Canonicity and the American Public Library: The Case of American Women Writers

Document Type




Format of Original

23 p.

Publication Date

Spring 2012


Johns Hopkins University Press

Source Publication

Library Trends

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

doi: 10.1353/lib.2012.0017


Beginning with an overview of the debate over American women writers and the academic canon, this essay inventories four clusters of American women writers—domestic novelists, regionalists, modernists, and writers of diverse ethnicities—within a representative sampling of small-town public libraries across the Midwest from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. The survey reveals some surprising disjunctures that run counter to trends in the academy. It also highlights the role publishers and bibliographers have played in establishing favored texts for a general readership and demonstrates that publishers of literary classics and bibliographies geared toward librarians have not always promoted the same texts as their academic counterparts. On the whole, it concludes, women writers fared quite well in the hands of publishers and public libraries promoting “the classics” at the same time that they suffered at the hands of major textbook publishers and scholarly editors intent on defining “the canon.”


Library Trends, Vol. 60, No. 4 (Spring, 2012): 706-28. DOI: 10.1353/lib.2012.0017.