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Columbia University

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 5 months ago

Columbia College School of Library Economy


After much struggle and debate with Columbia College authorities, Melvil Dewey opened the Columbia College School of Library Economy in January, 1887. The school was highly controversial at the time, as the Columbia trustees were loath to admit women to the university.


According to an essay authored by Mary Wright Plummer, one of the first graduates of the school, her class was "ambitious, conscientious, enthusiastic" and was impressed with the quality of instruction. Some of their assignments included writing catalog cards: "for some time this was done on slips of author and subject sizes, until we could be trusted to take the regular cards." Other courses included classification, lectures on literature, and an "apprenticeship."


At the time, librarianship offered an option for college educated women to pursue a career and to avoid being relegated to the domestic sphere. According to Dee Garrison, "The majority of the first groups of educated women remained spinsters." Library school graduates in the late 19th century and early 20th century often had to choose between a career or a family.


Deborah Copperud


Works consulted


Garrison, D. (1979). Apostles of culture: The public librarian and American society, 1876-1920. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press.


Davis Jr., D.G. (1994). "Education for librarianship." In W. A. Wiegand and D. G. Davis, Jr. (Eds) Encyclopedia of Library History (184-186). New York: Garland

Publishing, Inc.


Plummer, M. W. (1887). "The Columbia College School of Library Economy from a student's standpoint." The Library Journal, 12(9-10), 363-364.


"School of Library Economy" (1887). The Library Journal, 12(1-2), 78-79.

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