Evolution of a Reference Source

By Diaz, Karen R.; Overmier, Judith | Reference & User Services Quarterly, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

Evolution of a Reference Source


Diaz, Karen R., Overmier, Judith, Reference & User Services Quarterly


Documenting International Psychology from 1929 to 2000

While this column is about a resource that is "Off the Shelf" but not "Onto the Web," it is a wonderful recounting of how the times and the technology shape the information resources we use. Content, culture, and format play against each other to forge new tools. Please enjoy this account of the evolution of an important reference source that has chosen an alternative electronic format.--Editor

Every reference source has its history. Its content; the work of its sponsors, editors, authors, publishers; its format; its goals; its audience are all shaped by the disciplinary culture surrounding it and it, in turn, helps shape that culture. The reference tool Psychology: IUPsyS Global Resource is no exception; it has evolved over forty-two years in a disciplinary culture imbued with science and international communication. Four notable markers of that culture were the early establishment of an international congress series, the publication of an international directory of psychologists, the publication of an autobiographical source with an international base, and the formation of an international association.

The First International Psychology Congress

European psychologists initiated a series of international congresses in 1889. The first one was held in Paris at the same time as the Paris International Exposition and the year of the opening of the Eiffel Tower, where the congress held its closing banquet on the first level, which afforded a spectacular nighttime view.[1] The congresses have continued to be held every three or four years, except in times of war, since then.

The First International Psychology Directory

In 1929 Carl Allanmore Murchison (1887-1961), an American psychologist, edited the first international directory of psychologists, the Psychological Register. The Register contained the vitae and bibliographies of approximately 1,250 psychologists in twenty-nine countries.[2] Psychologists from universities in eight countries assisted Murchison in the compilation of entries. It took them three years just to gather the data for that first directory, which perhaps should have been a warning to the committee eager twenty-five years later to produce the new international directory of psychologists featured in this article.[3]

Murchison's directory included the United States--all full members of the American Psychological Association and all association members with Ph.D.s were sent questionnaires. In other countries psychologists had to be nominated by a member of the editorial board to be queried for inclusion in the directory. The committee members were active participants in the process.[4]

Nevertheless, Murchison, like most directory editors, worried about complete coverage. He thought that the directory didn't have full coverage of Holland, Latin America, and the U.S.S.R.[5] He invited information about Mexico and Central and South America to improve the next edition. Murchison's directory is arranged by "country, continent & empire." It is a bit idiosyncratic, one feels, when one sees that America includes the United States and Canada, which between them comprise the first 296 pages, a little more than half of the directory. They are followed by the British Empire (sans Canada). History and geography lessons for modern readers abound throughout Murchison's directory, with France including Algeria and Germany including the Free State of Danzig.

Individual entries in Murchison's directory include name, address, birth date and place, degrees and institutions where they were awarded, positions held, memberships, and publications. An alphabetical index by individual names is provided; the volume is 580 pages, hardbound, cloth.

The First International Psychology Autobiographical Reference Source

It is also worth noting that Murchison, Edwin Garrigues Boring (1886-1968), and Herbert Sidney Langfeld (1879-1958), along with two other psychologists, were the selection committee for another reference tool suggested by Boring that maintained a distinctly international flavor for its first several volumes. …

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