Note: An update to this blog post.
Last week was National Library Week. Our library director shared with us her predecessor’s library report from 1912. I was struck by how many of the report’s themes are still integral to today’s libraries.
Authored by Amanda Flattery, who worked as college librarian from 1905-1915 and who was described as possessing “outstanding scholarship, high ideals, and ready humor” (see her obituary – page 2), starts her report by describing the the juggling of multiple duties. Sound familiar, librarians? It then moves on to the year’s major activities and issues. Here’s where I see parallels to today’s library work:
- Creating bibliographies: Aren’t those today’s LibGuides?
- Students unable to find desired information: Yep, even in today’s info-rich environment, this is still a hallmark of what we do.
- A course in reference work and bibliography: That has morphed into information literacy.
- Issues with organizing information and providing access: A key issue in the 21st century!
Below are some excerpts relating to the main themes:
“Many hours of time are required for research work for students who are ignorant of books, or unable for find information.”
“Exhaustive bibliographies have been prepared by the librarian for all inter-collegiate debates.”
Check out some of the topics that students were researching at the library:
- Japanese social classes
- Witchcraft in England
- Student government at Princeton
- Statistics on condensed milk
- Visiting nurses
- Hamlet’s insanity
- National music of Scotland
- Description of a cash register
- Municipal aid for the unemployed
- Headache powders
“a course in reference work and bibliography has been given, consisting of lectures, with criticism of practice work done by the class.”
“A notable addition to the resources of the library consists of about 350 pamphlets on up-to-date subjects…prove to be excellent materials for debate work.”
“To establish cordial relations with the women of the town, the librarian has given help to different members of the women’s clubs…”
Organization of Information
“Of the 3000 vols…only 1183 had been recorded in the accession book. There was no shelf-list, and the cataloging had been done in a confused and imperfect manner. It was impossible to build upon such a flimsy superstructure. It was absolutely necessary to go back to the very beginning and make the records correct and complete.”
Consistent Core Services
Years pass by, technology changes, people come and go, but a library’s core duties remain the same:
- Providing access to information
- Organizing information
- A place to learn and get help
- Materials for your community
PDF of the 1912 Library Director’s Report.