Showing posts with label academic library history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label academic library history. Show all posts

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Review--Two 1940s Canadian Theses on Academic Libraries by Dorothy Hamilton and Winifred Snider

Dorothy I. Hamilton, The Libraries of the Universities of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. A Report. (Ann Arbor: Department of Library Science, University of Michigan, 1942). 2, 2, 137 leaves with tables.

Winifred H. Snider, Extramural Library Service in Libraries and Extension Departments of Canadian Universities. MA thesis (New York: Columbia University Library School, 1948). 64 p. with tables.

Until the Second World War, it could be said with a measure of assurance that librarianship in Canada was dominated by interest in public library development. Libraries in higher education were mostly the reserve of an educated minority of Canadians. It was the public library that was known by the popular notion, the "people's university." There were, of course, occasions when academic librarians, such as Stewart Wallace, Gerhard Lomer, and Kaye Lamb, rose to prominence in provincial organizations during the Depression. And, in the early 1930s, the Commission of Enquiry had explored universities to some degree. These episodes, for the most part, were short lived. However, the long slumber of university and college libraries on a national stage was about to change after 1939.

Two librarians, Dorothy Isabel Hamilton and Winifred Helen Snider, produced studies that provide valuable information on the state of university collections and services during the war and immediate postwar period. Hamilton was first into the field: a native British Columbian, she earned her BA at Alberta in 1929 and then went to the University of Washington for her BSLS in 1931. After working at the university library in Edmonton in the 1930s she was awarded a Carnegie grant for an ALA fellowship in 1941 to complete her AMLS at Michigan on four Canadian western university libraries. Winifred Snider came from a prominent family in the Kitchener-Waterloo region. Like many young women in Ontario, she went to Victoria College, and graduated with a BA in 1923. After holding various positions, she went to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for a Library Diploma (1928) and worked briefly in the Fraser Valley regional demonstration at Chilliwack, BC, before taking up cataloging at Waterloo College [now Wilfrid Laurier University] in 1932. She left shortly afterward to be the assistant librarian at Mount Allison from 1934-42, taking time to be president of the Maritime Library Association (1940-41). In 1942, she became the university's head librarian until the end of WW II when she resigned to work and study at Columbia University where she earned her MSLS in 1948.

These two theses are valuable records of academic library work in the 1940s. In the first part of her work, Dorothy Hamilton briefly considered how higher education developed at each western university: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. In the second part of her thesis, Hamilton looked at several aspects of library development on each campus prior to WW II:
  • the historical development of libraries and their accommodations;
  • an examination of library finances, financial standards, and a comparison with eight American universities;
  • the legal basis of the library in university acts, and the status of library committees and the head librarian;
  • the general management of the library and its staff resources and activities;
  • book collections in relation to checklists and special collections;
  • services: circulation, user regulations, hours of operation, interloan, reference, and reserve work.
Generally, there was room for improvement. At one point, Hamilton concluded that "Unfortunately, Canadian university administrators do not seem to be aware of the importance of the library in university instruction." (p. 45) Her lengthy exposition of the role of librarians, frugal budgets, and smallish collections helped to fortify this opinion in all areas, but we must remember throughout the Great Depression managerial thinking leaned to making ends meet.

One solution for improvement that Hamilton pointed to was the use of emerging college and university library standards by the American Library Association (ALA), recommended guidelines or principles by American librarians, and new accreditation processes of the North Central Association used in the United States. Hamilton used ALA statistics to compare the four Canadian universities were similar counterparts south of the border (e.g., Arizona, Colgate, Wyoming, Southern Methodist, etc.) rather than the usual parade of the highest ranking American universities with budgets and operations far beyond the expectations of Canadian faculty or librarians. In this regard, British Columbia did fairly well and the other three western libraries were inadequately supported. Hamilton also reviewed book, reference, and periodical collections using checklists for American college libraries developed by the North Central Association which had begun accrediting colleges before WW I. Again, the percentage holdings in relation to these checklists found British Columbia doing reasonably well with the other three universities mostly clustered in the median range or lower range.

Hamilton also explored services and personnel. In many cases, services (e.g., library instruction) were less developed or were reliant on manual procedures (e.g. circulation). Professional librarians, often in short supply, were regarded as "clerks" by most faculty. On balance, western Canadian university libraries in the early 1940s could best be described as being in the developmental stage. Hamilton concluded her analysis with the observation that all the universities required (1) a good central building; (2) a readjustment of the university budget to provide adequate support; and (3) increased staffing with adjustments as to status and salaries to attain at least minimum standards. The contemporary guidelines, of course, were American--it would not be until 1965 that the Guide to Canadian University Library Standards published by the Canadian Library Association appeared. Hamilton's exploration confirmed the need to improve services but her report was seldom referenced. After graduating at Michigan, Dorothy Hamilton returned to Alberta and worked at the library in public service areas, including head of reference, until 1969. She died in Victoria, BC, in 1974.

Winifred Snider's thesis at Columbia was less extensive than Hamilton's work and was descriptive rather than analytical. But she chose a subject, extramural library services, that was national in focus and included university extension departments that mostly organized these services and relied on library support. Snider worked under the general mantra of Reconstruction in the postwar period and aimed to provide information for a national plan of library service to rural Canada to which university libraries could contribute. Since the inception of McGill's McLennan Travelling Libraries to smaller Canadian communities in 1901, university libraries had participated in a sporadic manner to a wide range of adult education activities in rural and remote areas. Extramural Library Service studied thirteen universities that offered a wide variety of extramural public services. A few libraries were active participants, others provided limited support for the work of extension departments. British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Toronto, Queen's, Western, Ottawa, McGill, Laval, Acadia, St. Francis Xavier, Mount Allison, and New Brunswick all participated in Snider's survey. Of these, Manitoba, Acadia, and New Brunswick did not have extension departments.

Essentially, in the immediate the postwar era, two main types of programing had evolved in Canadian universities. One grouping was course related--night classes in urban areas, correspondence courses, regular extension lectures for a short period, and summer schools. Mostly, academic credit was offered for advancement. McGill, Toronto, and Queen's were important in this regard. A second grouping of programs revolved around responses to the interests of users anxious to learn on their own or develop knowledge and skills related to local activities. Snider's definition for "extramural" emphasized this cultural work: she focused on library services to people who were not faculty, students, or staff attending university sessional classes. This perspective involved programming with reading clubs, handicrafts, films, debates, summer camps, music, commerce, entertainments and sports, short conferences and discussions for like-minded groups. In the east, St. Francis Xavier's Department of Extension was nationally recognized for its correspondence courses and lecture program especially on Cape Breton Island where branch libraries were established to support small, organized groups in a cooperative effort. To the west, the University of Alberta extension service was an acknowledged leader supported with a large library managed by its extension department. Also, British Columbia was an important source for provincial adult education and extramural work.

For academic libraries, providing resources for all these types of programs was a challenge. Snider's survey identified six main types of library borrowers--correspondence work, graduates, high school students, private individuals, formal library applicants, and clubs-study groups-community residents. For the most part, especially correspondence courses, there were specific requirements: "packet or package libraries" containing necessary reading and information were distributed to people and groups at a distance. Book lending was an ingredient in library activity, but not the major factor. But for the most part, extension work was not given priority in academic library work. Snider acknowledged her review presented an individualized portrait of institutions on a national stage where policy development presented "a rather primitive state of service" (p. 43). In fact, over the next quarter-century, university travelling and package library services began to wind down as regional public library services improved and students consulted better resourced regional and small public libraries. This likely accounts for the rare references to Snider's thesis because no comprehensive, coordinated Canadian plan of library development for rural Canada was developed in the postwar period.

After Snider completed her graduate work, and with a quarter-century of library work behind her from coast to coast in two countries, she left Columbia to return to Ontario to care for her father after her mother's death. She and her sister, Lillian (a teacher), became fixtures in local community life and heritage to the north of Kitchener. Winifred Snider died in 1994.

Friday, October 21, 2016


The history of Canadian university and college libraries remains an understudied subject. To be sure, the "golden age" of rapid expansion of facilities and progressive professional development after 1960 has attracted attention. But, despite decades of interaction between Canada's educated elite (students, administrators, and faculty) and campus libraries and librarians, the period prior to 1960 is mostly the record of individual librarians (usually directors), iconic buildings, and underdeveloped collections. In the general history of all Canadian libraries that emphasizes the public library movement, the Carnegie building program between 1900-25, regional library growth after the 1930s, the postwar formation of the Canadian Library Association (1946) and establishment of the National Library (1953), and the dramatic contrast between library development in Quebec and English-speaking provinces, there seem to be no major events or themes of similar consequence pertaining to libraries in higher education.

In the legacy of Carnegie philanthropy, too, colleges and universities reside outside the usual historiographical library tradition. For example, there was only one Canadian library, Victoria in Toronto, that benefited from Carnegie building grants for university libraries prior to World War I. However, there is one significant period when the Carnegie Corporation of New York contributed significantly to the development of Canadian university and college libraries. During the Great Depression (1932 to 1935), 34 libraries in institutions of higher education shared in book grants totaling $214,800 (approximately $4,000,00 in 2016) as a result of a national (Canada and Newfoundland) examination conducted by an advisory group established by the Corporation. The ways in which the Canadian Advisory Group investigated and inspected potential recipients, evaluated whether they complied with conditions set, and distributed grants typically followed the policies and procedures established by an earlier American Advisory Group funded by the Corporation. Carnegie and university records document how financial aid was awarded and directed to the advancement of undergraduate print collections. Our sources can also be used to study the Canadian group in relation to the role of American philanthropic college library work, attempts by Canadian administrators to adapt library collections and organization to local circumstances, and trends in the improvement of undergraduate library services on a national scale.

You can read my article on this interesting, mostly unknown story and its contribution to the development of Canadian libraries in higher education in the latest fall 2016 issue of Historical Studies in Education/Revue d'histoire de l'éducation. HSE covers all aspects of education, from preschool to university education, informal and formal education, and methodological and historiographical issues.

The Carnegie book program was of short duration. For the first time on a national scale, it drew attention to the need to improve undergraduate library resources and elevate the status of the library in educational institutions. The book grants were tied to the caliber of local library services and looked for a number of effects and results.

  •  to awaken university administrators to the potential of a good library;
  • to provide books required for collateral reading in connection with the courses and materials faculty designated for their own instructional needs;
  • to promote the library more as a service-oriented partner with faculty and less as a passive repository of books;
  • to supply books for voluntary student reading and encouragement of their use;
  • to employ professionally educated librarians to ensure that acquisitions could be easily accessible through proper cataloguing and classification systems;
  • to promote wide-ranging book selection covering all fields of knowledge;
  • to educate students in the use of library resources, thereby better integrating holdings with academic programs.
Of course, there were many different results across Canada. In a few cases, universities reorganized their libraries to more effectively serve students. New undergraduate reading areas (sometimes called junior divisions) were established to house new holdings. A few major careers, e.g. Marjorie Sherlock from Alberta, were begun with the book stimulus program. On the whole, for a period prior to the Second World War the Carnegie program fostered library development in different ways and heightened awareness of the library's potential to undertake new directions that had not previously been in evidence. After 1945, many universities and colleges would revisit the library ideas that were planted in the difficult Depression years.