Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Lutie Stearns, Wisconsin's Stuttering Librarian
The inspirational story about King George VI and his struggles with stuttering as told in the movie The King's Speech has brought a great deal of attention to this speech impediment and its challenges. Wisconsin's pioneer librarian Lutie Stearns (1866-1943) also overcame the challenges of stuttering and became a state and national leader in the extension of public library service. Lutie's struggles with stuttering came about as the result of being forced in school to be right handed when she was naturally left handed. The story of Lutie's life is dramatically told in the book Books in a Box: Lutie Stearns and the Taveling Libraries of Wisconsin by Stuart Stotts (Big Valley Press, 2005). Although Stotts' book is a fictionalized account of Stearns' life aimed at young people, I highly recommend it for adults as well. Lutie's library accomplishments are documented in "The Library Career of Lutie Eugenia Stearns" by Earl Tannenbaum in the Wisconsin Magazine of History (Spring, 1956 pp. 159-166). One of the amazing things about Lutie is that public speaking was the major tool she used to advance the cause of libraries and her other passions. In fact, after her career in libraries she went on to become a successful free lance lecturer on a variety of topics. In 1951 she was one of 40 of America’s most significant library leaders selected by the Library Journal for inclusion in a “ Library Hall of Fame". Lutie was also in the first group of librarians to be inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame in 2008. I have a previous post to the blog about Lutie. The image of Lutie Stearns is from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Historical Image Collection, Image ID: 29372.