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Establishment of the First Library School, the "School of Library Economy" (1887)


In 1887 Melvil Dewey established the first library school at Columbia University. It was originally known as the School of Library Economy of Columbia College.  

On its 50th anniversary in 1937 the library school, by then known as the School of Library Service of Columbia University, published a volume containing reproductions of the founding documents of the school under the title of School of Library Economy of Columbia College 1887-1889. Documents for a History. This substantial quarto volume of 271 pages was issued in an edition of 400 copies. From this we learn that Dewey's first paper on the need for systematic preparation for librarianship, with suggestions on how to provide it, concerned improving the traditional method of apprenticeship training: "Apprenticeship of Librarians," Library Journal V, No. 4 (May 31, 1879) 147-48. By 1883 Dewey's ideas had advanced to sufficiently that he proposed the creation for a library school at Columbia College at a conference of the American Library Association at Buffalo, New York on August 16, 1883. In this paper, "School of Library Economy," Library Journal V, No. 8, (September-October 1883) 285-90, Dewey gave the school its original name. According to the first brief published report on school operation published in Library Notes in March 1887 the school began with a class of 20 students.