ATG Book of the Week: Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library

Part of our..Title: Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library
Author: Wayne A. Wiegand
ISBN: 9780190248000, $34.95; Also available as an ebook from your preferred provider.
Imprint: New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

“Despite dire predictions in the late twentieth century that public libraries would not survive the turn of the millennium, their numbers have only increased. Two of three Americans frequent a public library at least once a year, and nearly that many are registered borrowers. Although library authorities have argued that the public library functions primarily as a civic institution necessary for maintaining democracy, generations of library patrons tell a different story.

In Part of Our Lives, Wayne A. Wiegand delves into the heart of why Americans love their libraries. The book traces the history of the public library, featuring records and testimonies from as early as 1850. Rather than analyzing the words of library founders and managers, Wiegand listens to the voices of everyday patrons who cherished libraries. Drawing on newspaper articles, memoirs, and biographies, Part of Our Lives paints a clear and engaging picture of Americans who value libraries not only as civic institutions, but also as public places that promote and maintain community…”


“This is a must-have book for all public, library-school, and college libraries and one that should be read by all librarians.” — starred review, Booklist



“Millions of us have come through public library doors to find purpose, shelter, story, a sense of belonging, and much, much else. As Part of Our Lives reminds us, this legacy deserves the investment of hard work and imagination that will be required to keep the doors open.” —Los Angeles Review of Books


“In seeking the patron’s perspective, Wiegand finds that the library’s role in popularizing reading and providing community spaces is just as crucial to the people the library serves.” —Publishers Weekly


“…compelling and oftentimes amusing read…” —Library Journal


“Readers interested in public libraries, but also American economic, political and social history will find this book fascinating.” —Billings Gazette


“Wiegand is as much a historian of reading as he is of libraries and librarianship. This means he is in a position to mount a strong defense of the value of leisure reading–its power to inform, bond, and enlighten, as much as entertain–on the context of the public library, past and present.” –Alistair Black, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois

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