Newly Added Provisional Programs and Other News

We are pleased to announce that the provisional conference programs for Liverpool and Chicago are now available on the website. Please note that these programs are subject to change in the upcoming weeks, and once we complete the London program, we will be sure to put it up on the website as well.

Bib Soc support logo

Furthermore, we are delighted to announce that Rebecca Bowd (University of Leeds) and Christy Ford (University of Oxford) have been awarded Bibliographical Society Studentships to support their participation in our first network event, ‘Libraries in the Atlantic World’. The Bibliographical Society offers a number of subventions to organizers of conferences so that they can help defray the cost of conference attendance for postgraduate students (

Ready, Set, Zotero!

That’s right, folks, we are launching a group Zotero account, and we want all Network members to join in on the collaborative fun. For those who are not familiar with Zotero, it is a free, open-source note taking software developed by George Mason University’s Roy Rosenzweig Center for History & New Media. It allows you to organize, cite, and share your research. Basically, a shared group Zotero account will enable members of the Network to share sources and citations with one another with the goal of compiling a comprehensive list of scholarship on library history and print culture in the Atlantic world. Not only will it be useful to gather information on scholarship on libraries, but also primary sources for library history – something especially useful for future collaborative grant applications.

Much like the task of a library or archive is to categorize what it has in stock, we have already begun the process of creating a taxonomy of different types of sources germane to the historiography (or rather, historiographies) of library history. This helps us make sense of all the various sorts of scholarship available on library history and print culture. We would encourage you to aid us in this taxonomy project by delegating your references to whatever category is most apt.

Another neat feature that Zotero has to offer is its timeline tool. This requires downloading the desktop version of Zotero, which automatically syncs up with your online account (something we highly recommend doing). In the desktop version, you can highlight a folder you want to look at, and then Zotero will visualize the contents of the folder according to the date of publication. This application is very useful for understanding the development of the field over time. You’ll find this feature by going to Tools → Create Timeline, and then let Zotero take care of the rest!

Registration is actually quite quick and easy. Simply go to, click on “Register” in the top left corner, and create your username and password. From there you can search for our group (The Community Libraries Network), or simply follow this link, which will take you to our group page. From there, all you need to do is hit “Join Group,” and you will be shortly confirmed thereafter. Once a group member, we ask you to take a look at what is already in the account and share with the group a minimum of three references. If you are not on Zotero and instead want to email me your citations, I can add them to the account on your behalf. You would still be able to view the group library, but you would not be able to make any contributions or edits to it.

If you are having any issues or would like us to add citations for you, please contact our Social Media Assistant Aaron Brunmeier at

Call for Papers

Deadline for CFP: 1 September 2013

We are delighted to announce the launch of a new AHRC-funded international research network on Community Libraries, which aims to establish a dynamic, interdisciplinary research forum to investigate the role of libraries in shaping communities in the long eighteenth century. Developed by Dr Mark Towsey (University of Liverpool) together with partners at Loyola University Chicago, the Newberry Library, and Dr Williams’s Library (London), the Network will explain the emergence of libraries in the ‘public sphere’ between 1650 and 1850. We will assess the contribution made by libraries to the circulation and reception of print of all kinds, and to the forging of collective identities amongst local, national, and international communities of readers. In addition, the network aims to explore the emergence of libraries in comparative perspective, asking how far models of library provision and administration were disseminated, discussed, imitated, and challenged as they travelled between different social environments and political regimes.


a)     To explain the emergence of libraries in the ‘public sphere’ between 1650 and 1850;

b)     To examine the emergence of libraries in comparative perspective, testing the explanatory power of the Atlantic paradigm for Library History;

c)     To pool expertise on the use of database software for interrogating library records, discussing the full range of approaches, potential pitfalls, and successful solutions;

d)     To investigate the feasibility of developing a universal ‘virtual library system’, connecting up records relating to different types of library, in different places, and at different times with other large scale digital analyses of historic book production, distribution and reception;

e)     To assess the contribution made by libraries to historical processes of community formation, including questions relating to collective identity, gender, civility, sociability, literary censorship, social exclusion/social mobility, mental health and well being, and the impact of print;

f)      To contribute to current debates about the future of public libraries in the UK and the US, highlighting ways in which historical models of library provision might be adapted to contemporary needs.


The Network will organise three two-day colloquia in the UK and the US. Each colloquium will focus on a specific theme, and will feature methodological workshops, work-in-progress presentations, pre-circulated papers, and roundtables.

Colloquium 1: Libraries in the Atlantic World, to be held in Liverpool on 24-25 January, 2014

Colloquium 2: Digital Approaches to Library History, to be held in Chicago on 30 May-1 June, 2014

Colloquium 3: Libraries in the Community, to be held in London on 23-24 January 2015


The project team invites initial expressions of interest from scholars interested in any element of the Community Libraries research programme. If you feel you can make a significant contribution to any or all of our colloquia, please send abstracts of 500 words, together with a brief summary of your research interests and career to date, to the Principal Investigator Dr Mark Towsey ( by 1 September 2013.

Welcome to the Network!

We are delighted to announce the launch of a new AHRC-funded research network on Community Libraries, which aims to establish a dynamic, multi- and interdisciplinary research forum to investigate the cultural history of libraries at the dawn of the modern age.

In the two centuries before the passage of the Public Libraries Act in the UK in 1850, libraries proliferated across the UK, Europe and North America on a bewildering variety of organizational models. Libraries emerged to serve particular communities, reflecting the specialist demands of military garrisons, emigrant vessels, prisons, schools, churches, mechanics institutes, factories, mills, and informal networks of medical men and lawyers. Libraries were part of the newly emerging leisure industry, with books available for hire from smallscale operators in inns, taverns, banks, railway stations, and coffee houses, and from the sprawling city circulating libraries associated with the rise of the novel. Subscription libraries, library societies, book clubs, and other proprietary institutions provided a forum for conversation, debate and sociability, and made a key contribution to the spread of new political ideas.

These libraries were not ‘public’ in the modern sense, supported by the taxpayer and lending books free of charge to the whole community, but they were a crucial part of an Enlightened ‘public sphere’. They served different communities, providing a space where civic, religious, political, and commercial values converged and overlapped. The Network will examine how different types of library interacted with local, national and international communities of readers. We will assess the contribution made by libraries to the circulation and reception of print of all kinds, and to the forging of collective identities amongst discreet groups of people. The Network has broader implications for social and gender history, encompassing not only the exclusionary tactics employed by libraries of different kinds, but also the potential for social mobility that access to literature opened up for certain sections of society. In the process, the research will inform current debates about the role of public libraries in shaping communities and promoting social mobility through literacy today.

Since they emerged in Britain, North America and continental Europe at around the same time, libraries offer tremendous potential for comparative history that has yet to be fully exploited – with territories adopting distinctive organisational models, yet consuming a remarkably similar canon of international bestsellers. The Network will assess the emergence of libraries in comparative perspective, asking how far models of library provision and administration were disseminated, discussed, imitated, and challenged as they travelled between different social environments and political regimes. In particular, the Network will assess the explanatory power of the Atlantic paradigm for library history, asking how far Atlantic libraries were distinctive from libraries elsewhere in the world, or whether a global perspective is more useful in explaining the emergence of different models of library provision.