Guidelines for Writing Local Library Histories
Developed by Dr. John V. Richardson Jr. (UCLA GSLIS), Steve Fisher (U. Denver) Betty Hanson (Indiana U.), and Holley R. Lange (Colorado State U.)
- Identify all relevant primary and secondary source material relating to the library (see Appendix A for a brief listing of the various types of sources).
- Identify any local histories or archival collections which allow you to set your library's history in the context of its community.
- Read other local library histories as models for your own work (see Appendix B)
- Read other sources which give you a sense of the development of libraries and the environmental context during the time period you are covering so that you can set your library in context.
- Immerse yourself in local source material.
- Establish a chronology of critical events and people in the history of the library.
- Establish a periodization (i.e. time periods) for the chronology.
- Consider these periods as the basis for the chapters of your local history.
- Write drafts of your chapters, documenting how you know what you know (e.g. footnotes, references, or bibliography of sources) and circulate these to critical readers for their comments.
- Publish your work so that it can contribute to the growing body of knowledge about the development of libraries.
Appendix A: Primary Source Materials
- Board Minutes.
- Annual Reports and Departmental Reports.
- Collection development statements, donation records, accession books, circulation records, and any public service policy statements.
- Correspondence (letter books).
- Local/national newspaper and journal articles.
- Personal papers of librarians and support staff.
- Oral histories of senior/retired staff as well as long-time library users.
- Earlier local histories, published or in manuscript.
- Precursor organizations (minute books of women's clubs, Sunday school libraries).
- Published biographies or memoirs.
- Student papers from colleges and universities with an interest in your library.
- Blueprints and other architectural material relating to library construction.
Locations for primary source material:
- state library
- your local institution's archives
- local historical societies
Appendix B: Model Histories
The following source contains some excellent library histories:
Donald G. Davis and John M. Tucker, American Library History: A Comprehensive Guide to the Literature. Santa, Calif.: ABC-Clio, 1989, especially chapters 5 (public libraries),
6 (academic libraries), 7 (school libraries), 8 (state libraries), and 9 (special libraries).
Also see LHRT's Library History Bibliographies, posted on this website.