Submitted by PeterT on December 14, 2007 - 1:49pm
Jesse Hauk Shera (1903-1982) was a faculty member at the Graduate Library School of the University of Chicago and later dean of the library school at Case Western Reserve University. Shera and his contemporary Margaret Egan are credited for defining and advancing the concept of social epistemology and, in particular, its role as a theoretical foundation for librarianship. (1) They defined the concept as “the study of those processes by which society as a whole seeks to achieve a perceptive or understanding relation to the total environment – physical, psychological and intellectual.”(2) In addition, Shera was also responsible for early research in library and bibliographic automation.(3) In the past decade or so after the beginnings of the ‘digital age’ and ‘information revolution’, I find solace in the fact that it is librarians who are responsible for initially asking the question ‘how do we collectively know things,’ especially in the context of ‘what do we do?’ That such questions emanated from library practitioners indicate, to me, an informed awareness of the dynamic nature of intellectual communication.