Friday, May 1, 2009
Happy 100th Edwin Castagna!
Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Edwin Catagna (1909-1983), a notable 20th century American library leader. I've used the Dictionary of Library Biography (DALB) to help identify key birth anniversaries of some of our more important librarians of the past. The DALB is a good source to use for this purpose since the people listed in that publication have been screened by well qualified library historians. The entries are also written by well qualified individuals. Edwin Castagna is listed in the first Supplement to the DALB and his entry is written by Ronald Blazek and Theresa Griffen Maggio. All Presidents of the American Library Association are included in the DALB, and Castagna was President of ALA in 1964-65. Castagna's accomplishments would have landed him in the DALB even if he had not been president. He served as director of several public libraries including the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore where he served from 1960 to 1975. He was a major voice and champion for intellectual freedom during his library career. Blazek and Maggio use the following quote from Castagna in their DALB entry: "The value of our libraries as democratic institutions will depend on how bold we are as librarians in shouldering the responsibility our fellow citizens place upon us. The degree of courage we display in the face of cowardly tendencies outside and within us will be the measure of our worth as librarians." Castagna knew a little about courage. He had voluntarily joined the Army during World War II and served as a company commander in the 771st Tank Battalion in several key World War II campaigns. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for heroism. According to Blazek and Maggio, "The most remarkable feature of Edwin Castagna's professional existence is the degree to which he was liked, as well as respected, by those who know him at any level. It is virtually impossible to find an individual who would cast aspersions on his administrative style or effectiveness or even damn him with faint praise. Instead he is warmly remembered by those who knew him and has been described as radiating goodwill and sweetness of spirit." Unlike previous notable librarians I have mentioned in the blog, Castagna's and my library careers overlapped although I didn't know him personally. Also, like Castagna, my library career was also interrupted by service in the Army (although my service wasn't voluntary). I'm proud to be part of a profession which was shared by such worthy individuals as Edwin Castagna.