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Meet the Author Series: Ideology and Libraries Subtitle: California, Diplomacy, and Occupied Japan, 1945–1952

Thursday, January 7, 2021 (11:00 AM - 12:00 PM) (EST)


Why do library services develop differently in different cultural contexts? A case study. In 1950 Robert Gitler went to found the first college-level school of library science in Japan. His mission was an improbable success. Examination of this and other initiatives to improve library services during the Allied occupation reveals surprising connections with California, the use of libraries as a tool in foreign policy, and human interest in the lives of the individuals involved. The divergence between the ethos of the American public library and the authoritarian ideology of Japanese governments provides a basis for examining the cultural determinants of library services and calls into question the deeply rooted association of libraries with democracy. Learning objectives Relationship between political purpose and library provision. 

Library development in Japan 1868 – 1952. Origins of county library service in California. Libraries as tools of foreign policy. Yet the project remained charismatic to many who were enchanted by its claims of access to educational opportunities previously out of reach. Behind its promises, OLPC, like many technology projects that make similarly grand claims, had a fundamentally flawed vision of who the computer was made for and what role technology should play in learning. Drawing on archival work and an ethnography of a model OLPC project in Paraguay, this talk will discuss how the laptops were not only frustrating to use, easy to break, and hard to repair, they were designed for “technically precocious boys” — idealized younger versions of the developers themselves — rather than the diverse range of children who actually used them. Reaching fifty years into the past and across the globe, Ames offers a cautionary tale about the allure of technology hype and the problems that result when utopian dreams drive technology development.

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Cathy Nash
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