"Digital Approaches to Library History"
(The Bibliographical Society of America)
Mark R. M. Towsey, School of History/Eighteenth Century Worlds, U. of
Liverpool, 9 Abercromby Square, Liverpool, L69 7WZ; Tel: 0151794 2379;
This panel will consider how digital tools and digital methodologies are reshaping our understanding of eighteenth-century libraries. Libraries, book clubs, reading circles and other institutions of collective reading have long been acknowledged as important features of eighteenth-century print culture, but the continuing development of modern database software has opened up new interpretative possibilities, allowing us to understand their significance in unprecedented detail. Libraries promised access to a much wider range of books than most patrons could possibly afford, but they were hugely significant in other ways. They emerged to serve particular communities, reflecting the specialist demands of military garrisons, religious academies and informal networks of medical men and lawyers. They provided a forum for conversation, debate and sociability, and made a key contribution to the social impact of the Enlightenment, the 'consumer revolution', the growth of nationalism and the spread of religious evangelicalism. Since they emerged in Britain, North America and continental Europe at around the same time, they also provide endless opportunities for comparative history - with different territories adopting distinctive organisational models, yet consuming a remarkably similar canon of international bestsellers.
Papers might consider these or any other themes relating to the history of particular libraries or types of library, but should aim to reflect on methodological approaches made possible by technological advances associated with the digital humanities.
Catherine M. Parisian
Department of English and Theatre
University of North Carolina Pembroke
Dial Humanities, Room 116
PO Box 1510 One University Drive
Pembroke, NC 28372-1510