Black’s new book, Libraries of Light, published by Routledge

Libraries of Light book
Alistair Black
Alistair Black, Professor Emeritus

Professor Alistair Black’s latest book, Libraries of Light: British Public Library Design in the Long 1960s, is now available from Routledge.

Description: For the first hundred years or so of their history, public libraries in Britain were built in an array of revivalist architectural styles. This backward-looking tradition was decisively broken in the 1960s as many new libraries were erected up and down the country.

In this new book, Black argues that the architectural modernism of the post-war years was symptomatic of the age’s spirit of renewal. In the 1960s, public libraries truly became ‘libraries of light,’ and Black further explains how this phrase not only describes the shining new library designs—with their open-plan, decluttered, Scandinavian-inspired designs—but also serves as a metaphor for the public library’s role as a beacon of social egalitarianism and cultural universalism.

A sequel to Books, Buildings and Social Engineering (2009), this new book takes his fascinating story of the design of British public libraries into the era of architectural modernism.

Libraries of Light foregrounds the social determination of technology. “More interesting and challenging than the identification of the social effects of technology,” said Black, “is the examination of the ways in which technology is shaped by society, by its ideologies, aspirations, and trends. The technology that is the library building is no different in this regard, historically and now.”

A full professor in the iSchool since 2009, Black is currently researching the history of the British War Office Intelligence Division, 1873-1914; the design of the new British Library in the context of the 1960s "Two Cultures" debate; and the early public library movement in Britain in the context of attitudes to state intervention. He is the author of several books, including A New History of the English Public Library (1996) and The Public Library in Britain 1914-2000 (2000). He is coauthor of Understanding Community Librarianship (1997); The Early Information Society in Britain, 1900-1960 (2007); and Books, Buildings and Social Engineering (2009). With Peter Hoare, he is co-editor of Volume 3 (covering 1850-2000) of the Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland (2006). He currently serves as the general editor of the journal Library Trends.

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