Wednesday, February 13, 2013

John Cotton Dana's Tenure in Springfield, MA

John Cotton Dana ((1856-1929) was one of our profession's greatest librarians and humorists (see previous blog post). Dana began his library career at the Denver Public Library with a number of innovations and ended his career at the Newark (NJ) Public Library where he established a lasting legacy. Between those two jobs he served as City Librarian for the Springfield (MA) City Library Association from January, 1898 to December, 1901. He began work in a building that was inhospitable to library users (see the image above, from a stereoview in my collection) and he made several modifications to improve access including the addition of an elevator. The City Library Association was also responsible for an Art Museum and a Museum of Natural History. When Dana accepted the job he thought that he would also be in charge of those two entities. This was not the case and it led to a conflict with the curator of the Art Museum, a wealthy art collector. While in Springfield Dana's stature in the library profession continued to grow even as he challenged the hierarchy in the American Library Association. Dana's humor was alive and well in Springfield also. In correspondence with Mary E. Ahern, editor of the Public Libraries journal, he wrote this after a trip to England: "The Duke of Devonshire and the Marquis of Salisbury were both out of town while I was in London but I talked over the back fence with their porters and so was enabled to convey to them such information as I thought they needed. In one way or another I learned things about the Prince of Wales and his set, that I consider quite scandalous. I am sure you would be quite shocked and very ready to refuse to have anything more to do with them. I am inclined myself never to go to England again for the reasons I hint at and I should advise you to stay away too." [source for quote: John Cotton Dana - A Sketch by Chalmers Hadley (ALA, 1943)]. Dana's reputation brought him regular job offers from other libraries and he finally decided to move on to Newark, NJ. The envelope shown above was sent to Dana on March 28, 1899 while he was still in Springfield. It was sent by the Egypt Exploration Fund in Boston. It's nice to have an artifact in my collection that has a direct connection to Dana.

No comments: