Saturday, December 24, 2011
William Frederick Poole, Great American Librarian
There are few American librarians with a more stellar resume than William Frederick Poole (1821-1894), and today is the 190th anniversary of his birth. His professional library career spanned 47 years. He was the head librarian for the Boston Mercantile Library, the Boston Athenaeum, the Cincinnati Public Library, the Chicago Public Library, and the Newberry Library in Chicago. He was recognized for his innovative index to periodicals at the 1853 conference of American librarians, and in 1876 at the library conference in Philadelphia he proposed a plan for making a new edition of that important index even more comprehensive. An active member of ALA, Poole served for ten years as the first Vice-President of ALA and then two terms as President. There is an excellent entry about Poole by William Landram Williamson in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978). Williamson had this to say about Poole: "An imaginative thinker and inspiring leader, William Frederick Poole was one of the great founding librarians of the United States. To his contemporary librarians, one of his outstanding achievements was his contribution in making librarianship a recognized and respected profession. He could make this contribution because he was a man of strength, scholarship, warmth, and dedication." One of the more interesting artifacts in my collection related to Poole is an 1854 membership payment receipt for the Mercantile Library Association of Boston signed by Poole (shown above). I wrote a previous post about another Poole artifact in my collection.