The Work of Patricia Knapp (1914-1972):
Relevance for the Electronic Era
School of Library and Information Studies
Texas Woman's University
(c) 1996 Diane Worrell firstname.lastname@example.org School of Library and Information
Studies, Texas Woman's University
The Katharine Sharp Review ISSN 1083-5261, No. 3, Summer 1996
The writings of Patricia Knapp (1914-1972), academic librarian, library educator, and
key figure in the Library College movement, focused largely on the fusion of academic
librarianship with academic instruction. This paper examines selected writings of Knapp in
terms of their relevance to library instruction in the electronic age.
- Patricia Knapp (1914-1972) was an academic librarian and library educator whose work
largely on two topics, "the fusion of academic librarianship with academic instruction"
Knapp," 1978) and the role of the undergraduate library within universities. As a major
contributor to the
Library College concept, Knapp is best known for her work with the Monteith project at Wayne
University, where she developed an experimental library instruction program featuring
Library-centered learning promoted the view that a college education should consist of a series of
in independent discoveries of the systems of ways and patterns in which knowledge is organized;
preparation for life-long learning, rather than the usual accumulation of facts through lectures,
readings, and tests. The purpose of this paper is to examine Knapp's writings to determine if they
today, with particular attention paid to their applicability in the current electronic environment.
Knapp wrote on a variety of topics, this paper focuses upon her library instruction scholarship, and
themes from Knapp's work are analyzed in relation to current literature.
- From 1945 to 1955 Knapp worked as a college librarian and assistant professor of English
studying for a doctorate at the University of Chicago. During this period, she wrote an article
"Suggested Program of College Instruction in the Use of the Library" (1956), in which
she first articulated her view
that library instruction should not merely be a fraction of the student's course of study but a central
the student's college experience. This philosophy forms the basis of the Library College movement
put into practice in the Monteith College experiment described below. Knapp commented that,
"Competence in library use, like competence in reading, is clearly not a skill to be acquired
once and for all at any
one given level in any one given course. It is, rather, a complex of knowledge, skills and attitudes
be developed over a period of time through repeated and varied experiences in the use of library
- Competence in library use today obviously includes electronic information retrieval skills.
Electronic sources constitute simply another format which must be mastered in the course of
competence. Nipp (1991) stated that,
[w]ith the exception of hardware mechanics and the availability of additional access points,
CD-ROM tools are no different from printed access tools; thus, their use should not alter the basic
Whether a CD-ROM product is a library's catalog or a periodical index, it simply automates one
step in a multi-step process.
The need for a basic understanding of the library--the arrangement of resources, library
citation formats, holding tools, and services--remains the same. To truly take advantage of the
users must understand it in the context of the process of which it is a part. (p. 42)
- Further, the view of library competence as a necessary component of a college education
even more urgency today because of the magnitude and complexity of information available in the
electronic environment. Knapp's writings contain several themes which remain prominent in the
of library and information studies, especially as pertains to student use of electronic resources.
themes, which are explored below, include: the integration of library instruction with the curriculum,
importance of concepts and transferability, the low levels of student competence in library
complexity of library research competence, and the relationship between librarians and teaching
INTEGRATION OF LIBRARY INSTRUCTION WITH CURRICULUM
- In 1966, Knapp published the results of the Monteith project, an experiment in the
library-college concept, in which she implemented the ideas put forth in "Suggested Program
of College Instruction in
the Use of the Library." Monteith College was an experimental college within Wayne State
which students had a close association with faculty, and learning was largely accomplished through
independent study. Students received intensive and continual instruction in library use through
which were thoroughly integrated into the curriculum. By advocating a more vital relationship
library and college teaching, Knapp maintained that course-relatedness in library instruction is not
The faculty member must communicate to the students the value of library competence, and
instruction must be an integral part of the curriculum.
- The integration of library instruction within the curriculum remains an unresolved issue, as is
evidenced by the number of articles in bibliographic instruction literature dealing with this topic. A
quick search of the past five years in the Library
Literature database identified over a dozen references
concerning the integration of library instruction into the curriculum, and in the words of one librarian,
often library instruction is an add-on exercise or a half hour on how to do your term paper better.
the library instruction woven into the fabric of the course" (Dowell, 1986, p. 165). Dennis and
Harrington (1990), in describing the outcomes of a Teaching and Technology Conference held at
College, concluded that there is an "unfinished agenda for incorporating bibliographic
instruction into the
curriculum" (p. 50).
CONCEPTS AND TRANSFERABILITY
- Knapp maintained that students must learn basic principles or concepts which can be
to many information seeking situations. Knapp made several recommendations at the completion
two-year Monteith project. She wrote, "[w]e have concluded that library instruction at the
college level must
stem from a unifying theoretical concept of the library and one which embraces the bibliographic
of scholarship." The unifying concept she proposed is teaching the "intellectual
processes involved in
retrieval of information and ideas from the complex system our society uses to organize its stored
p. 81). Knapp called this the "system of ways." The user's pathway through the system
of ways depends
upon where the student is and where he or she wants to go. The student must learn the complex
ways of the
library system as they relate to the ways of the scholarly communication and the student's current
and information needs.
- Contemporary scholars in library instruction continue to champion concept-based
and Knapp is frequently credited with being one of the first librarians to promote this approach for
library instruction (Kobelski & Reichel, 1981; Lockwood, 1979, p. viii; Kuhlthau, 1987, p. 24).
Sandore (1988) noted that research, professional experience, and the literature of electronic
provided a "clear indication that we need to use models that provide searchers with an
overview of online system
use, and that instruction must be concept-based" (p. 4).
- Knapp's system of ways model is generic and applies to the total information environment.
Kohl and Wilson (1986), in studying concept-based versus tool-based library instruction, promote
approach similar to Knapp's systems of ways:
The traditional, tool-specific approach does not seem as helpful as an approach that focuses on
students develop a more complex, appropriate, and individualized research strategy for
instruction is to be effective, it needs to be recast into an approach that begins with the student's
rather than the library tool and that focuses on understanding how information is organized rather
explaining the mechanics of how to use library tools. (p. 210)
- In an analysis of library instruction in the electronic environment, Shill (1987) cautions
librarians against emphasizing "the use of individual access systems, such as online catalogs
computers, rather than on the systematic treatment of evolving information-access needs in an
electronic, distributed-use environment" (p. 438). Knapp's concern with instructing students in
the system of
scholarly communication closely parallels Keresztesi's (1982) analysis of how the development of
disciplines relates to their bibliographic topography (organization) and maturity. Undoubtedly,
have been intrigued by the ways in which electronic technologies are changing the landscape of
STUDENT COMPETENCE IN LIBRARY RESEARCH
- In her description of the Monteith experiment, Knapp (1969) noted that students often think
they know more about library research than they actually do, and they are uncritical in their choice
(p. 41). Similar statements abound in the recent literature concerning student use of electronic
and several researchers have written about the "satisfied and inept user" (Plutchak,
1989). Steffey and
Meyer (1990), in a study of CD-ROM use, concluded that users were so pleased with the electronic
it did not matter how satisfied they were with the number of citations retrieved or with the value of
those citations. In a study of patron database selection, Allen (1990) found that 20% of students
least appropriate database for their subject matter, and another 58% were unable to select the
appropriate database. Miller, Kirby, and Templeton (1988) found that of 500 search statements
input by students,
37% produced no results because of errors, while 75% indicated lost opportunities due to a lack of
Ironically, despite poor results, user satisfaction was high. Thus, students tend to overrate their
competence in library research and underrate its complexity.
COMPLEXITY IN LIBRARY RESEARCH COMPETENCE
- Knapp (1970) argued that library competence is complex and stated that,
[t]he faculty has limited understanding of the intellectual processes involved in sophisticated library
We must avoid technical, high schoolish programs of instruction in the use of the library,
using, instead, individual self-teaching devices to convey such how-to-do-it skills to those students
them....Since we are far from secure in our own understanding of the intellectual processes in
library use, we must also strive
to overcome this weakness by attempting constantly to identify and make explicit these processes
in our own
work. (p. 39)
- Knapp's emphasis on the complexity involved in library competence has even more relevance
the electronic age. Not only has a new format been introduced, but the electronic format shares
the same complexities of print along with new complexities such as multiple access points and
Oberman (1991) has suggested that the world of information has become so complex and the
modern electronic supercatalog offers such an overwhelming array of information choices that
confused and anxious. The complexity of the online environment, according to Oberman,
need for library instruction to address cognitive objectives such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation
information sources. However, in order for librarians to develop instruction which meets these
must have collaborative relationships with teaching faculty.
- Knapp was also concerned with the relationship between the librarian and the teaching faculty.
"The Library, the Undergraduate and the Teaching Faculty" (1970), she analyzed the
social structure of
colleges and universities in relation to the librarian's low position in the pecking order. Knapp
the professionalization of the disciplines, wherein faculty come to identify more with their discipline
with their institution, causes excessive emphasis on research, inadequate concern for teaching, and
fragmentation and compartmentalization of the institution. Further, the librarian is a generalist
within an organization
of specialists. All these factors contribute to a lack of attention to the overall program of general
and to weakened support for libraries and library instruction. Knapp recommended that librarians
support for library instruction from the faculty instead of by administrative fiat; that they offer
maximum support for faculty teaching; and that they view library use skills not as an end in
themselves but as a
means to support faculty teaching objectives. Knapp initially argued that library use instruction
presented by the teaching faculty, because she felt this enabled students to see library
competence as an
integral part of the real business of higher education. However, due to difficulties encountered in
the early stages
of the Monteith experiment, Knapp later altered this position and recommended that the librarian
the instruction with the faculty member's active collaboration.
- The relationships between librarians and teaching faculty remains problematic today, as
by the dozens of recent citations to articles on this topic. In 1990, Dennis and Harrington argued
many library programs dealing with electronic information technologies actually fulfill the wishes of
librarians, not faculty members and student end-users; that librarians often gauge the success of
instruction from the librarian's viewpoint; that librarians' library-centered views of information
often prevent them from appreciating faculty concerns; and that librarians should look at
the faculty viewpoint in order to develop effective library instruction programs (p. 48).In a 1988
about search behavior, Nahl-Jakobovits and Jakobovits (1988) stated that,
[t]he old model has evolved into a routine, unquestioned expectation regarding the librarian-professor
librarians are generalists who know about the location of information while professors are experts
the information in a field. The contrast here is between `knowing about knowing' (the librarian)
(the faculty). This model leads to the idea in library education that the preparation of librarians
include majoring in an academic discipline to acquire a deeper knowing and to facilitate
scholars. (pp. 401-2)
- Two recent studies (Thomas, 1994; Thomas & Ensor, 1984) of faculty attitudes toward
instruction found that many faculty believed students should learn library skills on their own, just as
themselves had learned library skills. Thomas reported that although 68.3% of faculty had used
library sources, only 28.6% mentioned computerized library instruction in their courses. Of faculty
introduced computerized searching to their classes, only 36.9% reported that instruction provided
librarian was their method of choice, and 45.1% of those faculty preferred to do it themselves in
lectures (Thomas, 1994, pp. 220-1). Clearly, the relationship between librarians and teaching
faculty has not
improved appreciably since the advent of electronic library technologies.
- The major themes of Patricia Knapp's work remain as relevant today as they were when she
began writing 40 years ago. The popularity of specific electronic tools such as ERIC, Medline,
the World Wide Web threatens to bring renewed emphasis on tool-based instruction. If the study of history is valuable in informing present practice, the most significant lesson we can learn from Knapp is
progress in the electronic era will not be served by a return to tool-based instruction for popular
resources, despite great demand for such instruction.
- Knapp's observations about the complexity of library research competence have even more
significance in the technological era, because information access has never been more complex.
Critics may argue that
the client-centered paradigm calls for library information systems which conform to the user's
rather than the user having to learn the library's "systems of ways." However, an
integrated system of
knowledge organization which fits the needs of all users has yet to be designed; thus, for the
foreseeable future users
will still need to navigate multiple "systems of ways" for both electronic and print formats
in order to
achieve information literacy.
- The perennial problems Knapp identified, namely integrating library instruction with the
curriculum, developing professional partnerships with faculty, communicating the importance and
library competence to the academic community, and providing effective instruction, have remained
unchanged and apply equally to the traditional and electronic environments. In addition to the major
themes discussed here, Knapp also promoted learning "by experience" and the value of
small group discussion,
both components of active learning methods which are now recognized as essential elements of
library instruction. Recently Sydney Pierce (1992) challenged librarians to identify our "dead
principle theorists, in library and information studies. In spite of the surprisingly small amount of
scholarship on Knapp, she would clearly be a candidate for a list of our "dead
Allen, G. (1990). Database selection by patrons using CD-ROM.
College & Research Libraries, 51(1), 69-75.
Baker, B., & Sandore, B. (1988). Effective information retrieval: A model for teaching
learning. Paper presented at the LITA Second National Conference, October 4, 1988, Boston,
Dennis, N., & Harrington, N. D. (1990). Librarian and faculty member differences in using
A prerequisite for developing effective bibliographic instruction programs.
Reference Services Review, 18(3), 47-52.
Dowell, C. V. (1986). Weaving library skills into the curriculum.
RQ, 26(2), 165-167.
Keresztesi, M. (1982). The science of bibliography: Theoretical implications for bibliographic
instruction. In C. Oberman and
K. Strauch (Eds.), Theories of bibliographic education: Designs for
teaching. New York: Bowker.
Knapp, P. B. (1956). A suggested program of college instruction in the use of the library.
Library Quarterly, 26(3), 224-231.
Knapp, P. B. (1966). The Monteith College library
experiment. New York: Scarecrow.
Knapp, P. B. (1970). The library, the undergraduate, and the teaching
faculty. Paper presented at the Institute on Training
for Service in Undergraduate Libraries, University of California, San Diego, August 17-21, 1970, pp.
Kobelski, P., & Reichel, M. (1981). Conceptual frameworks for bibliographic instruction.
Journal of Academic Librarianship, 7(2), 73-77.
Kohl, D. F., & Wilson, L. A. (1986). Effectiveness of course-integrated bibliographic
instruction in improving coursework.
RQ, 26(2), 206-211.
Kuhlthau, C. C. (1987). An emerging theory of library instruction.
School Library Media Quarterly, 16(1), 23-28.
Lockwood, D. L. (1979). Library instruction: A
bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Miller, N.; Kirby, M.; & Templeton, E. (1988). MEDLINE on CD-ROM: End-user searching
in a medical school library.
Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 7(3), 1-13.
Nahl-Jakobovits, D., & Jakobovits, L. A. (1988). Problem-solving, creative librarianship
and search behavior.
College & Research Libraries, 49(5), 400-408.
Nipp, D. (1991). Back to basics: Integrating CD-ROM instruction with standard user education.
Research Strategies, 9(1), 41-47.
Oberman, C. (1991). Avoiding the cereal syndrome, or, Critical thinking in the electronic
Library Trends, 39(3), 189-202.
Patricia Bryan Knapp. (1978). In B. S. Wynar (Ed.),
Dictionary of American Library Biography (pp. 289-290). Littleton,
CO: Libraries Unlimited.
Pierce, S. (1992). Dead Germans and the Theory of librarianship.
American Libraries, 23(8), 641-643.
Plutchak, T. S. (1989). On the satisfied and inept user.
Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 8(1), 45-48.
Shill, H. B. (1987). Bibliographic instruction: Planning for the electronic information
College & Research Libraries, 48(5), 433-453.
Steffey, R. J., & Meyer, N. (1990). Evaluating user success and satisfaction with CD-ROM.
Laserdisk Professional, 3(5), 35-44.
Thomas, J. (1994). Faculty attitudes and habits concerning library instruction: How much has
changed since 1982?
Research Strategies, 12(4), 209-223.
Thomas, J., & Ensor, P. (1984). The University faculty and library instruction.
RQ, 23(4), 431-437.