University of Chicago Graduate Library School

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The University of Chicago Graduate Library School (GLS) was established in 1928 to develop a program for the graduate education of librarians with a focus on research.[1] Housed for a time in the Joseph Regenstein Library, the GLS closed in 1989.[2] GLS faculty were among the most prominent researchers in librarianship in the twentieth century. Alumni of the school continue to make an impact on the profession; in February 2016 Carla Hayden was nominated by President Obama to serve as Librarian of Congress.


Early in the 20th century, the Carnegie Corporation of New York began offering grants to change the direction of library education and scholarship. Of particular interest was the creation of an institution analogous to the Harvard Law School or the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The result was a sensation: the 1926 endowment of a research-oriented program offering only the Ph.D. degree,[3] With an emphasis on investigation fostered among students, studies conducted and conferences held at GLS provided a center for intellectual inquiry in the development of 20th century librarianship. The Library Quarterly, a scholarly journal focused on research, was launched in 1931 to provide an outlet for the publication of rigorous research.

Structure and focus

The Graduate Library School (GLS) at the University of Chicago changed the structure and focus of education for librarianship in the twentieth century. Funded by the Carnegie Corporation [4] the GLS set forth policies to establish an institution to educate students imbued with the spirit of investigation. Prior to establishment of the GLS education for librarians had been an apprenticeship model.[5] Douglas Waples wrote of the policies that would differentiate “The Graduate Library School at Chicago” from schools in the apprenticeship mode.

  1. The most important single responsibility of the School is to meet the standards of scholarship and research maintained by other graduate departments of the University, both in the character of work undertaken by the staff and by the research interests of its graduates.
  2. The major aim is research, defined as "extending the existing body of factual knowledge concerning the values and procedures of libraries in their many aspects, and including the development of methods of investigation whereby significant data are obtained, tested, and applied."
  3. The School can afford to take whatever time may be necessary for the definition and thorough investigation of fundamental problems.
  4. The School allows other library schools to assume the responsibility for passing on to their students a body of principles and practices that have been found useful in the conduct of libraries. Such training is not a function of this School, but is an essential prerequisite for admission.
  5. The School is primarily interested in a student body composed of persons attracted by the research facilities of the University as a whole and qualified by previous training and experience to undertake the investigation of problems significant to scholarship.
  6. Not all of the studies undertaken by the School need be confined to research in its restricted meaning of "search for abstract principles." In many instances, they may more properly be called service studies, studies intended to increase the effectiveness of library service.
  7. A deliberate attempt should be made to integrate the work of each student on the side of his library interest with the field or fields of related knowledge. Hence, fixed curricula and the building of high fences about intensive professional interests are both inappropriate.
  8. The School should concentrate its efforts upon adding to the profession each year a few students who are thoroughly imbued with the spirit of investigation. Hence, the student body should probably never exceed five students to each staff member and should be confined as soon as possible to students who are candidates for the Doctor's degree or who are conducting studies that meet the accepted standards of the Doctor's thesis in respect to the methods of investigation employed.
  9. An important function of the School is the preparation, collection, and publication of monographs whereby the results of significant studies are made available to the library profession.[6]

John V. Richardson, Jr.[7] has written of the establishment and the first 30 years of the GLS.

Joyce M. Latham has written of the role of GLS faculty in the development of the Chicago Public Library noting "In their final report on the status of CPL, A Metropolitan Library in Action, Carleton B. Joeckel and Leon Carnovsky devoted significant attention to the role of the public library in adult education." [8]

A list of the Dissertations, Theses, and Papers demonstrates the range of early inquiry.[9]

The faculty of the GLS were innovators in the use of computers for library functions. In 1982 Don Swanson described the Microsystem for Interactive Bibliographuic Searching (MIRABILIS) for the general library community in Library Journal [10]


Faculty who taught at the GLS included many scholars who conducted foundational research in librarianship including Lester Asheim, Abraham Bookstein,[11] Lee Pierce Butler, Leon Carnovsky, Margaret Egan, Sara I. Fenwick, Herman H. Fussler, Frances E. Henne, Carleton B. Joeckel, W. Boyd Rayward, Jesse Shera, Don R. Swanson, Peggy Sullivan, Zena Sutherland,[12] Tsuen-hsuin Tsien,[13] Robert W. Wadsworth, Douglas Waples, Louis Round Wilson,[14] Howard W. Winger, and Victor Yngve. Louis Round Wilson's tenure as professor and dean from 1932-1942 has been viewed as the golden age of education for librarianship [15]


The conferences and studies conducted at the University of Chicago Graduate Library School provided a locus for intellectual discussion of topics central to the development of 20th century librarianship. The annual conferences were organized by various faculty members and the proceedings published by the University of Chicago Press. Some of the annual conferences do not include the conference designation in the title. Some libraries treated the University of Chicago studies in library science as a periodical, others as monographs. Some of the series were monographs. Some were monographs based on dissertations. Taken together the University of Chicago studies in library science provide an expansive examination of the development of the discipline.

The list below is representative for historians of librarianship of the broad scope of change that took place at GLS.

  • Swanson, Don R. The Role of Libraries in the Growth of Knowledge: Proceedings of the Fortieth Conference of the Graduate Library School, May 18–19, 1979. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.
  • Swanson, Don R. The Intellectual Foundations of Library Education: The Twenty-Ninth Annual Conference of the Graduate Library School,July 6–8, 1964. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1965.
  • Ennis, Philip H, and Howard W. Winger. Seven Questions About the Profession of Librarianship: The Twenty-Sixth Annual Conference of the Graduate Library School, June 21–23, 1961. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962.
  • Lester Eugene Asheim. The Core of Education for Librarianship; A Report of a Workshop Held Under the Auspices of the Graduate Library School of the University of Chicago, August 10–15, 1953. Chicago: American Library Association, 1954.
  • Wilson, Louis R. The Geography of Reading: A Study of the Distribution and Status of Libraries in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1938.
  • Joeckel, Carleton B. The Government of the American Public Library. Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press, 1935.

The Library Quarterly

The faculty of the Graduate Library School established the journal, The Library Quarterly in 1931. The work of the GLS faculty to establish a scholarly journal focused on research has been carefully detailed by Steve Norman.[16]

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books was established in 1945 at the Graduate Library School by Frances E. Henne[17]


GLS stopped accepting new students in 1989 when the university shifted its resources to focus on an information studies research program. This change was announced in February 1989 by Acting Dean Don R. Swanson.[18] The University of Chicago Library administration functions as a connection with GLS alumni and publishes a newsletter.[19]


  1. Association of American Library Schools. New Frontiers in Librarianship; Proceedings of the Special Meeting of the Association of American Library Schools and the Board of Education for Librarianship of the American Library Association in Honor of the University of Chicago and the Graduate Library School, December 30, 1940. [Chicago]: The Graduate library school, the University of Chicago, 1941.
  2. "Chicago GLS to close." Library Journal 114, (February 15, 1989): 111.
  3. Buckland, Michael. "Documentation, Information Science and Library Science in the USA." Information Processing and Management 32, no. 1 (1996): 63-76.
  4. F. P. Keppel (1931). "The Carnegie Corporation and the Graduate Library School: A Historical Outline". The Library Quarterly. 1 (1): 22–25. doi:10.1086/612840.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Shera, Jesse Hauk. 1972. The foundations of education for librarianship. New York: Becker and Hayes.
  6. Douglas Waples (1931). "The Graduate Library School at Chicago". The Library Quarterly. 1 (1): 26–36. doi:10.1086/612842.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Richardson, J.V. (1982). The Spirit of Inquiry: The Graduate Library School at Chicago, 1921- 51. Chicago: American Library Association.
  8. Latham, J. M. (2011). Memorial Day to Memorial Library: The South Chicago Branch Library as cultural terrain, 1937–1947. Libraries & the Cultural Record, 46(3), 321–342.
  9. Dissertation, Theses, and Papers of the Graduate Library School, University of Chicago, 1930-1945: A Bibliography. , 1946. Print.
  10. Swanson, Don R. 1982. "Miracles, Microcomputers, and Librarians". Library Journal. 107, no. 11: 1055-59.
  11. "Congestion at Card and Book Catalogs: A Queuing-Theory Approach. The Library QuarterlyVol. 42, No. 3 (Jul., 1972), pp. 316-328
  12. "Zena Sutherland, 86, Expert On Literature for Children" New York Times June 15, 2002.
  13. Tsien, Tsuen-hsuin. Written on Bamboo and Silk; The Beginnings of Chinese Books and Inscriptions. University of Chicago Press, 1962.
  14. Jesse H. Shera," 'The Spirit Giveth Life': Louis Round Wilson and Chicago's Graduate Library School." The Journal of Library History 14, No. 1 (Winter, 1979), pp. 77-83.
  15. Shera, Jesse Hauk. "The Spirit Giveth Life": Louis Round Wilson and Chicago's Graduate Library School. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979.
  16. Steve Norman (1988). "The Library Quarterly in the 1930s: a journal of discussion's early years". The Library Quarterly. 58: 327–351. doi:10.1086/602047.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Wedgeworth, Robert. World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services. Chicago: American Library Association, 1993, p.346.
  18. "Chicago GLS to close." Library Journal 114, (February 15, 1989): 111.
  19. "Welcome Graduate Library School Alumni." June 2011.