Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A 1902 Letter and the Library Career of Charlotte Templeton (1877-1970)

As sometimes happens with my approach to library history, the recent acquisition of a piece of postal librariana led me on a chase for more information about the item. It's a May 18, 1902 letter to Mrs. Robert Templeton in Sturgeon Bay, WI  from her daughter Charlotte in Omaha, NE.  The letter was written on Omaha Public Library stationery and begins with: "It has come around to my Sunday to work again already and I am in the reference room. It is a hot windy day so I am not kept very busy." The letter which is eight and a half pages long is full of news about Charlotte's life and includes other references to her work at the library. Some excerpts: "I am pretty well acquainted with some of my employers - Miss Tobitt [Edith Tobitt served as Director of the Omaha Public Library from 1898 to 1936] is noncommittal as to what I am to do except that I am to have the cataloguing of the Spanish books. I will like it if I can do it at all." "I wish I was one of the girls going to Madison this summer. Lillian Snell, Miss Hammand, Miss O'Brien, Miss Parsons, and Miss Swartzlander are all going. The girls are all expected to go sooner or later but I shan't do it unless I think I can't possibly go to a library school for a regular course. I think that my experience will be invaluable to me if I ever go." This second excerpt refers to the Summer Library School conducted by the Wisconsin Free Library Commission in Madison, Wisconsin, the predecessor of the current School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. After working at the Omaha Public Library in the reference department from 1902 to 1904 Charlotte Templeton did go to "a library school for a regular course" at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. After library school Charlotte became Director of the Oshkosh (WI) Public Library in 1905. She only stayed in Oshkosh for a little over a year before returning to Nebraska as Secretary of the Nebraska Library Commission in 1906. She worked there until 1919. She then became Secretary of the Georgia Library Commission where she worked until 1923. On September 1, 1923 she became head of the Greenville Public Library in South Carolina. In an interesting coincidence, I also served as director of the Greenville Library (now the Greenville County Library) over 50 years later. In September 1931 Charlotte left Greenville to become librarian of the Atlanta University Library in Georgia, a historically black university. She resigned from that position in 1942. Charlotte was a co-founder, along with Mary Utopia Rothrock, of the Southeastern Library Association in which she served as Secretary and President. Another interesting coincidence, I also served as Secretary of the Southeastern Library Association. Charlotte was also active in the American Library Association where she served as a Second Vice-President. I haven't been able to find out anything about Charlotte after leaving Atlanta University. 


Amber Polo said...

I was so lucky to grow up in a library loving state. Wisconsin believed in libraries!

Robin Templeton said...

I'd love to see a copy of the letter. Charlotte Templeton was my aunt! I've found some things about her career online, but it would be wonderful to know more about her.

Thank you!

Robin Templeton