Exe Libris Extension

  • Awarded to: Professor Rob Freathy
  • Co-investigators: Marie Dunkerley
  • Funding Awarded to Exeter: £ 7,443
  • Dates: 1 January 2012 - 30 April 2012
  • Sponsor(s): History of Education Society


In 2007 the History of Education Society (UK) agreed to sponsor the development of an online resource to help historians of education more easily identify scholarly articles relevant to their field of interest that had been published in a broad range of British academic journals. This project, carried out at the University of Exeter, aimed to digitize data from 56 journals published between 1939 and 2005 that had already been collected in a card index system.[i] The electronic resource produced by this project was named Exe Libris, and hosted by the University of Exeter at http://dll.ex.ac.uk/hoebibliography, as well as being easily accessible via the History of Education Society’s own website (http://www.historyofeducation.org.uk/).

Exe Libris constitutes a fully searchable database giving researchers easy access to the bibliographic details of articles published on history of education topics, drawn from journals with a broad range of major historical themes, for example, local history journals, medical and scientific history journals, or church history journals. By bringing together the details of relevant work from such a disparate set of publications, Exe Libris makes searching for relevant literature easier for historians of education and helps them to identify material from perhaps unexpected sources. Users are able to search the database using the standard options of author and title, but Exe Libris also features additional functionality which allows searches to be conducted according to historical period, geographical location, key themes and cross-referenced themes. It is also possible to search for articles specifically dealing with historiographical issues within history of education, and for bibliographical articles. This was achieved through the careful categorisation of every article entered into the database, according to a coding scheme divided into seven time periods from antiquity to modernity and 19 major thematic areas, which are further subdivided into 94 specific subject categories. It has always been acknowledged that many articles touch upon more than one of these topics and that any categorisation is subjective, and therefore users are able to suggest their own categorisation for articles whilst using the database.

In order to maintain the effectiveness of Exe Libris, it is vital that the database of articles it contains is kept up-to-date. The main purpose of this note is to alert members of the Society to the work that has been done to update and internationalise Exe Libris since its inception in 2007.

Further Development

A key advantage of an electronic resource such as Exe Libris lies in its flexibility, allowing us to update and expand its contents in order to ensure that it continues to be a useful tool for researchers. There have been two stages of development to the database since its introduction, with the first, in 2009, seeing the History of Education Society (UK) providing further funding to allow Exe Libris to be updated to include all articles published in the previously selected journals between the beginning of 2006 and the end of 2008.

The most recent phase of the database’s development, supported once more by funding from the History of Education Society (UK), took place between January and July 2012 and focused on two main tasks. First, we extended coverage of articles published in the previously selected list of historical journals up to the end of 2011. This update has seen around 400 articles catalogued and categorised for inclusion in the bibliography. Second, we expanded Exe Libris to include articles from four major international journals specialising in the history of education: ANZHES Journal (1972-1982) and History of Education Review (1983 onwards), the journals of the Australia and New Zealand History of Education Society; History of Education Quarterly (1961 onwards), the journal of the United States History of Education Society; and Paedagogica Historica (1961 onwards), the journal of the International Standing Conference for the History of Education. As a result of this expansion, over 2,200 articles have been added to the database. The decision to cover these major international journals is designed to ensure that Exe Libris becomes a more comprehensive tool for researchers, allowing them to access a broader range of literature and encouraging scholarship of an international, transnational or comparative nature.

As a result of the most recent phase of work, some alterations have been made to the original codes used to categorise the articles. This has been necessary to reflect changing patterns of research and new areas of inquiry, and also to adopt current terminologies where appropriate. Category 3.1, for example, was previously titled ‘the Churches’, perhaps as a result of the bibliography’s origins in a country with a predominantly Christian (educational) heritage and its initial focus on British journals, but this has now been expanded to encompass other religions as well. In making such changes, however, great care has been taken to ensure that the categories have not been altered so greatly as to undermine the validity of earlier categorisation work. As ever, users of Exe Libris are welcome to offer their own suggestions about how articles have been categorised.

Future Development

The capacity of the database to incorporate almost any new bibliographical data means that it can expand and develop to meet the future needs of the History of Education Society (UK), as well as the wider international community of historians of education. The database of articles needs to be periodically updated by surveying the selected journals and categorising the relevant works. It is also possible that the list of journals covered may be further extended or that technological developments might allow for new functionality to be added to the website. As always, our aim is to ensure that Exe Libris is as effective and comprehensive as possible, in order to provide the best possible bibliographical tool for researchers. We would welcome any suggestions as to how to develop the resource in the future.

Already, Exe Libris has proved particularly valuable for undergraduate and postgraduate students and other researchers who are new to the field of the history of education because its sole focus on the field makes their searches for relevant literature quicker and also because the wide range of journals surveyed for inclusion should bring to their attention material which might otherwise go uncovered. Furthermore, Exe Libris also illustrates the many and varied areas of enquiry with which historians of education are concerned. In this regard, it helps the History of Education Society (UK) to encourage and support new researchers and secures the Society’s website as the ‘natural’ first destination for researchers entering the field. A large proportion of those who access Exe Libris do so having found the database via an internet search engine, rather than through the link on the UK History of Education Society’s website, and this means that Exe Libris can also work to introduce people, perhaps especially new researchers and non-UK based visitors, to the Society.

We very much hope that all researchers - new and experienced - will continue to support the development of this new resource by trying it out, interacting with its features and publicising it to their students and colleagues.

[i] For further background to the origins of Exe Libris, please see Richardson, W. and Freathy, R.J.K., ‘A Pilot Project for Exe Libris: The UK History of Education Society Online Bibliography.’ History of Education Researcher, 82 (2008), 116-122.