Taming the Mob: the Early Public Library and the Creation of Good Citizens

  • Natasha Gerolami Huntington University
Keywords: philosophy of libraries, philosophy of libraries, Gilles Deleuze, Gilles Deleuze, discourse analysis, discourse analysis, history of public libraries, history of public libraries, disciplinary society, disciplinary society


The article examines the principles upon which the public library operated in the 19th and early 20th Century. Gilles Deleuze’s philosophic work on the disciplinary and control societies is used as a theoretical framework to highlight the forms of governance that have been used in the last couple centuries. A discourse analysis is conducted of sample articles from the first forty years of the Library Journal. The article documents how librarians played a role in normalizing patron behaviour by associating the concept of the good citizen with a series of practices, including reading, abstention from the consumption of alcohol, homogeneity, order, acceptance of class status, and self-reliance.

Author Biography

Natasha Gerolami, Huntington University

Associate Librarian

Theory and Research