During the 1975 American Library Association Annual Conference, Clara Stanton Jones was announced as the Vice-President and President-Elect of the American Library Association. Her term as President would start during the ALA’s 1976 Centennial Conference, a fitting celebration for the first African American President of the ALA.
Her experience as Director of the Detroit Public Library and personality made her well suited for the position of ALA President. E.J. Josey noted that: “Her years of service in the trenches in Detroit before being appointed director of the library system provided her with management skills as well as a desire to love and serve her fellow human beings.” Jones’ career took her all over the world, but most of her activities were community driven, working on the revitalization and cultural development of Detroit. Continue reading “Clara S. Jones: “Awareness is Not Burdened with Repression; It is Liberating””→
It was a gray spring day in 1983 on Park Lane and although she didn’t know it yet, Association of American Library Schools (now the Association for Library and Information Science Education) Executive Secretary Janet Phillips had immortalized Tour Guide and Mascot “Prissy”.
To continue our blog series highlighting pioneering women librarians, this next post will focus on Mary Wright Plummer (1856-1916). A member of Melvil Dewey’s first class in librarianship at Columbia College, Plummer went on to establish an impressive career in librarian education, children’s librarianship, and international librarianship, and served as the ALA’s 2nd female president from 1915-1916.
Born to a Quaker family, Plummer attended Wellesley College from 1881-1882, studying languages and creative writing. Her librarianship career began when she enrolled at the age of 30 in “the first class in library science on the planet”, Melvil Dewey’s 1887 class in the School of Library Economy at Columbia College. Distinguishing herself immediately in her studies, she was selected to present her experience in library school at the American Library Association’s 1887 meeting (“The Columbia College School of Library Economy from a Student’s Standpoint,” printed in Library Journal, September-December 1887). Continue reading “Mary Wright Plummer”→
The ALA Archives staff wants to say happy birthday to Melvil Dewey, who is a mere 164 years old today!
Dewey might be most famous for his Dewey Decimal Classification system for library books, though many American libraries now use the Library of Congress classification system, the Dewey Decimal System is still being used today. Dewey was active in the library profession and was also one of the founders of the American Library Association, opened the School of Library Economy at Columbia College, called for the formation of the ALA Council, and was involved in the founding of the Spelling Reform Association. Continue reading “Happy Birthday, Melvil!”→
For Veteran’s Day, the ALA Archives wanted to share how books can sometimes take us to strange and wonderful places. James Whittaker’s We Thought We Heard the Angels Sing (a book about soldiers during WWII who survived a plane crash over the Pacific and were stranded on a life raft for weeks) took Suzanne Kelley and her students on a pursuit of knowledge that connected them with the WWII veterans from the book. These veterans became a part of the students’ lives for years to come. This is Ms. Kelley’s letter to the American Library Association from this past September: Continue reading “We Thought We Heard the Angels Sing”→
Burton Egbert Stevenson (1872-1962) was surprised to find himself named the foremost ALA representative in Europe for the Library War Services campaign during the first World War. A college dropout from Princeton University and aspiring novelist, he fell into the library profession after marrying Chillicothe Public Librarian, Elisabeth Shephard Butler and accepting a librarian position at the same library in 1899. Continue reading “Burton E. Stevenson: ALA Representative in Europe”→
Festschrifts are a common way to honor someone in academia, and line the shelves of many academic libraries. They typically contain academic essays related to the person’s life work, contributed traditionally by the person’s former doctoral students and colleagues. But what about a Festschrift that’s instead full of nothing but praise for the person being honored gathered from common workers in their field, and furthermore isn’t for an academic, but instead for a public-service librarian? This is the final issue of Libraries magazine, honoring one Mary Eileen Ahern. Continue reading “Miss “Public Libraries” Mary Eileen Ahern”→
The more things change, the more they stay the same, or so you will think when you look at this laundry list of key considerations Katherine L. Sharp outlines for someone setting up a library in her writing “Catechism for Librarians.” Unlike a religious Catechism, she outlines not what to believe but a series of questions a librarian must answer for herself. Despite being only 3 by 5 inches in size, 24 pages long, and never published, these 180 questions still provide a reasonable guide to someone setting up a library today. And their relevance is still more interesting when you consider that this was written in 1891, with no knowledge of the sweeping changes in librarianship and technology that were to come. A few of the more prescient questions are presented here in their modern context: Continue reading “Have you a card catalog? Katharine L. Sharp’s Catechism for Librarians”→
For an educated woman at the turn of the century, there were few options for a intellectually satisfying career, as Katharine L. Sharp discovered as a newly minted college graduate in 1885. She taught foreign languages at a high school in Illinois for two years, but then she took a position as Assistant Librarian at the Scoville Institute and seems to have found her calling. Believing so strongly in the burgeoning field of professional librarianship, she enrolled in the new New York State Library School in 1889, where she studied under Melvil Dewey.  Continue reading ““The Best Man in America is a Woman”: Katharine L. Sharp and the First “Lady Librarians””→
Before women were allowed to vote in US elections, the American Library Association found its leadership in Theresa West Elmendorf. In 1911, over thirty years after the founding of the ALA, Elmendorf was elected the first female president of the association.