Promoting the appreciation, enjoyment, and preservation of our library heritage
Friday, May 5, 2017
The Great Falls (MT) Public Library and Alma Smith Jacobs
Researching a recent acquisition to my postal librariana collection I discovered the story of African American librarian Alma Smith Jacobs (1916-1997) of Montana. The postal artifact is an envelope (shown above) with an image of the interior of the Carnegie Library in Great Falls, MT covering the entire face of the envelope. The back of the envelope which was mailed on December 2, 1917 has the address information. The Great Falls Public Library has an excellent history of the library on its website. It was there that I learned that after serving as a catalog librarian for eight years Alma Jacobs became head librarian in 1954, a post she held until 1973. She left Great Falls to become the Montana State Librarian in Helena where she ended her library career in 1981. She was the first African American to hold that post. While in Great Falls she led the effort which resulted in the replacement of the Carnegie Library with a new library building in 1967. The Women’s History Matters website has an excellent overview of Jacobs’ contributions to library and community service in Montana. In an unusual coincidence of timing I discovered that on April 28, 2017 the Great Falls Public Library dedicated a mural of Jacobs. The library had previously named the library plaza in her honor. Alma Jacobs was the first African American elected as President of the Montana Library Association, the first elected as President of the Pacific Northwest Library Association, and the first to serve on the Executive Board of the American Library Association. Jacobs’ sister Lucille Smith Thompson was also a prominent African American librarian (Little Known Black Librarian Facts Blog).