Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Part of Our Lives: A People's History of the American Public Library” as Want to Read:
Part of Our Lives: A People's History of the American Public Library
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Part of Our Lives: A People's History of the American Public Library

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  186 ratings  ·  71 reviews
Despite dire predictions in the late twentieth century that public libraries would not survive the turn of the millennium, those libraries continue to thrive. Two of three Americans frequent a public library at least once a year, and nearly that many are registered borrowers. Although library authorities have argued that the public library functions primarily as a civic in ...more
Hardcover, 317 pages
Published September 29th 2015 by Oxford University Press (first published September 1st 2015)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Part of Our Lives, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Part of Our Lives

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  186 ratings  ·  71 reviews

Sort order
Oct 15, 2015 rated it it was ok

I didn't exactly expect this to be riveting but it was way more dry than I expected. In a general sense I was interested in this subject matter, but I can't think of how one would learn about this without being bored stiff.

Also a little off topic...can you no longer preview reviews? The button seems to have disappeared with the update.
Mar 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This was truly a fascinating read! I loved learning how the American Public Library got started & how it evolved over time according to society's needs. Today, Public Libraries continue to be valued at the center of our communities, as they facilitate learning & communication for ALL people.
Aug 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Like so many voracious readers with limited budgets and space can attest to, library has been instrumental in my autodidactic pursuits. It is a privilege to be able to utilize the resources and stacks of the tenth largest library company is US, not to mention it is one of the few things that stay free in the country where the cost of living increases regularly and disproportionately to the wages. In short, libraries are important, one of the few public services well worth the taxes and all aroun ...more
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
When I pick up a “people’s history” of something I generally assume I'm in for popular-level social history, but this is decidedly not that. It was quite academic and hard to read, not in the usual way with big words in gigantic strung out sentences, but instead a very textbook style, where facts bombard you in an uncreatively flat strict chronological structure, written with as much flavor and panache as a Harbor Freight catalog. I think it would have been improved by a more topical organizatio ...more
Part of Our Lives by Wiegand is a history book of the American Library System through the eyes of the people that went to the library. Wiegand took accounts that were published in newspapers and elsewhere from all over the country and separated them in their specific eras. The book starts before the founding of America with libraries run by affluent individuals in larger cities that only circulated material to friends, basically. As libraries became more popular they were opened up to more diffe ...more
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Wiegand truly knows his American library history, and it shows in this piece. As someone who does not know much about the development of libraries in the US, this book gave me a great background and truly walked me through the last 350+ years of history. I loved many of the anecdotes of how public libraries affected countless Americans, such as African American teens participating in sit-ins in the 1960s South. I like that Wiegand followed certain topics, such as fiction’s rise, racial tensions, ...more
Jan 09, 2019 rated it liked it
It's hard to know what this book wants to be. It's the size of a small textbook, and somewhat formatted to look like one, too. However, it also attempts to be somewhat narrative in its chapters, and has very few sub-sections within chapters. It would have felt a lot less dense if the sections had been broken down, and at times it was difficult to understand why the author jumped from topic to topic without these visual divisions in the text.

However, the massive scale the author attempts to cover
Jan 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, nonfiction
Fascinating subject (to me anyway), but I wanted more in-depth stories about how individuals experienced the library through time, and fewer statistics on how many people attended what type of event at which specific library in which specific year. At times I felt like I was reading a truly epic Director's Annual Report.
I would have expected a book with "people's history" in the title to be a book that at least a biggish subset of "the people" might want to read. Instead it was like reading the
I finally finished this book! While the topic was interesting, the presentation was too scholarly to be read easily but too disorganized to serve as research material.

I did find it intriguing that nothing int he library world is new as there were consistently recurring themes throughout the book: libraries as community space, immigrant and low-literacy learning, canoodling (and more in the stacks), borrowing more than books and media from the library, censorship, etc.

Interesting, but skim it.

I was slowly slugging my way through this book and then started skimming. It is a subject near and dear to my heart, and the author did have some interesting details and historical perspectives - but it was dry and read like a textbook.

However, if you want the big-picture history of American public libraries I'd recommend this book for a lookie-loo.

Two words - Yay libraries!!!!
Sep 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
Part of Our Lives by Wayne A. Wiegand is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early September, possibly to get back into an academic groove as the fall semester began.

Though it's written very slightly like a reference book, it's incredibly inspiring and uplifting to learn about the civic, uniting aspects about early libraries.
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fascinating and comprehensive account of public libraries in America from their earliest days to the present. As much a cultural history as simply a history of libraries, the book is full of anecdotes and personal testimonies, demonstrating how important libraries have always been and the vital role they have played in the nation’s development. Changing social attitudes, censorship, popular taste, the role of the library in the community, all these topics are explored here and it makes for som ...more
Nov 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Society does not value its public libraries in the same way as it used to; the library is being forced to change and seeks to remain relevant in today’s different world. Yet a good library, staffed by knowledgeable librarians, can still be important and they can still be part of our lives. They are just serving us in a different way than before.

This book argues that the average American has not fell out of love with the library and that they are managing to survive; two out of three Americans ar
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is probably a 3.5 but I gave it the benefit of the doubt because I don't think I could have written it any better than Mr. Wiegand did. The main premise of the book is that people love their libraries. The book is overstuffed with statistics and snippets of stories to back up this claim. One might think there were too many and that was the downfall of the book. But I can understand the dilemma: which one would you leave out? Perhaps leave out some of the statistics? As a result of the overw ...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
Jun 13, 2015 rated it really liked it

Part of Our Lives is a fascinating and passionate treatise on the history, culture and contribution of American public libraries by Wayne A. Wiegand.

With a focus on the perspective of 'library in the life of a user' Wiegand explores the important role libraries play in the life of individuals: as distributors of information and education, as a source of fiction that entertains and enlightens, and as social community spaces, debunking the notion that libraries are, or have ever been, simply 'ware
victor harris
Jan 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Comprehensive and detailed survey of the history of libraries in U.S. Heavy focus on issues that have bedeviled public libraries since their inception: censorship, acquisitions, do public preferences trump recommended reading materials, and the evolution of libraries to accommodate technology. Contrary to expectations, libraries have continued to adapt and survive and still service diverse populations. They remain a vital center for community services and are the lifeblood of many small towns a ...more
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a library worker, I enjoyed this book very much but readers need to be aware that it is an academic study so it can be a bit dry. It was always fascinating though. It has been the call in recent decades that "libraries aren't just about books anymore." Well, after reading this history of the American Public Library you quickly realize libraries have never been "just about books." They are repositories of information but they are equally social centers and safe havens for members of the commun ...more
La La - Everyone's Crazy Aunt
A wonderfully detailed history of public libraries including patrons' points of view. This book also brings us to thinking about the function of libraries in our future. I was approved for this title via Netgalley in return for an honest review.
Edward Sullivan
An excellent history of American public libraries. Cogent, concise, insightful, and entertaining.
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wayne Wiegand visited our library in August 2016, giving us a terrific synopsis of his research and this book.
Adrith Bicchieri
Jul 15, 2015 is currently reading it
[Requested an advance reader copy of this title through NetGalley. I can't wait to read it! July 15, 2015]
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
I have been reading this book since October, when I got it as an ARC via NetGalley. The beginning was just so dry; once I got into the early 1900s and beyond it picked up but man it take me a long time to get there. Full review to come.


Rating: 3.5 Stars

I received this book (an embarrassing amount of months ago) as an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I know w
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
The first paragraph of Wayne Wiegand's introduction to Part of Our Lives: A People's History of the American Public Library includes three quotes from famous authors about why they love libraries, the second an overview of recent Pew Research statistics on how Americans feel about libraries, and the third a historical and statistical overview of a decade's worth of usage data demonstrating what the nation loves to do at the libraries they love.

If that does not sound fascinating, then this is not
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book presents a very informative history of the public library from the 1800's through present day in America. I use our local library frequently but never really knew a lot of the history of its beginnings, how the various decades and what was going on politically and economically effected it, and the culture of various populations using it over the past two hundred plus years. It has clearly evolved to be a learning institution for all regardless of background, education and ethnicity. As ...more
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely could not have written my first big research paper without this book. The section on the Carnegie libraries was particularly helpful to me, but I found the entire book to be a really interesting read! The pieces of anecdotal and statistical evidence used were not only compelling but underscored the vital importance of libraries to their communities and the impact they have on people.
Maximilian Gerboc
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a very thorough, almost too-dry history of public libraries in America. What I really enjoyed about it was its perspective - there is an emphasis on the average library user’s experience with their public library throughout the history of these institutions and their various evolutions. A worthwhile read for anyone interested in public libraries and how they interact with American society at the most basic and local level.
A dry, very academic history of public libraries enlivened by the all to in-frequent snippets of misremembered or misheard book titles or other anecdotes from working librarians. A useful book, but I'd rather read librarian memoirs such as Don Borchert's Free For All .
Feb 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Reading this book will give you a greater appreciation for the public library. Wiegand explores the morphing role of libraries within the community and US society at large in an effort to prove the staying power and adaptability of the American library.
Corey Friedrich
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic cultural history of America's public libraries! So many times I found myself saying, "Yes, yes, yes" as I read Dr. Wiegand's observations. This is one I will refer to again and again when making decisions about our library.
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very thorough. I found it a little daunting to read page by page, so I picked out what chapters interested me the most. Lots of facts, figures, and history, of course. Great addition to a librarian's home shelf.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History
  • Not Free, Not for All: Public Libraries in the Age of Jim Crow
  • In the Stacks: Short Stories about Libraries and Librarians
  • Improbable Libraries: A Visual Journey to the World's Most Unusual Libraries
  • BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google
  • Library: An Unquiet History
  • The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash Between Freedom and Control Is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System
  • The Librarian's Nitty-Gritty Guide to Social Media
  • The Black Belt Librarian: Real-World Safety & Security
  • The History of the Book in 100 Books: The Complete Story, From Egypt to E-Book
  • Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences
  • Paper: An Elegy
  • Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper
  • The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures
  • Books: A Living History
  • Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age
  • This Is What a Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Libraries, Communities, and Access to Information
  • Quiet, Please: Dispatches From A Public Librarian
"Wayne August Wiegand (born April 15, 1946) is an American library historian, author, and academic.

Often referred to as the "Dean of American library historians," Wiegand retired as F. William Summers Professor of Library and Information Studies and Professor of American Studies at Florida State University in 2010. He received a BA in history at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh (1968), an MA in