Tom Glynn is Anglo-American History and Political Science Selector in the Alexander Library at Rutgers University Libraries. This interview is based on his new book, Reading Publics: New York City’s Public Libraries, 1754-1911 (Fordham University Press, January 2015).
JF: What led you to write Reading Publics?
TG: I came to the history of American libraries by way of American labor history. My first article was on the Apprentices’ Library of the City of New York. That led to research on other libraries in the city in the nineteenth century and prompted me to explore what they held in common, what goals and values the Apprentices’ Library shared with, for example, the Mercantile Library Association, a library for young clerks. The book really began to take shape when I started to think about the contemporary use of the term public library to refer to these privately funded, privately managed institutions.
JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Reading Publics?
JF: Why do we need to read Reading Publics?
JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?
TG: I became a librarian before I became an historian. After I started my first job in an academic library, I joined a Ph.D. program, in part for the challenge and in part to be a better librarian. Later I wrote a book on the history of early public libraries in New York City for essentially the same reasons.
JF: What is your next project?
TG: I’m not sure. I’m very interested in the history of reading and also in detective fiction in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It would be fun to find something that combines those interests.