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Library and Information Science as a Social Science: Neutral and Normative Conceptions

When library education was institutionalized at universities in the 1920s and 1930s in the United States, it pursued a social scientific path of disciplinary growth guided largely by perspectives in the philosophy of science. In this way, objectivity and neutrality became prominent professional ideals of library education. A different conception of social science denies a disinterested outlook and provides the basis for recent challenges to the profession's traditional perception of itself and its disciplinary growth. This article explores alternately the "neutral" and "normative" conceptions of library and information science as a social scientific discipline.