With the pervasive nature of the Cold War, it seems inevitable that cultural institutions like libraries would be dragged into the ideological conflict between the United States and Soviet Union. From the dissemination of ideological literature in overseas libraries to censorship in libraries at home, libraries figured into several developments in the early years of the conflict. In this war of ideas, cultural exchanges were a part of the political diplomatic strategy taking place beginning in the late 1950s.
Research libraries in the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. had a precedent of exchange agreements for books and periodicals that originated decades before the mid-20th century, but the Lacy-Zaroubin Agreement of 1958 provided for the exchange of people as well as scientific, educational, and cultural information. There were many motivations for these cultural exchanges, including the acquisition of knowledge from the other countries (scientific, technical, and intelligence-related), the opportunity to demonstrate of each nation’s superiority, and to increase understanding between the two peoples. In 1961, there was an exchange of librarian delegations between the two nations, who each spent 28 days touring different libraries and cultural institutions within those countries. The librarians hoped to open communications and develop relationships with their Soviet peers and to learn techniques from the other country that could be applied in their respective libraries.
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