Historical Timeline

Since its earliest days over a century ago, the iSchool at Illinois has been at the forefront of shaping professional practice and the development of research, teaching, and scholarship in library and information science. Listed below are some highlights from our distinguished history.

1893
The library science program at the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago is founded.

1893-1907
Katharine Lucinda Sharp serves as university librarian and founding director of the Department of Library Science, as recommended by Melvil Dewey, American librarian, educator, and inventor of the Dewey Decimal system of library classification.

1897
The Department of Library Science is moved to Urbana and renamed the Illinois State Library School.

1902
The world’s first baccalaureate degree in library science is awarded at Illinois.

1909-1940
Phineas L. Windsor serves as librarian and director of the Library School.

1926
The School is renamed the University of Illinois Library School.

1943-1971
Robert B. Downs serves as library director and director of the School, then as dean of library administration after 1958; following his tenure, oversight of the library and School are separated.

1948
The doctoral degree in library science is established at Illinois; it is now the oldest extant doctoral degree in the field.

1948
A one-year master’s degree is inaugurated as a graduate professional degree, establishing it as the expected preparation for professional work in libraries.

1948
Beta Phi Mu, an international national library science honor society, is founded at the University of Illinois by a group of leading librarians and library educators for the purpose of recognizing and encouraging scholastic achievement among library science students.

1949
The Windsor Lectures are established by alumni to honor the career of Phineas L. Windsor.

1952
Library Trends, which explores a current topic in professional librarianship in each issue, is first published.

1959
The School is renamed the Graduate School of Library Science.

1969
The Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award is established to acknowledge individuals or groups who have furthered the cause of intellectual freedom, particularly as it impacts libraries and information centers and the dissemination of ideas.

1971-1978
Herbert Goldhor serves as director of the Graduate School of Library Science.

1979-1985
Charles H. Davis serves as dean of the School.

1981
The School is renamed the Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

1986-2001
Leigh S. Estabrook serves as dean. Her accomplishments include building a more interdisciplinary faculty; placing computers on faculty desktops (mid-1980s); launching the MS online education program, Leep (1996); and securing a separate building (1994) and support for a building addition (completed in 2001).

1992
The Center for Children’s Books, a renowned research collection of youth literature, moves to the School in the early 1990s, bringing with it The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, a leading review journal that has been published since 1947.

1996
The School begins delivering its master’s degree online through Leep, originally named the Library Education Experimental Program.

2003-2012
John M. Unsworth serves as dean. During his tenure, he expands the online program, strengthens technological infrastructure, and increases the number of tenure-system faculty and percentage of underrepresented students.

2005
The School begins offering the Certificate of Advanced Study in Digital Libraries, which provides a thorough and technically focused background in digital libraries.

2008
The Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship (CIRSS) is established with the mission to conduct research on information problems that impact scientific and scholarly inquiry.

2012
The Center for Digital Inclusion is launched to foster inclusive and sustainable societies through research, teaching, and public engagement about information and communication technologies and their impacts on communities, organizations, and governments.

2014
Allen H. Renear is named dean of the School, following more than two years of service as interim dean.

2016
The School offers a new master’s degree in information management.

2016
The School is renamed the School of Information Sciences.

2019
Eunice E. Santos is named dean of the iSchool.

2020
The School offers a new bachelor's degree in information sciences.