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Journalism - History of the Journalism Library

Historical timeline of the Missouri School of Journalism - Frank Lee Martin Library

Beginnings: The First Journalism Library (1908 - 1936)

The Journalist's Creed (Walter Williams):

A Creed for My Profession: Walter Williams, Journalist to the World pgs. 11-12 

“I believe in the profession of journalism. I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of their responsibility, trustees for the public; that acceptance of a lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust. 

I believe that clear thinking and clear statement, accuracy, and fairness are fundamental to good journalism.

I believe that a journalist should write only what he holds in his heart to be true.

I believe that suppression of the news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible.

I believe that no one should write as a journalist what he would not say as a gentleman; that bribery by one’s own pocketbook is to be avoided as much as bribery by the pocketbook of another; that individual responsibility may not be escaped by pleading another’s instructions or another’s dividends.

I believe that the journalism which succeeds best–and best deserves success–fears God and honors man; is stoutly independent, unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power, constructive, tolerant, but never careless, self-controlled, patient, always respectful of its readers but always unafraid, is quickly indignant at injustice, is unswayed by the appeal of privilege or clamor of the mob, seeks to give every man a chance, and, as far as law and honest wage and human brotherhood can make it so, an equal chance; is profoundly patriotic while sincerely promoting international goodwill and cementing world-comradeship; is a journalism of humanity and of today’s world.


Sara Lockwood Williams    Sara Lockwood Williams

Establishing a Journalism Library

In 1908, Walter Williams established the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo.

His wife, Sara Lockwood Williams, organized a library, devoted to the subject of journalism, composed of 92 volumes of books, newspapers and a Missourian clipping file donated by James West Goodwin, a newspaper man from Sedalia, Missouri.  In 1909 the library was housed in one smalll room in Switzler Hall.

For a woman who collected papers and memorabilia of the journalism profession with as much zeal and organization as she, Sara Lockwood-Williams (pictured above) left nearly no trace of herself. Within the State Historical Society of Missouri’s (SHSMO) collection of her documents are letters, newspaper articles, program announcements, thank-you notes, and more–all dedicated to the career of her husband, Walter Williams, Dean of the Journalism School. Within the papers, one of the first things you will come upon when sorting through the folders is Sara Lockwood-Williams’ handwritten notes for the book that would eventually become Twenty Years of Education in Journalism (published 1929). Her writing, on bits of pieces of paper barely bigger than your average hotel notepad, is cramped and neat, cursive loops following cursive loops. She abbreviates as much as she can, writing in the margins of her own script upon realizing she needs to add something. Some of her notes are even written on a pad of paper from a train, with the logo of the line on the top; you can see the rocking jolt of the wheels on the tracks make its way into her beautiful handwriting, normally ruler straight on unlined paper.

She describes her husband in her notes as “ramrod straight”, with blue eyes and a piercing gaze–which clearly left imprints on her. (From her notes, cite) (From A Creed for My Profession) She spoke candidly of an experience with Walter Williams in a letter to a friend, describing a meet-cute (yes, a real one), in which he handed her an umbrella, and they “accidentally” kissed (Farrar, 1998, p. 188). Taken aback both by her actions (Williams was married to another woman), and by the feelings that arose from the event, she writes, “He had no right to do it–no matter why he did it… Even though he regarded me sincerely, sweetly and truly as though I were his daughter, that moment of familiarity has changed our friendship” (Western Historical Manuscript Collection, University of Missouri). The idea that Walter Williams was indeed a human man, and not an unreachable god or father figure, was alien to her, but gradually, she accustomed herself to it. Fourteen years after this somewhat uncomfortable moment, and several years after the death of Williams’ first wife and a discreet and prolonged courtship, Sara Lockwood and Walter Williams married in 1927.

Sara Lockwood Williams was a contradictory woman; although she became the first woman to hold a professorship in the Journalism School and traveled extensively to complete her work, she resisted the urge to dive into the deep end of feminism, only advocating for opportunities for women in journalism in moderation, often as helpmates to their husbands. She was first and foremost her husband’s helpmate, “sensitive to his thoughts, anticipating his needs, happy to be his partner” (Farrar, 1998, p. 214). This shows in the type of material Sara saved; letters from Williams to his colleagues take center stage, particularly the letters he sent asking advice on becoming dean of the Journalism School (he struggled mightily with the idea, feeling that he wasn’t the right man for the job on account of not receiving the same education), and those he sent to others who dared doubt that the Journalism School here at MU wasn’t the first Journalism School to ever exist; “I do not wish to be unduly insistent in the matter,” he writes, “but it seems to me that first of all in the teaching of journalism accuracy is to be desired.” One can imagine Sara Lockwood Williams going through his papers after his death, remembering her husband and saving the bits and pieces of him that made him most human.

Sara Lockwood Williams was the one who set up the first reading room in the Journalism School. The “library” was composed of 92 volumes of books, newspapers and a Missourian clipping file donated by James West Goodwin, a newspaper man from Sedalia, Missouri.  In 1909 the library was housed in one small room in Switzler Hall. Small though it may have been, it was the beginning of what we have here today, and Sara Lockwood Williams ostensibly did so with the same preparation, devotion, and organization with which she completed all her accomplishments and day-to-day tasks.

In 1909 the library was housed in one small room in Switzler Hall (pictured above).

Excerpts taken from Williams, S. L. (1929) Twenty Years of Education for Journalism: A History of the School of Journalism of the University of Missouri Columbia, Missouri, U.S.A. E.W. Stephens Publishing, Columbia, MO.

The first official announcement of the School in 1908 (pictured above) stated: "The University Library contains eighty-five thousand bound volumes and twenty thousand pamphlets.  In addition to the collections of the University Library students have access to the library of the State Historical Society of Missouri, which contains forty thousand volumes."

   Students in the School of Journalism still have access to the State Historical Society Library and the general University Library, both of which have been housed in more spacious quarters and have greatly increased their number of volumes.  In addition, several divisions of the University have specialized libraries devoted to books, periodicals, et cetera, especially pertaining to the division, and all of these are open to journalism students as well as to students in any other division.  Such specialized libraries are maintained in agriculture, engineering, medicine, arts and science, and other divisions.  But most important of all to the journalism student is the Journalism Library. 

   As soon as the School was organized various newspapers and trade periodicals were subscribed for, giving students opportunity to keep in touch with news of the world daily and to study style and policies of various publications.   These publications were the nucleus of the Journalism Library.  When the school was moved in 1909 into Switzler Hall more newspapers were taken and newspaper racks placed in the News Room.  Later one small room in Switzler Hall was designated as "the library" and in it the number of reference books gradually grew to several hundred, while many more newspapers and periodicals were added.  Student assistants had charge of the library in these first years.  At this time, too, a "morgue" was started, where clippings and notes for future reference as well as cuts which had been used in the Missourian and might be of value later were filed and cataloged.

One of the early style manuals used was: 

Lindner, G. V. (1912). The Newspaper Library Manual. Lemcke, New York.  (For use of newspaper offices and schools of journalism). In January, 2021, the journalism librarian at the University of Missouri, Claire Ginsburg, published a revised edition of the Newspaper Library Manual in the 1921 edition of the University of Missouri Bulletin Journalism Series.

General duties of a librarian in a newspaper office are explained in this pamphlet; then the library itself is discussed.  The author explains the value of a reference department of a library, what it should contain, how to catalog books, and how the indexing department functioned.  In addition, he suggests books for the library and provides a complete list of subjects under which books in a newspaper office might be cataloged.

  The Journalism Library was officially dedicated in 1913. 

Go to next section  "Moving to Neff Hall - The First Journalism Librarian 1920"