Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

"Mr. Dewey Is Crazy and Katharine Sharp Hates the University of Chicago:" Gender, Power, and Personality and the Demise of the University of Chicago Course in Library Science 1897-1903

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

"Mr. Dewey Is Crazy and Katharine Sharp Hates the University of Chicago:" Gender, Power, and Personality and the Demise of the University of Chicago Course in Library Science 1897-1903

Article excerpt

Introduction

In 1896, the University of Chicago Extension Division began offering library use courses to the general public. Katharine L. Sharp (1898) reported favorably on the program, but cautioned that it "was not recommended for the purpose of fitting people for library positions in a short time, but rather for the purpose of arousing public sentiment to an appreciation of the modern library" (p. 76).

The program was expanded under university associate librarian, Zella Allen Dixson, and by 1900 was "designed to train librarians and library assistants in the best methods of modern library economy" (University College, 1901). The American Library Association's (ALA) Committee on Library Training in 1903 strongly criticized the program, resulting in its closure that same year. In several letters to University of Chicago president, William Rainey Harper, Dixson accused both Sharp and Melvil Dewey of conspiring to close the school to eliminate competition with the school in Urbana.

This study will examine the history of the program in light of the interactions among the three principals (Dixson, Sharp, and Dewey) and the role of gender, ego, and power in the demise of the program. It will increase our knowledge of the lives and careers of women in librarianship, particularly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, during the formative years of the profession, and the role that they played in the professionalization of librarianship within the cultural context in which they lived and worked.

Literature Review

Studies of the history of education for librarianship tend to gloss over the early period through 1919, focusing on a few significant figures and institutions-Dewey and his schools (Dawe, 1932; Miksa, 1986; Vann, 1978; Wiegand, 1996), Katharine Sharp and her schools (Grotzinger, 1966; Grotzinger, 1992), and Mary Wright Plummer and the Pratt Institute (Brand, 1996; Maack, 2000)-and then moving quickly through the various ALA committees on education to the Association of American Library Schools and the beginnings of graduate education (Churchwell, 1975; Davis, 1976; Downs, 1968; Wilson, 1949). Others are primarily descriptive and evaluative of the state of education at the time of their writing (Wheeler, 1946; White, 1976; Williamson, 1971). Richardson's (1982) history of the Graduate Library School at the University of Chicago begins with the Chicago Library Club's involvement in 1919 and makes no mention of any library training at the University prior to the establishment of the Graduate Library School.

The only references to the University Extension program are in Grotzinger's biography of Katharine Sharp, where it covers only the period of Sharp's involvement (Grotzinger, 1992, 220-4) and in Vann's work (1960), where it is included as one of ten evaluated by the ALA's Committee on Library Training in 1903.

History of the University of Chicago Course in Library Science

Zella Allen Dixson

Zella Allen was born in Zanesville, Ohio on August 10, 1858 (Who was who in America, 1962). She graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1880 and married Joseph Ehrman Dixson the next year. When he died in 1885, she accepted a position at Columbia College library as assistant to Melvil Dewey and "special student" in library science, most likely one of Dewey's "pupil assistants" (Wiegand, 1996, p. 91; "Twenty-five years," 1910). In 1886, she became a traveling "library expert," and organized some twenty different libraries in the Midwest, among them the Denison University, Kenyon College and Baptist Union Theological libraries, as well as the public libraries of Elyria, La Crosse and Duluth (Dewey, 1889, p. 375; "Twentyfive years," 1910). She joined ALA in 1886 and was a charter member of the ILA (Moore, 1897) and the Chicago Library Club ("Twenty-five years," 1910). She was also a member of the Chicago woman's club, the college alumni of Mt. Holyoke, and president of the Mt. Holyoke association of the northwest (Johnson, 1904). …

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