Librarires – Olustee, Oklahoma
Destiny or Happenstance?
It was about 1943 and I would have been about 12 years old. I decided to create an alphabetical file of articles that I clipped out of magazines. I remember sitting on the floor of my upstairs bedroom, clipping and filing the articles into a small box. Later, I found that clipping magazines is a “no, no” for librarians. When it came time to file, I found that articles covering more than one subject created a problem. The article couldn’t be filed in more than one place. I invented, or so I thought, “see” and “see also” references. I later found that librarians had been using them for years.
Did my love of reading have anything to do with my being a librarian? When young, I read a lot –particularly books that had pictures. While we didn’t have a large library, we did have a wall full of books – Book of Knowledge, World Encyclopedia, lots of National Geographic Magazines, a set of books about Indians, etc.
Starting about 12 years old, I worked for my Father in the family grocery store and when about 15, I had saved up money, not only to pay for my piano lessons but also, to buy a set of books, each volume containing the works of one author – Poe, Cooper, Tolstoy, Pushkin, and so on. I don’t think that I read very much from them, but it gave me great pleasure to own them.
The first real book that I read was The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. It was in 1945 when brother Dick returned home from WWII. He brought it with him and gave it to me. It had lots of color illustrations. Wow! Adventure! It was wonderful! I fought along with the musketeers as they immersed themselves into French court intrigue. I was hooked. So – I went to the Olustee Library where I found and read some of Dumas’ other novels: The Count of Monte Cristo, Twenty Years After, and The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later. I don’t know who selected the books for the library in the tiny town of Olustee, OK, but they did a marvelous job of selecting the works of the most important authors. As I remember, there were no books by modern authors.
When I grew up, Olustee was a town of 570 people. At one time it had been a bustling town on Oklahoma’s new frontier. Olustee’s Library was started in 1907 by the New State Club – the year that Oklahoma became a state. The area had once been Oklahoma Territory, and before that Indian Territory, and before that Texas (my mother had lived in all without moving). I understand that the first books were in private homes and later in a building downtown. In 1920, the Club was able to get the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to build a library for them costing $3,671.82.
I asked to use the library and since it didn’t have regular hours, I was given the key and, de facto, became the librarian. I opened the library doors on a regular basis to all comers. There were none. I sat there following the rules, checking in and out books to myself, feeling very smug. I was the librarian of a library that would become important when, in 1962, it was listed on the National Register of Historical Places. However, it was a far cry from the Library of Congress and the National Agricultural Library where I ended my career.
In high school, Miss Hudson, our wonderful English teacher, made me the high school librarian. She gave me the keys to the library, along with a copy of the abridged version of the Dewey Decimal Classification. I had no idea how to catalog a book. Also, I had no idea about what the Dewey Decimal classification was about. While Miss Hudson continued to do the book selection. I, in my blissful ignorance, did everything else – including the cataloging and classification.
Who would have believed that one day, among many of my duties, I, at the Library of Congress, would be in charge of supervising David Smith and his staff for the publication of a new edition of the Dewey Decimal Classification, under an agreement between the Library of Congress and Forest Press.
Also, who would have believed that in 1985, I would receive the Dewey Medal in 1985 by the American Library Association “For Creative Professional Achievement”?
After graduating from the University of Oklahoma and serving 2 years in the Army, I began a two-year stint of teaching vocal music in Kiowa, Kansas. It was a wonderful 2 years. Kiowa was a farming community comprised of many families belonging to the Apostolic Christian Church. They had a strong music tradition. Services are often preceded by a song service lasting at least 15 minutes or more. Their love of music extended into the school.
The small school (fewer than 100 in the High School) had 2 music teachers, one for instrumental and me covering the vocal side. Both of us received many honors in state competitions.
In addition to my FULL schedule of school programs, I also directed a church choir, a community chorus and a barbershop men’s chorus. Farmers, at the end of the day, came into town one night a week to sing “barbershop.” After rehearsals, as a group, we broke up into quartets.
All of this was wonderful; however, at the end of two years, I was exhausted. I wanted to go back to the University to get a Masters’ degree. Recognizing that my music talent and goal aspirations weren’t compatible, I decided to study library science.
Fifteen months later, with the help of the GI Bill, I received my Master’s of Library Science degree.
Since then, I have had a wonderful career – mostly in library administration. Reading has always been important; however, any success that I may have had in my career, has been as an administrator and my loving to organize.
Happenstance or coincidence? I don’t know and I really don’t care. It is not important.