School of Information Management & Systems
 Previously School of Library & Information Studies

  Michael Buckland,   Professor.

  Documentation, Information Science and Library Science in the USA
Summary of:   Michael K. Buckland.   Documentation, Information Science and Library Science in the USA Information Processing and Management 32, no. 1 (1996): 63-76.
Reprinted in: Historical Studies in Information Science, ed. by T. B. Hahn & M. Buckland. Also text.

Why were technical and technological experimentation and innovation, notably but not only by the European documentalists, substantially ignored in library science in the U.S.A. until after the Second World War? What would explain the intense but generally unsatisfactory controversy involving "information science versus library science" after the Second War World? Why was technical and technological innovation a vital force in librarianship in the late nineteenth century and in late twentieth century, but not, it seems, inbetween?
Analysis suggests that these three issues are closely related. One reason design and technology were of limited interest within library science in the U.S.A. in the second quarter of this century is that the most influential academic group was engaged in a vigorous, well-funded drive to develop a new school of thought with a new and different emphasis. By the 1930s the Graduate Library School at the University of Chicago and the European documentalists represented different schools of thought with different interests. Such differences are to be expected in any field that is alive.
The period after the Second World War was tension-filled, we suggest, because the dominant non-technological, social science oriented paradigm in U.S. library science, what we might call the school of Chicago, was challenged, rivalled, and changed by the return, in part from outside of library science, of a serious interest in design and technology. The matters that had interested the European documentalists emerged as a powerful force in U.S. library science twenty years later than in Europe. There were by now new and more powerful machines. There was, after a few years, a new name: "information science". The individuals leading the change commonly come from outside of librarianship and there was little association with war-devasted Europe. The European documentalists of the 1930s, who had written mainly in French and German, were largely forgotten.
We suggest that the temporary de-emphasis of design and technology contributed to a prolonged failure of identity and direction in the academic departments of library and information studies. What can be the purpose of a university-based professional school if research is not centered on the design of improved services? The absence of this central concern leads to a lack of purpose beyond sustaining a continuity of training in procedures, a preoccupation with "professionalism", and little convincing basis for a research agenda. Absent a central concern with design and technique, a coherent vision for research and for university-based professional education is also absent.
Go to History of information management or to Michael Buckland's home-page.