Magazine article American Libraries

This Month, 85 Years Ago

Magazine article American Libraries

This Month, 85 Years Ago

Article excerpt

IN NOVEMBER 1917, the San Francisco Public Library removed all German-language books from its shelves and forced patrons to come to the circulation desk to request them. It was World War I, and the American public library community had caught the same anti-German war fever as most of the rest of the nation. Names of people who requested German books at public libraries in San Francisco, St. Louis, the District of Columbia, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia were regularly turned over to authorities for investigation. This is hardly a precedent for a profession that generations later claims responsibility for patron confidentiality.

Times have changed, you may argue, but how much? In 1987, the Lebanon (Ind.) Public Library published a list of borrowers with overdue books in the local newspaper and matched names against titles like: Two Guys Noticed Me...and Other Miracles, What About Teen-age Marriage? What Only a Mother Can Tell You about Having a Baby, The Myth of Senility, and I Should Have Seen It Coming When the Rabbit Died. …

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