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LQ History Lit Review

Some literature on the history of library science and The Library Quarterly.

  • title: LQ Lit Review
  • date: 2013-07-24 06:30

This entry is about:

Norman, Steve. (1988). “The Library Quarterly” in the 1930s: A Journal of Discussion's Early Years.“ The Library Quarterly, 58(4), 327-351. url:

Note: I'm taking a momentary break from my reading of *LQ* to review an article on the same subject matter. Specifically, this entry is about Steve Norman's historical article on the early years of *The Library Quarterly*. Reference above.

Brief Literature Review

Wiegand's comment on this article:

Steve Norman analyzes the conflicts leading to the establishment of the *Library Quarterly* at the University of Chicago's Graduate Library School in 1931 and demonstrates the library community's resistance to GLS's emphasis on research and scholarship. His work is an outstanding piece of scholarship based on careful research into primary (and unpublished) sources and shows the confusion early LQ editors about determining publication criteria and the journal's early direction and agenda (p. 563).

Wiegand, Wayne A. (1990). The literature of American library history. Libraries & Culture, 25(4), 543-574. url:

Note: Wiegand is right. From the start, this is a fascinating piece. Norman begins by describing the state of affairs at the time before the LQ began publication. Key highlights:

  • Three Carnegie Corporation commissioned studies highlighted “a growing dissatisfaction with training for librarianship” (p. 328). One commission conducted by C. C. Williamson.
  • In response, “ALA formed in 1923 the Temporary Library Training Board to set up a system for accrediting library schools” (p. 328). This was made permanent in 1925.
  • A college degree, before this time, “was required for admission to only two library schools. In fact, nearly half the instructors in library schools were not college graduates” (p. 328).
  • Then this quote:
The Graduate Library School at the University of Chicago (GLS) was to encounter bitter hostility to this view that library education should conform to a research university's model of graduate education. William M. Randall, who was to become LQ's first editor, wrote later that “the attitude of (almost) the entire profession [was that they] could see no possible need for the type of research organization that Chicago was trying to establish” [1, p. 73]. LQ began publication in this context.

The quoted source is:

Richardson, John, Jr. The Spirit of Inquiry: The Graduate Library School at Chicago, 1921-51. Chicago: American Library Association. 1982.

Note: At one of the early GLS faculty meetings, shortly after the idea of a “journal of discussion” was proposed, the faculty decided to let “ALA to have an advisory board connected with a GLS journal. If, however, the school financed the journal, the school would have editorial control” (p. 330). It's interesting to think of this as the beginnings of an early schism. Although that may be way too powerful a term to describe this development.

Note: Much of the early discussion about establishing a journal centered on the journal functioning as an “organ” of GLS. It would, that is, primarily be a medium of publication for the output of research of GLS faculty and students. Although LQ did not become an organ for GLS only publications, this early intent does represent the small research culture that existed in librarianship at the time.

Note: GLS faculty were very concerned about who would have control of the journal. They wanted it to be under their control and not ALA's.

Note: Richard Bowker, then editor of the *Library Journal*:

mentioned his hope that the new journal would not compete with other publications [….] That Bowker had objected to possible competition is likely considering his review of LQ's first issue (p. 335).

Norman quotes a bit from that review, which was poor and reflects my own thoughts, expressed in previous posts, on the lack of research articles in the first issue of LQ.

Note: Norman's comment on C. C. Williamson's article in the first issue of *LQ* reflects what I had thought about the intent of the journal (I seem to be on the right track). Norman writes:

The decision by the GLS faculty to run Williamson's article as the first in *LQ* implies that the journal was conceived, at least to some degree, as a means of infusing scientific method into studies of library issues (p. 336).

My first thoughts about this issue were that, it just takes time to establish something like this—especially something like a serious research journal—in a field that did not previously have a research culture. Norman writes that the second issue was more positively received, since it had more research articles, and that:

In any event, the six months between *LQ*'s establishment and its first issue had not allowed much time for measuring up to five years' worth of expectations (p. 337).

Note: Just before the conclusion section of the article, Norman provides a descriptive breakdown or “distribution of types of articles” (p. 348) published in the first five years of LQ. This is helpful. Here's the breakdown:

  • descriptive articles: 23%
  • library science research descriptive studies: 21%
  • opinion articles: 19%
  • historical articles: 13%
  • library science research experimental studies: 3%
  • sociological studies: 2%
  • textual criticism: 2% (p. 348)
Other nonresearch articles constituted the remainder (p. 348).

Reflection: Norman's history of the first years of LQ is more comprehensive in scope than my autoethnographic reading of the first four issues of *LQ*. First, mine is not a history, and as such, benefits from Norman's article greatly. Second, my focus is only on the main articles published in these first four volumes, and does not cover other types of articles, such as book reviews, and which Norman does discuss. By way of that, the Sears/Thompson book review controversy described by Norman from page 339 and on is quite fascinating, in that it represents an early divide between the research community and the practitioner community, by way of a misunderstanding of their respective purposes and needs (and some hubris on the part of certain portions of the research community, perhaps).

Reflection: Aside from the interesting narrative Norman provides in this article, the main implication, for me, is the simple existence of such a narrative and what this means for those who, perhaps too rashly, argue for moving beyond the journal simply because web and Internet related technologies allow or afford moving beyond the journal. That said, there may be merit in moving beyond the journal. That will be for others to decide, and for various disciplines or fields of research to determine for themselves. However, although such a move may mean a loss or a gain for those research cultures, the role that journals have played in developing a field or a professional identity should be part of the discussion. In other words, history should be part of the discussion.

Note: This is an information seeking note. My abstract has an obvious omission: no literature review of any articles on the LQ. At the time I wrote that abstract, I was more interested in reviewing the literature on autoethnography. Also, the motivation, as described in that abstract, led me toward a different set of literature to review—literature on current scholarly communication problems and issues. I stumbled upon Norman's history of the early years of *LQ* because I pulled up the Wikipedia article on the journal for a reason I can no longer remember. According to Wikipedia's revision history of its article on LQ, the reference to Norman's article was added on February 10, 2011 by User *Wskent*.

After I found Norman's article, I did a keyword search for it, using the names of the author and title, on Google Scholar in order to quickly see if any one had cited Norman's article. That's how I found Wiegand's article (reference above), which briefly describes Norman's piece. (I quote that description above.)

lq/literature-review.txt · Last modified: 2017/02/06 14:25 by seanburns