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University of Iowa News Release

April 19, 2004

Lecture Examines The Gender Politics of American Library Design

Architectural historian Abigail A. VanSlyck will give the 2004 Fred Wezeman Lecture at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 26, in the University of Iowa Art Building Auditorium. Admission to the lecture, "Meditations on the Delivery Desk: Interpreting the Gender Politics of American Library Design," is free and open to the public.

Van Slyck is the Dayton associate professor of art history and director of the Architectural Studies Program at Connecticut College and has a long-standing interest in the history of public libraries. Early public libraries were some of the first workspaces for middle-class women, some of the first public buildings to devote substantial space to children's use and a place that heated the debate about the relationship between culture and class.

Her lecture will examine the early years of the 20th century, when American women entered the library profession in unprecedented numbers. While many male library leaders welcomed the arrival of this skilled work force, they were nonetheless concerned that their own professional status would begin to suffer. Van Slyck will examine delivery desks and other settings designed for this first generation of female librarians in light of debates about how best to exploit women's "special skills."

Van Slyck's publications include "Free to All: Carnegie Libraries and American Culture, 1890-1920" (Chicago, 1995); "'The Utmost Amount of Effectiv [sic] Accommodation': Andrew Carnegie and the Reform of the American Library," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 50 (December 1991), which won the Society's Founders' Award; "The Lady and the Library Loafer: Gender and Public Space in Victorian America," Winterthur Portfolio 31 (Winter 1996); "A New Chapter," introduction to a Building Type Study on recent library design, Architectural Record (October 2000); and "On the Inside: Preserving Women's History in American Libraries," in Restoring Women's History Through Historic Preservation (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003).

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the School of Library and Information Science in advance at 319-335-5707.

The lecture is sponsored by the School of Library and Information Science, the department of American Studies and History, the Center for the Book and University Libraries.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010,