Teacher’s Corner

A group of three women in a b & w picture, two of the women are sitting on a bridge rail.
Photograph of New York State Library School students, Evelyn Nelson, Ruth Upton, and Dora Pearson. Image and caption from the ALA Archives.

This column features guest essays with tips and tricks for teaching library history. Some of us are lucky enough to be teaching a library history course (or two) and most of us do our best to incorporate library history into any course that we can. Whichever category we fall into, nearly all of us are the only faculty member in our school or library who is teaching library history. We seldom have the opportunity to discuss how best to teach library history with other faculty, to benefit from their experience, and share our experience with them. This column seeks to try to fill that need. This isn’t the place to share entire syllabi, as most of those are works for hire, but rather to share techniques, readings, discussion questions, activities and assignments that enrich and enhance our teaching. This is also a place for asking and answering questions and benefiting from our shared expertise. We’ll post questions as they are received, and take answers as long as someone has something new to share. It is also the place for those who do not teach history to provide us who do with suggestions and feedback about how we can teach it better.  How do you incorporate history into the courses you teach that are not specifically library history? What resources do you recommend and why? If you teach library history courses, what innovative techniques do you use? Or, what questions do you have for the collective intelligence of the Library History Round Table?

We welcome and encourage submssions! Send these through to Dr Mary Carroll

University of Nevada EDUC472/672

This course is offered for graduate or undergraduate credit toward Nevada’s certification for rural public librarians who have not earned an ALA-accredited master’s degree.

The course’s history component focuses on US public libraries in a larger societal context. Prominent themes are women in the workforce, service to disadvantaged groups, freedom of information, publishing, reading, and information technology. The organizational component includes a library analysis project that requires students to gather and analyze data and other information about a public library system, and compare it to other libraries. Contact Patrick Ragains for more information (

Helps & Hints for Library History Teachers by Suzanne Stauffer PhD

I’ll start the ball rolling by sharing some of what we are doing in our Information & Society core course. I selected John P. Feather’s The Information Society : A Study of Continuity and Change in part because the first section is called “The Historical Dimension.” While we study the entire scope of history from antiquity to the modern day in three weeks, it is an opportunity to at least introduce students to the idea that there is a history of books, writing, and libraries, and that “information” did not spring full-grown from the Internet. It’s also a chance to introduce diversity and internationalization into the curriculum. We read about the libraries at Alexandria and Timbuktu, as well as China’s Tinyige library. We, of course, read about H.G. Wells and Paul Otlet and Bush’s memex.

            We learn about the social construction of meaning through McKenzie’s  “The Sociology of a Text: Orality, Literacy and Print in Early New Zealand.” (The Library, 6th series, 4, no. 4 (1984): 333-65), which I highly recommend. McCutcheon’s “Silent Reading in Antiquity and the Future History of the Book” (Book History (Johns Hopkins University Press) 18, no. 1 (January 2015): 1–32. doi:10.1353/bh.2015.0011) introduces them to historical bias, and to reader response theory almost as an afterthought. And, finally, they are presented with post-modern scholarly criticisms of the popular history of the Internet that challenges their view of the personalities involved, and also demonstrate to them, if they still had any doubt, that history is not an objective recounting of people and events. Of special note in this regard is Merave Katz-Kimchi, “”Singing the Strong Light Works of [American] Engineers”: Popular Histories of the Internet as Mythopoetic Literature” (Information & Culture 50, no. 2 (2015): 160-180) and Christian Oggolder. “From Virtual to Social: Transforming Concepts and Images of the Internet” (Information & Culture 50, no. 2 (2015): 181-196).

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