The American Public Library as a Multicultural Force

A Half-Century of Federal Funding to Promote Multiculturalism in Public Libraries, 1956-2006


  • Plummer Alston Jones, Jr. East Carolina University


ABSTRACT:  A close examination of the impact of federal funding for libraries, notably public libraries, and the supporting role of the American Library Association (ALA) reveals a symbiotic relationship toward making the American public library a multicultural force in American society.  Progress toward the overarching goal of multiculturalism in American public libraries, however, has not been even, at best and, at times, retrogressive, due largely to the limited action, inaction, as well as budget-cutting debates and other delaying tactics of the U.S. Congress.   Throughout the last decades of the nineteenth century following the establishment of the ALA in 1876 and into the mid-twentieth century, public libraries and library systems amassed collections in languages other than English that reflected the particular needs of the ethnic and na­tional groups represented in their respective communities.  This pattern for collection development of world language materials would not change dramatically until the decade following the end of World War II, when the refurbishing of multicultural collections suffering from the outright removal of materials in English and in world languages considered controversial at least or dangerous at best during times of war.1






Research & Librarianship