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Publishing American values: The Franklin Book Programs as Cold War cultural diplomacy

. Library Trends 55 (3): 638--650 (2007)

Abstract

In 1951 librarians from the American Library Association's Interna- tional Relations Committee and publishers from the American Book Publishers Council Foreign Trade Committee met at the Library of Congress to discuss how to meet the "need for books in develop- ing countries." The nonprofit Franklin Book Programs they estab- lished existed from 1952 until 1978 and helped to make possible the publication of some 3,000 titles in languages such as Arabic, Urdu, Bengali, Indonesian, and Portuguese; involved the intelligentsia of each country in the process of book selection and translation; and established both a publishing infrastructure and a market for U.S. books in areas where there had been none. Why were these countries and languages chosen? Was the decision to establish a nonprofit or- ganization that could accept funding from the federal government a result of concerns about Cold War censorship? Was the decision another manifestation of librarians' and publishers' assertions of the importance of free access to ideas as a counter to communist ideology? Was it a way to build an international market for American values or American publishers? This research uses archival sources and oral history to explore the motives and actions of behind the Franklin Book Programs.

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