Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mary Frances Isom and Portland's Public Library















I recently became aware of an article about Mary Frances Isom written by Penny Hummel which is on the website of the Multnomah County Library (Portland, Oregon) website. I highly recommend the article and commend the Multnomah County Library for acknowledging an important part of its heritage on the library's website. Isom was head librarian of the Library Association of Portland, a predecessor of the Multnomah County Library, from 1902 to 1920. Although, the Library Association of Portland began as a subscription library in 1864, it became Oregon's first tax-supported free public library in 1902 when Isom became head librarian. Among Isom's many accomplishments was a new central library building completed in 1913 with the assistance of a grant from Andrew Carnegie. Isom was instrumental in the passage of a state law creating the Oregon Library Commission (predecessor to the Oregon State Library) which was influenced by the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. Isom served on the new commission and recruited Cornelia Marvin, a staff member of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission, to serve as the Secretary of the Oregon Library Commission. Both Isom and Marvin are among America's great early librarians. The postcard above shows the 1893 building of the Library Association of Portland which was replaced by the Carnegie building.

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