Margaret Hung’s library history dissertation wins the 2017 Dain Award

For Immediate Release
Tue, 03/20/2018


Kathy Rosa

Program Officer

Office for Research and Evaluation (ORE)

American Library Association

CHICAGO — The Library History Round Table (LHRT) of the American Library Association (ALA) is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2017 Phyllis Dain Library History Dissertation Award. The winner is Margaret Hung for her dissertation, “English Public Libraries, 1919-1975: Vocation and Popularisation” (Leeds Metropolitan University, 2015).

Hung’s dissertation describes the development of English public libraries from their sometimes rudimentary condition in the 1920s to their “golden age” in the 1960s and 1970s in the context of social and cultural changes. Using primary sources from numerous archives and a creative methodology, she meticulously documents how divergent perceptions of the mission and role of public libraries (e.g., enrichment versus entertainment) created tensions and conflict in both the library work place and the public discourse. Hung's scholarship, presented in a lively and engaging narrative, challenges traditional assumptions about librarians during the inter-war period by effectively arguing that librarians were, in the main, not middle class paternalists seeking to improve the public but working class autodidacts seeking to share their hard-won cultural privilege with people similar to themselves.

Margaret Hung lives in London, UK, and is a practicing librarian at the Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service.    

Two Certificates of Merit were also awarded: Brenda Mitchell-Powell is recognized for “A Seat at the Reading Table: The 1939 Alexandria, Virginia, Public Library Sit-in Demonstration – A Study in Library History, 1937-1941” (Simmons College, 2015), and Julia Skinner is recognized for “Ernestine Rose and the Harlem Public Library: Theory Testing Using Historical Sources” (Florida State University, 2015).

The 2017 Dain Award Committee Chair, Sharon McQueen, stated that the Committee was “pleased with not only the unusually high number of submissions but also the remarkable quality of so many. Competition was stiff, which is an indication that the study of library history is attracting talented doctoral students, and our field is endowed with gifted faculty to guide them.”

The Phyllis Dain Library History Dissertation Award is presented biennially and is named in honor of a library historian widely known as a supportive advisor and mentor as well as a rigorous scholar with great breadth of vision. The award is given for an outstanding dissertation in English that embodies original research on a significant topic relating to the history of libraries during any period, in any region of the world.

The ALA Library History Round Table aims to facilitate communication among scholars and students of library history, supports research in library history, and advocates for issues that concern library historians, such as preservation and access. The LHRT sponsors conferences, publishes a newsletter, and presents prizes such as the Dain Award to promote excellence in library history research.

The 2017 Phyllis Dain Library History Dissertation Award Committee

Sharon McQueen, Chair

Barry W. Seaver
Durham Technical Community College

J. Michael Hunter
Brigham Young University

Megan Browndorf
Georgetown University