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(Editor's Note: To help launch Michigan's 18th school, The Alumnus invited  the new school's first dean, Russell E. Bidlack, to write the following article  on how the School of Library Science came into being this summer.)

On July 1, 1969, in accordance with action taken by  the Regents eight months earlier, the University's Department of Library Science, which had been part of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts since 1926, was elevated to school status. The new School of Library Science, with its own dean and  administrative staff, thus became the University's eighteenth school or college, the first such unit to be created on the Ann Arbor campus since 1951.

As is often true of beginnings, it is difficult to  determine the exact date when library education can be said to have had its origin at the University of  Michigan. Ninety years ago, in 1879, Librarian Raymond C. Davis introduced a course in bibliography designed to assist students in the use of libraries and  bibliographic tools. In 1909, Davis' successor, Theodore Koch, organized a summer course in Library Methods at the undergraduate level for those interested in librarianship as a profession. Then in 1926, William Warner Bishop, who had followed Koch as director of the University Library, succeeded in establishing the University's first degree program in  librarianship and was appointed chairman of the new Department of Library Science. Dr. Bishop relinquished the chairmanship to Rudolph H. Gjelsness  in 1940, a year prior to his retirement as University Librarian. Professor Gjelsness continued as chairman  until his own retirement in 1964.

Two degrees in Library Science were offered by the University between 1926 and 1949, the ABLS at the end of one year of successful course work beyond the bachelor's degree and the AMLS degree for one year at the graduate level beyond the ABLS. In 1949 a  program of study leading to the Ph.D. in Library  Science was introduced, while the ABLS was eliminated, thus limiting library education at Michigan to the graduate level.

For many years the library profession did not compare in size or prestige to such professions as Medicine, Law, and Engineering. It is probably for this  reason that its training schools, although long associated with some of the leading universities, were usually organized as departments within stronger  schools or colleges. This situation has gradually changed, however, especially during the past two decades. Libraries in the United States have increased in both size and number at a phenomenal rate. The American Library Association, with a membership of nearly 40,000, is now one of the most influential organizations in the United States, and librarians have become increasingly vocal not only in advancing their own profession but in the championship of education and intellectual development generally. The library profession, for example, played a leading role in securing the passage of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as it did in the passage of the Academic Facilities Act of the previous year. During the past decade, the President and the Congress have recognized as never before the importance of libraries and over one billion dollars of federal funds were authorized last year for library development.

With this rapid growth of library facilities, the need for more and more librarians has become acute. Improved salaries have been a natural result of this shortage, as has also been a greater regard for the proper distinction between professional and clerical responsibilities in large library operations. Recognizing that the number of librarians must increase as libraries grow in size and number, Congress included a liberal fellowship program in the Higher Education Act of 1965. For 1969/70 Michigan was awarded a  grant of nearly $250,000 under this act to provide fellowships for both doctoral students and candidates for the master's degree in Library Science. Young people considering professional careers have better reason today to consider librarianship than ever before.

There are over 300 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, which offer programs in library education, but only 48 of these have graduate  programs, which are accredited by the American Library Association. Of these, Michigan's is second  largest in terms of student body. Other Big Ten Schools with accredited library education programs include Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.  In 1968, 274 students earned the AMLS degree at Michigan. At the August, 1969, commencement, the 4,000th degree in Library Science was conferred by the University, including the 64th Ph. D. Michigan alumni currently fill leadership roles in all types of libraries throughout the United States and in many foreign countries as well.

Libraries in the United States fall roughly into four groups: academic (college and university), school (elementary and secondary), public, and special (a special collection of materials for a special group of users). Michigan's program is intended to train librarians for all four types of libraries. Of last year's graduates, 36 per cent accepted positions in academic libraries, 30 per cent in public libraries, 20 percent in school libraries, and 14 per cent in special libraries. The average salary for the 1968  graduates was $8,178.

The new School of Library Science will continue to offer the AMLS and the Ph.D. degrees as its basic program, although careful thought will be given during the coming year to the possibility of introducing  a specialist degree for those wishing to go beyond the master's but not as far as the doctoral. A curriculum committee composed of both faculty and students, with alumni serving as consultants, will consider this question during the coming year, along with making a comprehensive review and evaluation of the entire curriculum. The question of whether an under graduate program is also needed will be a major concern of this committee.

The greatest immediate need of the School is to  expand its faculty not only to provide specialists in additional subject areas vital to librarianship, such as the application of computer science to library operations, but also to enable Michigan to admit more  students to its basic program. The most critical problem facing the library profession is the need for more librarians, and Michigan has a major responsibility in  meeting this need.

The Michigan Alumnus

Sep 1969, page 10

History of the University of Michigan

School of Library Science

by Dean Russell E. Bidlack