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The Nation's Great Library: Herbert Putnam and the Library of Congress, 1899-1939

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Before the late nineteenth century, American libraries were primarily small and isolated storehouses of material. By 1899, when Herbert Putnam became the Librarian of Congress, those storehouses were evolving into centers of learning. With his expertise in organization and his desire to create a national library, Putnam transformed the Library of Congress into a world-renowned cultural institution and promoted American librarianship as a full-fledged profession. When Putnam defined the national role of the Library, he made it clear that LC would extend its services not only to Congress but also to scholars, researchers, and other libraries. At the same time, librarians across the country sought recognition for their work and were eager to cooperate with each other to serve users. Putnam linked LC with the rapidly growing library community. His Library of Congress card service created a unified cataloging system. He worked in conjunction with the American Library Association to fill librarians' needs and increased efficiency and communication across the profession that ultimately provided comprehensive service to the public.

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