Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ambar Meneses
3rd Feb 2013

Christine Pawley, Professor of Library Studies

            Prof. Christine Pawley is a faculty member at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is also a Mary Emogene Hazeltine Research Fellow. Prof. Pawley focuses on the study of reading communities and their reading practices. She is a renowned author in her field, having published well-received books such as Reading on the Middle Border: The Culture of Print in Osage, Iowa, 1860-1900 (2001) and Reading Places: Literacy, Democracy, and the Public Reading Places: Literacy, Democracy, and the Public Library in Cold War America (2011). Prof. Pawley’s knowledge of the history of the book and of reading practices, and her prolific and illustrious publication track record on the latter, qualify her to speak on the future of print. In both of the above book projects, as in her short article “Seeking ‘Significance:’ Actual Readers, Specific Reading Communities” (2002) Pawley recounts how her investigation of library records, census records, primary source documents such as autobiographies, and interviews of library patrons, led her to uncover how “face-to-face” networks of friends and acquaintances influenced individual and group reading choices not necessarily sanctioned by formal institutions such as the school.  
            Pawley’s reviewers, such as Amy M. Thomas, from Montana State University, are impressed by her painstaking archival and almost ethnographic interview research. Another reviewer, Erik Lupfer, from the University of Texas, praises Pawley’s questioning of assumptions about demographic reading patterns, such as the assumption that men read “books for men” and women read “books for women,” which led her to discover their historical inaccuracy. I think that Pawley’s method of research may give her a unique advantage in speculating about the future of print because of her attention to investigating “reading communities” or readers’ face-to-face networks, which are a kind of community or network that have expanded to online networking sites, online blogs and online book markets such as Amazon. From the webpages of what we can call online reading communities, reading activities may be observable in real-time. If, as Pawley’s perspective indicates, the future of the study of print culture lies in a greater focus on studying reading communities and their interactions, then Pawley seems uniquely qualified to speculate on the implications that online reading communities and networks, such as book clubs and Amazon readers’ reviews, are having and will continue to have on the future of digital and physical print and their consumption.

Works Consulted

“Christine Pawley.” Faculty and Staff SLIS University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Lupfer, Eric. “Reading on the Middle Border: The Culture of Print in Late-Nineteenth-Century Osage, Iowa by Christine Pawley Review.” Libraries & Culture 39.2 (2004): 222-223. JSTOR. 31 Jan 2013.

Pawley, Christine. “Christine Pawley Curriculum Vitae 2012.” SLIS University of Wisconsin-Madison <>

Pawley, Christine. “Seeking ‘Significance’: Actual Readers, Specific Reading Communities.” Book History 5 (2002): 143-160. Project Muse. 31 Jan 2013.

Thomas, Amy M. “Christine Pawley, Reading on the Middle Border: The Culture of Print in Late Nineteenth Century Osage, Iowa by Christine Pawley.” The Library Quarterly 74.2 (2004): 223-224. 31 Jan 2013.

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