(1903-1982)

Central Information Division of OSS, faculty member at GLS; Case Western Reserve University

Shera wrote a column for Wilson Library Bulletin. At OSS, he experimented with techniques for indexing. He was Dean Emeritus, Baxter School of Information and Library Science, Western Reserve University. He was the leading authority on documentation, classification, and history of American libraries. He dedicated his career to enhancing the status of librarianship. Shera served in editorial capacity for Library Quarterly, American Documentation, and Journal of Cataloging and Classification. With Shera’s help the library school at WRU became a center of advanced ideas and techniques in librarianship. While at the Center for Documentation and Communications Research at WRU, Shera, along with Perry, devoted their research to defining new information science and serving the needs of Cold War research. His Introduction to Library Science (1986) is still one of the world’s most widely-used texts, and it has been translated into many languages including Russian.

JESSE HAUK SHERA

1903 – 1982

Jesse Hauk Shera was born on December 8, 1903 in Oxford, Ohio. He received a B.A. in English literature from Miami(Ohio) University in 1925, and an M.A. in English from Yale in 1927. He entered the library profession immediately after his graduation from Yale, and in 1944 earned a Ph.D. from the Graduate Library School (GLS) of the University of Chicago.

In 1947, after a brief stint with the Central Information Division of the Office of Strategic Services, Shera joined the faculty of the GLS. By 1951, he was appointed dean of the School of Library Science (SLS) at Western Reserve University (WRU) in Ohio. Shera expanded and improved the SLS program, and forged a link between the school and the fields of documentation and special librarianship.

He was a charter member of the American Documentation Institute, and in 1953 became editor of the Institute’s journal American Documentation, a position he held for seven years. In 1955 Shera established, with the help of James Perry and Allen Kent, the Center for Documentation and Communication Research (CDCR). The CDCR became a pioneer in the emerging field of information retrieval. As a result of Shera, Perry and Kent’s work, the school not only received research grants, but was also the recipient of “the first operational system for the mechanized retrieval of information,” the GE 225 general-purpose computer. These and other achievements, notably his prolific writing, brought Shera international recognition.

Despite his successes in the field of documentation, Shera eventually began to rethink his belief that information science could provide the “intellectual and theoretical foundations of librarianship.” He believed librarians had to look beyond the “mechanized access to data banks or networks” to find the underpinnings of library theory.

Offices held:

Association of American Law Schools: President (1964-1965)

Ohio Library Association: President (1963-1964)

Jesse Shera Papers:

Case Western Reserve University Archives, Cleveland, OH (ca. 29 feet (1912-1927), personal papers including correspondence, speeches, reports, conference papers, and publications relating to ALA conferences, Carnegie Study, GLS, University of Chicago, Ohio Library Association, Special Libraries Association, UNESCO conferences, and Documentation)