Thursday, July 21, 2016

Review—Library Science for Canadians (1936)

Library Science for Canadians, Beatrice Welling and Catherine Campbell. Toronto: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons Ltd., 1936.  xi, 151 p., illus., index. Three editions to 1958.

'Library Science' became an emerging field of study in Canada in the 1930s linked with formal professional education of librarians and with patrons who used libraries on a regular basis. In universities there were two streams of development: library instruction (user education) and library education (professional training) that sometimes intertwined. The historiography of Canadian library science has mostly been devoted to the creation of library schools for training and educational achievement in this period, especially McGill and Toronto. But another thread, library science courses for students with academic credit at the undergraduate level, has an interesting history of its own, involving as it does librarians at various university libraries. This was the thrust of Library Science for Canadians when it first appeared in 1936, the result of a joint effort by two University of Western Ontario librarians, Beatrice W. Welling and Catherine Campbell.

Western was not the first university to appoint librarians with the rank of instructors. As early as 1911, Acadia introduced an elective library course in the B.A. program; by 1920 it was offering two credit courses taught by Mary Kinley Ingraham, who continued lecturing and leading laboratory classes until her retirement in 1944. The Acadia courses for undergrads continued into the 1980s. They were designed to encourage student interest in librarianship and to provide basic information on library methods, history, selection, reference, and administration. Western followed this model in the 1920s to the 1960s but adapted it for mostly for first-year undergraduates as a required course with credit to a bachelor's degree. Students interested in librarianship as a career could use these introductory courses to gain experience for a specialized degree.

Courses began at Western in the early 1920s under Marjorie Ross, then library director Fred Landon (who also taught history) with varying course credits. General instruction in the use of books and libraries and common reference works was a required course. Major electives included Cataloguing, Classification, Reference Work. Until 1928, students could select Library Science as a major, but only a handful selected this option. After a 1930 survey of 200 incoming students revealed their lack of library knowledge the required course was expanded for entry students and electives reduced. By the mid 1930s, courses were also being taught at Western's two affiliates, Assumption (now University of Windsor) and Waterloo (now Wilfrid Laurier) colleges. For example, the reference course dealt with the use of standard tools, lectures and assigned readings on the use of books. It involved two lectures and three hours of practice per week and provided two credits that could be used in the Secretarial Science program. Bachelor of Arts graduates could use these courses as a springboard to graduate education at library schools.

To complement the coursework, two of Western’s librarians authored the first Canadian text on library science in 1936 which continued in print until the late 1950s. The book was designed to make university library research understandable for students and show them how to use library resources advantageously. Beatrice W. Welling was the more seasoned librarian. A native of New Brunswick, she earned a Bachelor's at UNB in 1909, her M.A. at Radcliffe College in 1912, and attended library school at Simmons College in 1916 before returning to work in Canada. She was particularly interested in government documents and began working at Western in 1926 in the library as Landon's assistant. Catherine Campbell began in 1923; she was a Western graduate (B.A., 1922).

Together, the two devised a basic text that served Western students well for a quarter century. Separate chapters dealt with classification (normally LC and Dewey); the card catalogue, the parts of a book (indexes, half-titles, etc.); 'How to Judge a Book;' periodicals and newspapers; 'Union Lists and Other Title Lists' (e.g., scientific periodicals and regional lists); the vertical file; 'Bibliography;' and a lengthy section of selected reference works (dictionaries, almanacs, and leading tools in subject areas such as business and commerce) which was attributed to Beatrice Welling.

Welling and Campbell were certain that basic training was valuable for students, not only at university but in their later work or profession.

This training in the use of a library should give the reader confidence in his ability to take advantage of the resources of any library, and by removing obstacles to the acquisition of knowledge, should tend to increase the delights of reading and induce the habit of study. (p. 1)

The authors felt that a better understanding of the merits of systematic use rather than browsing and knowledge of inter-library loans had many benefits. Helping students learn to help themselves was not only practical but also a knowledgeable endeavour for learners. Their points about judging reference works followed a systematic pattern: authority, scope, bias, currency, quality of arrangement, format, and additional bibliography remain standard elements today. (p. 40-41).

 The importance of Libraries Science for Canadians lies today not in its teachings on the use of libraries, which were changed drastically by the time Western dropped its library requirement for freshmen and libraries began to automate in the 1960s, but in its national approach. Here was an up-to-date work that Canadian students could use along with Margaret Hutchins' and Alice Johnson's Guide to the Use of Libraries published in many editions after 1920. There was scant Canadian information in the library field that could be used effectively in the classroom. Welling and Campbell filled a void and made a meaningful contribution that many Western students could appreciate. The text was particularity important for students who were denied access to library stacks and had to request books through the main circulating desk.

Welling and Campbell not simply utilitarian instructor-lecturers in the new Lawson Library that opened in 1934. They were motivated by the idea that the library could be an enjoyable experience.

Our libraries of to-day are pleasant, friendly places where one may browse a while in peaceful surroundings, seek a quiet corner for concentrated study of a particular subject or obtain assistance in the solving of a vexing problem. (p. 1)

Finding information expeditiously was part of this experience. Although Library Science for Canadians and library courses in the undergraduate curriculum were eclipsed at Western shortly before a new graduate School of Library and Information Science began accepting students in 1967, two generations of students had already benefited from library education in the B.A. program.