Date of Award

May 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Urban Studies

First Advisor

Amanda I. Seligman

Committee Members

Anne E. Dressel, Marcus L. Britton


branch libraries, development, expansion, public libraries, racial inequality


By the second half of the 20th century, public libraries expanded their reach across American cities and transformed the urban landscape. With almost 10,000 libraries in U.S. cities by 1960, new library development was at an all-time high. Despite this success, few scholars have analyzed these critical changes. Since the historical scholarship on library development is limited, this thesis analyzes the history of public library development in Milwaukee during the 1960s and 1970s. The goals of community engagement and partnership through city-wide circulation of material guided the development of branch library construction under the Ten-Year Library Plan of 1962 to 1971. This thesis demonstrates that the creation of branch libraries in Milwaukee was interconnected to the existence of racial inequality and changing racial demographics in the social, political, and economic context of the African American population in the 1960s and 1970s in Milwaukee. Site and budget decisions made in this context had long-term consequences for the nine new branch libraries in Milwaukee.