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USIS Libraries

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 4 months ago

From Dizard Jr., Wilson. "Telling America's Story." American Heritage 54(2003): 41-48., Berry III., John N.. "Librarians are Diplomats." Library Journal 128(2003): 12-20., Berry III., John N.. "Librarians are Diplomats." Library Journal 128(2003): 12-20., Lewis, Mark. "SHELVING ACCESS TO USIA LIBRARIES ABROAD." American Libraries 28(1997): 49-50., Berry III., John N.. "Propaganda, the USIA, and the ALA." Library Journal 111(1989): 4., Richards, Pamela Spence. "Cold War Librarianship: Soviet and American Library Activities in Support of National Foreign Policy, 1946-1991." Libraries & Culture 36(2001): 193-104. and http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/usia/



The United States Information Agency (USIA) was formed by President Eisenhower in 1953. The USIA was designed to support American foreign policy and interest by means of various international programs. One of these programs was the overseas libraries called United States Information Service (USIS) libraries. Most of the libraries were previously run by the Office of War Information and were established during WWII. The USIA and its libraries became part of the State Department in 1999. As of 1999 there were 190 USIA posts in 142 countries. There are various opinions about the purposes and goals of these libraries some of which still exist today. Some people regard them disseminators of American propaganda while other see them as places of education and democratic access.


Shortly after the USIA took control of the overseas libraries Senator Joseph McCarthy accused the libraries of containing pro- Communist books and as a result the USIA changed its criteria for book acquisition. Approval was based on how well the book supported U.S. policy, U.S. reaction to the book, the books acceptability to other cultures and whether it would be comprehensible to them. These standards became even more stringent after the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. During the 50s and 60s USIS libraries were attacked frequently because of their promotion of U.S. policy. Some installations are even attacked today. During the 70s and 80s USIS library collections became more diverse but often this meant that access was limited to people like scholars and journalists. In 1986, U.S. District Judge Wallace Tashima ruled that the USIA had illegally censored films in its libraries and as a result was ordered to change its practices so they would be true to the first and fifth Amendments. As of 1997 many USIS libraries have been turned into electronic information service based Information Resource Centers (IRC) which were intended to be more cost effective than the traditional libraries that they replaced.


By Ruby LeGault

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