World Libraries

The Pioneers: A Few Good Men and Women

The recent death of Martha Boaz, longtime dean of the library school at the University of Southern California, got me thinking about Americans who helped to establish and expand library education in the Third World. Martha and I shared ideas and experiences in the 1960s, when our schools-mine was Kent State University-were among many in the US with strong international commitments. She was a consultant in Pakistan (1962) and Vietnam (1966). It would be stretching the concept of our Pioneers series to give an entire essay about her, since her distinguished achievements were primarily in the US; but she did represent a great many American librarians and library school professors who gave up their main work and their home comforts for several months or years and went overseas to share their expertise with less advantaged colleagues.

Today I am just going to mention the names of those persons who formed the first wave-in the 1950s-of advisers and pro-tem teachers. (I hope I haven't missed anyone.) They introduced library science instruction, and in some cases founded library schools.

Advising on education for librarianship was never an American monopoly, of course, but it was certainly the Americans who dominated that field of endeavor in the years after World War II. President Truman's inaugural address of 1949 announced his four new approaches to American foreign policy. The fourth-"Point Four" as it became known-promised to make American "scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas." A number of government agencies were set up to implement Truman's concept, beginning with the Technical Cooperation Administration in 1950. Congress had already passed important legislation which could be used to fund assistance programs, notably the Fulbright Act (1946) and the Smith-Mundt Act (1948). Philanthropic foundations joined in the effort.

In 1950 two librarians accepted assignments: Jerrold Orne to Cuba, and Ethel Fair to American University in Cairo. Orne had the satisfaction of seeing a library school established at the University of Havana, a school that has flourished to this day. Fair did not see such tangible results, for no library education program developed at AUC (unfortunately; it would have been advantageous to have a library school there, in an English-speaking university, rather than at the University of Cairo). Stephen McCarthy was an adviser in Egypt in 1953-54, at the University of Cairo and two other institutions.

The Far East was a special focus of US diplomatic interest, so a number of projects were funded in countries of that region. Frances Lander Spain went to Thailand in 1951-52, assisting in the establishment of the renowned library school at Chulalongkorn University. Margaret Rufsvold was a later adviser in Chulalongkorn, in 1954-56 and 1956-61, and several colleagues from Indiana University participated in the Thailand work (Margaret Griffin, Mildred Lowell, Lois Stockman). The project included scholarships for Thai students to take degrees at Indiana. Chulalongkorn also had assistance from two University of Illinois professors, Arnold Trotier (1954-55) and Alice Lohrer (1955-56). Korea had the benefit of guidance from Ethel Swiger (1956-60) and Robert Burgess (1959-61). As associates in a project of George Peabody College for Teachers, they were stationed at Yonsei University, setting up the library science department there; it was the first in the country to offer a library degree. William A. Fitzgerald organized workshops for the library association in Taiwan (1956-58).

In India there was little American consulting during the 1950s, although the earlier contributions of William Borden and Asa Don Dickinson [1] cannot be overlooked. Pakistan, however, was a focus of sustained advising. A series of Fulbright appointees developed the library school at Dacca University, beginning with Mildred Methvan (1955-56). She was followed by Vivian Prince (1956-57), Willa Boysworth (1957-58), Letitia Willett (1958-1959), and Katherine S. Diehl (1959-61). The library science department was formally established in 1959, and continues successfully to this day. In 1972 Dacca (Dhaka) became part of the new nation of Bangladesh. An effort to create library education in Nepal was made by Carl Hintz in 1958, but it did not take root, and no library school has ever been established in that country.

During the reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi (restored to power in 1953), Iran demonstrated great interest in American and European librarianship. Mary Gaver was the first of many Americans to advise in Iran, serving in 1952-53; she was followed by Susan Akers (1954-55) and Herbert Angel (1954-55). They offered instruction at the University of Teheran, which finally established a master's program in 1966. As in the case of Egypt, it was not possible to maintain a curriculum with English as a language of instruction. (Pahlavi University, later Shiraz University, had a series of American teachers in the 1960s, and seemed ready for international status, but reverted to Arabic after the Islamic revolution of 1977-78.) An important library school was established with funds from the Ford Foundation at the University of Ankara in 1955. Robert B. Downs was the founding director; he was followed by Elmer Grieder (1955-57).

In Latin America, Orne's work in Havana has been mentioned. Even earlier, in the 1940s, guidance had been given to library science departments in a number of countries, directed by the American Library Association International Relations Office with funds from the Rockefeller Foundation. The most long-lasting result stemmed from the work of Edward Heiliger, who gave courses at the University of Chile, Santiago in 1946-48; those offerings marked the beginning of the library school in that university. Other library education consultants of the 1950s were Gaston Litton in Brazil (1953) and Panama (1959), Eugene Moushey in El Salvador (1957-58), and William V. Jackson in Argentina (1958). Only one of those projects led to the creation of an enduring library school, Jackson's work at the University of Cordoba. But Litton was also founding director of the Inter-American Library School (EIBM) at the University of Antioquia in Medellín, Colombia (1956); that institution, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, continues to serve the profession today.

In the next two decades American advising and related programs expanded greatly, in library education and in other aspects of librarianship. [2] Partnerships between US library schools and counterparts in the Third World-on the Indiana/Thailand model-became common, including student and faculty exchanges. Many of the professors and library school directors of the developing world came to America for advanced study. We may wonder what library education would be like today in the countries mentioned if a few good men and women had not offered their time, knowledge, and energy as pioneers to the cause.


[1] On Dickinson's work, see the Pioneers essay in TWL 1-2.

[2] An excellent survey, to which I am much indebted in the present essay, is Beverly J. Brewster, American Overseas Library Technical Assistance 1940-1970 (Metuchen, N.J. : Scarecrow Press, 1976). Another valuable document is the Foreign Service Directory of American Librarians, edited by Janet C. Phillips (3rd ed.; Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, International Library Information Center, 1967 [no further editions published]).

© 1995 Guy A. Marco


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