At the Ref Desk (5/12/20): We have entered the Age of Lookups. [more...]

We Were All Librarians and All Human Beings

Submitted by Leo Klein on Fri, 4/1/11 (2:29pm)

From an article written in 1944 about the Good Old Days of librarians in Chicago in the 1890s:

William Warner Bishop (1944): "As I look back on these formative years I am struck most of all by the sense of fellowship and solidarity among librarians. It was a new profession in our American conception of its possibilities; there was no little of the "missionary" spirit among its members, and there was much kindly feeling and much sharing of information and experience. A newcomer was made to feel at home. One instinctively felt he could rely on and trust his colleagues. I had a beautiful illustration of these solidarity ten years later, during my first summer at the Library of Congress. One of our messenger boys went swimming in the Potomac and was unfortunately drowned. His people came from a village near Milwaukee. They were too poor to come on to Washington, and the body was sent to Milwaukee to be transferred to their home. I telegraphed to Agnes Van Valkenburgh in the Milwaukee Public Library without any hesitation, and that great-hearted woman not only met the train bearing the corpse but went, provided with flowers, to the small town and to the funeral. It was a perfectly natural action on her part and on mine. We were all librarians and all human beings in distress at the sudden death of a very minor member of our calling. The incident is typical, and I like to recall it. We all felt not only pride in our work but a sense of responsibility toward our fellow librarians. It is a great thing to have been a member of such a profession."