From inferno to freedom: Censorship in the Chicago public library, 1910–1936

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In the first decades of the twentieth century, the Chicago Public Library employed a brand of casual candid censorship embraced by its peers. In 1910 the Chicago Tribune favorably reported on a so-called “Book Inferno” in the library; a metaphorical pit where works of questionable merit were hidden from immature readers. Patrons, especially juveniles, needed to convince a librarian of their honorable intentions before being granted access to works in the Inferno. By 1936, the same institution issued a forceful Intellectual Freedom statement that affirmed the right, and the obligation, of the library to provide access to books on any subject of interest to its readers, including controversial works. An examination of the treatment accorded controversial works in the Chicago Public Library in the decades preceding the 1936 Intellectual Freedom statement reveals both continuity and change in attitudes towards censorship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-41
Number of pages15
JournalLibrary Trends
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Library and Information Sciences


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