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Toward a Theory of Librarianship and

Information Science

Jesse H. Shera
Dean Emeritus
School of Library Science
Case Western Reserve University

RESUMO

As funes da biblioteconomia vm se alargando pblica, o bibliotecrio est procurando fazer ser-


atravs dos tempos e refletem sempre as atividades, vio social. Todas estas tendncias implicara na
valores e objetivos das sociedades que as susten- alterao da educao profissional do bibliotecrio.
tam. Sua misso social no se modificou e os bi- Sua primeira necessidade ter boa formao geral
bliotecrios tm, contudo, uma compreenso im- ou liberal, com um mestrado numa rea de assunto
perfeita do livro como entidade intelectual. Devem especializado, que s ter significado se tiver por
eles conhecer o sistema cognitivo do indivduo e base aquela educao geral. A pesquisa na biblio-
a rede de comunicao da sociedade, a importncia teconomia dever contar com a participao de
desse conhecimento para o indivduo e a socie- especialistas das diversas reas porque o bibliotec-
dade. A epistemologia social seria uma nova dis- rio sozinho no tem formao capaz de faz-lo
ciplina cujo foco estaria na produo, fluxo, inte- desenvolver seus projetos. Se o objetivo da forma-
grao e consumo de todas as formas de pensamento o profissional desenvolver a capacidade de
comunicado por toda a estrutura social. A biblio- propor alternativas, ento todo o sistema educacio-
teconomia, fundamentalmente cincia do compor- nal deve trabalhar em conjunto na criao de um
tamento, considerada pelos russos como um ramo eleitorado esclarecido capaz de uma escolha racio-
das cincias sociais. Nossa cultura, com profundas nal para que a democracia possa sobreviver.
razes da Cincia, comea a perceber que esta
constri to bem quanto destri, e a dcada de 70
dever ser mais dedicada s cincias sociais do Libraries are a social invention, devised originally,
que s cincias fsicas. Quanto s atuais tendncias, and for centuries remained, as repositories of the
a recuperao mecanizada da informao foi um transcript of their culture. They were essentially
campo que despertou muito interesse mas foi bem archival in character created to protect the
pouco produtivo, pois a nfase recaiu na mquina important documents that were necessary for the
e no no aspecto humano, lgico, lingstico etc.; operation of state, the transactions of enterprise,
u bibliografia, atividade central do bibliotecrio and the transmission of religious belief and ritual.
entendida aqui como toda atividade que pretende They were also centers of scholarship to which
colocar usurio e livro juntos no tem consi- learned men could repair to consult the clay tables,
derado a especializao de assunto: por outro lado, the papyrus and vellum rolls, and eventually the
verifica-se no momento interesse pela cooperao. codices that were needed for the advancement of
estimulada pela tecnologia da comunicao, teoria teaching and inquiry. So far as the surviving
geral dos sistemas, automao e tecnologias cor- record reveals, libraries were first the special re-
relatas, o que significa um afastamento das huma- sponsibility of the state, but the priesthoods and
nidades em direo s cincias fsicas, biolgicas
e sociais. Pessoas de outras reas tm procurado a
biblioteconomia por fatores diversos mas esta This paper was originally presented before a seminar
at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions,
"invaso" lhe trar benefcios; quanto biblioteca Santa Barbara, California, November l, 1972.

87
Ci. Inf., Rio de Janeiro, 2(2):87-97, 1973
JESSE H. SHERA

private benefactors soon shared in their develop- familiar to all of us. But the book as an intermediary
ment. This multiplicity of functions has charac- between communicator and receptor, as a medium
terized the library to the present. They were, then that bears the message, a book that can be
creatures of the aristocracy and the intellectual "known," is only very imperfectly understood. We
elite. It would not be practicable here to trace are all aware that the book as a physical object
in any detail the organizational morphology of the does not change, but the impact of its intellectual
library suffice it to say that the role of the content varies widely from reader to reader and
library was broadened during the eighteenth cen- from time to time even with the same reader.
tury onward to include a variety of social func- King Lear when read for the first time by a college
tions: the support of business and industrial en- student is not the same King Lear read by an
terprise, of the educational system at all levels, adult in the years of intellectual maturity. "A book
the popular culture, and the growing movement is a mirror," wrote the eighteenth century German
for self-education. Horace Mann called the library physicist and addict of aphorisms, Georg Christoph
the "crowning glory of our public schools," and Lichtenberg, "when a jackass looks into it he
a century later it was, to Alvin Johnson, "the cannot expect to see St. Paul looking back."1 We
people's university." Thus an instrumentality that do know that for a large segment of the popula-
was originally the exclusive concern, property, tion, even in the highly literate Western World,
if you will, of the elite, "a nest to hatch scholars the graphic record is a relatively unimportant
to use John Quincy Adams' phrase, became an source of knowledge. Even for those whose lives
agent of democracy, reaching its influence out even are centered about the book, graphic records
to the underpriviledged and socially disadvan- form only a relatively small part of the total human
taged, but always it has been a part of the fabric experience. Harold Lasswell's "social planetarium,"
of society, reflecting the attitudes, values, and is predicated on the use of total sensory perception
goals of the culture that supported it. to achieve insight into what man will be like in
the future. Yankee culture has always been ambiva-
The Problem of the Individual lent about the act of reading: on the one hand
extolling reading as a "good" in and of itself, while
The sponsorship of the library, then, has throughout on the other hand decrying "book larnin'." For all
history and during varying periods of time, been of our McLuhanesque babblings about the medium
assumed by the nobility, the priesthoods, private and the message, or the scholarly inquiries of
benefactors, voluntary associations, business and Father Ong into the "presence of the word," the
industrial enterprise, and a variety of governmenta effect of the graphic record sitll eludes us; only
agencies represented in the public sector. The your censor "knows."
library has increased dramatically in size and comp But when we turn to the second part of our rhetor-
lexity, created a body of more or less standardized ical question and begin to inquire into the nature
rules and procedures, evolved new patterns for its of man in relation to the written word the comp-
administrative control, and constantly widened lexities of the problem increase sharply, for a
its clientele, while not changing its basic mission, man is a far more intricate entity than the book.
which is to maximize the social utility of graphic As yet the neurologist, physiologist, and those
records for benefit of the individual and, through who have studied the communication process in
the individual, of society. The role of the li- all its ramifications have been unable to tell us
brarian, then, is that of a mediator between man what happens in that mysterious chain of events
and book, where book is a generic term that that takes place from printed page to eye to brain
includes all graphic records, and it is his special and the behavior that results therefrom. We are
responsibility to operate in that complex associa- concerned here, first with the process of communi-
tion of record and human mind. Yet this re- cation itself, and second, with the problem of
lationship, which is at once intellectual, psycholog- knowledge. The end of communication is, of course,
ical, and physiological is still only imperfectly the achievement of like-mindedness, which is not
understood. to be mistaken for agreement, but rather compre-
Traditionally librarians have made, either implicitly hension of the content of the message. The problem
or explicitly, certain ad hoc assumptions about relates to lhe nature of knowledge itself, of the
books and men, and the benefits that reading the cognitive process, and of language and its capabi-
one brings to the other, nor have they seriously lities and limitations in communicating the message.
entertained the possibility that, under certain The nature of consciousness and cognition must
circumstances, and for some individuals, there may necessarily be left to the neuro-physiologists and
be no benefit at all. What is a book that a man
may know it, and a man that he may know a
book?
There is certainly nothing very esoteric or mys- l The German gives Affe and Apostel, but we have
substituted a jackass for the monkey and identified
terious about the book as a physical entity, it is the apostle as St. Paul.

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TOWARD A THEORY OF LIBRARIANSHIP AND INFORMATION SCIENCE

the psychologists, Knowledge may be regarded as mology, or social cognition. Which should provide
that which results in adaptive behavior, but beyond a framework for the investigation of the entire
this over-simplified definition, little is known complex problem of the nature of the intellectual
about the nature of knowledge. Language has long process in society a study of the ways in which
been studied by the linguists without achieving society as a whole achieves a perceptive and
any substancial agreement about its origins or the understanding relationship to its environment. It
role played by non-verbal languages. Yet all of should lift the study of the intellectual life from
these areas of inquiry are fundamental to the work that of the scrutiny of the individual to an inquiry
of the librarian. With so many relevant areas yet into the means by which a society, nation, or
to be explored, it is small wonder that Waples and culture achieves an understanding of the totality of
Berelson left unanswered the question of "what stimuli that act upon it. The focus of this new
reading does to people." discipline should be upon the production, flow,
integration, and consumption of all forms of
Social Epistemology communicated thought throughout the entire social
fabric.
Though the library serves mainly the individual, If the librarian's bibliographic and information
the ultimate objective is the betterment of society; systems are to be structured to conform as closely
therefore the librarian must not only know the as possible to man's uses of recorded knowledge,
cognitive system of the individual, but also the the theoretical foundations of his professional ac-
communication network of society. The communica- tivity must take into account:
tion process is a duality of system and message,
of that which is transmitted as well as the manner The problem of cognition how man knows.
of its transmission. The librarian must view his
hole in the communication network as being more The problem of social cognition how society
than a link in a chain, or even a switching-center knows, and the nature of the socio-psychological
in a network. He must also concern himself with system by means of which personal knowledge
the knowledge he communicates, and the impor- becomes social knowledge, i. e. the knowledge
tance of that knowledge to both the individual possessed by a society.
and to society. Yet the study of the nature of
knowledge, and the relationship between that struc- The history and philosophy of knowledge as they
ture as it has developed in contemporary Western have evolved through time and in a variety of
civilization and the librarian's tools and resources cultures.
for intellectual access to it, have received scant
attention and no serious exploration. The existing bibliographic mechanisms and systems
We are, therefore, here concerned with the need and the extent to which they are in congruence
for a new epistemological discipline, a body of with the realities of the communication process, the
knowledge about knowledge itself. The manner in findings of epistemological inquiry, and the
which knowledge has developed and been aug- substantive content of the body of knowledge itself.
mented has long been a subject for study, but the
ways in which knowledge is coordinated, inte- Social Epistemology, Information Science and the
grated, and put to work is, as yet, an almost unre- Library
cognized field for investigation. Until recently
epistemology was a branch of speculative philoso- The socio-epistemological philosophy of librarian-
phy, concerned with how we know. The evolu- ship proposed here does not exclude the important
tion of the science of psychology, however, left contribution that the physical sciences can make
epistemology relatively poor in intellectual subs- to the intellectual arsenal of the librarian. Because
tance. Today, "scientific epistemology," to use a culture, and the subcultures of which it is
Eddington's term, has transformed the earlier phi- composed, is a complex social structure brought
losophical and speculative approach into a scien- into being by men who are themselves composities
tific and largely theoretical study that is concerned of psychological, biological, and physical phenom-
with what man cannot know, i. e. the limits, cons- ena, the physical as well as the social sciences are
traints, on human knowing, hut almost always relevant to the whole problem of social epis-
these limits were seen against the background of temology. If librarianship is to be concerned as
the intellectual processes of the individual. We it must be with the epistemological problem in
have not yet developed an ordered and compre- society, it must also be interdisciplinary. It must
hensive body of knowledge about intellectual bring to its practitioners the methods of any
differentiation and the integration of knowledge number of other sciences. The term "library science"
within a complex social organization. is, then, not an obfuscation invented to conceal
The new discipline that is here envisaged we have the flimsy foundations of the scholarship of the
called, for want of a better term, social episte- field. The real question that librarians must ask

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JESSE H. SHERA

themselves is not "Is librarianship a science?" but that understanding into service; it is at once
rather "What kind of science does or should, derivative, analytic, and synthetic.
librarianship represent?" Few will deny, we believe, Laurence Heilprin has admirably summarized the
that the human use of the graphic records of importance of the epistemological approach to the
society is a scientifically based study to which all problems of the librarian, in reviewing an earlier
branches of human knowledge can contribute. work of the present writer on this subject:
Because librarianship is primarily concerned with
the utilization of the social transcript by human "If the librarian ... is actually an important service
beings both individually and collectively, it is link in optimizing the use of graphic recorded
fundamentally a behavioristic science, but because information, then success depends on how much of
the methods and findings of the physical and this process he understands. He must see it all in
biological sciences are being increasingly applied profile how we manufacture knowledge, starting
to the study of human behavior, librarianship must with direct sense impressions and including (in
be "scientific" even in the classical use of the term. science, at least) careful comparison of commu-
A librarian, therefore, must be a scientist, not nicated abstractions . . . He also will tend to be
because he may be doling out scientific literature more of a scientist, and in particular will have to
to scientists and will perforce need to communicate understand the way in which what once has been
intelligibly with his patrons, but because science, accepted as objective tends with the advance of
in its broadest sense, is the foundation of the knowledge to slip back into its prior state of subjec-
librarian's scholarship. tivity. If epistemology encompasses this entire
The interdisciplinary focus of systems analysis and field, including all of communication science,
operations research has not only direct relevance clearly a large expansion is needed in the back-
to the librarian's procedures and technology, but ground of the information scientist. He must at least
also a symbolic meaning for the epistemological be aware of the entire process of knowledge, and
problem; for, as systems analysis directs scrutiny to of the principal constraints on and weak points in
the interrelations among the component parts of its communication. Educators who have to con-
an operating whole, so the mark of social epis- struct courses to guide and instruct the information
temology is that it places its emphasis upon the scientist cannot be less broad than those they are
whole man and the whole society, and all of their trying to educate. To be a competent teacher in
ways of thinking, knowing, feeling, acting, and this field will indeed be a challenge. We may
communicating. Science itself is a major social en- conclude that perhaps the main reason why infor-
terprise, carried on by individuals to be sure, but mation science has progressed such a short dis-
in the present day increasingly by individuals tance as a science is that we do not understand the
working in concert within the context or environ- connections we are groping for here. Lack of
ment of educational, research, industrial, and knowledge of epistemoly is possibly the greatest
governmental organizations and institutions. barrier to improving library and information
But librarians do not live by the bread of mathe- science." 2
matics alone, nor by the succotash of systems
analysis; to say that system is the essence of the Heilprin has, to all intents and purposes, made
science of librarianship states a very narrow and communication science virtually synonymous with
restricted view. The study of social epistemology, information science, and it is true that the phys-
which is in reality the study of social cognition, is ical scientists, especially the mathematicians and
the proper foundation of a science of librarian- engineers, have captured the latter and made it
ship. As a study in its own right it must synthesize their own almost to the exclusion of the librarians
and draw upon the work of many disciplines, who, originally entered the profession largely
but it must always focus upon these processes by through the humanities Heilprin was himself
which society achieves a state of knowing and originally a physicist. A reasonable consensus has
communicates its knowledge throughout its con- been reached that information science is an area
stituent parts. The librarian's responsibility is the of research that explores communication phenomena
efficient and effective management of the transcript, and the properties of communication systems. It
the graphic record of all that society knows and draws its substance and techniques from a variety
has recorded about itself and its world. The domain of overlapping disciplines to achieve an under-
of the library includes that which the social standing of the properties, behavior, and flow of
organism has learned, its values as well as its information. It includes systems analysis, environ-
imagery as well as its reality; it is at once historical, mental aspects of information and communication,
contemporary, and anticipatory. Thus the librarian information media and language analysis, the
can carry out his social responsibilities with maxi-
mum effectiveness only when he understands 2 MONTGOMERY, Edward B ed, The Foundations of
the cognitive processes of society and can translate Access to Knowledge. A Symposium. Syracuse, New
York, Syracuse University Press, 1968. p. 26-7.

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TOWARD A THEORY OF LIBRARIANSHIP AND INFORMATION SCIENCE

organization of information, man-systems relation- not solve all the ills by which we are beset, as we
ships, and other disciplines, either established or so naively once thought it would. Science can
in the process of development, that might promise destroy as well as create, and today it is doing both
to throw light on a particular area of inquiry. remarkably well. It now seems quite likely that
By "communication," the information scientist means the problems of the "seventies" are much more apt
any kind of knowledge through any medium or to be in the social, rather than the physical,
environment. But merely to state the definition sciences. Indeed many of the tasks that confront
reveals how very far we are from understanding us will be the correction of social ills that are the
the nature and behavior of information and the heritage of Science. Policy at the national, state,
social manifestations of it. and local levels and in all forms of organization,
Robert Fairthorne sees in information science "a whether in the public or private sectors, derives
dangerous tendency to bring in any and every from the point at which cognition (knowledge of
science or technique or phenomenon under the in- the facts) and conceptualization (judgment)
formation science heading." He saw in this meet and interact. Or, to express the idea with a
emerging discipline no "common principles," and different analogy, policy is the resultant of a
one does not create common principles by giving parallelogram of two orces, cognition, "telling it
different things the same name. We have no quarrel like it is," and conceptualization, the interpretation
with the scientist and the engineer, both can make of those facts in the light of experience derived
substantial contributions to what we have called from the immediate environment and an under-
social epistemology, but to pour the complex study standing of the past.
of social cognition into only the scientific mould,
denies the obvious fact that man is a social being. The Librarian and the Machine
He derives information from an infinite array of
sources from which he shapes and reshapes his Perhaps no aspect of librarianship has aroused so
behavior. Nor should the humanities be overlooked much interest, not to say curiosity in the public
for they, too, have an important role in the cogni- mind as mechanized information retrieval, and none
tive process. It is entirely possible that a scientist has been so unproductive. As early as the late
can derive insight into a problem he is inves- 1930's, Frederick Kepple, then executive director
tigating as much from listening to a symphony as of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, foresaw
to reading a scientific paper or report. Playing in the Hollerith tabulating machines the possibility
in an amateur quartel may be much more than of searching literature when the text was coded in
relaxation for the chemist; it may be an integral a way appropriate to the machine's capabilities.
part of the creative process. A dream of snakes, Hope sprung anew, after the Second World War,
with their tails in their mouths, rolling like hoops with the development of large-scale general purpose
gave Kekul the inspiration for the benzine ring. computers, or "giant brains." One should not say
The study of the cognitive process in society can that all attempts to automate indexing, abstracting,
illuminate even the most remote areas of intellec- and literature searching have been a failure,
tual activity regardless of the methods and tech- however, for work on the problem is still going
niques that it may borrow from other disciplines. forward in many places, and it seems inconceivable
Already the Russians have subordinated informa- that an innovation so inherently powerful as the
tion science to the social sciences. A special computer would leave the problem of the library
committee reporting to the Council for Mutual untouched. Nevertheless, the reasons for incon-
Economic Assistance has written, "Information spicuous success up to the present time are nu-
Science is a discipline belonging to Social Science merous. First, the costs of development and use
which studies the structure and general charac- of such examples as we do have are so great as
teristics of scientific information and also general to be economically impracticable. Second, experi-
laws governing all scientific communication proc- mentation began with the engineering aspects of
esses." But though the Russians have made infor- the problem; that is, machines were built that were
mation science a branch of the social sciences, monuments to the engineers' art, but no one knew
the focus is still upon scientific communication. quite what to do with them when they were built.
There would certainly seem to be no valid reason Technology preceded theory. "Software," had
why other substantive arcas should not be explored. been neglected in deference to "hardware," and few
The information scientist does not, or should not, understood the linguistic, logical, and organiza-
restrict himself to scientific information. tional problems involved. The result has been that
Our contemporary culture is, of course, deeply most of the machines have been, not information
rooted in Science, with a capital S, and for better retrieval mechanisms, but document retrieval de-
or worse it shapes the daily lives of all of us. vices electronic stack-boys rather than electronic
But recently there has been a growing disillusion reference librarians. These machines have emu-
with what the scientists and engineers are doing lated the physical behavior of the librarian rather
to society, and we are descovering that Science will than his intellectual processes. The engineers saw

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JESSE H. SHERA

the motions of the librarian as he "fetched and for the methods and techniques which, over the
carried," as the early explorers of flight sought to years, they have come unquestioningly to accept as
copy the birds. There is as yet no theory of "aero- axiomatic. There has been considerable debate
dynamics" in librarianship. in the computer community over whether or not
But to say that the computer has not yet fulfilled computers can be made which will "think." The
its promise as an acceptable instrument for infor- debate is a futile one and most of it rests on pure
mation retrieval does not imply that its coming has semantic notions. However, there would seem
been without benefit to the library world. For to be a certain reciprocity of relationship between
many library housekeeping operations fiscal con- what the applied mathematicians and engineers
trol, circulation records, the preparation of cat- are doing and the investigations of the cognitive
alogues the computer has been eminently success- process by the neuro-physiologists and psychologists.
ful. Moreover, on-line shared-time systems used As man learns more about the nature of thought
in conjunction with closed-circuit television have he will doubtless be able to fabricate mechanisms
greatly expedited the growth of library networks, that simulate thought, whether they actually "think"
such as that of the Ohio College Library Center or not. And as we learn more about computers we
in Columbus, to the substantial advantage of the should be able to derive increasingly perceptive
participating libraries. Increasingly libraries are insights into the operation of the brain and the
making use of machine-readable tapes produced by central nervous system. To know more than we do
other libraries, such as the MARC project at the now about how man learns, both man as an in-
Library of Congress and comparable services per- dividual and mankind collectively, is an exciting
formed by the National Library of Medicine. In prospect for both teacher and librarian, but it raises
library-related operations, the production of indexes some serious, not to say frightening, problems
and concordances, the computer has lifted a respecting the possibility of eventual thought con-
heavy manual burden of scholarly spade-work. A trol that will make our present concern over
very limited success has also been achieved in censorship pale into insignificance; here would be
autornated abstracting though its efficiency in this the ultimate in brainwashing. But man is not likely
area is yet to be proved. All of these adaptations to impose upon himself a moritorium on inquiry,
of the computer should become increasingly ben- certainly he has not done so in the past. If we even-
eficial as experience is gained. That cataloging and, tually come to understand the process of personal
eventually, reference services in the library will be and social cognition we inust develop an ethic and
drastically changed in the not-far-distant future by the necessary controls that will keep it out of the
computer technology would seem to be a logical hands of the unscrupulous. We cannot answer
conclusion. Thomas Huxley's question, "What are you going to
Yet, as Archibald MacLeish has pointed out, mi- do with all these new things?" by concerning
raculous as these electronic contraptions are, they ourselves with only man's place in nature, as
have become available, "precisely at a time when philosophy and science have done in the past, while
the great human need is not for additional infor- ignoring man's place in the new environment
mation or more rapid information or more uni- created by "all these new things." As Elting Morison
versally available information but for the com- has pointed out, the rate of change, all create in
prehension of the enormous quantities of existing the environment conditions that are beyond the
information the scientific and other triumphs of human powers of accommodation. The result is a
the last several generations have already dumped sense of alienation that is intensified by the fact
into our minds. It is not additional 'messages' we that though the system may have an intellectual
need, and least of all additional 'messages' which and empirical integrity it has no apparent purpose
merely tell us that the medium which communi- beyond effective operation. Libraries, even highly
cates the message has changed the world. We know mechanized and efficiently operated libraries,
the world has changed ... What we do not know should not exist to give librarians something to do,
is how, precisely, it is changing and in what di- though we confess to having seen some libraries
rection and with what consequences to ourselves."3 that would seem to have no other raison d'etre.
Perhaps the greatest contribution the computer has More than ever our society appears to need what
made to librarianship to the present time is that libraries have to offer, but what the nature of
subtle and intangible way in which it has compelled that need is, and how it should be met is still
librarians for the first time to think analytically unclear,
and critically about what they are doing and
whether they should be doing it. The computer has The Flight from Bibliography
given librarians a whole new frame of reference
"Bibliography bears its investigating torch into all
parts of knowledge," wrote Gustave Mouravit, in
3 MACLEISH, ARCHIBALD Champion of a Cause. praising the Brunet system of bibliographic classi-
Chicago, American Library Association, 1971. p. 246.

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TOWARD A THEORY OF LIBRARIANSHIP AND INFORMATION SCIENCE

fication when it was at the height of its popularity, fungible (as the lawyers put it) object made of
more than a century ago. Yet almost at the very paper, print, and protective covering that fulfills
time that Mouravit was declaring the importance its bibliographical destiny by being classified as to
of bibliography to the world of scholarship, and the subject and catalogued by author and title and
bibliographic problem as being central to the properly shelved?"' Unfortunately there are far too
librarian's responsibilitics, librarians, inspired by many librarians who see bibliography as being no
a vision of the library as the great agency of uni- more than such mechanical routines. Just as we
versal education, were turning their backs on their would have the computerized information retrieval
bibliographic heritage. There was nothing in- system be something more than an electronic stack
herently wrong, of course, in the librarians broad- boy, the librarian should be more than a check-
ening their services and reaching out to "the girl in a bibliothecal package room. The librarian
common man," who then seemed, and still is, the to fulfill his destiny must know the subject field
hope of democracy. But when the librarians began over which he presides, the literature of that field,
to proselyte they were led to forget that librarian- and be able to communicate to those who seek
his services as one of their peers. To modify the
ship is fundamentally a bibliographic enterprise Indian Proverb, he must have walked a mile in
regardless of the sophistication of the clientele. We the patron's moccasins. Yet few librarians have
are here, of course, using "bibliography" in its made such a journey.
broadest sense, not merely to be confined to the Libraries have not taken into account, as they
compiling of bibliographies. By bibliographic activ- should, subject specialization in the organization of
ity we would mean to include all those opera- their staffs. To be sure, some of the the larger
tions, funetions, and insights that are required to research libraries have used subject bibliographers,
bring book and user together, under appropriate where it was forced upon them by linguistic
headings. The librarians failed to perceive that one necessity, thus bibliographers in the Oriental,
cannot serve the library needs of the "common Middle-Eastern, and Slavic languages are certainly
man," by being a common librarian, any more than not unknown in large academic libraries where
a good children's librarian can be a child. To graduate offerings in those areas have made them
bring books and people intellectually together a necessity. There have also been specialized
requires a certain body of knowledge and skills, a library facilities to serve particular groups within
certain expertise, that has not been appreciated, the university community of which the industrial
and for which our present system of education for and labor relations centers at Chicago, Cornell,
librarianship has not prepared its students. Illinois, and elsewhere are good examples. But often
The bibliographic enterprise is composed of three the personnel for these specialties are drawn, not
constituent elements: acquisition, which means from the ranks of the librarians, who receive no
knowing what materials to acquire and how to adequate preparation for such duties in their
acquire them; organization, the arrangement and professional education, but from the subject field
analysis of the materials so that their intellectual itself. Yet, despite the success of these little prin-
content will be appropriately available; and service, cipalities within the library empire, librarians have
which is assistance to the reader. Traditionally not imaginatively redrawn their general organiza-
these functions have been kept separate on the tion charts in terms of subject and bibliographic
organization chart of most libraries, each depart- funcitons so that acquisition, organization, and
ment with its own staff. This practice we believe service could be subordinate to the subject depart-
to have been a mistake, for these elements are mental structure. What would seem to be most
not isolates but parts of an integrated whole. Con- needed is a modification of the area study programs
in the university curriculum adapted to the de-
ventionally we have thought in terms of acquisi- partmental structure of the library. Though li-
tion librarians, catalogers, and reference librarians, brarians still pay lip service to bibliography as
when we should have been thinking of subject being central to their profession, it is not reflected
specialists who have the competence to unite in either in their professional preparation or in
themselves the three basic capabilities represented practice.
in their subject, or substantive branch of knowledge.
A librarian is not just a librarian, he is a librarian The Pattern of the Future and its Meaning for the
of something, a librarian in a specific subject Librarians Professional Education
field, and it is, therefore, the librarians substantive
knowledge, rather than the tricks of the librarian's What, then, are the most conspicuous strands that
trade, that make him the bibliographer he should comprise the warp and woof of the library fabric
be. "What is a book to a librarian?" MacLeish American Scholar. 41:357, Summer 1972.
asked the audience assembled for the dedication of 4 MACLEISH. Archibald. "The Premise of Meaning."
the Scott Library at York University in Toronto.
"Is it merely the unit of collection, a more or less

Ci. Inf., Rio de Janeiro, 2(2):87-97, 1973 93


JESSE H. SHERA

and which are most likely to set the pattern for the attack upon library problems than has previously
future? In the opinion of the present writer the existed.
most important would seem to be the growth of Stimulated perhaps by growing unemployment in
library networks, systems in which the total bi- other academic and professional areas of intellectual
bliographic resources of an area or region can be endeavor, increasingly recruits to librarianship are
brought to bear at any one point in the whole. bringing with them advanced study in the academic
For decades librarians have talked about the values disciplines, and from this "invasion" librarianship
of cooperation, and now, at long last, they would should profit. This situation recapitulates in large
appear to be making some progress toward its measure that of the depression of the 1930s, when
realization. Libraries can no longer afford the luxury librarianship was greatly strengthened by the addi-
of unrestrained growth, if indeed they ever could, tion to its ranks of young scholars, well trained
the burden of acquisition must be shared. At a in a substantive field, turned to librarianship to
time when the technology of communication is escape the economic stringency that beset their
making such impressive advances as it is today, to original career choices. But librarianship is already
continue to assemble libraries and information feeling the pinch of depression, too, so how long
centers in isolation from the other segments of the the present situation will continue is problem-
library community is both economically wasteful atical. For the moment, at least, the library world
and professionally exhausting. should be the beneficiary of the "ill wind" of others.
Closely allied to the emergence of networks is the Finally, in this brief catalogue of current trends in
growing interest among librarians in general librarianship there is the growing awareness that
systems theory. Admittedly systems concepts have the library, especially the public library, does have
been drawn from a diversity of disciplines, each an obligation to be relevant to today's social needs,
with its own jargon and emphasis, and it is the to use the jargon of the young activists, and to
nature of organized systems that they present them- extend its services to the disadvantaged, the de-
selves differently to different observers, yet these prived, and the rejected minorities. We are con-
theories do provide new and fruitful modes of uni- cerned when the librarian tries to play social worker,
fication, binding together apparently unrelated but certainly he, or she, should cooperate with
areas of discourse of spheres of human activity and the social worker in bringing the power of the
thought. To librarianship the value of general recorded word to bear upon the serious social pro-
systems theory would seem to be that it makes blems by which our communities are beset. Ac-
possible for the first time the ability to study and tually, though the clientele may be markedly
to provide the tools for that study, the library and different from the past, the nature of the librarian's
its operations from an hollistic frame of reference, task may not be so drastically changed. As John
rather than to see it, as has so often been true in Gardner has said in The Recovery of Confidence:
the past, fragmented into a cluster of specific
operations often without relation to each other and Young idealists who profess utter emancipation
lacking the realization that what affects one part from the past pour out torrents of words about
may have serious repercussions in others. The value the values they wish to live by, and to, they turn
of general systems theory to the librarian is yet out to be, for the most part, updated versions of
to be tested, but certainly it promises a profound very old values. True, the values have been ignored,
revolution in science and other areas of thought, traduced, lied about, manipulated, and falsified.
and it now appears that it can give to the librarian But that only says that they need rescuing. 6
insights and comprehension that have long been
lacking. To change an agency created by and for the schol-
Automation and related technologies, together with arship of an elite to one that serves the informa-
the rise of information science, despite disappoint-
ments and as yet unfulfilled promises are, in a
limited way, already making some significant con- 5 Nevertheless, despite the promise of the computer,
tributions to the library's operations, especially even for repetitive tasks, it is only fair to report that
in one situation at least replacement of the computer
those repetitive tasks that are mechanical rather by human beings has proved profitable. The Wall
than intellectual. 5 Other and far-reaching devel- Street Journal for February 15, 1972 announced that
opments may be expected to follow during the at the California Commission for Teacher Preparation
coming generation, but perhaps most important of and Licensing elimination of the computer in favor
of human skills enabled the agency to reduce its staff
all they signify a shift from the humanities, which from 240 to 106 and pare the time for processing
for so many centuries dominated librarianship to credentials from 95 days to 10. As one agency official
the physical, biological, and social sciences. The expressed it, "The computer was a good worker, but
humanities still hold an important place in the li- it just couldn't compete with people."
brarian's arsenal of capabilities, but we are be- 6 Quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, June 29,
ginning to get a much more balanced intellectual 1972.

Ci. Inf., Rio de Janeiro, 2(2):87-97, 1973 94


TOWARD A THEORY OF LIBRARIANSHIP AND INFORMATION SCIENCE

tional needs of the masses will present some pro- the bibliographic aspects of his specialty, adminis-
blems, but the transformation is not impossible, trativo and management theory, and communica-
and in part the survival of democracy may depend tion theory and information science as they all
on just such a change. relate to library functions and practices. There will
Even this brief listing of the more conspicuous be those, of course, who will argue that such a
changes that are now taking place in librarianship program will be so expensive that it will place the
should be sufficient to emphasize the need for librarian economically beyond the reach of the
complete renovation of the librarian's professional small to medium-sized communities. But a doctor
education. Despite the progress that has been in a small town does not need to know less med-
made in the training of the librarian since the end icine than his colleagues in the city. Moreover, the
of the second World War, and there have been growth of library systems should bring these
impressive gains, the overwhelming reaction of the human resources within the budgetary limits of the
present writer, after a quarter of a century of smaller urban centers. The question is not, can
library school teaching and administration is a great we afford such librarians as are here envisaged, but
lack of enthusiasm for it. This is probably a terrible can we afford not to have them? The farmer is
confession for us to make, especially after our as important a part of the democratic system as the
having just published a five-hundred page book on city dweller, and he has as much of a right to
the subject, but it is not easy to react otherwise the best library resources as his brother on Fifth
and retain one's intellectual integrity. It is difficult Avenue. Realistically, of course, the opportunities
to escape the conclusion that library education possessed by the two can never be completely
represents what is, perhaps, least important in the equal, but certainly the differential does not need
librarian's professional equipment., and that what to be as great as it is today. In the language of
makes a good librarian good is his mastery and the market-place, librarianship has not "sold itself"
understanding of the substantive knowledge rep- to the community in the way it should, but on
resented by the materials over which he presides. the other hand, let us face it, it has not had too
The library should be the "crowning glory" of our much to sell.
educational system, and not, as the sixth president In the past the education of the librarian has, by
of the United States said, merely "a nest in which implication at least, been predicated on the pos-
to hatch scholars." The needs of the scholar are sibility of attaining an encyclopedic goal of the
certainly not to be minimized, but the library should mastery of all knowledge. But the objective was
also be a place to which the good citizen can turn never quite possible of realization, and attempts to
to make himself a better, more enlightened, citizen. achieve it end in either pedantry or dilettantism.
Therefore the first need of the librarian is a good A truly educated man is not one who knows
general or liberal, education. For if there is any "everything," but one who is constantly learning. In
profession the practitioners of which should "see urging that the librarian prepare himself to qualify
life steady and see it whole" is certainly librarian- as a subject specialist, we are not suggesting that
ship. The conclusion would seem to be so obvious he be what is often described as a "narrow special-
its to make argument unnecessary, yet one of the ist." He who is narrowly expert is often only
great problems that confronts the libary school broadly ignorant, and his broad ignorance will make
today is the numbers of students who come to its him an inadequate specialist. What gives depth
doors who lack just such secondary and undergrad- and meaning to specialized knowledge is the gen-
uate preparation. eral education upon which it is based and from
Beyond general education there is subject specializa- which it is intelectually derived.
tion in a respectable academic discipline which A word, and for present purposes no more than
should be pursued by the student to at least that, should be added about research in librarian-
the level or the Master's degree, and preferably ship, the state of which distresses us even more
beyond. The library recruit should bring to the than that of library education itself; so much time
library school a thorough education in the literature and effort is wasted on matters that are trivial.
of his chosen field, the structure of that literature, The most important single fact about research in
its "lan mark" contributions, its schools of thought, librarianship is that much of it cannot be done
the problems by which it is beset and the advances by librarians. The librarian's scholarship is deriva-
toward their solution. Thus equipped he should tive, it must wait upon the results of inquiry in
be able to communicate with and even anticipate such fields as linguistics, anthropology, the social
the needs of the scholar while not damaging his and physical sciences generally, on physiology,
capacity to present to the intelligent layman, or medicine, systems analysis, communication theory,
the layman with little formal education, the rele- the science, if there be one, of administration and
vance of that field to the needs of the citizen. Thus management, education, learning theory, and a host
equipped the student should be ready to pursue of other disciplines. Many of these branches of
his professional training which should emphasize knowledge have given librarians tools with which

95
Ci. Inf., Rio de Janeiro, 2(2):87-97, 1973
JESSE H. SHERA

they can cultivate their own fields of inquiry, but to a point unequalled since the moral decay of
the librarians must either learn to use these unfa- the Athenians that followed the Peloponnesian war,
miliar tools or call upon the assistance of those and from which Athens never recovered. Hard
skilled in their use. But librarians must stop toying upon the heels of these catastrophies come such
with these tools in the pretense that they are concerns as the destruction of the environment;
pushing back the frontiers of knowledge. A con- the rising tide of crime; the increase in drug traffic
tinuing dialogue between the librarians and the and addiction; the problem of race relations in
appropriate scholars in relevant fields there must all its subtlety and ugliness; inflation and, for our
be, but it must not stop with the exchange of own country particularly, the international monetary
words. The librarian who desires to engage in honest situation. But there are many other social problems
research must become so knowledgeable about that are much less conspicuous than those just
the fields related to his inquiries that he can select mentioned: the increasing mobility of our popula-
from them and apply them to his own research tion which destroys man's roots in the soil and
in valid and fruitful ways. Form, method, and tech- makes all life transitory and a series of episodes;
nique, much less imitation, are not the essence the loosening of ties that once bound so securely
of inquiry. One does not produce valid research by family and friends; an economy so heavily de-
playing the sedulous ape to the Methodists in pendent on the automobile that all else must be
their white aprons in the hope that form will yield sacrificed to it; the problem of readjustment to
substance. automation, the profitable use of leisure time
resulting therefrom and the need for retraining
The Burden of the Library personnel for service, rather than productive
occupations that are directed toward the making
There are, for the human mind, but two sources, of "things;" the proper use of automation, itself,
broadly speaking, of knowledge, wisdom, and truth i. e. where and where not it is appropriate, in
experience and record, typified in our culture libraries particularly premature enthusiasm for
by the laboratory and the library. The purist will automation has frequently drained away resources
argue, of course, and quite rightly that both are that might better have been invested in the ac-
experience only one is direct and the other vicarious, quisition of materials or the improvement of the
but it will not serve our purposes here to debate bibliographic competence of the staff; distrust of
semantics. The point is that the library as the main all governmental institutions together with the
repository for record is a major source of vicarious apathetic acceptance of corruption as a part of
experience. Yet few agencies in our society, in- "politics;" the wresting of power from Congress by
cluding the educational system, have suffered such the Executive which seems to suggest a potential
neglect and are so confused about what they are for dictatorship that is greater than this writer has
supposed to do. The founding fathers of the ever seen; the growth of censorship and the
Republic were right in insisting that the success of restrictions being imposed by government on the
a democracy depends upon an enlightened elec- news media; the artificial stimulation of "wants"
torate, and that man must learn to act so that it beyond the economic ability of many to fulfill that
can truthfully be said that "the voice of the people is the curse that uncontrolled salesmanship has
is the voice of God." Yet today the problems of placed upon us; and the decay of standards of moral
our nation have become so complex that rational conduct which is by no means confined to the
action, even for the most enlightened, becomes young. The list is impressive and bewildering, small
almost an impossibility, wonder that youth is in revolt.
Underlyng all our problems, in this writer's view, We would not, of course, maintain that the library
is that of uncontrolled population growth; to it has the key to unlock the solutions to all of these
almost all our other ills can be traced. Even with problems, but certainly its resources when properly
the remedies now available it seems entirely pos- used can provide badly needed insights into the
sible that the will to use them may be coming character of the problems, the solutions that have
too late, especially in those parts of the world in been attempted in the past, and possible alt-
which remedial measures are most needed. The ernative courses of action. But a book that is never
Rev. Thomas Malthus may be proved right after read, no matter how potentially valuable ,is worth-
all, and that population even in Western Europe less. The library cannot force its services upon
and on the American continent, does increase more an unwilling or unprepared body politick. It must
rapidly than the means of subsistance. But prob- depend upon the school to create an intellectual
ably uppermost in the minds of the majority is climate in which youth and adult will voluntarily
the folly of the brutal and absurd war in Vietnam seek the benefits that the library can provide,
which has not only shamefully wasted our physical and the schools are not doing so. If the end of
and human resources, both ours and theirs, but education is to develop the capacity to propound
also, even worse, has eroded our national character alternatives, then the educational system in its

Ci. Inf., Rio de Janeiro, 2(2):87-97, 1973 96


TOWARD A THEORY OF LIBRARIANSHIP AND INFORMATION SCIENCE

entirity, meaning the school, the library, and the fabric. Librarianship, fundamentally a behavioristic
agencies of adult education must work together science, is considered by the Russians as a branch
in the creation of an enlightened electorate capable of the social sciences. Our culture, deeply rooted
of rational choice if democracy is to survive. Yet in Science, is discovering that the latter can destroy
not in the memory of this writer has the public been as well as create, and the problems of the "seven-
so sheep-like, and democracy so trembled on the ties" are much apt to be in the social, rather than
brink of disaster. We would not "cry havoc" or the pbysical sciences. As to the present trends,
surrender to despair, but we have never forgotten perhaps no aspect of librarianship has aroused so
from our undergraduate years, a sentence with much interest as mechanized information retrieval,
which that distinguished sociologist, E.A. Ross, and none has been so unproductivc, since emphasis
concluded one of the chapters of his introductor" was given to machines and not to human, logical,
text in sociology: "Humanity," he wrote, "has a linguistic, etc., aspects; bibliography, the librarian's
perilous knife-edge to travel, and humanity may central activity meaning all activities that are
fail." These words were written, mark you, just after
we had concluded a war of which it was said required to bring book and user together has
that "we stood at Armageddon and we battled for not taken subject specialization into account; on
the Lord," and in so doing the world had been the other hand, there is nowadays an interest in
made "safe for democracy." Yet little more than a cooperation stimulated by the technology of com-
decade later an unknown Austrian house-painter munication, general systems theory, automation
would "let slip the dogs of war," and after that and related technologies, which signifies a shift from
Korea and Vietnam and terror of the Bomb all the humanities to the physical, biological, and
from a country that boasts of the finest public social sciences. For several reasons people from
library system in the world. other areas are recruiting to librarianship, but from
this "invasion" librarianship should profit; as for
the public library, librariam are trying to play social
ABSTRACT worker. All these trends imply in changes in the
librarian's professional education. The first need of
Functions of librarianship broadened through the the librarian is a good, general, or liberal, educa-
ages reflecting the attitudes, values and goals of tion, with a level of Master's degree in a subject
the societies that supported it. Its social mission did specialization, which only will have a meaning if
not change, and librarians, however, have an
imperfect understanding of the book as an in- based upon that general education. Research in
tellectual entity. They must know the cognitive librarianship must receive the participation of spe-
system of the individual and the communication cialists from other arcas because librarians do not
network of society, as well as the importance of have the correct education which could make them
that knowledge to both the individual and to capable of carrying out research projects. If the
society, Social epistemology would be a new di- end of education is to develop the capacity to
scipline with a focus upon the production, flow, propound alternatives, then educational system in
integration and consuption of all forms of com- its entirity must work together in the creation of
municated thought throughout the entire social an enlightened electorate capable of rational choice
it democracy is to survive.

Ci. Inf., Rio de Janeiro, 2(2):87-97, 1973 97


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