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First published online December 22, 2014

The development of library and information science in China (1840–2009)


The purpose of this study is to give an overview of the development of Chinese libraries and library and information science (LIS) in China during 1840 to 2009. The discussion is divided into four historical periods: 1840–1897, 1898–1948, 1949–1977, and 1978–2009. In each of these periods, the author discusses three themes that have had a major influence in the development of libraries and LIS: the social, economic, scientific and political climate in China that influenced the development of libraries and information institutions, and LIS education, which supported the growing profession. In sum, this study reviews the accomplishment of library and information science in China from 1840 to 2009, and the significant efforts of people from different classes, and across several generations, combining the historical background, including the change of regimes, crisis from foreign invasion, and social progress.

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Yao Zhang is a PhD candidate in the School of Library and Information Science at University of South Carolina, USA. She graduated with a BA in English from Nankai University, China in 2006 and obtained her Master degree in Multilingual Information Management from the University of Sheffield, UK. She has worked in the University of South Carolina as a graduate assistant since 2009. Contact details: School of Library and Information Science, University of South Carolina, 1501 Greene Street, Columbia, SC 29208, USA. Tel: 1-803-777-6493. Email: [email protected]

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Article first published online: December 22, 2014
Issue published: December 2014


  1. history of library and information science
  2. China

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Issue published: December 2014
Published online: December 22, 2014



Yao Zhang


Yao Zhang, School of Library and Information Science, University of South Carolina, 1501 Greene Street, Columbia, SC, 29208, USA. Email: [email protected]

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