photo of Elliott Shore

Checking our references

The résumé of Elliott Shore, Bryn Mawr's new director of libraries, shows a pattern. It twines employment and education, history and library science. "I'm the same person, not a postmodernist with different identities," Shore said. "I think teaching was what brought it home to me that history and library science imbricate -- Oh don't quote me using that word! -- interlock like roof tiles. Then, working at the Institute for Advanced Study for 12 years with people like anthropologist Clifford Geertz and historian Joan Scott, I learned that theory and practice are not two separate things.

"So, when I teach about indexes, for example, I try to talk about the working conditions under which they are produced -- sometimes by professional librarians, but often by keyboarders pounding away at a minimum wage. This can influence their content."

callout textShore received a B.A. from Temple University in 1972, an M.A. in international history from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1974, an M.S. in library science from Drexel University in 1976, and a Ph.D. in history from Bryn Mawr in 1984. He worked at Temple's library as a curator, history bibliographer, reference librarian and director's assistant from 1974-1984. From 1985-97 he was director of the Historical Studies-Social Science Library at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

"I grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and went to Central High before Temple University, so I'm really a Philly kid, although I've lived all over the world -- a year each in Taipei, London, Cologne, six months in Tokyo, and a decade of exile in New Jersey," Shore said.

"I couldn't have gone to graduate school but for Bryn Mawr College, because it accepted part-time students and gave me a scholarship after the first year. My parents had grown up during the Depression -- you just never gave up a job if you had one and I had a job at Temple University Library."

Shore is a leading authority on the alternative press and plays on the Bryn Mawr-Haverford adult softball league team. In the spring, he will teach a College course on the history of advertising. His ongoing projects include:
book icon Gathering an oral history on the Institute for Advanced Study's School of Social Science;
book icon Teaching library science on the World Wide Web;
book icon Working with the German Society of Pennsylvania in Center City to help restore its collection and building and to oversee an electronic cataloguing project;
book icon Editing, translating and writing a critical commentary on a German novel published in Philadelphia in 1850;
book icon Co-editing a comparative history of advertising in Europe;
book icon Writing a comparative history of advertising in Germany and the United States from 1850-1920.

When Shore speaks of his dreams for the Library, he leans back in his chair and stares at the ceiling as though watching an Omnimax film in his head. "I want to inspire more people to join the Friends of the Library," he says. "We'd like to extend and expand its lecture series.

"I'd like to see more teaching done in the library and a more aggressive use of electronic resources. We need to rethink how the student of the 1990s and beyond approaches information in libraries.

"We have this glorious building, Canaday, that is 30 years old but could use new furniture and lighting. Since the removal of the card catalogue several years ago and the explosion of information technology, now would be a good time to rethink the use of the first floor space. The original formal entrance could be renewed, and many of us would like to reconfigure a decent space dedicated to a student lounge. Seeing how much students love the Rhys Carpenter Library makes us realize the advantages of well-designed, well-lit spaces that meet the traditional and technological needs of today's scholars."

Shore also would like to redesign the Library's Web site as a front-end entry for specific questions that provides answers not just from the Library's holdings, but from other sources on and off campus.

"Stumbling onto material should not replace scholarly research -- and the Web is organized more for stumbling right now - but the documents on which you intially focus often don't turn out to be the most interesting and useful ones," he said, showing newspaper advertisements illustrated in his 1988 book, Talkin' Socialism, a study of J. A. Wayland and the role of the press in American radicalism from 1890-1912. "This book began, with my Bryn Mawr dissertation, as a purely political study, but the ads grabbed my attention. I began to think about what they meant to readers and their impact on the publishing operation. We always need to be reminded to try to make sense of the world around us in broader contexts!"

cover icon Return to Winter 1997 highlights