Statement on History in Education for Library and Information Science

Rather than simply train students to be competent, successful practitioners, faculties need to make greater efforts to prepare people who will look beyond their practice and strive continuously to raise the standards of the profession and improve the system in which it functions...Faculties could do much more to expand the vision of their students by encouraging them to study the history and structure of their profession.

Derek Bok, Higher Learning, (1986)

A knowledge of history and an understanding of historical methodology are indispensible elements in the education of library and information professionals. A knowledge of history provides a necessary perspective for understanding the principles and practices of information science. Many of the most important issues of our day -- including, for example, intellectual freedom, fees for service, service to minorities, access to government information, the role of new technologies, and the place of women in the profession -- can only be understood in the light of their historical contexts. And the research process, an essential component of contemporary professional education and practice, can be significantly informed by awareness of both historical precedents and historical methodology.

The Library History Round Table of the American Library Association therefore strongly advocates that history and historical methodology be fully incorporated into the curriculum of all programs of library and information science education. Schools of library and information studies are urged to implement this recommendation in the following ways:

  1. The entire curriculum should be informed by historical contexts. All courses, regardless of subject matter, should provide a foundation in the historical background of the subject rather than focusing only on current practices and principles.
  2. A strong historical component should be part of any required core curriculum.
  3. There should be offered, every year, one or more courses devoted specifically to the history of recording, communicating, organizing, and preserving knowledge, and of the institutions, individuals, and professions engaged in such efforts. Such courses should be taught by a qualified member of the faculty and be based on the research literature.
  4. Historical methodology and historical approaches to knowledge should be included in the study and discussion of research methods.
  5. The use of historical methodology should be encouraged, where appropriate, to investigate issues and problems in library and information science.