Melvil Dewey (credit: Wikipedia)
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Though libraries themselves have been around for centuries, it was only in the late 19th century that the idea of librarianship as a profession began to take hold. This ultimately led to the development of library schools. Melvil Dewey, perhaps most well known for the invention of the Dewey Decimal Classification System, was the first to establish a professional school dedicated to the formal education of future librarians. Dewey, also one of the founders of the American Library Association, founded the School of Library Economy at Columbia College in New York City in 1887 (Miksa, 1986).

Katherine Sharp
For the next several years, debate existed on the nature of library education. Finally, in 1893 at the Conference of Librarians at Lakewood-on-Chatauqua, it was agreed upon that schools of librarianship should be part of universities, college education should be a prerequisite for admission, and an examining board should be set up to certify librarians' credentials or accredit the library program from which the individual graduated (Wilson, 1998).

Dewey's School of Library Economy lasted at Columbia only a couple of years until 1889, when support
Mary Plummer
from the college was withdrawn. Dewey then reestablished it at the New York State Library in Albany. Also during this time, some of Dewey's students went on to found other institutions. In 1890, Mary Plummer helped establish the Pratt Institute Library School in Manhattan. Katherine Sharp helped set up the Library School at the Armour Instittue in Chicago in 1897, which soon thereafter moved away from the technical school to the University of Illinois in Urbana. Both Sharp and Plummer were also instrumental in the establishment of the library school in Wisconsin, which began as a series of summer sessions at the University of Wisconsin from 1895 to 1905. In 1906, the Wisconsin Library School was founded (Bunge, 1997).

By the end of 1905, 9 library schools had been established in the United States, including Merica Hoagland's Indiana Library School. The Indiana School, unlike its contemporaries, presented an "open door of opportunity," admitting students without college degrees. This, in part, may have led to its demise as most similar schools of the time provided graduate-level education. In fact, in a series of reports by Charles C. Williamson in 1921 and 1923, it was recommended that education for librarians be provided at a graduate level and that bachelor's degrees be prerequisites for admission. Though there are some bachelor-level programs, graduate schools in librarianship are still the norm today (Wilson, 1998).
In the last century, the numbers of graduate library schools and students have continued to grow, though they peaked in the 1970s and 80s with yearly graduates in 1974 of 7494. In 1981, the number of graduate library schools in the United States peaked at 69, though only 3899 students graduated that year. By the year 2004, 256,000 librarians have graduated from formal programs. In 2004, 55 schools existed in the United States (Lynch, 2008).

University of Illinois in Urbana Statistics from 1893 to 1921
Number of Graduates
Average Graduates per year
Percent with College Degrees
More about Library Schools in 1905

Bunge, Charles A. "The History of the Wisconsin Library School - School of Library and Information Studies 1895-1997." 1997. University of Wisconsin. 19 Oct. 2008. <http://www.slis.wisc.edu/about/historyproject/index.html>

Lynch, Beverly P. "Library Education: Its Past, Its Present, Its Future." Library Trends, 56:4 (Spring 2008) pp. 931-953.

Miksa, Francis L. "Melvil Dewey: The Professional Educator and His Heirs." Library Trends 34:3 (Winter 1986) pp. 359-381.

Passet, Joanne. "The Open Door of Opportunity: The Indiana Library School and its Students, 1905 - 1912." Libraries and Culture, 23:4 (Fall 1988) pp. 474-492. (For University of Illinois chart)

Wilson, Anthony M. and Robert Hermanson. "Educating and Training Library Practitioners: A Comparative History with Trends and Recommendations - Includes Appendix on History of Library Education." Library Trends 46:3 (Winter 1998) pp. 467-504.