The American public library is a political institution. Acknowledging the political status of public libraries allows for the adoption of the historical-institutional frames of political sociologist Elisabeth Clemens for analysis of libraries' early history. Drawing on the archives of the American Library Association and the Wisconsin Free Library Commission, this project details the actions of librarian Julia Wright Merrill as an example of alternative political advocacy in play in the early twentieth century. Merrill drew on a repertoire of political strategies as a means of developing an interest group of public librarians in active pursuit of national visibility and federal funding. The progress of that particular strategy began in 1925, spearheaded by the American Library Association's Public Library Extension Committee and its secretary, Julia Wright Merrill. It culminated with the passage of the Library Services Act of 1956, which provided federal funding opportunities to American public libraries for outreach to rural communities.

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