Collection inventory

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Malcolm S. Knowles Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

The adult education holdings are collectively known as the
Alexander N. Charters Library of Resources for Educators of Adults.

Finding aid created by: -
Date: -

Biographical History

Malcolm S. Knowles (1913-1997) was an American adult education scholar, consultant, and professor.

Malcolm S. Knowles was born August 24, 1913 in Livingston, Montana. Following his graduation from Palm Beach, Florida High School in 1930, he enrolled in Harvard College where he obtained his A.B. in 1934. He completed his academic studies at the University of Chicago by earning an M.A. in 1949 and a Ph.D. in 1960. He married Hulda Fornell in 1935 by whom he had two children; Eric (1941) and Barbara E. Hartl (1946).

During his early career years, Malcolm S. Knowles held administrative positions with the National Youth Administration of Massachusetts and YMCAs in Boston, Detroit and Chicago. From 1951-1959 he was Executive Director of the Adult Education Association of the U.S.A. (AEA/USA). Under his leadership, Knowles helped to establish the Commission of Professors of Adult Education as an affiliated association of the AEA/USA. From 1960-1974 he was a Professor of Education at Boston University. With the start of the fall semester, 1974 he taught as Professor of Adult and Community Education at North Carolina State University in Raleigh until his retirement in 1979.

In addition to his administrative and teaching duties, Malcolm S. Knowles was actively involved as a consultant to numerous corporations, associations and organizations and wrote several books: Informal Adult Education; Teaching Adults in Informal Courses; How to Develop Better Leaders; Introduction to Group Dynamics; Handbook of Adult Education in the U.S.; The Adult Education Movement in the U.S.; Higher Adult Education in the U.S.; The Modern Practice of Adult Education; The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species; Self-Directed Learning: A Guide for Learners and Teachers; and A History of the Adult Education Movement in the U.S. He has authored many other monographs, book chapters and journal articles.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Malcolm S. Knowles Papers contains not only Dr. Knowles' papers, but also papers from various individuals, associations, organizations, and corporations concerned with adult education. Included in the collection are organizational information, biographical data, personal and business correspondence, meetings files, photographs, printed and published material, meetings files, scrapbooks, speeches, workshop files, and audio-visual material (cassette and video tapes, films, and graphics). Pamphlet series items have been added to university's adult education picture and pamphlet files.

The organizations of importance to the collection are:

Individuals with significant contributions to the collection are:

Arrangement of the Collection

Associations includes all information specific to the identity of an organization with which Knowles had some affiliation. The series is arranged alphabetically by name of association. Designated materials are annual reports, informational pamphlets, constitutions, and directories. Biographical series has vitae arranged alphabetically. Correspondence - business comprises letters to and from Knowles, grouped by subject matter (i.e., letters connected with an organization or writing project of Knowles). Arrangement is alphabetical by subject and chronological arrangement rules within a subject. Correspondence - personal contains daily correspondence to and from Knowles. The arrangement is chronological.

Meetings files contains files that Knowles maintained for conferences and other meetings which he attended. The meetings are identified by their sponsors which appear in alphabetical order. Multiple meetings by a single sponsor are further divided by date (earliest to latest) or conference title. Photographs are arranged alphabetically by identifier.

Printed material (substantive works such as organization publications, articles, journals, papers, and grant proposals) is arranged alphabetically by, in most instances, corporate body or title of work for personal authors. Articles by Knowles will not be found under title, however; these appear under the subseries "Articles by Knowles." Knowles' other papers are interfiled by title among all printed material. Published material comprises material that has an identifiable copyright. Arrangement is alphabetical by corporate author or title as is the case for personal authors or works without a stated author.

Knowles' Scrapbooks chronicle his late adolescence and early career years. They are ordered alphabetically by scrapbook name. Workshop files consists of the documentation that Knowles kept for workshops he conducted. The files are arranged alphabetically by workshop sponsor or title if no sponsor is identified. In cases of multiple workshops by a single sponsor an alphabetical and/or chronological order takes over.

Finally, Audio-visual contains graphics, films and tapes (videocassette, audiocassette and reel-to-reel). Material is grouped by type and within type is ordered alphabetically.

Due to the arrangement of material by type, a given individual or organization may appear in several of the series -- for example, Boston University appears in Associations, Printed material, Speeches, and Workshop files. The researcher is advised to review the entire finding aid to ensure no relevant material is overlooked.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

A large number of books came with the collection, a complete list of which can be found in Biographical material: List of books in Knowles' library. For the most part, these were duplicates of existing holdings and during Aug 2006 reprocessing they were discarded. A few were sent to Rare Books for cataloging and may be located through the Classic Catalog, by searching for "Malcolm S. Knowles" as a keyword.

The library holds a considerable number of collections related to adult and continuing education. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Aker, George F.
DuBois, Eugene Eli, 1937-
DuBois, Philip H. (Philip Hunter), 1903-1998.
Grabowski, Stanley M.
Houle, Cyril O. (Cyril Orvin), 1913-1998.
Kidd, J. R. (James Robbins), 1915-1982.
Knowles, Malcolm S. (Malcolm Shepherd), 1913-1997.
Knox, Alan B. (Alan Boyd), 1931-
Mezirow, Jack, 1923-2014.
Okes, Imogene E.
Paisley, Matilda G.
Wientge, King M.
Wiser, Betty H. (Betty Hutchinson)

Corporate Bodies

Adult Education Association.
American Association for Adult Education.
American Association for Adult and Continuing Education.
American Society for Training and Development.
Commission of Professors of Adult Education.
Continuing Library Education Network and Exchange.
Cooperative Assessment of Experiential Learning (U.S.)
Council for the Advancement of Experiential Learning (U.S.)
International Congress of University Adult Education.
International Federation of Training and Development Organizations.
National University Extension Association.
YMCA of the USA.


Adult education -- Study and teaching.
Adult education -- United States.
Educators -- United States.
Professional education.
Training manuals.

Genres and Forms

Annual reports.
Manuals (instructional materials)
Speeches (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Malcolm S. Knowles Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Malcolm Shepherd Knowles

During processing (Aug 2006), the three boxes of adult ed books were sorted and either discarded -- if we had them in Summit -- or sent for cataloging in the rare books collection.

Table of Contents


Biographical material


Meetings files


Printed material

Published material


Workshop files

Audio-visual material