History of the Office

In 1974, a UW System Task Force on Women’s Studies and a committee of the UW-Madison Association of Faculty Women conceived of the creation of a Women’s Studies Librarian to serve the UW System and its growing women’s studies programs, administrators, faculty, researchers, and students.

That year, the two groups endorsed a request for this unique position with a unique function: a librarian who was also a specialist in women’s studies who would serve all System campuses in identifying resources, building library collections, and assisting in curriculum development.

The dual guiding principles of cooperative information exchange/program development and librarian-faculty teamwork continued during the push to get this position approved. An example of this was the System-sponsored conference entitled “Development of Resources for Women’s Studies” that was held in the spring of 1976 and attended by 150 faculty members, librarians, administrators, and students. Participants exchanged bibliographies of women’s studies materials and discussed the use of interlibrary services and other information access systems to facilitate resource and knowledge sharing across the System.

The position was approved on a trial basis and the first Women’s Studies Librarian-At-Large, Esther Stineman, was hired in 1977. Since then, four other librarians have served in this position including Linda Parker, Susan Searing, Phyllis Holman Weisbard, and, currently, Karla Strand.

During the last 40 years, the names and spaces have changed but the mission and goals have remained the same.

Two factors are of enduring significance in understanding this Office:

  1. The creation and development of the Systemwide position of Women’s Studies Librarian occurred in tandem with establishment, support, and development of women’s studies programs throughout the System. This made the Women’s Studies Librarian an integral part of System women’s studies programs and of the association of women’s studies administrators that became the System Women’s Studies Consortium.
  2. The UW-Madison campus has had a special interest and importance for the Office. This provided the Office with a supportive home from which to reach out to the other System campuses.

Both of these factors still contribute to the uniqueness of the Office. These traditions have formed a strong foundation on which many partnerships and innovative ideas have grown and the Office of the GWS Librarian has led the development of women’s studies librarianship and scholarship across the country.

For more information

Past Workshops and Presentations

  • Curriculum Infusion Resources, Oshkosh Faculty College, May 19, 2005 (Phyllis Holman Weisbard)
  • Keeping Up with New Resources on Women, UW Colleges, April 28, 2007 (Phyllis Holman Weisbard)
  • Keeping Up with New Resources on Women and Other Topics, UW Parkside, February 23, 2007 (Phyllis Holman Weisbard)
  • Resources for Evaluating Websites, Global Studies Summer Institute, UW-Milwaukee, June 21, 2005 (Phyllis Holman Weisbard)
  • Selected Digital Resources in Women’s History, UW Parkside, February 23, 2007 (Phyllis Holman Weisbard)
  • New Directions in the Undergraduate Quest for Resources Documenting Women’s Experiences in Disasters (presentation) and narrative, “Educating Women for a World in Crisis” Summit, Newcomb College Institute, Tulane University, February 10, 2007 (Phyllis Holman Weisbard)
  • View a poster about the practicum experience in the Office, by Virginia Corvid, UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies student, Fall 2010.

This brief summary was written by Karla Strand in July 2018. Information was obtained from the University of Wisconsin System Office of the Women’s Studies Librarian Program Review/Self-Study created by Phyllis Holman Weisbard in 1993.