The Public Librarian in Modern London (1890-1914): the Case of Charles Goss at the Bishopsgate Institute

PhD Thesis

Johansen, Michelle 2006. The Public Librarian in Modern London (1890-1914): the Case of Charles Goss at the Bishopsgate Institute. PhD Thesis University of East London Raphael Samuel History Centre
AuthorsJohansen, Michelle
TypePhD Thesis

Charles Goss (1864-1946) was one among the pioneering set of librarians in charge of London's first wave of public libraries in the 1890s and early 1900s. He was chief librarian of Lewisham rate-assisted library in south-east London from 1891 until 1897 when he moved to the Bishopsgate
Institute, a charitable library and cultural institution situated on the border of the City and the East End. Goss remained in charge at the Institute until 1941. In 1895, he co-founded the Society of Public Librarians (SPL), a group of thirty-plus London Chief and Deputy Public Librarians who
met monthly until 1930 to discuss professional issues and offer mutual support and friendship.

Using the writings of Goss, the SPL archive, public library records and library journals, this thesis describes the occupational experience of this set of librarians. It also examines their treatment in the secondary material on public library development. Because of their stance during an intraprofessional dispute over how readers should access the material on the library shelves (the socalled open access debates), Goss and his SPL colleagues have been marginalised in library historiography. The thesis revisits and assesses their standpoint during the open access contest. It then uses their professional experience as a means of accessing wider historical debates around social class and identity.

According to profession and income, this group of men were lower-middle class. Expressed more precisely, however, Goss and his SPL colleagues were at the mid-point of a journey from the working to the middle class. The thesis attends to the duality of their class location. Informed by
the occupational identity they collectively favoured, it provides a nuanced assessment of 'lower middle', an assessment which accommodates elements of working-class comradeship and modes of expression alongside the middle-class attributes more usually associated with this subaltern class fraction.

KeywordsCharles Goss; Library history; Lower middle class
Publication dates
PrintNov 2006
Publication process dates
Deposited16 Jan 2014
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