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Margaret Hutchins

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years ago




Margaret Hutchins (1884-1961) was born on September 21, 1884 in Lancaster, New Hampshire. She was one of two children born to Elizabeth Carleton and Francis Dorr Hutchins, a well-known banker and attorney in Lancaster. Said to be a strong student with a sharp mind, Hutchins entered Smith College in Massachusetts in 1902 (Patterson,1968). She was elected into Phi Beta Kappa and she received a Bachelor of Arts in 1906, having double majored in Greek and Philosophy (Richardson, para. 1). Hutchins' undergraduate studies also focused on languages and she was able to read French, German, Latin and Greek (Cheney, 1978). Directly after college she attended the University of Illinois for Library School and after two years received a Bachelors of Library Science (BLS) degree with Honors in 1908.




Hutchins' passion was said to be "in the area of bibliography and reference administration" (Patterson, 1968, p. 124). Following her graduation from Illinois, she worked at the University's library, first as a reference assistant and later as a librarian (Richardson, 1999, para. 2). It was during her nineteen year tenure at Illinois that Hutchins published her first major work, "'Guide to the Use of Libraries: A Manual for College and University Students'" in 1922.


Subsequently, Hutchins left Illinois in 1927 for a position in the Queens Borough Public Library in New York. She was awarded a fellowship by the Carnegie Corporation of New York that allowed her to obtain her master's degree in library science from Columbia University in 1931. During her studies at Columbia, Hutchins found herself under the tutelage of Isadore G. Mudge, a well respected reference librarian who had an enormous impact on Hutchins’ life. Directly after obtaining her degree, Hutchins joined the Columbia faculty as a Associate Professor. At Columbia, Hutchins wrote what is considered to be her most influential book, "'Introduction to Reference Work'", which was published in 1944.


In "Reference Work", Hutchins emphasized the process of reference research, using her thirty five years of experience to inform her text with practical information (Lynch,1980). She was the first to coin the phrase "Reference Interview" (Lynch, 1980) and she strongly believed that the first and foremost important characteristic of a reference librarian was approachability (Patterson, 1968). Librarians were to treat patrons with respect, always remembering to speak in a clear concise manner that would serve to inform and educate them (Patterson, 1968).






Throughout her career, Hutchins continued to define herself as a procedure based person by teaching her students how to categorize reference questions by subject matter (Richardson, personal communication, November 14 2006). She was one of the first to suggest that librarians answer a question by first identifying the genre or subject of a question and from there, producing an individual book or source material (for example, identifying that the question has an answer in a encyclopedia and then later locating the specific book). This step-by-step process has been dubbed by Richardson as the "Hutchins heuristic" (1999, para. 8). Hutchins felt that "the reader should see where the reference librarian got his information; the reader should never just be told" (Patterson, 1968, p. 125).


Hutchins retired in 1952 and she spent much of her remaining time in Lancaster where she grew up. Margaret Hutchins died on January 4 1961 at the age of 76. She is remembered in letters and in published conversations as a tall woman who "dressed simply and had a gentle, kind manner", marked by "clear thinking, sound judgment and the gift for the trenchant phrase" (Patterson, 1968, p.126). Her gift to reference services was her emphasis on the service aspect of librarianship and her desire to teach reference work as an interactive process.




Selected Bibliography


Hutchins, M. (1948). Review of "british sources of reference and information.". College and Research Library, (9), 277-278.


Hutchins, M. (1944). Introduction to reference work. Chicago: American Library Association.


Hutchins, M. (1937). Artist-teaching in the field of bibliography; an application of modern educational theories and techniques to the teaching of the first-year library school course in reference. Library Quarterly, (7), 99-120.


Hutchins, M., Johnson, S., & Williams, M. S. (1936). Guide to the use of libraries; A manual for college and university students (5th ed.). New York: Wilson.


Hutchins, M. (1925). Interlibrary Loans. Library Journal(50), 901-904.




Primary Source Material


A collection of Margaret Hutchins' letters and documents are archived at Columbia University's Rare Book and Manuscript Library.


Citation for the collection is available online at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/eresources/archives/collections/html/4078925.html





Lynch, M. J. (1980). Hutchins, Margaret. In ALA world encyclopedia of library and information services. (pp. 241-242). Chicago:American Library Association.


Cheney, F.N. (1978). Hutchins, Margaret. In Dictionary of american library biography (pp.259-260). Little Rock:Libraries Unlimited Inc.


Patterson, C.D. (1968). Hutchins, Margaret. In Encyclopedia of library and information Science (Vol. 11, pp. 123-127). New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc.


Richardson, J. V. (1999). Hutchins, Margaret. In American national biography. New York:Oxford University Press. Retrieved November 21, 2006 from http://www.anb.org/articles/home.html.





Jennifer S. Masunaga

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