A new AHRC-funded international research network on Community Libraries aims to establish a dynamic, interdisciplinary research forum to investigate the role of libraries in shaping communities in the long eighteenth century. Developed by Dr Mark Towsey (University of Liverpool) together with partners at Loyola University Chicago, the Newberry Library, and Dr Williams’s Library (London), the Network will explain the emergence of libraries in the ‘public sphere’ between 1650 and 1850. We will assess the contribution made by libraries to the circulation and reception of print of all kinds, and to the forging of collective identities amongst local, national, and international communities of readers. In addition, the network aims to explore the emergence of libraries in comparative perspective, asking how far models of library provision and administration were disseminated, discussed, imitated, and challenged as they travelled between different social environments and political regimes. 

The Network will organise three two-day colloquia in the UK and the US. Each colloquium will focus on a specific theme, and will feature methodological workshops, work-in-progress presentations, pre-circulated papers, and roundtables.

Colloquium 1: Libraries in the Atlantic World, to be held in Liverpool on 24-25 January, 2014

Colloquium 2: Digital Approaches to Library History, to be held in Chicago on 30 May-1 June, 2014

Colloquium 3: Libraries in the Community, to be held in London on 23-24 January 2015

The project team invites initial expressions of interest from scholars interested in any element of the Community Libraries research programme. If you feel you can make a significant contribution to any or all of our colloquia, please send abstracts of 500 words, together with a brief summary of your research interests and career to date, to the Principal Investigator Dr Mark Towsey (towsey@liverpool.ac.uk) by 1 September 2013. For further information, please visit our website at www.communitylibraries.net.