Skip to main content

Josephine Adams Rathbone Papers

Identifier: MC-007

Scope and Contents

The Josephine Adams Rathbone Papers contain various items including correspondence, selected writings, notes, speeches, library publications, photographs and miscellaneous materials. Of the records present, most deal with Rathbone’s professional life at Pratt Institute, where she served as Vice-Director of the Library School. These records give insight into the structure of the Library School during her tenure, as well as the library world at this time. Included also is numerous scholarly works and discussions about the library environment and pedagogy. These works help elaborate her thoughts surrounding what a library should be and what a library science education should encompass.


  • Creation: 1909 - 1949
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1928 - 1940


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to the public.

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, contact the Institute Archivist, Pratt Institute Library at

Biographical / Historical

Josephine Adams Rathbone is believed by many to be one of the pioneers of library science education. In the course of her life, she would involve herself in numerous aspects of the library world and help shape the definition of a library and that of a librarian. While working at Pratt Institute during the course of her professional career, Rathbone also found herself highly involved within professional organizations. Over the course her career, she would develop a reputation as the person whose “personality and unusual ability would keep… the library school flourishing.”

Born in 1864, Josephine Adams Rathbone began her career at Pratt in 1893 immediately after graduating from the New York Library School in Albany. Her first position was that of an assistant cataloger in the Pratt Library. By 1895, she was Chief Instructor in the Pratt Library School, a position she would hold until 1911. In that year, she would become Vice-Director after Mary Plummer’s resignation. During her thirty-year tenure as Vice-Director, Ms. Rathbone virtually ran the Library School despite being subordinate to the Director, Edward Stevens. Her active position within the library allowed her much leeway within the political environment at Pratt Institute. As Vice-Director she would be responsible for not only administrative duties, but also admissions, student evaluations, class trips and teaching courses that ranged from book selection to reference and classification work. Rathbone was also instrumental in placing her graduates with jobs and evaluating the adequacy of the program.

During those years as Vice-Director, she also became involved with such professional organizations as the Association of American Library Schools and the American Library Association (ALA), which she served as president in 1931-1932. She would also stay active within the immediate New York library community by serving in the New York Library Association and the New Library Club. Often she participated in luncheons at these organizations and gave speeches and advice on the state of the profession. Up to her death in 1941, she continued her involvement in numerous library-related activities. With her proactive stance toward librarianship, Ms. Rathbone developed a strong reputation throughout the profession.


0.75 Linear Feet (3 boxes)

Language of Materials



Josephine Adams Rathbone was one of the pioneers of American library science education and spent her career as instructor, vice-director, and director of the Library School at Pratt Institute. She was also heavily involved with professional organizations such as the Association of American Library Schools, the American Library Association, the New York Library Association, and the New York Library Club. Her papers consist of professional and personal correspondence, published and unpublished writings, speeches, and miscellaneous administrative records from 1909 to 1949.


The records are arranged in six series, two of which have been further arranged in subseries. Materials within the series and subseries are arranged chronologically.

The series and subseries arrangement of the records is as follows:

Series 1: Incoming Correspondence, 1929-1938

1.1: Professional, 1929-1938 1.2: Personal, 1932

Series 2: Outgoing Correspondence, 1928-1940

2.1: Professional, 1928-1940 2.2: Personal, 1932

Series 3: Writings, 1913-1949, undated

Series 4: Speeches, 1909-1938, undated

Series 5: Library Publications, 1913-1937

Series 6: Miscellaneous, 1914-1934


No further accruals are expected.

Related Materials

Records of the School of Information and Library Science (PI-001)

Pratt Institute Archives Photograph Collection

Harmful Language Statement

If you encounter any pejorative language (i.e. racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic) or content in the finding aids or within the content of the collection, please send an email to with the relevant details. For more information about how the Pratt Institute Libraries are addressing offensive language and content across its catalogs and databases, please see the Libraries' Harmful Language Statement:

Processing Information

This collection was processed and finding aid written by Brian Cross, December 2004, with modifications by Paul Schlotthauer in July 2007, and Cristina Fontánez Rodríguez in March 2020. Descriptive Rules Used: Finding aid adheres to that prescribed by Describing Archives: A Content Standard. Finding aid written in English.

Guide to the Josephine Adams Rathbone Papers
Brian Cross, December 2004, with modifications by Paul Schlotthauer in July 2007
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Pratt Institute Archives Repository

200 Willoughby Avenue
Brooklyn NY 11205 United States