Public Libraries in Nazi Germany

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9780817305567: Public Libraries in Nazi Germany
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In 1938 the Nazi party announced the opening of 30 new libraries in the Rhenish border district. It was their active policy to encourage the spread of libraries to rural areas and to institute and enforce public, local-government funding of book collections. That such a policy could co-exist with censorship and book-burning is a reflection of the Nazi concept of education and culture: That which could not be eradicated must be bent to serve the political aim of creating the "new German."
The central theme of Public Libraries in Nazi Germany is the attempt of the National Socialist state to convert an essentially cultural institution to political purposes. It examines issues of major importance to all societies, such as the role of culture in a society and the responsibilities of a profession. Significant questions about Nazi Germany are examined from the point of view of the public library: Was national socialism an aberration from traditional German values or was it a logical development of those traditions? Did the Nazi state carry through a true revolution or did revolutionary rhetoric merely camouflage a power grab? What relationships existed between local governments and the central government? What role did the party play? The book also provides a detailed analysis of the administrative organization, policies, and programs of German public libraries between 1933 and 1945, treating the subject on its own terms.
The Nazi period was dramatic and destructive, yet was a critical phase in the development of German public libraries. To serve the ends of national socialism, the new regime brought an institution adrift in a backwater into the mainstream. It ignored the past, erased traditions, and challenged professional values; public librarianship was redirected and transformed. At the same time, many positive achievements can be credited to this period. For the first time, the principle that public libraries were a public responsibility was established.
Public Libraries in Nazi Germany is an important contribution both to librarianship and to history. It provides information on major historiographical issues in library history that have been studied previously only in an American context, such as the social functions of libraries and librarianship as a feminine profession. It offers a comparative perspective on two of the most crucial concerns and frequently debated topics of the profession--censorship and professional ethics.
Recent events in Eastern Europe and elsewhere have reminded us of the tremendous value individuals place on intellectual freedom. Public Libraries in Nazi Germany can be read as a cautionary tale by librarians and library users, demonstrating what can happen if such freedoms are insufficiently appreciated and protected.

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Review:

"Margaret F. Stieg's thoroughly researched study, the first comprehensive examination of public libraries in Nazi Germany, reveals that library policy in the Third Reich was far more complex than we might assume, with the positive and the negative hopelessly entangled. . . . A solid and welcome contribution."

American Historical Review



"This book is impressively documented and presents a wealth of new material on the apparatus of censorship and the role of public libraries in cultural politics."

Central European History



"[A] well-documented and fascinating work."

Library Quarterly

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