Libraries without borders chronicled in Library History Round Table volume

For Immediate Release
Wed, 11/29/2023



Marketing Coordinator

ALA Publishing & Media

American Library Association


CHICAGO — “Libraries Without Borders: New Directions in Library History,” published by ALA Editions, is a remarkable collection of essays drawn from the Library History Seminar sponsored by the Library History Round Table (LHRT). Edited by Steven A. Knowlton, Ellen M. Pozzi, Jordan S. Sly, and Emily D. Spunaugle, the book explores the roles that libraries have played in the communities they serve, well beyond the stacks and circulation desk. The research contained in these pages shows how librarians and users can not only reach beyond the border separating professionals from patrons, but also across institutional boundaries separating different specializations within the profession, and outside traditional channels of knowledge acquisition and organization. Delving into a variety of goals, approaches, and practices, all with the intention of fostering community and providing information, this collection's fascinating topics include:

  • a critique of library history as it is currently conducted, pointing out the borders of habit, familiarity, and bias that thwart diversity within library and information studies;
  • stories of the community-based activism that has been key to battling the “epistemicide” that can undermine collective understandings about the world and the interests of African American library users;
  • profiles of current Indigenous library practitioners who are both documenting and creating library history;
  • a grassroots movement to create a comprehensive collection related to the theology and practice of the Society of Mary at the time of great ecclesiastical and liturgical changes; 
  • histories of the innovations which led to the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services and the Instruction Section of ACRL;
  • using the “due date” as a lens for understanding how patrons and the general public feel about the role of libraries and their rules in the lives of average Americans;
  • how the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act influenced the work of research libraries that collected materials from the Communist Bloc; and
  • a primer on conducting research in library history that will allow readers to explore how libraries in their own communities have affected the lives of their users.

Founded in 1947, The Library History Round Table (LHRT) of the American Library Association exists to facilitate communication among scholars and students of library history, to support research in library history, and to be active in issues, such as preservation, that concern library historians. The LHRT sponsors conferences, publishes a newsletter, and presents the Justin Winsor Prize and the Phyllis Dain Dissertation Award to promote excellence in library history research.

Knowlton is Librarian for History and African American Studies at Princeton University. His research has appeared in many peer-reviewed journals, and he has served on editorial boards or as editor for numerous scholarly publications including Libraries: Culture, History, Society. He has won the Justin Winsor Library History Essay Award twice and is the recipient of prizes from the West Tennessee Historical Society and the North American Vexillological Association. His edited book “Oscar Federhen's Thirteen Months in Dixie, or, the Adventures of a Federal Prisoner in Texas” appeared in 2022. Pozzi is an Associate Professor at William Paterson University in New Jersey. A contributor to the edited book “Libraries and the Reading Public in Twentieth-Century America,” she is an ALA Councilor and a past chair of the LHRT. Sly is the Head of the Humanities and Social Science Librarians and the librarian for Anthropology, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Digital Humanities, French, German, and Italian studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has published in the areas of library history, the extensions of critical theory in the practice of librarianship, digital humanities, and other areas. Spunaugle is Humanities and Rare Books Librarian at Oakland University in Michigan. She has published in library history and book history of the long eighteenth century and is co-director of the Marguerite Hicks Project. She has served as chair of the LHRT and as associate editor for SHARP News.

ALA Store purchases fund advocacy, awareness and accreditation programs for library and information professionals worldwide. ALA Editions | Neal-Schuman publishes resources used by library and information professionals, scholars, students, and educators to improve programs and services, build on best practices, enhance pedagogy, share research, develop leadership, and promote advocacy. ALA authors and developers are leaders in their fields, and their content is published in a variety of print and electronic formats. Contact ALA Editions | Neal-Schuman at