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American Ideas in the German Public Libraries: Three Periods

Margaret Chaplan
The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy
Vol. 41, No. 1 (Jan., 1971), pp. 35-53
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4306045
Page Count: 19
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
American Ideas in the German Public Libraries: Three Periods
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Abstract

The first period of American influence on public library development in Germany was the result of the travels of Friedrich von Raumer in America in 1845. On his return to Berlin, von Raumer was instrumental in establishing popular libraries in Berlin and used as models the libraries he had observed in the United States. Because of the different social and cultural setting that prevailed in Germany at the time, the German libraries never received the support nor achieved the strength that the American public libraries did. After von Raumer's activities, the next important development in German public libraries was an indigenous movement in Saxony that began in 1876. Renewed interest in American public library development found expression in an article by Eduard Reyer in the "Zentralblatt für Bibliothekswesen" in 1886. Interest was heightened by the report of Constantin Nörrenberg, librarian of the University of Kiel, who attended the meeting of librarians at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Nörrenberg and his colleagues in the Bücherhallenbewegung agitated for the adoption of American methods and ideas in the establishment of libraries. Nörrenberg proposed a nine-point program to reform popular libraries on the model of American and English public libraries. He influenced the development of German popular libraries greatly; but when Paul Ladewig, a Nörrenberg supporter, wrote "Politik der Bücherei" in 1912, the book drew a sharp rebuttal from Walter Hofmann, who attacked the leveling influence of Anglo-American libraries and advocated an elitist institution better fitting German cultural traditions. This led to the Richtungsstreit, a long controversy over the direction German popular libraries should take. The third period of American influence came after 1945 during the American occupation of Germany and the American attempts at the restructuring of German educational institutions on American lines. Major factors have been the American information libraries and the Amerika-Gedenkbibliothek in Berlin, which have demonstrated the feasibility of American methods as well as American ideas. Many of the goals expressed by German public librarians today seem to be influenced by the American model, including proposals for the education of public librarians, the passage of special tax legislation for libraries, the formation of regional library systems, and the adoption of standards for public libraries.

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