Friday, December 07, 2007

They laughed at me and moved on

Years ago, when I was a bit more militant about women's accomplishments, I suggested at a faculty meeting that a new campus library (I think it was the depository on Kenny Rd) be named for the first Ohio State University Librarian, Olive Branch Jones. I mean, what could have been more perfect--she even had the word "branch" in her name, and most library systems have branches. My suggestion was dismissed as a joke, but I was serious.

Raimund Goerler, University Archivist gave a 2003 Kent State LIS convocation address about Miss Jones here and it is stored in OSU's Knowledge Bank, a digital repository (I backed into this article in a google search and the author was not identified so I redid the search starting with Knowledge Bank--which means you should always have the author's name on the scanned item). I'm so happy to see her getting some credit--after all, she was head of the library from 1887 to 1927. As far as I know, there is no tree, brick or building which bears her name.

She started as Assistant Librarian, becoming the first University Librarian after 8 years--although she hadn't had "professional training." I'd guess the 8 years prepared her, since not much was out there in the way of "library" training. The library degree even today is sort of a key to the door and you'll be an apprentice the rest of your career. After experimenting with various classification schemes, she was one of the first to select the Library of Congress system in 1902 because of the availability of the printed catalog cards (and she had no cataloger on staff). She oversaw the move of the library from a classroom to Orton Hall (where it remained for 20 years), and the eventual design and construction of William Oxley Thompson Library in 1912 (obviously not named for her, but it should have been).

She lost the argument not to build something monumental--she wanted a more practical and useful building, rather than large open spaces and grand staircases. Eventually, long after Olive had gone to the big stacks in the sky, she got her wish, because in the 1970s, Thompson Library was chopped up, modernized and mongrelized into a hodge podge of inconvenient cubicles and little spaces. It's now closed for 4 years and is being restored to something that will look like a monument to learning and knowledge.

It was on the 3rd floor of that library building that Fred Kilgour developed what would become OCLC with 1200 employees and offices in 7 countries, with headquarters in Dublin, Ohio. We both came to Thompson Library in 1967--although he went a bit further--establishing the first computerized library network, while I soon went home to raise children.

Rest in peace, dear Olive Branch Jones. I found out by reading this article that somewhere there is a memorial to you dedicated in 1933. I wonder where it is?

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