History of Libraries and LIS Professions – Part 2


Welcome to the second segment of the
History of LIS and LIS Professions for SLIS: 701 Introduction to Library and
Information Studies. To recap, in the first segment, I discussed the conditions
under which libraries (past and present) flourish. I reviewed the relationship
between communication of information and records keeping. I also highlighted texts
and libraries from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Please review the Readings and
Websites section of the lesson plan module on Blackboard for the required
materials for this lesson. By the end of this discussion, you will be able to: analyze which preconditions for having a library significantly impacted library development in Western Europe; describe how monastic orders contributed to the preservation of text of late antiquity as well as the establishment of medieval libraries; summarize how the advent of the printing press impacted bibliographic control in modern libraries; compare and contrast the types of
libraries that developed in colonial North America; and identify the
classification schemes introduced in the United States in the late 19th century.
As you will recall, libraries thrive under three conditions, one of which is
political stability. During the medieval period major civilizations faced
political, linguistic, and religious upheavals; culminating in an ideological
rift between East and West. The medieval period was marked by
successive power shifts between the superpowers of the ancient world – Persia
and Rome; compounded by invasion and conquest of both superpowers by the Steppe Empire of Central Asia. Scholars of European history refer to
events between the 5th and 15th centuries CE as the Dark or Middle
Ages and map the era from the juncture beginning with the fracturing of the
Roman Empire to the emergence of the Italian Renaissance movement. During this
period, archives and libraries remained closely
associated with sanctioned religious organizations. Much like digital and web
technologies have impacted today’s libraries, technological innovations of
late antiquity impacted libraries of the medieval period. Vellum, thin layers of
stretched cow skin, replaced papyri as a medium for recording written information.
Woodblock printing and paper making were introduced by China, and manuscript formats shifted from rolls to codices. Monastic libraries have been credited with preserving the written record of antiquity. They were usually attached to monasteries or other religious foundations and primarily functioned to transcribe religious texts and produce religious manuscripts. Nalanda, a Buddhist monastery and
university in India founded by the Gupta Empire, was renowned for its extensive
collections. Scholars from China, Greece, and Persia attended the learning center. The library
contained religious manuscripts as well as texts on astronomy, astrology, grammar, literature, medicine, and philosophy. The outcome of the fall of Rome in 476 CE fractured the Roman Empire; resulting in the collapse of the Western counterpart, Western Europe; while the Eastern counterpart, Byzantium remained intact. Church scriptoriums were instrumental to both the flourishing of Byzantine libraries and the reestablishment of Western European libraries. Byzantium monks are credited with preserving Greek and Roman classics as well as creating illumination depictions in the Bibles of the Middle Ages. In Western Europe, monasteries were the only institutions with the ability to sustain the necessary conditions for library development. As hermitages, they provided seclusion for Christian refugees beleaguered by the pervading decline within the society. Monastic libraries were small and contained texts collected by monks. Manuscripts were common property and
formed the nucleus of the church library. Texts were added to the collection by
scribal monks who carefully copied books borrowed from other collections.
Charlemagne was the first monarch to emerge and administer social reforms
after the collapse of Western Europe. Recognizing the need for literacy, he
called for educational reform and monasteries assumed responsibility for
establishing educational centers in the 7th to 11th centuries. Monastic
libraries developed in the region as a result of the service of monks in monastic orders. In the order of St. Benedict, the Rule of St. Benedict called for: poverty and communal living, physical labor, reading, and manual copying of
books. The Benedictine scriptoria proved to be essential to the establishment of
libraries in Western Europe during this time. Monks of the Carthusian and Cistercian
orders adopted library and reading rules, and Franciscan friars developed
libraries for clergy and public use. As libraries were opened to users outside
of religious or learning centers, chaining systems were implemented as
measures for collections management, to secure text and prevent theft. Other
innovations during the medieval period included the use of the paper mill in
the 8th century CE, movable-type printing systems in the 11th and 14th
centuries CE, and the Gutenberg printing press in the 15th century CE. Libraries
have been associated with religious and political authority since antiquity.
Libraries of medieval Europe were also connected with the Church and were
officially sanctioned by Roman authority, i.e., the Catholic Church. The impact of the
printing press on libraries in Europe was closely related to the religious reforms
taking place at the time. Scribes were no longer needed to produce
manuscripts. The Church was also losing control over
information, as religious reformers like Martin Luther were able to quickly
spread ideas through the use of pamphlets. By the 16th century, the Parliament of
England passed the Suppression of Religious Houses Act, setting in motion
the closure and dissolution of many monastic libraries across Europe. Other
types of libraries developed during this period as well. Please read your text for
more details regarding medieval Islamic libraries as well as cathedral and
university libraries in Western Europe. Book printing had a tremendous impact on
book production and libraries of the Modern era and it was a labor-intensive
process. Movable-type technology had been introduced in the 11th century by the
Chinese inventor, Bi Sheng. Sheng used ceramic typeset made of baked clay for his
printing system. Wáng Zhēn, a Chinese magistrate, improved upon the process in
the 14th century by adding a revolving type case and wooden typeset. When German inventor Johann Gutenberg
mechanized the movable-type system in the 15th century, book publishing was revolutionized in Europe. Publishing houses gained momentum with the introduction of the printing press and helped the spread of books. The advent of printing galvanized book publishing; the rise of publishing houses, and translated into increased library collection sizes and the need for collections management. Library catalogs, publishing, and printing bibliographies became methods for
organizing and sharing bibliographic information. Public libraries, in the
contemporary sense of the term did not emerge until the mid-19th century but as
with all things in life, there were exceptions. The Malatestiana Library was
opened in Cesena, Italy in 1454 CE. The UNESCO Memory of the World Register lists it as the last ancient library dating before the invention of printing. Malatesta Novello, collaborated with Franciscans to sponsor the library but
entrusted the collection to the Commune of Cesena. Novello wanted the library to be a
universal, humanistic library open to the public. Chetham’s Library was established
as a free, reference library in Manchester, England in 1653 CE. At the
time, it was the only independent place of study in the north of England. Library
benefactor, Humphrey Chetham wanted the library constructed for the education of
“the sons of honest, industrious, and painful parents.” Chetham’s will of 1651 CE bequeathed the library for the use of
“scholars and others well affected” and instructed the librarian to “require
nothing of any man that cometh” into the house. The library has been in continuous
use for over 350 years. Colonial North American libraries were
either set up with endowments from English colonists and emigrants, or
fashioned after organizational methods of England. John Harvard, a dissenting
minister from England, emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1638 CE, he
bequeathed his library to a yet-to-be created college of the colony. The
college, once established took the name of its first benefactor and Harvard’s
collection of books seeded the Harvard University Library. Parochial libraries were established in the colonies from 1696-1704 CE by Anglican clergyman Thomas Bray. Bray envisioned three types of
libraries; parochial libraries, tied to Anglican parishes; provincial libraries, located
in key towns and accessible to all, and layman’s libraries, lending libraries for
parishioners. Subscription libraries evolved from book clubs and were
private libraries funded through membership fees. The first subscription library in colonial North America was the Library Company of Philadelphia, set up by Benjamin Franklin in 1731 CE. The Charleston Library Society in South Carolina was the third subscription library of the colonies; it was established in 1748 CE. Circulating or rental libraries were operated by booksellers or printing shops that charged fees for borrowing books. For the remainder of this segment I will
focus on public libraries in the United States and recommend you read the text for information regarding national, academic, and special libraries. The first
public library in colonial North America was housed in the Boston Town House.
Robert Keayne, an emigrant and tailor from England, bequest funds to the town of Boston for the construction of the Town House. His collection of books was donated to the library in 1656 CE. The Boston Town House was destroyed by
fire in 1711 CE. The conceptual foundation for the modern public lending library in the United States sprouted from ideas relating to access,
sharing, and relevance of materials which were rooted in the principles of the
provincial, subscription, and circulating libraries. These principles coincided
with ideas promoted in the Lyceum movement, which advocated for education
and other social reforms along with the building of libraries. These were the
precursors for the public library movement in the United States. The first
tax-supported public library in the United States was the Peterborough Town
Library in New Hampshire; founded in 1833 CE at a Peterborough town meeting. Funds
were allocated from the State Literary Fund to purchase books to establish a
library for use by all citizens of Peterborough. The library was housed in the
general store and post office. The city of Boston was authorized to
establish and maintain a public library in 1848 CE, a librarian was appointed by the city council in 1852 CE, and the Boston Public Library opened to the public in 1854 CE. In 1870 CE, the library opened a branch in East Boston making it the first public library system. Today, public libraries in the United States share certain fundamental characteristics. They are: supported by tax dollars; governed by
a board specifically appointed to serve the public interest; open to all; voluntary; established by
state law; and provide services without charge to users. The public library
movement began in 1853 CE with the first librarians conference. After the
Civil War, the library movement spread rapidly across the country. 1876 CE was a watershed year for
libraries and librarianship in the United States. It was the founding year of
the American Library Association; and Melvil Dewey introduced the Dewey
Decimal Classification system in his publication, Classification and Subject
Index for Cataloging and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a Library. Other milestones included: Charles Cutter’s introduction of the Cutter Expansive Classification system in 1882 CE; the commissioning of the first Carnegie library in the United States in 1886 CE; the opening of Columbia College’s School of Library Economy in 1887 CE, and development of the Library of Congress Classification schedules in 1897 CE. These and other achievements marked what has been termed the “professionalization of librarianship” and introduced standardized practices for arranging collections and cataloging materials . The next segment of this module continues
with a discussion of the process of professionalization and the making of
the contemporary librarian. I suggest you read your text for information regarding
medieval Islamic libraries , cathedral and university libraries of Western Europe,
and the development of national, academic, and special libraries, as well as review
the required materials listed in the Readings and Websites section of the
learning module.

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