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The Organisation of Knowledge in Victorian Britain$
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Martin Daunton

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780197263266

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197263266.001.0001

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Libraries, Knowledge and Public Identity

Libraries, Knowledge and Public Identity

(p.287) Chapter Thirteen: Libraries, Knowledge and Public Identity
The Organisation of Knowledge in Victorian Britain

David McKitterick

British Academy

This chapter discusses the identification of libraries as a national and public issue and the establishment of librarianship as an identifiable profession. The public identity of libraries lay in their collections and how such collections were shared and interpreted. As repositories of history and current knowledge, their principles of selection and presentation denoted national and local aspirations, linked by a scale of values broadly defined as social, to a sense of the past. The chapter also highlights the Public Libraries Act of 1850, also known as the Ewart Act, which gave power to local authorities to levy rates for the development and support of local libraries. This authority given to local authorities meant that all decisions respecting local libraries were subject to notions of public identity.

Keywords:   libraries, librarianship, public identity, Public Libraries Act, Ewart Act, local libraries

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