The value proposition of corporate libraries from past to present


  • Alistair Black

Corporate libraries of the kind we would recognize today began to appear around the turn of the twentieth century. They were a response to a rapidly changing corporate and commercial environment, acting as adjuncts to both the rise of systematic industrial research and the office management revolution that accompanied the implementation of scientific management. As nurseries of what today we call "information science," early corporate libraries focused on organizing and re-packaging morselized knowledge, with the intention of pro-actively meeting the information needs of scientists, technicians and managers. A survey of American corporate libraries in 1916, by the British manufacturer Rowntree and Company, provides a snapshot of their operations and perceived value. The survey was repeated with a selection of today’s corporate librarians. Their responses are strikingly similar to their early-twentieth-century counterparts, despite intervening technological change. Like a century ago, the value of the corporate library, even if it cannot be quantified, is accepted.

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