The Library History Round Table (LHRT) announces the winner of the 2020 Justin Winsor Library History Essay
For Immediate Release
Program Manager for Round Tables
CHICAGO — The Library History Round Table (LHRT) is pleased to announce that this year’s Justin Winsor Library History Essay Award winner is Dr. Julie Park for her paper, entitled “Infrastructure Story: The Los Angeles Central Library’s Architectural History.”
Park is assistant curator and faculty fellow at the Special Collections Center, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library in New York, New York. Her essay uses written contracts, board meeting minutes, floor plans and renovation reports to show “how, as infrastructure, the library’s architecture and its spatial priorities were deeply ‘relational’ [which] required adaptation to changing contingencies over time, despite features that seemed permanent and immovable.” In particular, the essay pits the beautiful, but compartmentalized, architecture of the library’s original 1926 design against the building’s severely over-crowded interior in 1978. Ultimately, Park shows how preserving the building’s “historic and aesthetic significance” was irreconcilable with the changes needed to make the Central Library more functional.
Though the essay coincidentally overlaps with the history presented by bestselling author Susan Orlean’s work "The Library Book" (2019), the Justin Winsor selection committee found Park’s research to be original in its interdisciplinary use of infrastructure theory. Photos and maps of the library add to the discussion. The selection committee also appreciated Park’s excellent use of primary sources, one of the main award requirements. The essay presents a nice complement to Orlean’s book, which goes beyond 1978 to cover the 1986 fire that almost destroyed the Central Library. Park has been invited to submit her essay for possible publication in the official LHRT journal Libraries, Culture, History, and Society.
The Justin Winsor award is named in honor of the distinguished 19th-century librarian, historian and bibliographer who was also ALA’s first president. To be considered, essays must embody original, previously-unpublished historical research on a significant topic in library history, be based on primary sources, and use good English composition and superior style. The winner is awarded a certificate and $500 cash prize.