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Examines the inextricable historical connections between the proliferation of libraries and the growth of librarianship as a profession in the United States in the late nineteenth century. The rise of capitalism and the “efficiency movement” during the Progressive Era (1890–1920) led to a replicating of libraries in the image and model of corporations, and the creation of an educational system that favored practicality and connections to the market, within which we locate historical tensions between theory and practice.
The goal of this chapter is to illuminate the economic and ideological contexts from which the library profession in the United States flourished, and has continued to be implicated. Despite the close alignment of American librarianship with a hegemonic economic ideology, there have been critical and resistant voices within the profession throughout the past century. We urge librarians to continue to resist the conditions and values of laboring within a capitalist system, using critical theory to critique that system and to embrace an emergent critical practice that dreams of alternative futures.
The Politics of Theory and the Practice of Critical Librarianship
Karen P. Nicholson and Maura Seale
Library Juice Press
Place of Publication
critical librarianship, theory, capitalism, neoliberalism
Library and Information Science