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The Library Science Department at William & Mary was established in 1931, after the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools had established standards for secondary school libraries in 1927. Dr. Earl Gregg Swem, for whom the Swem Library is named after, served as the first chair of the department, from 1931 to 1935.(Graham interview)

According to Mae Graham, acting head of the department in 1943, the department was the only accredited program in Virginia by the American Library Association. The Library Science Department received accreditation in 1938, under the direction of Dr. Charles H. Stone, the chair of the department.(Graham) According to a Reference Librarian at the American Library Association, Hampton University was the only other Virginia university to have a library science during this period.

Additionally, the department collaborated with the Department of Education (as the School of Education was then known). Students of the Library Science department also earned fifteen hours in Education which included practical experience in public school libraries, such as Matthew Whaley. Students also taught for a semester in the public schools.

The college ended the degree program in Library Science in 1943.

Excerpt from The College of William & Mary: A History

The following are excerpts from The College of William & Mary : a history, Susan H. Godson, et al, Williamsburg, Va. : King and Queen Press, Society of the Alumni, College of William & Mary in Virginia, c1993. Copies are available in Swem Library in the Reference collection, Swem stacks, Archives books: Call number: LD6051 .W52 C65 1993 or via interlibrary loan from your local library.

"In the summer of 1929, William & Mary offered a few courses in library science. Subsequently, the College developed plans for a full program, which (President Julian A. C.) Chandler hoped to get started by the fall of 1930. In the spring of 1930, he applied to the General Education Board for a $39,000 grant to support the program for an initial five-year period. This was unsuccessful, but a year later the General Education Board approved a revised request for $33,200, provided the College was willing to assume full support for the program after four years. As a result, a library science department was created, and courses were begun in the fall of 1931."


"By 1934 the Southern Association had accredited the program, but the American Library Association, which raised questions about the acting director's qualifications to teach school librarians, withheld its approval until 1938. Funding the program proved to be more difficult than had been anticipated. At the end of the four-year grant from the General Education Board, the College lacked the funds to keep it going. The program survived only because of the willingness of the Board to extend its support for two more years. Although William & Mary's library science program was the only one of its sort in Virginia, it failed to attract many students. Fifteen students with a major in library science were graduated in 1933, but the total fell to a low of four in 1937. Thereafter the number increased considerably, but library science remained a marginal operation that was finally abolished in 1948."

Material in the Special Collections Research Center


  • Mae Graham, "Library Science at William & Mary," Alumni Gazette 10.4(1943): 7, 25-26. *University Archives Subject File, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, William & Mary.


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A note about the contents of this site

This website contains the best available information from known sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information in this website is not complete, and it changes as we continue to research and uncover new sources.