... presents a fascinating, and until now little-known, story. Writing in an engaging style, Ms. Peiss synthesizes an array of historical details, intriguing personalities and byzantine bureaucratic divisions into a coherent narrative. She explains how heroic librarians not only aided the war effort—delivering intelligence about fascist technology, propaganda and infrastructure—but also altered the practice of librarianship, ushering in an era of mass foreign acquisitions and widespread microfilm use, as well as giving urgent focus to the rapid extraction of vital information rather than the simple storage of data. The history of librarianship isn’t as quiet as some of us might believe.
Peiss argues that the work of the LCM advanced the practice of library science, creating new techniques, technologies, and processes to improve the field. The author is not, however, uncritical of the LCM’s ethical and privacy practices ... This well-written and astutely researched book makes the wartime work of librarians engaging and engrossing. Those fascinated by intelligence missions or keen on the history of library science will appreciate this excellent read.
Peiss has done stellar work unearthing the contributions of librarians and archivists in collecting and preserving documents in Europe, actions that aided the U.S. government in its efforts to end the war ... Exhaustively researched, this is a recommended read for librarians, archivists, and WWII buffs who want to discover a little-known contribution in Allied war efforts
Perhaps as a result of this attempt to gather disparate figures and missions together under the rubric of 'information hunters,' the author rarely goes deep, instead delivering a reasonably well-written but nevertheless unfocused account of wartime book-related activities. Some of the figures—most prominently the author’s uncle, Reuben Peiss, a librarian-turned-agent in Lisbon—recur, but far too many appear for a few pages and are never revisited. Though Peiss makes copious use of her subjects’ letters, few of them emerge as distinct enough characters to carry their parts of the narrative. The dizzying occurrence of initialisms—R&A, IDC, CIOS, SHAEF, MFAA, LCM, etc.—serves to further distance readers from the events described. Some individual portions are fascinating. The discussion of postwar censorship’s role in the denazification of Germany has (sadly unacknowledged) echoes in today’s conversations about literature and culture, and Peiss movingly explores the dilemma of how to make restitution to a nearly annihilated people. Overall, however, the author shows herself to be a diligent historian but a poor storyteller ... Unlikely to become another George Clooney vehicle.