in workspaces and public spheres.  In addition, these women began publishing articles and creating academic journals and popular magazines pertaining to feminism and women’s issues in Turkey. Such was the beginning of a Women’s Library in Turkey.

In 1990, the Women’s Library and Information Center was opened to the public as the first research institute devoted to “collecting all published and unpublished works written by women in Turkey as well as audio visual material and to try to produce new material of the same kind through oral history” (Tekeli, 265).

One of the Library’s main resources is the women’s periodical collection from Turkey and other countries.  The subscription of foreign periodicals is useful to keep up with current debates and discourses in women’s studies.  In addition, the Library is concerned with promoting cultural activities.  Public forums on women’s health and issues have also been held in the Library.

The founder of the Library has explained the purpose of these activities: “We believe that a specialized library such as ours which has a critical role to play within the women’s movement cannot limit its task to collecting and protecting existing material but also must be active in the analysis, interpretation and generation of such material” (Tekeli, 267).  Thus the Library plays a crucial role in disseminating new ideas by allowing the public and scholars to openly engage with information resources and attend workshops.

In 1992, as a result of these educational opportunities, “over one hundred thousand signatures were collected to petition for an amendment of the Turkish civil code [to] condemn the ongoing brutality and sexual crimes against women” (Arat, 408).  The demonstration became successful in bringing awareness of violence against women.  Such campaigns would not be possible if there were no such institutions such as the Women’s Library and Information Center, the periodicals produced by the institution, and public forums held in the library, which address these issues in the Turkish context.

Today, the Library continues to play an important role in bringing awareness of women’s issues and rights in the state.


Arat, Necla. “Women’s Studies in Turkey.” Women’s Studies Quarterly. 24.1/2
(1996): 400-411. Print.

Arat, Yesim. “Women’s Studies in Turkey: From Kemalism to Feminism” New
Perspectives on Turkey.  9 (1993):  119-135.  Print.

Berktay, Fatmagul. “Women’s Studies in Turkey 1980-1990.” Women’s Memory,
Proceedings of the International Symposium of Women’s Libraries (1991):
271-275. Metis Yayinlari. Idst.

Gündüz, Zuhal. “The Women’s Movement in Turkey: From Tanzimat towards
European Union Membership.” Perceptions: Journal of International Affairs.
9. (2004): 115-134. Print.

Tekeli, Sirin. “Women’s Library and Information Center.” Women’s Memory,
Proceedings of the International Symposium of Women’s Libraries (1991):

A group of library patrons and librarians in square dancing outfits.

Cass County Library Square Dance Class (1947). Local libraries have served as staging areas for many community events. Image from American Library Association Archives.