Cover image for Civic space/cyberspace : the American public library in the information age
Civic space/cyberspace : the American public library in the information age
Molz, Redmond Kathleen, 1928-
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, c 1999.
Physical Description:
xii, 259 pages ; 24 cm
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Z731 .M639 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Quintessentially American institutions, symbols of community spirit and the American faith in education, public libraries are ubiquitous in the United States. Close to a billion library visits are made each year, and more children join summer reading programs than little league baseball. Public libraries are local institutions, as different as the communities they serve. Yet their basic services, techniques, and professional credo are essentially similar; and they offer, through technology and cooperative agreements, myriad materials and information far beyond their own walls.

In Civic Space/Cyberspace , Redmond Kathleen Molz and Phyllis Dain assess the current condition and direction of the American public library. They consider the challenges and opportunities presented by new electronic technologies, changing public policy, fiscal realities, and cultural trends. They draw on site visits and interviews conducted across the country; extensive reading of reports, surveys, and other documents; and their long-standing interest in the library's place in the social and civic structure. The book uniquely combines a scholarly, humanistic, and historical approach to public libraries with a clear-eyed look at their problems and prospects, including their role in the emerging national information infrastructure.

Author Notes

Redmond Kathleen Molz is Professor of Public Affairs at the School ofInternational and Public Affairs, Columbia University.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Molz, currently professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, and Dain, now emeritus, were colleagues at the now-defunct Columbia School of Library Service. Both are also celebrated library historians. Dain's The New York Public Library: A History of Its Founding and Early Years (NYPL, 1972) is a definitive account of that august institution. Molz's National Planning for Library Service, 1935-1975 (ALA, 1984), one of my favorites, is a readable, fundamental work on the subject of the federal role in library support. The curiously inconclusive work under review here is a detailed overview of modern public library history combined with a trip through contemporary (to 1998) developments. It is a great feat of evidence and witness collecting and thus will become an important work of record. The portrait of the public library that emerges from five perspectives sees conflict over the mission, funding, and governance; difficulty maintaining the case for a federal responsibility for library service; and uncertainty over the impact of technology on the institution's future. Despite overwhelming evidence of a spirited movement that propels library service to the great majority of Americans, adults and children alike, Dain and Molz seem ambivalent about the future of libraries and fearful that technology may replace the book. Their volume is a must read, if only for the rich detail of its rendition of the condition of the modern library, but, fellow librarians, don't expect reassurance that its glorious history and current strength makes the future of the public library secure. All Dain and Molz will conclude is that it "is intensely interesting."ÄJohn Berry, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.