Carter Alexander, who was a professor of education and a library professor at Teachers College from 1921 to 1943, is considered to have been a pioneer in education librarianship and in the study of the reference transaction in general. He authored several key education reference works, including Educational Research: Suggestions and Sources of Data with Specific Reference to Administration (published in 1927, with revised editions in 1929 and 1931) and How to Locate Educational Information and Data: A Text and Reference Book (published in 1935, with a revised edition in 1941). The latter work was accompanied by Alexander Library Exercises (published in 1941 and revised in 1954). Alexander also published Tomorrow’s Libraries for Teachers Colleges in 1944 as an emeritus library professor
It’s instructive to examine Alexander’s works from the standpoint of the present day library, especially in view of our ongoing efforts to reexamine and reconceptualize the interplay between the physical plant, the need for study space, and the parallel need for space for the delivery of research services and instruction. In the last-named work, Alexander lists and provides checklists for evaluating the need for specific quarters in the new (post-war) library, including reading quarters, rooms for special collections, other special-service rooms, a library methods classroom, an exhibit room, an auditorium, conference rooms, rest rooms and lavatories, stacks, and working quarters for library staff. In many ways these categories of library spaces haven’t significantly changed in 75 years.
Approaches to library research support for Teachers College community were also well established by the early 1930s. Herman G. Richey, in an article titled “Library and Bibliographical Procedures” in a special (December 1939) issue of the Review of Educational Research on methods of research in education, describes the publication by the Library Consultant Service at TC of a series of mimeographed bulletins and leaflets, “designed to give directions for using library and bibliographical tools” and “to present lists of references in closely defined subjects.” Concerning Alexander’s role in the Consultant Services, Richey writes: "Carter Alexander, appointed a member of the Consultant Service in 1932 to act as guide and mediator in giving bibliographical assistance to students of school administration, a few months later became the pioneer library professor attached to the library of an institution for training in educational research. As a library professor the scope of his work was enlarged to include giving bibliographical aid to all students engaged in research, giving instruction in library resources and methods, and preparing teaching materials in library procedures."
I find it striking that the foundations of research services provision were so clearly laid by Alexander and his colleagues in the early days of the library’s tenancy in Russell Hall, and that, except for the significant absence of digital technology (which seems so central to library research as it’s done today), the basic modes of “bibliographical aid,” including consultation, instruction, and the compilation of research guides, remain largely unchanged today.
As to library technology, the principal emerging medium in the 1930s appears to have been microform, the information storage mode that still maintained a core presence when I arrived at Teachers College in the 1980s. Richey writes, “Within the next few years there promises to be an extensive development of literature on library methods and on procedures centering about the use of the camera which was until recently employed by scholars only in notetaking and manuscript collation . . . At present the literature on microphotography is, for the most part, concerned with the problems of librarians; but the work being done in numerous centers brings nearer the time when scholars will need indexes, union lists, and other guides to the use of microfilms and some instruction in the methods and procedures involved in their use.”*
Though the development of late 20th-early 21st century technologies and scenarios for bibliographic research (CD ROM, local area networks, of course the Internet) surely would have astounded our predecessor librarians at Teachers College, they might also have been bemused by, though in many cases they would have generally recognized, the focus and scope of research with which our present-day users seek our support. What follows is a sampling of research questions Teachers College students and researchers brought to us for consultative help in Fall 2019:
Adult learning and nursing education.
Women and interpersonal violence.
Adolescent developmental psychology.
Interracial and intercultural couples and how their backgrounds and relationship impacts food choice, habits and behavior, and cultural identity.
Parkinson's disease, Essential Tremor, Dystonia and Atypical Parkinson's, and stroke and addressing their effect on gait.
Ethics and curricula.
Black girlhoods in early childhood education.
New York City specialized high schools and teacher’s perspectives.
Comparative analysis of policies that provide inclusion for special needs children in compulsory education, specifically in Latin America and Asia .
How high school age youth conceptualize/perceive/experience/respond to global citizenship education.
The history of New York City specialized schools; Teachers College’s role in this history.
How self-help activities and therapies affect people with variety of anxiety disorders.
Student misconceptions about chemical bonding.
Coloniality and cultural erasure as they relate to teacher education.
Sexual harassment in Chinese higher education.
Primary sources regarding Anni Albers, and schools she has taught in the US- Black Mountain College and Haystack School of Crafts.
Intermittent fasting and exercise performance.
History of ceramic education at Teachers College.
How elementary school educators teach social justice concepts to children and how effective these teaching styles are; how religion is used to teach social justice.
The history of art education for English as second language learners.
History of the introduction of technology in art classrooms.
How informal learning in art education in the community/museum setting encourages students to keep environmental awareness and change their behavior positively on the environment once they leave the formal educational settings.
Comparing the epistemological commitments embedded within / implied by major frameworks for culturally-relevant or culturally-responsive pedagogy to the epistemological components of the Nature of Science (perhaps as articulated by major national science standard documents such as the NGSS).
Hull House and how Rock Lowe's work in Texas for Project Row House relates to bring art into low-income communities but building/refurbishing houses in the community.
The role of trauma in language acquisition in refugee K-12 English language learners.
The link between empowering women in decision-making roles and public office with better policy making for economic, humanitarian and environmental outcomes.
Finnish teacher education from a historical perspective and the development of Finnish national identities.
Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) and its relationship to personality, performance, culture or climate.
Giorgio Vasari and the creation of The Academy in Paris.
Scholarly research on Sarah Dessen's young adult novels.
Dissertations on community-based arts education and rural arts education.
How community colleges are preparing nursing students for technological changes in healthcare.
Training/retraining in the healthcare professional workforce, including clinical and non-clinical professionals, on topics such as effective communication and engagement (with colleagues and patients/clients), prevention of post-discharge complications, and enhancing skilled-based competencies of workers with the goal of improving patient care.
Research on mathematics education in Côte D’Ivoire.
In what ways visual/spatial learners struggle with learning history, and the value of connecting geography with a visual timeline for these learners.
Aspects of developing start-up private schools.
Approaches to supporting autonomous learning.
Dietary needs of vegan/vegetarian endurance athletes.
Planning time in task-based language teaching.
Brazil and climate education.
Limitations of psychometric/personality testing for learning types in primary school student; possible negative effects of psychometric assessment tools to inform metacognitive programs, especially Let Me Learn, that are used in primary school classrooms.
Research on teachers’ use of mindfulness in the classroom.
Food parenting styles and food parenting practices in relation to children’s (age 6-12 years) weight and demographic factors.
Critical race theory in middle schools; creating curriculum on racial literacy, grades 6-8; experience of children of color in predominantly white schools.
Best practices and alternatives to spelling lists for spelling instruction.
Early childhood education in Ghana/Central Africa.
History of higher education for minority women in New York.
Design principles for mobile augmented reality game that facilitates creative problem solving skills in students.
Alternative curricula for black students; history of education for students of African descent.
History of Chinese students at Teachers College.
Finally, the following are statistics on the volume of library service delivery during the Fall 2019 semester:
Senior Librarians and Services Associates responded to 1,849 in-person and phone queries.
Services librarians answered 610 queries submitted via the library’s email ticket system, including reference and information questions, requests for one-on-one research consultations, inquiries concerning library hours and operations, and questions pertaining to room reservations, circulation policies, and other operational issues.
Services librarians provided consultations for 81 students, individually or in small groups, on the identification and navigation of resources relevant to their research, on the formulation of optimal online search strategies, and on means of retrieving materials retrieved in the course of the students’ research.
At the request of faculty members and instructors, librarians met with 22 classes during the Fall term, with a total of 337 attendees at the sessions. Research guides for these courses were posted on the Learning at the Library (Pressible) blog and later on the library’s Rhizr platform.
*Richey, Herman G. "Library and Bibliographical Procedures." Review of Educational Research. 9.5 (1939): 453-455.