Friday, August 5, 2011

Happy Birthday H. M. UTLEY, Detroit Librarian

Today is the 175th anniversary of the birth of Henry Munson Utley (1836-1917), librarian of the Detroit Public Library (1885-1912), a founder of the Michigan Library Association (1891), and President of the American Library Association (1894-95). Utley was also the first President of the Michigan Library Association (celebrating its 120th anniversary this year) and served in that position continuously from 1891 to 1904. Utley, like many of the librarians of his day, came to his job without the benefit of professional library training. Before accepting his position as librarian of the Detroit Public Library he was a journalist. That did not keep him from transforming the Detroit Public Library into one of America's great public libraries. Innovations which he brought to the library included: adopting the Dewey Decimal Classification (1886); establishing a children's room (1896); opening the library on Sunday (1886); establishing a reference department that served not only Detroit but surrounding communities; introducing electric lights in the reading room (1887); and establishing branch libraries (1900- ). The postal card from my collection which is shown above was mailed on November 21, 1891, the same year the Michigan Library Association was formed. The source of the information in this post is Florence Ray Tucker's article about Utley in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978).

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