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Title: English public libraries 1919-1975 : vocation and popularisation
Author: Hung, Margaret
ISNI:       0000 0004 6498 2760
Awarding Body: Leeds Metropolitan University
Current Institution: Leeds Beckett University
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis examines how librarians' conception of the role of English public libraries changed between 1919 and 1975 and considers the influences that shaped this change. It describes how the Library Association and leading public librarians held fast to the Victorian ideal of public purpose in the inter-war period by resisting public demand for light, entertaining fiction and promoting instead the educational purpose of public libraries. This ideal held that public libraries were vehicles for democratisation by giving everyone access to the best of culture. This has been characterised by some critics as cultural paternalism born out of a sense of social superiority. In fact, our prosopography shows that senior public librarians who were active in the first half of the twentieth century were drawn mainly from lower middle class and working class backgrounds. Some were seeking merely to share the privileges that had enriched and extended their lives to people like themselves. The thesis also describes how the inter-war orthodoxy of self-improvement was challenged during the Second World War and its aftermath. An increase in the stock of light fiction was justified on the grounds that it was needed to sustain public morale during the war. Pressure for popularisation was reinforced by the post-war decline of social deference, the growing impact of consumerism, and the youth revolt and moral deregulation of the 1960s. A new equilibrium was reached in which increased attention was given to recreational demand (including for pop music), while still keeping faith with the inter-war ideals of self-improvement. A significant increase in the budgets of public libraries made this possible.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available