Everything Librarian: March 2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Library Hero, Administrative Villain: J. Edgar Hoover

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Most people remember J. Edgar Hoover as the first head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who kept extensive information and files on people whom he disliked, distrusted, or who caught his attention in negative way. But did you know that before J. Edgar Hoover became a top law enforcer he was an information sciences professional, a librarian?

J. Edgar, the Movie

As a graduate student in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee, a professor who was introducing themselves and pitching their class talked about the film "J. Edgar." Released in 2011, this movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover showed the evolution of this controversial man from humble librarian to head of the FBI.

J. Edgar the Cataloger

John Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) was born and spent his entire life in Washington, D.C. His first job at age 18 was as a messenger at the Library of Congress (LOC). Hoover also worked in the cataloging department. Later in 1951, Hoover wrote in a letter, “[T]his job …trained me in the value of collating material. It gave me an excellent foundation for my work in the FBI where it has been necessary to collate information and evidence.” In excellent homage to Hoover and the Library of Congress there were some scenes for the film "J. Edgar" shot on location in the LOC.

J. Edgar Hoover, 1940 Census Clues

Just for fun, I looked at the 1940 United States Census to see if there was any information of interest there that would give a snapshot into who he was. According to that document, J. Edgar Hoover lived at 413 Seward Square in Washington D.C., age 45, single, and living alone. Perhaps the most interesting fact on this page is:

"Weeks Worked in 1939: 52"

"Hours Worked Week Prior to Census: 99"

I did a researcher double-take when I saw the number of hours that Hoover says he worked in the previous week. I went and looked at the handwritten document to find that '105' was recorded, crossed out, and replaced with '99.' So J. Edgar didn't take vacations and if he worked seven days a week he worked fourteen hours per day. Hoover was a workaholic. It is also interesting to note that J. Edgar Hoover lived in the same house his entire life.

Empire of Information Evil

If Hoover had remained at the Library of Congress the world might be a very different place. While Hoover excelled at collecting, codifying, and storing data, he used his information skills for evil. Hoover was a petty, malicious, controlling person with an unhealthy dose of paranoia, as many people may be who have dark secrets to hide. The full legacy of J. Edgar Hoover may never fully be known as his faithful secretary, Helen Gandy (pictured below), spent weeks destroying Hoover's personal files that he is said to have used to blackmail politicians, police, players, and Presidents.

Note: All photographs courtesy the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Famous Librarian Writers

The famous folks below were at one time librarians but became famous for other reasons. While Beverly Cleary and Andre Norton were professional librarians, others, (such as Proust) dabbled in the library sciences.

Ben Franklin (1706-1790)

Author, printer, inventor, diplomat, postmaster, scientist, and activist, it's hard to pigeon-hole Franklin into one category.In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and at the age of 21, Franklin started a subscription-based library where members pooled cash to buy and read books.

Photo: Portrait of Benjamin Franklin by Joseph-Siffrein Duplessis (1725-1802), c. 1785, oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Madeline L'Engle (1918-2007)

American writer Madeline L'Engle is best known for writing the classic young adult novel "A Wrinkle in Time" (1962), she also served as a volunteer librarian at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City in 1965.

Photo: Courtesy of Square Fish Books.

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

In 1913, painter, writer, and artist Marcel Duchamp took a position as librarian at the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, France, where he also studied physics and math.

Photo: Marcel Duchamp playing chess (photo by Kay Bell Reynal, 1952)

Beverly Cleary (1916-)

Children's book writer Beverly Cleary graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle with a library degree in 1939. Some of Cleary's books include "Beezus and Ramona"(1955), "Ribsy" (1964), and "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" (1965).

Photo: Photo of Beverly Cleary, State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov

Hypatia (b. circa 350-370 - 415)

"There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, daughter of the philosopher Theon, who made such attainments in literature and science, as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time. Having succeeded to the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of philosophy to her auditors, many of whom came from a distance to receive her instructions. On account of the self-possession and ease of manner which she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she not infrequently appeared in public in the presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in going to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more." ~ Socrates Scholasticus, from his Ecclesiastical History

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. An actress, possibly Mary Anderson, in the title role of the play Hypatia, circa 1900.

Lao Tsu (b. circa 571 BCE - Zhou Dynasty)

This philosopher and poet of ancient China, Lao Tsu is said to have held a position as scholar in the Imperial Archives. The most famous work most often attributed to Lao Tsu is the Tao Te Ching.

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. A painting of the Daode Tianzun ('the Heavenly Lord of Dao and its Virtue'), the deified Laozi, one of the supreme divinities of Daoism.

Andre Norton (1912-2005)

Born Alice Mary Norton in Cleveland, Ohio, she went on to become a highly successful science fiction writer. But before she became a famous, award-winning author, she worked in the Cleveland Library System for 18 years. During World War II and from 1940-41, Norton worked as a special librarian in the cataloging department of the Library of Congress.

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Cover of Voodoo Planet by Andrew North, artist Ed Valigursky; half of Ace Double #D-345 (1959)

Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

While many consider French writer Marcel Proust to be one of the greatest authors in the history of literature, he was a terrible librarian. An asthma sufferer who appears to have been coddled by wealthy parents, Proust secured a volunteer position at the Bibliotheque Mazarine in 1896 and then went on sick leave without ever having worked a day. Oh, Proust. How adorable, frustrating, and funny.

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Marcel Proust in 1900.

It is interesting and strange to me that there are not more famous writers who were once librarians as librarians may have access to the best books and resources. Great readers make great writers, but not all librarians, it seems, are great writers. Alas.

Monday, March 2, 2015

How is the Pioneer Memorial Public Library Funded?

The Pioneer Memorial Public Library has been an official public library since 1985 when it was started by a few local residents passionate about books, reading, and literacy. This year we celebrate 30 years of providing high-quality library services in Harman, West Virginia. Since the partial closing of Harman School many local residents have expressed concern over the future and funding of the Pioneer Library. So, how is the Pioneer Library funded? Where does the money come from? As a public library, our funding and budget should be provided as part of the public record. After all, part of our funding comes from taxpayers therefore everyone should know about where the Pioneer Library money comes from and where it goes.

Public Funds

The Pioneer Library receives $7,500 per year from the Randolph County Commission as part of their commitment to libraries and literacy in our county. All five libraries in Randolph County receive the same amount from the County Commission every year. For the last several years, the Pioneer Library has received $10,000 from the Randolph County Board of Education. This is levy money that runs out in a year or two. We do not expect a levy to be reinstated at the end of this special funding.

The Pioneer Library receives approximately $11,834 per year from the West Virginia Library Commission in Charleston, WV. This is money that we receive from the WVLC that makes sure the Pioneer Library (and all state libraries that receive federal funding) are compliant with certain rules and regulations. For example, did you know that the library goes through an independent audit every year? This helps to keep the library fiscally responsible and honest. It is also law that we have an audit every year and the WVLC confirms that audit by receiving a copy of it every year. The money we receive annually from the WVLC is based on the US Census that is carried out every ten years. At last census count our service population is 2,323 people and we receive a certain amount of funding per capita based on that number. (That's about $5.09 per person.)

We also receive funding from fundraising. The Pioneer Library has its largest fundraiser annually at the Run For It in Tucker County. Every year, Team Pioneer brings home enough money to feel secure for another year. We also co-sponsor a chicken roast that same day at the Leaf Peepers Festival (with Tucker County Rotary) and also get funds from that event. We also receive donations from private individuals throughout the year who are committed to supporting the efforts of the Pioneer Library. But wait, there's more! We also sell used books on Amazon to raise funds and we get funds back from dedicated library users who have registered their Kroger card with the library as recipient of 5% cash back.


The Pioneer Library employs a director who works 30 hours per week and another part-time library worker. The total amount paid to two library workers is less than $20,000 per year. The entire budget of the Pioneer Memorial Public Library is slightly less than $35,000 per year. The remaining funds go to utilities, supplies, insurance, and books. The entire book buying budget for the year is about $2,000.

So, the Pioneer Library is not officially part of Harman School even though we are located on school grounds. We are also not part of the Randolph County Board of Education. The Pioneer Library is considered a nonprofit quasi-governmental organization with obligations to the Randolph County Commission (they approve and appoint our board members) and the West Virginia Library Commission. Both library workers are employees of the Pioneer Library and no other entity or organization.


The Pioneer Memorial Public library has lots of oversight. The real bosses of the library are the patrons who use it regularly. We try to listen to suggestions and ideas that come from the people who use the library the most. As a Public Library we want to please the public. We are overseen by a five member Board of Trustees who meet six times a year to go over finances, events, trends, and other important issues that face the library. We are an affiliate library of the Upshur County Library who administers our payroll and hires an independent auditor for the library every year. We also have to complete an annual report that goes to the West Virginia Library Commission. This annual report is valuable in that it can reveal important circulation and collection development statistics. This is also part of a a required report that the WVLC is required to fulfill to maintain federal funding. There is a layered level of library relationships and monitoring that help to keep high standards for West Virginia libraries

In conclusion, the Pioneer Memorial Library is not an wealthy institution. We scrimp and save pennies to provide the very best for our small service population. We are also an official United States Public Library that is not part of the Randolph County Public Schools. We get lots of help and oversight from the West Virginia Library Commission and the Upshur County Public Library. Even if Harman School closed, the Pioneer Memorial Public Library would still exist and continue to function as such. So stop on by the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in beautiful downtown Harman, West Virginia, to check us out. How may we help you?