The University of Sheffield
Information School

History

The Information School has a rich history of innovation and excellence.

Founded in 1963 as the Postgraduate School of Librarianship, it was only the second University school of its kind in the UK. Wilf Saunders was appointed the school's first director, and by the time the school opened in 1964 he had been joined by three full-time and three part-time members of staff.

One of the objectives of the new School was to attract into library and information work highly motivated postgraduates and to provide them with a professional education in the environment of advanced study and research. A large proportion of these students were science and technology graduates, for whom existing librarianship programmes held little or no attraction: in the Sheffield School the intention was to provide for them a specially tailored group of courses of scientific and industrial information work, within the framework of a Diploma in Librarianship.

With a strong emphasis on seminars and small group work, and with a great deal of informal contact between staff and students, the School flourished.



Teaching

Before the school had completed its third year the University recognised the quality of its students and its programmes by upgrading the original Diploma in Librarianship to a Master's degree, and an additional programme MSc in Information Studies was offered for the first time. This made Sheffield the only School in the country to provide a Master's degree programme as a basic professional qualification in librarianship, and one of only two to offer a basic information science qualification at Master´s level.

Research

In 1964, when the school was founded, research in librarianship and information science, save in certain bibliographical areas, was virtually non-existent. There was no cadre of research-trained personnel; there was no source of systematic research funding; and there was very little awareness within the library and information professions of the need for research. Within months of opening, the School had been awarded its first research grant, headed by Dr Mike Lynch, to carry out a project on subject indexes and the automatic retrieval of information, which had ramifications in the fields of chemistry, computer science, language and information theory. Michael Lynch can truly be regarded as the founding father of information science research at Sheffield: starting in 1965 as a Senior Research Fellow, he joined the permanent staff in 1968, and in 1974 he was appointed to the Personal Chair which made him the first Professor of Information Science in the UK.