Company libraries

Alistair Black

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In 1919 the company librarian J.G. Pearce wrote that: “The Works Library is an integral portion of the modern manufacturing organisation.” Arguably this statement was more advocacy than a reflection of reality. Whereas many late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century enterprises would have been home to collections of material scattered across departments, workshops, laboratories and offices, few could have boasted an authentic company library constituted by a centralised and systematically organised unit dedicated to the collection and dissemination of information pertinent to the organisation. However, the remainder of the twentieth century saw a notable expansion in the number of company libraries and in their activities. Pearce was thus nearer the mark when later he predicted that: “Intelligence work as an independent advisory branch of a works organisation appears to extend considerably in the course of time and will be accepted as a fundamental part of every well-planned works of any magnitude.” The origins of the company library and its development before 1950 Company libraries first emerged in parallel with developments in the late Victorian and Edwardian economy and business environment. As markets expanded and diversified, enterprises became larger, more complex and increasingly responsive to their markets. Increased competition heightened the need for, and the importance of, information. Either flowing into the organisation from external sources or generated internally, information began to play a significant role at this time in the management of companies' various activities: From research and production to marketing and workforce supervision. In fact, information management-which in the late twentieth century became a commonplace term in the literature of business management, closely associated with computerised information technology - is rooted in the previous century and pre-dates the age of the computer by several generations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland
Subtitle of host publication1850-2000
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781139055321
ISBN (Print)0521780977, 9780521780971
StatePublished - Jan 1 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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