Professor Debra Hansen Wins Prestigious Award for Article on Library History


Transporting readers to the Progressive era of California’s rich history in librarianship, Dr. Debra Hansen, a professor at the San José State University (SJSU) School of Library and Information Science (SLIS), is the winner of the 2014 Donald G. Davis Article Award presented by the American Library Association (ALA) Library History Round Table.

Hansen’s article, “Depoliticizing the California State Library: The Political and Professional Transformation of James Gillis, 1899-1917,” discusses the politics surrounding the professionalization of California libraries at the turn of the 20th century when “most library appointments were doled out by politicians as favors to well-connected cronies,” according to the ALA press release. The award-winning article illuminates the efforts of James Gillis, a railroad executive who was not trained in librarianship, to phase out the “spoils system in favor of appointments made on the basis of merit.”  

The ALA Library History Round Table was particularly impressed with Hansen’s research and use of varied sources. As mentioned in the ALA press release, “Hansen’s essay enriches our understanding of librarianship during the Progressive era and reveals that important reforms can come from the unlikeliest of sources.”

The Donald G. Davis Article Award is given every other year to the best English-language article “in the field of United States and Canadian library history, including the history of libraries, librarianship and book culture.” The award is named after Dr. Donald G. Davis, an emeritus professor at the School of Information at the University of Texas, who is noted for his contributions to the field of library history.

For Hansen, winning the Davis Award for her article is especially meaningful. Hansen said, “What is particularly gratifying is the fact that several SLIS students helped me do the research, so they share this award with me. I’ve already let them know the good news, and they’re as excited as I am.” Hansen’s article was published in the February 2013 issue of Information & Culture: A Journal of History.