Alice Brooks McGuire, PhD

Alice Brooks McGuire—known as Sally to her friends and colleagues—built a long career as a determined advocate for school librarianship. From 1945 to 1949, McGuire served as the Director of the Center for Instructional Materials at the University of Chicago and the founding editor of its Service Bulletin. In these positions, she helped to establish the philosophy of book evaluation that would guide the work of what would later be known as the Center for Children’s Books.  

After earning an AB degree from Smith College in 1923, McGuire started down the path of librarianship. She pursued professional training at Drexel Institute of Technology (BS in Library Science, 1926) and Columbia University (MS in Library Science, 1932). McGuire then worked at Drexel as an instructor in library youth services until 1944, when she moved to the University of Chicago to begin her doctoral training (PhD, 1958). A year after her arrival in Illinois, University of Chicago faculty member Frances Henne recruited McGuire to direct the Center for Instructional Materials.1 

At the Center for Instructional Materials, which the University of Chicago established in 1945, McGuire oversaw the Center’s collection development and research services for parents, teachers, school librarians, and students using three collections: curriculum-related materials, reading materials, and audio-visual media.2 McGuire worked with Mary K. Eakin, the Junior Reference Librarian at the Reading Center, Frances Henne, a professor and interim dean at the University of Chicago’s Graduate Library School, and other specialists to develop the mission of the new Center for Instructional Materials.3 

In 1945, McGuire started to develop a resource that would later become the nationally-recognized Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. She and Eakin assembled a list of children’s books for classroom use as a resource for the University of Chicago’s Education Department. This 2-3 page memorandum paid specific attention to matching texts to child development. The 1947 version of the memo, by then called the Service Bulletin, reached an audience beyond the university.4  In 1950, McGuire began considering the possibility of an expanded Service Bulletin, “It is an exciting idea and not impossible, but to date we have only achieved a monthly service bulletin that reaches, however, more and more school systems and libraries each month. Our dream is still in the future.”5  Her successors would take up this work.

McGuire left the University of Chicago in 1949, when she accepted a position as librarian at the University of Texas’s new laboratory elementary school; she later became a faculty member of the University of Texas Graduate School of Library Science (from which she retired in 1972).6 From 1953-54, she served as president of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), and she remained an influential board member of AASL throughout her career.

1 Claud Glenn Sparks and Mattie Ruth Moore, “Alice Brooks McGuire,” in Pioneers and Leaders in Library Services to Youth a Biographical Dictionary, ed. Marilyn L. Miller (Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited, 2003), 151-52. 

2 “The Center for Instructional Materials,” University of Chicago, Betsy Hearne Papers, 1941-2017, Record Series 18/1/38, Box 9, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Archives.

3 Peggy Sullivan, “Frances Henne,” Pioneers and Leaders in Library Services to Youth a Biographical Dictionary, ed. Marilyn L. Miller (Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited, 2003), 99. 

4 Hilmar Sieving, “The Centre for Children’s Books at the University of Chicago,” Unesco Ed Abstracts 12, no. 9, (November 1960): 5-6.

5 Alice Brooks McGuire, “Our Developing Communications.” Wilson Library Bulletin 25 (November 1950): 237.

6 Sparks and Moore, 151.