Mission and History

Our Mission

SILS educates innovative and responsible thinkers who will lead the information professions; discovers principles and impacts of information; creates systems, techniques, and policies to advance information processes and services; and advances information creation, access, use, management, and stewardship to improve the quality of life for diverse local, national, and global communities.

Our History

Although a student could not receive a degree in library science until almost three decades later, library education began at UNC Chapel Hill in 1904 when Dr. Louis Round Wilson began offering summer school classes.

In 1929, just as the new library building was finished on UNC's campus, Wilson wrote an article on the “Library in Modern Education,” saying:

As part of the program of social welfare now being worked out at Chapel Hill, a library school is needed, where librarians, like lawyers and doctors and teachers, may secure expert professional training. With its magnificent new building as a laboratory for the school, such an institution would not only be in harmony with the program on which the University has embarked, it would offer opportunity through the sending out of trained librarians for the South to tap the vast reservoir of human knowledge.

The School of Library Science opened at Chapel Hill in the fall of 1931 with a class of 37 students and five faculty members, including Dr. Wilson. The Carnegie Corporation provided a $100,000 grant to enable the school to operate for three years and make permanent its conditional accreditation from the American Library Association.

In 1987, recognizing the growing importance of the study of information use and management, the faculty voted to change the program and modify the school's name to become the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS).

Explore our history in more detail by reading short biographies of our deans and directors, scrolling through the timeline, or clicking to a specific time period linked below.

1901-1919 ›› 1920-1939 ›› 1940-1959 ›› 1960-1979 ›› 1980-1999 ›› 2000-2009 ›› 2010-2019



  • The University offers its first courses in library science during the summer terms.


  • The University offers courses in library science during regular school term.


  • The University grants credit for courses in library science.


  • Enrollment in summer courses warrants a visiting instructor in library science at UNC.


  • The University allows graduate credit to students for a course in bibliography.


  • Dr. Wilson, in his Annual Report of the Librarian, proposes that the University offer summer courses for school and city librarians.


  • Dr. Wilson proposes, for the first time in an Annual Report of the Librarian, that the University consider establishing a school of library science.


  • Dr. Wilson appointed chairman of ALA Board of Education for Librarianship.


  • Dr. Wilson, in his Annual Report of the Librarian, “strongly urges” the establishment of a school of library science at UNC.


  • The Carnegie Corporation grants $100,000 to the University for the establishment of a school of library science. Announcement of the five-year grant and of plans for school made at dedication ceremonies for the newly completed University Library building (Oct. 19-22).


  • School of Library Science classes begin (Sept. 17).


  • School provisionally accredited as a Type II (graduate) library school by the Board of Education for Librarianship of the ALA (March).
  • First class of students graduates (June 7).
  • Dr. Wilson resigns as librarian and director of the school to become dean of the University of Chicago Graduate Library School.
  • Susan Grey Akers becomes the second woman and the fourth person in the United States to earn a PhD in library science when she graduates from the University of Chicago Graduate Library School.
  • Akers named acting director of the school.


  • School fully accredited for both Type II and Type III (undergraduate) library training by Board of Education for Librarianship of the ALA (March).
  • School admitted to membership in the Association of American Library Schools (Dec.).


  • School begins offering its regular courses in consecutive summer terms, so that students might earn A.B. in L.S. by attendance during summer sessions only.
  • Susan Grey Akers named director of the school.
  • Alumni association formed as The North Carolina Library School Association and offers first tuition scholarship to a student in the school.


  • University assumes financial support of the school with state funds.


  • N.C. General Assembly authorizes establishment of a professional school in library science at the North Carolina College for Negroes in Durham. Dr. Akers agrees to help program get started and serves as dean of both schools until Oct. 1946.


  • Carnegie Corporation gives the school a second $100,000 grant.


  • Akers appointed dean.
  • Type III curriculum discontinued due to lack of demand.
  • Degree granted by the school changed from Bachelor of Arts in Library Science to Bachelor of Science in Library Science.


  • Dr. Wilson retires as dean at Chicago and returns to UNC as consultant and part-time professor.


  • University approves school's proposed Master of School Librarianship program (Dec. 10), and the first students would enter the program in 1950.


  • Dr. Wilson retires as consultant and part-time professor.


  • School offers first courses leading to master's degree of school librarianship.
  • School moves to Old Filter Plant for 1950-51 school year during construction of addition to the University library building.


  • University approves school's program leading to Master of Science in Library Science degree (March 8).
  • Alumni association establishes Susan Grey Akers Scholarship.
  • School moves into the new west wing of the library building (Sept.).
  • Dr. Wilson returns as visiting professor to teach two courses in the MSLS program.


  • School celebrates first Alumni Day (April 17).
  • School presents first candidates for MSLS degree (June).


  • Akers retires after 23 years as member of the faculty, three years as acting director, six years as director and 13 years as dean.
  • Lucile Kelling Henderson appointed dean of the school.


  • School's administrative board approves abandonment of the degree of bachelor of science in library science.


  • UNC's library named in honor of Dr. Wilson.


  • American Library Association accredits school under its 1951 revised standards.


  • North Carolina chapter of Beta Phi Mu installed (May 3).
  • Faculty votes to discontinue master of school librarianship program.



  • Under Frarey's leadership, school introduces revised curriculum.




  • Law School moves out of Manning Hall.


  • Manning Hall renovations begin.


  • Raymond L. Carpenter, Jr. becomes acting dean of the school (July).
  • School moves into Manning Hall one day before fall registration (Sept.).


  • Edward G. Holley becomes dean (Jan. 1).
  • First issue of “News from Chapel Hill” alumni newsletter published (Nov.).


  • School begins providing library services for EPA Library in RTP (May 6).
  • Holley inaugurated as 91st president of the American Library Association in New York City (July 12).
  • School introduces revised master's program, with a new 12-hour block of basic material required of all students.


  • Dr. Lester E. Asheim becomes school's first William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor.


  • Dr. Wilson dies at the age of 102 (Dec. 10).


  • Jo Ann Hardison Bell becomes school's first doctoral degree recipient (May 11).


  • School celebrates its 50th anniversary with four days of seminars, reports and social events (March 25-28).
  • Mary Eunice Query receives SILS first Distinguished Alumni Award.


  • Elizabeth J. “Lib” Laney becomes School librarian (Nov.).



  • Dr. Barbara B. Moran becomes assistant dean (July 1).


  • Name change to School of Information and Library Science becomes official.
  • School introduces post-graduate Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) degree.
  • School celebrates 15 years of providing library services to EPA Library.


  • Dr. Holley named School's second William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor.


  • Dr. Barbara Moran becomes dean (July 1).
  • Dr. Jerry D. Saye becomes assistant dean (July 1).
  • OCLC Founder Frederick G. Kilgour appointed Distinguished Research Professor.
  • Lester Asheim Scholarship Fund endowed with $30,000.


  • Dr. Fred Roper, former associate dean of SILS and current dean of the University of South Carolina College of Library and Information Science, presents school's first Lucile Kelling Henderson Lecture (April 19).
  • Librarian Laney retires (June 30) and graduate Gillian M. Debreczeny becomes new School librarian (Dec. 15).


  • School uses Alumni Day to celebrate 60th anniversary of school's founding (May 1).


  • School offers first Oxford seminar, “English Libraries and Librarianship” (May 23-June 5) with Dr. Holley serving as academic adviser.
  • School's newly created Board of Visitors meets for the first time (Nov.).


  • Dr. Jerry Saye appointed associate dean (July 1).
  • Frances Carroll McColl Professorship established with $250,000 gift from Hugh L. and Jane Spratt McColl.
  • School celebrates 20 years of partnership with EPA.


  • Dr. Helen Tibbo named assistant dean (July 1).
  • SunSITE moves from basement of Phillips Hall to second-floor lab in Manning Hall.
  • Professor Dr. William M. Shaw Jr. named School's first McColl Professor.


  • Dr. Susan Steinfirst, retired professor, dies of cancer at the age of 56 (March 7). A lecture fund is later established in her name.
  • School celebrates 65th anniversary with day of presentations and activities (April 25).
  • First three recipients of SILS undergraduate minor graduate from UNC.
  • Dr. Stephanie Haas receives School's first Outstanding Teacher of the Year award.



  • Dr. Joanne Gard Marshall becomes dean (Jan. 1).
  • School ties for #1 in U.S. News & World Report rankings of top graduate schools in the field (March).
  • School's Interaction Design Laboratory (IDL) holds open house (March 26).
  • Picnic held to celebrate school's 25-year partnership with EPA Library.
  • School conducts its first mid-year commencement ceremony in Wilson Library's Pleasants Family Assembly Room (Dec. 18).


  • SILS becomes first school to have its MSIS program accredited for a full seven years by the ALA. The School's SLS program, continually accredited since 1934, also receives a full accreditation.
  • Associate Professor Dr. Paul Solomon becomes associate dean (July 1).
  • Gillian Debreczeny retires as librarian (July 31).
  • Thanks in part to a $4 million gift from Red Hat Center, Metalab (the former SunSITE) becomes ibiblio.org, “the public's library” (Sept. 11).
  • School honors past and current assistant/associate deans at special ceremony (Sept. 29).
  • School holds “Open Information Week” (Oct. 16-20).
  • Dean Marshall featured on cover of Library Journal (Nov. 15).


  • SILS announces introduction of dual master's degree programs with Kenan-Flagler Business School and the School of Public Health.
  • Rebecca Vargha joins SILS staff as the new librarian (Aug. 1).
  • School kicks off 70th anniversary celebration with John Vaughn's appearance as Henderson Lecturer (Oct. 8).



  • Classes begin for newly-approved BSIS undergraduate degree program.
  • Dual degree programs begin with the School of Nursing, the art department and the School of Government.
  • Cooperative international program in information management begins with institutions in Singapore and Denmark.
  • School begins certificate program in bioinformatics and offers school library media certification through distance education.
  • 25th anniversary of the doctoral program.



  • Environmental Protection Agency Library and SILS celebrates 30 year partnership.
  • The Knowledge Trust and Louis Round Wilson Academy formed (October 6).


  • The School is once again ranked #1 by U.S. News and World Report in the magazine’s 2007 edition of “America’s Best Graduate Schools.”
  • UNC Library and the School join the Open Content Alliance.
  • The School hosts the 6th annual ACM/IEEE 2006 Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL).
  • Frederick Kilgour, founder of the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), and distinguished research professor, dies in August at age 92.
  • SILS celebrates its 75th anniversary on Sept. 18 with the theme, “Illuminating the Past, Imagining the Future.”


  • SILS hosts Evidence-based Practice Conference (May).
  • The School observes the grand finale of its 75th anniversary on Sept. 17.
  • SILS is presented with Joint Resolution 249 by the North Carolina House of Representatives.
  • ibiblio receives North Carolina Certificate of Acknowledgement and Congratulations.
  • SILS hosts The National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) Electronic Records Research Symposium on Nov. 1.


  • SILS is one of the first universities worldwide to work with YouTube to offer UNC-produced content.
  • World-renowned Data Intensive Cyber Environments (DICE) group joins SILS.
  • Dr. Evelyn Daniel appointed associate dean of Academic Affairs. 
  • Dr. Gary Marchionini elected president of ASIS&T.


  • SILS hosts the fourth annual iConference on Feb. 8 - 11 with the theme, "iSociety: research, education, engagement."
  • SILS hosts the second DigCCurr 2009: Digital Curation Practice, Promise and Prospects conference April 1 to 3.
  • Dr. Helen Tibbo elected president of the Society of American Archivists.
  • Dr. Barbara B. Moran appointed interim dean (May 1).
  • The School is ranked #1 by U.S. News and World Report in the magazine’s 2010 edition of “America’s Best Graduate Schools.”
  • SILS institutes the "Edward G. Holley for the Good of the Order" award.


  • Edward Holley, dean emeritus and former William Rand Kenan Jr. professor, who was known as a giant in the library world, dies in February at age 82.
  • Dr. Gary Marchionini appointed dean (Apr. 1).
  • The School begins the international summer seminar to London.
  • Dr. Helen Tibbo appointed Alumni Distinguished Professor (July 1).
  • Dr. Barbara Moran appointed the first Louis Round Wilson Distinguished Professor (July 1).
  • Dr. Barbara Wildemuth appointed associate dean of Academic Affairs (July 1).
  • SILS is a lead partner in the establishment of the Carolina Health Informatics Program (CHIP).


  • Six offices acquired on the first floor of Manning Hall (Aug.).
  • The LifeTime Library first offered to incoming class (Aug.).
  • SILS kicks off the 80th anniversary celebration with a tailgate picnic on the front lawn of Manning Hall (Sept. 17), the Henderson Lecture featuring Dr. Fred Roper (Sept. 23), an open house (Sept. 24) and the Steinfirst Lecture (Sept. 25).
  • UNC students, faculty and staff gathered (Sept. 18) for the dedication of ten new homes constructed over the past year as part of the Habitat for Humanities Build-A-Block project.
  • SILS Dean Gary Marchionini receives the Award of Merit, the highest honor presented by the American Society of Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T).


  • Dr. Deborah Barreau dies of cancer at age 62 (Feb. 10). The SILS Award for Teaching Excellence and fund are established in her name.
  • SILS offers the BSIS/MSIS dual degree. 
  • Lori Haight is appointed as SILS first Career Services Coordinator (Feb.)
  • The Information Professionals 2050 symposium and conference features 16 leaders for the grand finale of the 80th anniversary celebration.
  • Dr. Jerry D. Saye, professor, dies on June 7. 


  • SILS acquires the ground level of Manning Hall when the Odum Institute moves to its new location in Davis Library.
  • SILS Alumni Inclusion and Diversity Committee launches November 14, 2013, homecoming weekend.
  • First webpage is "rediscovered" on SILS Professor Paul Jones' NeXT Cube and ibiblio.


  • SILS is awarded the largest contract in its history to continue operating the EPA Library for five more years.
  • The BitCurator project announces the release of BitCurator 1.0, a free and open-source digital forensics software environment for libraries, archives, and museums (LAMs) to acquire and process born-digital materials.
  • The SILS Library hosts its first Edible Book Contest.


  • SILS celebrates its 40-year partnership with the EPA Library on April 11 with a reception for current and former interns, staff, and faculty.
  • SILS and UNC’s Odum Institute for Research in Social Science co-presented the 12th International Conference on Digital Preservation (iPRES) November 2-6 in Chapel Hill. The conference drew 327 delegates from 22 countries.
  • SILS sponsored its Project Fair to showcase work and research by its undergraduate and master's students.


  • The Susan Steinfirst Memorial Lecture in Children's Literature is expanded to to include the Steinfirst Artist-in-Residency Program, which gives Triangle-area youth an opportunity to study with internationally acclaimed authors and illustrators. Newbery Award-winning author Matt de la Peña is chosen as the first artist-in-residence, spending a week with students at Mt. Vernon Middle School in Wake County.
  • The first annual ACM SIGIR Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval (CHIIR 2016) was held March 13-17 in Chapel Hill. CHIIR (pronounced “cheer”) was the merger of two successful previous events, the Information Interaction in Context conference (IIiX) and the Human Computer Information Retrieval symposium (HCIR).
  • SILS and the UNC Curriculum for the Environment and Ecology (ENEC) partnered to create a dual-degree program in environmental informatics in which students earn a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and a Master of Science in Information Science.
  • On October 16, SILS announces a commitment by Charles B. Lowry (MSLS ’74) and Marcia Duncan Lowry to establish the Duncan-Lowry Deanship at SILS. The commitment is the largest in the School’s history and the first at Carolina to be designated for a deanship.


  • The Carolina Health Informatics Program (CHIP) launches its PhD in Health Informatics.
  • SILS and the UNC School of Media and Journalism co-sponsored a half-day conference titled, “What Should We Be Worried About?: Information and Media in the Trump Era,” on March 31.
  • SILS and the UNC Parr Center for Ethics co-sponsored the first Symposium on Information for Social Good on April 21.
  • Applications open for SILS' new Professional Science Master's degree in Digital Curation. The 100% online program is the first of its kind in the U.S.
  • SILS takes over sponsorship of the Community Workshop Series.