For my Project X exploration, I set out to expand what I know about Eric Klinenberg’s Palaces for the People, which is shown and mentioned in our Hyperlinked Library Model overview. Since I didn’t know a lot about it, I was hoping to simply expand my knowledge about his book’s premise.
(Penguin Random House, 2019)
What I didn’t expect was to go on a Hyperlinked journey that led me to make a couple of surprising discoveries.
First of all, Klinenberg’s book establishes that restoring robust social infrastructure—places for people to spend time in person with others in their communities—is as powerfully important as the infrastructure for energy, communications, and transit, and shouldn’t be ignored (Klinenberg, 2018). Social infrastructure combats many problems that are weakening our society, including loneliness and isolation, crime, inequality, natural disasters, political divisiveness, too much screen time, and much more (Klinenberg, 2018). If you think about it, having good social infrastructure can also make our other infrastructure work better because people doing things together often share resources.
Carnegie Library, Dallas, Texas (Anderson, 2023)
Libraries serve as a bedrock of civil society, Klinenberg asserts (Klinenberg, 2018). The term “Palaces for the People” came from a name used often for the thousands of early Carnegie Libraries in the media, and the reason for that was and is that libraries see the nobility and potential of all their users, they trust their patrons and have faith in them, and are at their service for free to help them elevate themselves (Klinenberg, 2018).
(Reading Agency, 2023)
My favorite part of the book is one librarian’s story about patrons who were at his library every morning reading the news, and how he began serving tea and cookies daily to them. These patrons began to socialize as they sat together daily reading their morning newspapers and having tea, and the tradition elevated the gatherings to a true Palace for the People. He said the profound impact Tea-Time had creating relationships and community and an elevated atmosphere, made him come to see it as one of the most important parts of his job (Klinenberg, 2018).
(Thornbury Library, 2023)
Another wonderful story in the book illustrating how much libraries can help users, was about a new mother in her late 30s who was suffering isolation and loneliness after being used to working outside the home, and who was feeling depressed, incompetent, and anxious. Going to the local library daily changed everything. It brought her into contact with lots of other moms who could advise her, cheered her up, gave her friendships, and she even got to observe a wonderful nanny with her charges, making her decision to return to work later on easier because she knew a nanny would be a good alternative when she wasn’t home (Klinenberg, 2018). The library transformed a low point in her life into a wonderful, enriched time that broadened her social world, increased her expertise and confidence, and introduced her to new choices that helped her succeed in life doing what she dreamed of doing. Other stories of elderly people forming friendships and having fun together at the library made clear libraries really are palaces for the people.
Eric Klinenberg (Miller, 2012)
When I had finished browsing through the whole book, I wanted to know more about the author, Eric Klinenberg. I instantly noticed that the name of the K-12 school he had attended was hyperlinked (Wikipedia, 2023). The Francis W. Parker School has a philosophy that aims to support children’s growth and development by making them aware of and responsive to the fundamental needs of society (Parker. 2023). That’s really what Klinenberg’s book is about, the fundamental needs of human society—and that’s what libraries are about– social infrastructure focused on serving the community.
Francis W. Parker (Wikipedia, 2023)
What’s interesting about this school and the impact it had on Klinenberg’s thinking, is it was founded by one of the cofounders of Progressive Education in America, Francis W. Parker (1837-1902). Parker’s colleague who co-founded Progressive Education in America was a prominent intellectual named John Dewey. I checked whether he was related to Melville Dewey, and while answers online say no one has found any evidence to suggest they were related, I’m a local history fanatic and I love to find links between historic figures. I spent some time comparing their respective ancestral lines and established that they are in fact related–they shared a common emigrant ancestor, Thomas Dewey (1606-1648), who came from England as a dissenting Puritan and settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony circa 1630 (Dewey, 2017). He was Melville’s sixth great grandfather, and John’s fifth great grandfather, even though Melville (1851-1931) was slightly older than John (1859-1952).
John Dewey (Wikipedia, 2023)
What’s really interesting about this other Dewey, is that John Dewey was a hugely popular and praised major philosopher and thinker known around the world–China considered him “a second Confucius!” (Gibbon, 2019). He was a university professor, wrote 37 books and 766 articles for 150 journals, and travelled the world helping countries improve their educational systems (Gibbon, 2019). Looking into his theories, I discovered that in his landmark work, “My Pedagogic Creed,” he insisted that human beings are wired to be social, craving group activity and connections (Gibbon, 2019). A look at Dewey’s theories shows that across the board he believed in many of the same things we are talking about in this class. Discovery experiences. Constant change. Lifelong learning. Community. Input from those served.
Parker School: Learning by Experience (Parker, 2023)
This is a list of some of the basics of Progressive Education (Wikipedia, 2023)—do you see some that ring a bell?
• Integrated curriculum focused on thematic units
• Strong emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking
• Group work and development of social skills
• Understanding and action as the goals of learning as opposed to rote knowledge
• Collaborative and cooperative learning projects
• Education for social responsibility and democracy
• Integration of community service and service-learning projects into the daily curriculum
• Selection of subject content by looking forward to ask what skills will be needed in future society
• De-emphasis on textbooks in favor of varied learning resources
• Emphasis on lifelong learning and social skills
Progressive NY School in 1942 or modern Library Maker Space?
My Hyperlinked journey through Klinenberg’s book and his school, its founder, the founder’s education theorist colleague, and their educational approach, brought me full circle, right back to Library 2.0, looking at an almost matching model—by Melville Dewey’s cousin! What are the odds?
Parker School or The Bubbler at Madison Library? (Parker, 2023)
I’m really excited about what I learned about Klinenberg’s Palaces for the People theory, and also about John Dewey and Progressive Education’s similarity to Library 2.0 and the Hyperlinked Library Model, and can’t wait to learn more about both. I think the library field may want to take a good look into John Dewey’s theories and Progressive Education, because they seem to have a lot in common with Library 2.0, and since many of the ideas were implemented and evaluated for decades by thousands of different educators, including Parker in his school and Dewey in an education lab for several years, they could provide us insights that could help us implement our own similar ideas to make libraries community hubs of lifelong learning.
In future I will definitely be thinking of the library as social infrastructure and looking for ways to build a more thriving lifelong learning community using the ideas I’ve learned about.
John Dewey’s 90th Birthday (Gibbon, 2019)
Anderson, C. S. (2023). Carnegie Library, Dallas, Texas [Vintage Postcard]. Flickr. Vintage postcard: Carnegie Library, downtown Dallas, Texas… | Flickr
Dewey, M. (2017). Thomas Dewey. ThomasDewey.org. Thomas Dewey, The Settler, 1606-1648
Gibbon, P. (2019, Spring). John Dewey: Portrait of a progressive thinker. Humanities, (40)2. https://www.neh.gov/article/john-dewey-portrait-progressive-thinker
Klinenberg, E. (2018). Palaces for the people : How social infrastructure can help fight inequality, polarization, and the decline of civic life. Crown.
Miller, B. (2012, March 5). Eric Klinenberg. Seattle Weekly. Eric Klinenberg | Seattle Weekly
Parker. (2023). About: History. fwparker.org. Parker | Chicago | History (fwparker.org)
Reading Agency. (2023).Reading friends reading aloud. Reading Friends. Reading Friends Reading Aloud – Reading Friends
Thornbury Library. (2023). Reading. MyThornbury. Thornbury Library – MyThornbury
Wikipedia. (2023). Eric Klinenberg. Wikipedia. Eric Klinenberg – Wikipedia
Wikipedia. (2023). Francis Wayland Parker. Wikipedia. Francis Wayland Parker – Wikipedia
Wikipedia. (2023). Progressive Education. Wikipedia. Progressive education – Wikipedia
Some interesting links for further reading:
About John Dewey: John Dewey – Wikipedia
About Francis W. Parker: Francis Wayland Parker – Wikipedia
Great profile on Dewey and his theories: John Dewey | Biography, Philosophy, Pragmatism, & Education | Britannica
About John Dewey’s views, including change as a constant: John Dewey – Instrumentalism | Britannica
A Brief Overview of Progressive Education: https://www.uvm.edu/~dewey/articles/proged.html
An excellent article about John Dewey: https://www.neh.gov/article/john-dewey-portrait-progressive-thinker
If you’re interested in how Melville Dewey and John Dewey are related, I’ll list my findings below and add the link for each on Geni, where you can explore their family tree by clicking on the hyperlinks. If you go to the bottom of the Geni pages, there is often a lot of interesting information about the individual.
Melville Dewey (1851-1931) > Joel Dewey (1810-1889) > David Dewey (1786-1827) > Eleazar Dewey (1761-1824) > Aaron Dewey (1734-1805) > Jonathan Dewey (1710-1759) > John Dewey (b. 1669) > Deacon Josiah Randall Dewey (1641-1732) > Thomas Dewey (1606-1648)
Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey (1851 – 1931) – Genealogy (geni.com)
John Dewey (1859-1952) > Archibald Sprague Dewey (1811-1890) > Archibald Dewey (1764-1812) > Martin Dewey (1740-1763) > Martin Dewey > (1716-1763) Jedediah Dewey (1676-1728) > Ensign Jedediah Dewey (1647-1718) > Thomas Dewey (1606-1648)
John Dewey (1859 – 1952) – Genealogy (geni.com)
A few interesting Dewey family history links to explore:
Thomas Dewey, The Settler, 1606-1648
Thomas Dewey Family (josfamilyhistory.com)
The NY governor & presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey, whose paternal line goes straight back to Thomas Dewey the emigrant b. 1606:
Thomas Edmund Dewey, Sr. (1902 – 1971) – Genealogy (geni.com)
James Dewey Watson (1928 – living), Nobel Prize Winner for co-discovering the DNA double-helix. Another brilliant offspring of Thomas Dewey the emigrant b. 1606, who like his cousin Melville, got “cancelled.” (I won’t list his family tree since he’s living.)