Records of the School of Information and Library Science
Scope and Contents
Although the collection as a whole spans from 1886 to 2001, the bulk of the collection dates from 1895 to 1939. However, the only periods of time with a significant lack of documentation are the 1980s and from 2000 to present. General information about the library school for any years lacking documentation can be found in the Pratt Institute course catalogs.
This collection is comprised almost entirely of paper records that were both handwritten and typescript. Moreover, many of these paper records are original and carbon-copy correspondence that oftentimes has the initial letter attached to the reply. Other document types also included in this collection are bound volumes, loose publications, newspaper clippings, tri-fold reports and statements, financial accounts, lists, general notes, and one artifact. Photographs of the library school and its students can be found in the Pratt Institute Archives’ Image Collection.
The records from the library school’s archive were more extensive than vertical subject file documents, but their condition had suffered from improper storage that resulted in acidification and severe embrittlement. Thus, all documents within this collection should be handled with care and, when possible, facsimiles should be used.
- 1886 - 2001
- Majority of material found within 1895 - 1939
- Pratt Institute. School of Information (Organization)
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open to the public.
Conditions Governing Use
For permission to publish, contact the Archivist, Pratt Institute Library.
Biographical / Historical
The Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science is the oldest library school in continuous operation in the United States, established in June 1890 when the Pratt Institute Free Library began offering organized training classes in library economy and cataloging. Growing out of a need for trained library staff at the two branches of the Free Library, which was founded in January 1888, Margaret Healy directed the library and its new courses in the basement of Main Building. In 1890 Mary Wright Plummer, a graduate of Melvil Dewey’s Columbia Library School class of 1888, came to Pratt Institute to develop “skilled assistants.” Difficult entrance exams, a regular faculty— primarily composed of Free Library staff— and the designation as the Pratt Institute Library School, as well as Plummer’s appointment to director of the library and its school, marked a substantial change for the program in 1895. One year later, in 1896, the Library School moved to the new library designed by architect William Tubby.
The two branches of the Pratt Institute Free Library, which had provided both faculty and an environment for students to gain practical experience, remained in operation until 1903 when the Brooklyn Public Library was established. In 1904, Plummer separated the Library and the Library School, assuming the directorship of the school, but not the library. Under Plummer’s directorship, the school’s curriculum began to reflect the professionalization of librarianship and its name changed again in 1909 to the Pratt Institute School of Library Science.
In 1911, Plummer left the Institute to help establish the Carnegie Corporation-funded library school at the New York Public Library. In her place, Josephine Adams Rathbone became the Vice-Director of the library school, overseeing much of the administrative matters including interviewing and selecting students, reviewing coursework, and conducting the annual tour. Appointed at the same time as Rathbone, Edward Frances Stevens assumed directorship of both the library and school. Stevens, however, concentrated on managing the library. In 1923, the school became one of the first 13 library schools to be accredited by the American Library Association. Stevens and Rathbone remained director and vice director until 1938, with Harriet B. Gooch instructing the cataloging course and Justine E. Day serving as the school’s secretary throughout their tenure.
The year 1939 marked another significant change for the library school as William “Wayne” Shirley was appointed library director and dean with Agnes Camilla Hansen serving as associate director. Furthermore, the school began to confer Bachelor of Science degrees, allowing them to award prior graduates with retroactive degrees. In 1940, the School of Library Science became a graduate school and the library was no longer open to the public. In 1950, the school began awarding graduates Master of Library Science degrees.
Between 1955 and 1956, Rice Estes served as the school’s dean, followed by Louis D. Sass who held the position until 1968. In 1968, the school’s curriculum underwent another transformation under the new dean, Nasser Sharify. At this time, the school was designated as the Graduate School of Library and Information Science. For the first time since 1896, the library school moved into a new building on Pratt Institute’s Brooklyn campus. During the 1970s, some classes were held at the Pratt Manhattan Center and, later, the Puck Building. However, some classes remained at the Brooklyn campus library. Sharify, who led the development of the field of international librarianship, worked to change the school’s curriculum from an institutional approach to one that favored functional, comparative, and systems approaches. Sharify remained the school’s dean until 1987, but continued to teach courses as a Distinguished Professor and Dean Emeritus.
After 1987, the school went through a series of deans: S. Michael Malinconico (1987-1988), Seoud M. Matta (acting-dean 1989-1992, dean 1992-1999), Anne Woodsworth (1999-2001), and Marie Radford (acting-dean 2002-2004). The current dean, Tula Giannini, was appointed in 2005 and has shifted the school’s focus to the emerging field of digital humanities. In 1995 the school became known as the School of Information and Library Science and in 2002 the school relocated all classes to its current location in Manhattan at 144 West 14th Street.
For a detailed history of the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science and its curriculum prior to 1978, see Nasser Sharify’s “The Pratt Institute Graduate School of Library and Information Science” in the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Volume 23, pages 145-170.
8 Linear Feet (20 boxes, 1 artifact box, 1 oversize box)
Language of Materials
The Records of the School of Information and Library Science documents the history of America’s oldest library school in continuous operation beginning with its founding in 1890. Through correspondence, curriculum materials, student work, and other documents, this collection provides an account of the library school’s activities up to the 21st century, especially in its first 50 years.
The bulk of the Records of the School of Information and Library Science originate from two different sources: the library school’s archive compiled in the 1930s and vertical subject file documents processed between 2005 and 2013. The striking difference between these two sources in both the condition of the documents and the organization schemes resulted in issues with the arrangement, but notes made in the subseries descriptions of the finding aid will assist in resolving these issues. Folder titles and arrangement of individual documents within folders of the 1930s library school archive, which was originally housed with the library records and contained the majority of this collection’s documents that date between 1890 and 1939, has been maintained when possible.
The records are arranged in eight series, seven of which have been further arranged in subseries. The series and subseries arrangement of the records is as follows:
Series 1: Reports, 1886-1998
1.1: Annual and Organization Reports, 1911-1974
1.2: American Library Association Reports and Self-Studies, 1966-1998
1.3: Miscellaneous Reports, 1886-1937
Series 2: Administration, 1888-circa 1987
2.1: Directors’ Correspondence, 1909-1954
2.2: Administrative Correspondence, 1894-1956
2.3: Faculty and Staff, 1888-1960
2.4: Student Affairs, 1913-1942
2.5: Finance, 1929-1946
2.6: Artwork, circa 1890-circa 1987
Series 3: Publications, 1892-2001
3.1: Newsletters, 1962-1993
3.2: Conferences, 1916-2001
3.3: Public Presentations, 1892-1972
Series 4: Publicity, 1890-1997
4.1: Promotional Materials, 1890-1997
4.2: Press Releases, 1967-1975
Series 5: Curriculum Materials, 1890-1971
5.1: Course Outlines and Schedules, circa 1896-1963
5.2: Questionnaires and Statistics, 1895-1971
5.3: Lectures, 1894-1939
5.4: General Course Materials, 1895-1936
5.5: Cataloging Courses, 1890-1938
5.6: Foreign Fiction Seminars, before 1938
5.7: Book Selection Courses, 1899-before 1938
Series 6: Student Materials, 1894-1975
6.1: Written Works, 1897-1975
6.2: Student Notes, 1894-before 1899
6.3: Student Groups, 1959-1972
Series 7: Alumni, 1890-1973
7.1: Constitution, By-laws, and Minutes, 1897-1929
7.2: Reports, 1896-1961
7.3: Publications, 1898-1973
7.4: Correspondence, 1911-1970
7.5: Treasury, 1925-1958
7.6: Student Lists and Directories, 1890-1966
7.7: Newspaper Clippings, 1898-1945
7.8: Miscellaneous Written Works, 1912-1945
Series 8: Audiovisual, 1896-1948
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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: https://library.pratt.edu/statement/2022/05/27/harmful-language.html.
- Accreditation (Education) Subject Source: Fast
- Albums (Books) Subject Source: Fast
- American Library Association
- Annual reports Subject Source: Fast
- Business correspondence Subject Source: Fast
- Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.) Subject Source: Fast
- Library Science Subject Source: Fast
- Library education Subject Source: Fast
- New York (State) -- New York -- Brooklyn Subject Source: Fast
- New York (State)--New York Subject Source: Fast
- Pratt Institute
- Pratt Institute. Free Library
- Pratt Institute. School of Information
- Pratt Manhattan Center
- Records (Documents) Subject Source: Fast
- Universities and colleges--Curricula Subject Source: Fast
- Guide to the Records of the School of Information and Library Science
- Ian Post
- July/August 2015
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
Part of the Pratt Institute Archives Repository
200 Willoughby Avenue
Brooklyn NY 11205 United States