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Transcript: Estelle Brodman, 1981 (Part 1)

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This is a biographical sketch of Estelle Brodman, recorded May 10th, 1981. Estelle Brodman was born in New York City on June 1st, 1914, the daughter of Henry Brodman and Nettie Sameth Brodman.  Although she originally prepared for a career in medicine and took an undergraduate degree in embryology and histology at Cornell in 1935, she turned to librarianship at Columbia University, obtaining a B.S. in the following year.  Seven years later, she obtained an M.S. in librarianship also from Columbia.  Dr. Brodman obtained her Ph.D. in the history of medicine at Columbia in 1954, which also brought her Grade III certification, at that time unique in the Medical Library Association.

After several months at the Cornell University School of Nursing, Dr. Brodman began her professional career in 1937 as an assistant Medical Librarian at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Library, the position she held until 1949.  During this period, she taught the Medical Librarianship course at Columbia and History of Nursing at the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing, was on the Medical Library Association Certification Committee, and chaired the Subcommittee on Curriculum.  In 1949, Dr. Brodman accepted a position as Assistant Librarian for Reference Services at the Armed Forces Medical Library [later the National Library of Medicine].  In 1960, she became assistant to Scott Adams as Associate in Extramural Planning, where she worked on the development of the Medical Library Assistance Act.  While at the Armed Forces Medical Library, Dr. Brodman served as the Director of the Special Library Association, 1949 to 1952; [before this she] was National Chair of the Biological Sciences Group.  She also was Editor of the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, 1947 to 1957.  When she retired from the editorship, she received a special award, a plaque from the Medical Library Association in recognition of her service.  In 1954, her doctoral dissertation, Development of Medical Bibliography, was published by the Medical Library Association as its Publication No. 1.

Dr. Brodman went to the Washington University School of Medicine Library in 1961 as Librarian and Associate Professor for the History of Medicine, becoming Full Professor of the History of Medicine in 1964.  She was a member of the American Library Association Library Education Committee on national planning for library education in 1963, gave the keynote address at the Special Libraries Association’s annual meeting in Denver that same year, and was selected a member of the American Association of Medical Colleges/Medical Library Association Library Guidelines Committee in 1963, and served until 1964.  In 1962, she was elected to the Board of the Medical Library Association, was elected Vice President and President Elect in 1963, and served as President of the Medical Library Association from 1964 to 1965.  In 1966, the Washington University School of Medicine Library began a Training Program in Computer Librarianship under her direction.

Dr. Brodman was a member of the President’s Commission on Libraries from 1966 to 1968, and the Missouri Governor’s Pre-Conference preparatory to the White House Conference on Libraries in 1979.  She was a member of the American Association for the History of Medicine Council from 1967 to 1969, and participated in the Biomedical Communication Study Section of the National Institutes of Health from 1972 to 1975, and was its Chairman in 1974 and 1975.

Throughout her career, Dr. Brodman has contributed to the development of the library profession by her teaching and her consultations.  She taught at Columbia, 1946 to 1951 as mentioned above; at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. in 1957 (Reference and Bibliography in the Medical Sciences); and History of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine since 1961.  In 1962, she taught at Keio University in Tokyo.  Dr. Brodman, in 1971, participated in a special program on Biomedical Communications at the University of Missouri, and also taught there again in 1973 on a half year sabbatical.

Dr. Brodman has served as Consultant in this country; for example, to the American Hospital Association, among many others, and outside the United States she has been a Documentation Expert for the U.N. Technical Assistance Program in New Delhi, 1967 to 1968; an Expert in the Technical Assistance Program for Southeast Asia Regional Office of WHO, also in New Delhi in 1970; and for the U.N. Economic Agency for Asia and the Far East in Bangkok in 1973, among others.

Dr. Brodman has received many awards honoring her contributions to librarianship.  She was named the Janet Doe Lecturer in 1971, and that same year also received from the Medical Library Association its highest award, the Marcia C. Noyes Award.  In 1974, she received an honorary Doctor of Sciences from the University of Illinois.

Chief among her many publications are Bibliographical Lists for Medical Libraries, 1949, and Supplement, 1951; Development of Medical Bibliography, 1954, already mentioned; the chapter on Automation in the third edition of the Handbook Of Medical Library Practice published by MLA in 1970; and countless other chapters and articles on diverse subjects such as education for librarianship, machine applications in medical libraries, medical history, and oral history.  Dr. Brodman was instrumental in establishing the Oral History Committee of the Medical Library Association and currently serves as Project Director for the MLA Oral History Program.

For the most part, I think you’ve got it all straight.  There were a few small things that I noticed.  You said I was Assistant Medical Librarian at Columbia for all those years.  I was everything from Loan Desk Assistant to Assistant Librarian to Acting Librarian for a year.  I didn’t have a static job.  Secondly, you indicated that my chairmanship of the Biological Sciences Group of SLA was about the time I was at the National Library of Medicine, but that occurred before I went to Washington.  The Biomedical Communication Study Section which you mentioned was not an NLM study section, but an NIH study section.  My sabbatical was in 1973, not in 1971.  I did do some teaching in 1971 at the University of Missouri, but I took the six month sabbatical there in 1973.  Those were the only few things that I noticed that were at all wrong; I think you have done your homework very well indeed.

Well, let’s get on with the interview proper, then.  As the daughter and sister of physicians, you received your B.A. in embryology and histology from Cornell and planned to go to medical school.  Where did you apply?

Well, I applied in several places.  I applied at Cornell where my family came.  My father and brother were both Cornell Medical School graduates.  I applied at the Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia and a few other places, but they all unanimously turned me down and I think they were very right. (Chuckles)

Why do you think they were right?

Because my background course work in the biomedical field was not as good as it should have been.  I liked histology and embryology, but I didn’t really do very well in biochemistry or in physics or in some of the other more esoteric zoological courses.

Well how then did you decide on medical librarianship or librarianship at all?

I’m always embarrassed when somebody asks me that question because if the answer must be given truthfully, it’s because I had got into a fight with my mother and she said, “Why don’t you be a social worker?”  I said, “I’d rather be a librarian than a social worker,” and she said, “Fine.”  Since she was paying for it, that’s what I became.

Well had you worked in libraries at all?

Never.  [I] never had any experience in libraries.  I’d been of course a user of libraries, as all good middle class people are, but I had not ever worked in them.

How did you choose Columbia?  By reputation, or—

No, I was living in New York and that was the easiest place where they had a library school.

I see.  Who were some of the teachers there that you remember particularly?

Well, you know it’s many, many years ago and I really can’t even remember some of their names.  There were two or three of them that I thought very highly of.  There was Maury [Maurice F.] Tauber, who was in the field of technical services, particularly cataloging, but who had written the book with Wilson, Wilson and Tauber, on university libraries.  He had a breadth of vision which was not always true of some of the other people.  Then were was a woman who was interested in college and university libraries whose name I can’t remember, but her niece was the Dean of the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.  Then there was the woman who was interested in reference work who actually wrote a book on reference work and I was going to look up the name before you came, only you came faster than I could do it.  But it’s one of those books over there.  I helped her with that book.


No, no it was after Mudge.


No, Mudge and Winchell were Reference Librarians.  This was someone in library school.  If you want to turn – I’m afraid I’ve lost it or given it to somebody.  But she wrote one on reference procedures [Margaret Hutchins].  I remember one of the things I tried to do for her was to find when was the first use of the word “reference” for a library word.  We never did come to any good conclusion about it, but it was fun.

Can you characterize library school in that period compared with library schools today?

Well, I think if I were to characterize it I would say that it was narrower but deeper than today’s library schools.  The subjects considered were much smaller; they were more technical and less sociological, and of course there was no automation at that time.  On the other hand, their standards were higher.  They required the students to be more thorough in their work, and while not real scholars, much better at that than I think the modern generation of students is or are.

Did you have any opportunity to study specialized librarianship, such as medical librarianship, at Columbia?

Well, they did have a course in special libraries in which you took the particular subject which you were interested in and used that as the basis, so that when they talked about reference work you talked about reference work in your kind of a library – banking library, nursing library, medical library – and of course I used the medical library all the time.

Was field work or experience part of this?

There was a two week field work period in the New York Public Library in the local branch.  That’s the only time I ever worked in a library until I got out of library school.

(Chuckles)  By the time you worked on and received your Master’s Degree in Librarianship from Columbia it was 1943.  Had the program changed any?

Not substantially.  There were some changes, but on the whole— Well, there was a change to make it more theoretical rather than practical.  That occurred about 1940 or 1941.  In fact, I wrote a paper on it which I gave at the meeting in Galveston, or maybe earlier than Galveston.  Anyway about that time, because there was much complaint from the practicing medical librarians that the people who they were hiring straight out of library school couldn’t catalog a book or circulate it.  I was on the committee which changed the program so that it was more theoretical, and therefore I had to show why it was a good idea.

Was the Master’s Degree significantly superior to the Bachelor’s for professional reasons?

Well it seemed to me so, because again it was a individualized field.  And by that time I was also a member of the faculty at the library school, so that I had a different reaction to it.  I assume that the present sixth year program in library schools is much like it.  I’m not absolutely sure, because again I was more interested in the theoretical and I’m not sure that the sixth year library school today is based on theory so much as it’s based on some practical aspect of librarianship.

Your Master’s paper dealt with the selection of physiology journals and examination of the Gross and Gross methodology.  Have you read the recent papers on that by—

Oh boy.  You know nothing was done with the subject of bibliometrics, which is a wonderful term on a very simple thing, for 25 years and then all of a sudden there’s a huge outgrowth of the literature on bibliometrics.  People who remember that I did some of the early work on it send me their papers or editors send me their papers to critique.  I must say that I find that fascinating, as anybody who sees his own early work being taken over by others.  But they are much more sophisticated than my simple work, and I think they’re finding some things which never occurred to me to find or which I knew a priori and practically but had not really proved.

Do you think we’ve made much progress since then in developing methods for journal selection?

No.  But that was not the entire purpose of doing this kind of research.

What was the other purpose?

To find out how journals were contributing to knowledge.

You taught the summer course in medical librarianship and subsequently you taught reference and bibliography eventually as a teaching assistant at Columbia.  Clearly you do find the role of teaching a satisfying one.  Would you have found teaching enough without being an administrator?

Well it isn’t administration that I love with great love, but it is trying to do things that I like.  I find administration the means to an end rather than an end in itself.  I take great pleasure in administration only for the ability to bring different strands of work together for a unified goal.  It is that that I like and would miss very much if I did nothing but teaching.

On the other hand, I do like to teach and I think there’s nothing so exciting as seeing a mind developing and a person grasping an idea and then going beyond that idea and often beyond the teacher to new ideas.  So I would like that very much.

You received your Ph.D. in the History of Medicine again from Columbia in 1954.  Why did you choose the history of medicine?  Why not a DLS or a Ph.D. in Librarianship?

Well they didn’t have a DLS or a Ph.D. in Librarianship at Columbia at that time.  They were trying out a new program which was to unite a subject specialty with librarianship.  It only lasted through me.  There were four or five of us who were in that program, and I got the first Ph.D. and then they abolished it.  I never knew whether they abolished it because I was so terrible that they didn’t think it was worth doing, or I was so good that they thought nobody would come up to my standards.  But seriously, I wondered about that because there was a Catholic priest in with the group and he was doing some very interesting work on the Irish priests of the Ninth Century and their diffusion of learning through manuscripts in Ireland.  I thought that that was certainly worth a Ph.D., but they cut him off and made him, I think, a DLS.

Who were some of the faculty outside of the School of Librarianship you worked with?

Well I worked with a group of people, all of whom are listed in my book on the development of medical librarianship, medical bibliography.  [Austin] Evans of the History Department was chairman of the committee.

[Lynn] Thorndike?

Thorndike was the principal one in the history of science.  Fred Mettler from the Anatomy Department of P and S represented the biomedical, and then there were two from the library school, Maury Tauber and this woman whose name I can’t remember who was in the Reference Department [Margaret Hutchins].  They made up the committee, and as an adjunct Tom [Thomas P.] Fleming. sat in on it, but he wasn’t really a part of the committee.

I see.  How did you choose your dissertation topic, although clearly it was a logical one?

I don’t know.  It just seemed interesting.  I was curious.

During this time, you were working at the Armed Forces Medical Library and the history of medicine materials were in Cleveland until 1962.  How were you able to do the extensive work required?

Well, let me back up a little bit, because I did all my course work before I went to the Army Medical Library.  It was nothing but the dissertation.  I had that “ABD” – All But Dissertation.  I did two things when I was in Washington for the Ph.D. dissertation.  First of all, I had done some of the work in New York at the New York Academy of Medicine and at Columbia University, so I had some of the work done already.  Secondly, I was liaison between the Washington and the Cleveland branch anyway; so I was going back and forth all the time.  And third, I got two summers in which I took a leave of absence from the Army Medical Library and taught at Columbia University and then I’d work the rest of the day on my dissertation.

Very busy.

Well it was kind of fun.  When I was working on it in Washington, I had just come to Washington and I didn’t know very many people.  On Sundays, particularly rainy Sundays, I would work at home on the dissertation and then when I couldn’t stand looking at the stuff one minute longer, I’d get into the car and I’d drive out into the countryside.  I lived near the Maryland border, and I followed John Shaw Billings’ trek in the Civil War on these Sunday excursions; so I had two things going at the same time.

Fascinating.  You had already begun work on your dissertation when [John Farquhar] Fulton’s book, The Great Medical Bibliographers, appeared.

Yes.  We had worked on some things together and some things were not, but there were a lot of similarities.  He was on the – I had known him of course before that, because the old MLA was such a small organization, and he was in it, that you got to know everybody.  We’ll come to that in a few minutes, I’m sure.  But he was also interested in the Army Medical Library so he came down quite frequently.

Your dissertation, as noted previously, was published by the MLA as their Publication No. 1, which was a signal honor.  Tom [Thomas E.] Keys called it a truly Herculean work and [James Francis] Ballard suggested that it should be a bedside book for medical librarians.  I know I have used it as such myself.  He also noted that no successful means had been invented to solve the chief problem of medical bibliography.  Do you see such a solution in today’s databases?

When I wrote the last chapter, or somewhere in the book, I said that every time that some new technique was involved which helped to solve the problem, it kept it at bay for a few years and then the size of the problem or the way in which the problem presented itself changed and you found that it really didn’t solve it.  I suspect that the databases are going to be the same thing.  They are solving the present problems better than the old method.  They’re beginning to creak and I don’t think they’re going to, in themselves, be the answer to it.  They may be part of the answer.  For example, you can’t efficiently store huge amounts of data in these databases without making them so expensive that they’re beyond the reach of most users.  Therefore, you are going to have to think of some way in which you purge the databases.  When you do that, you begin to get into all kinds of problems – two places to look, more expensive, and also a “1984” technique of wiping out the historical record.  How this is going to be solved, I don’t know.

Do you see changes in the health sciences themselves which might bring about changes in the future?

Well I’m sure there are.  I can’t think of them right off hand.

You had at one point considered revising the Development of Medical Bibliography, which had been out of print some time, and I understand it’s reprinted now.  You have abandoned that—

I guess so, I haven’t seen it.

You haven’t?  So you’ve abandoned the idea of—

Yes, I tried.  That was one of the reasons for my six month sabbatical.  I decided I didn’t have the information at my fingertips which I needed.  Most of it was at the National Library of Medicine where I was persona non grata and therefore I couldn’t do a good job on it.  I did, however, try to persuade various people to do a revision of it and I’m happy that Scott Adams has done the work.  That’s the text of it over there.  He has taken a very different tack and I think he’s going to have a very interesting book.  I can hardly wait for it to appear.

Well that’s a sequel, really, to yours.  Is it not?

That’s right.

It has nothing to do with updating your—

Well, there was not any updating that needed except that the last chapter of my book said that there’s something new on the horizon called punched cards which might help us in the future (chuckles), and obviously you needed to have something more up-to-date than that.  But the rest of the book was pretty good.  There were a few typographical errors which I gave to them when they were reprinting in the hope that they would change them, but the historical part was all right, I hope.

In 1957, you were awarded a Fulbright Fellowship, but you did not accept it.  Why was that?

That’s not right.  It wasn’t that I didn’t accept it.  It was withdrawn.  I was trying to think last night of what the political reasons were.  Didn’t the British and the French go into the Nile at that period and the American government made such great objection to it that the British withdrew their troops?  It was something in the Middle East.  I’ve forgotten what it is.  But that made the British very angry, the Fulbright group in Great Britain, and they withdrew all the Fulbright Fellowships for the year.  So, I never got it.

How disappointing.

It was very disappointing.

Oh my.  What had you had in mind to do?

I was going to study comparatively the education for medical librarians, starting in England at the University of London.  [Roger (?)] Irwin, who wrote all the books on the early English library, who was then the dean, or whatever they called that person, was to be my sponsor.  Most of it was going to be in England and Germany with a little bit in France.  I didn’t choose much of France because I didn’t speak French, and I knew there was a difference and I needed to get that in.  But it wasn’t going to be in depth the way the German and English system was.

You received MLA certification at Grade III, the first and for a long time the only person to be so certified.  Do you regret the abolition of the tripartite system?

No, why should I?  Systems should grow and change as the situations grow and change.  One is just as good as the other.  We based the first one (as you know, I was on the committee that set it up) on academic basis because that was the only reasonable methodology we had at the time.  Now that MLA is bigger and can go in for its own examinations, a whole new system can grow up.  Whether it’s a better system or just a different system, I don’t know.

Do you think that we will ever make certification meaningful in terms of employment or recognition for professional activity and training?

Well I think it will be an added fillip, just like a Ph.D. is an added fillip.  You’ve got to have the Master’s now because that’s the beginning degree.  Places like this library, for example, and several others I know of, hire people at a certain level out of library school, and if they are certified MLA or with preliminary certification, they get a little more money.  Well that’s certainly an incentive for them to get their certification.

But do you think employers really look at that?

Well it depends.  Medical schools certainly understand certification because of the medical field.  Hospitals probably never will be able to afford librarians, much less certified MLA unless they’re large libraries.  I think we should take that into account when we plan for medical librarianship in the future.

Let’s talk briefly about your early experiences as a professional librarian.  When you took the position as Assistant Medical Librarian at Columbia, you already indicated that there was a great deal more involved than the title might imply.  How did you learn of and obtain that job?  Of course you had gone to library school at Columbia.

Yes, they knew I was looking for a job and they sent me to a number of places.  I remember when I got my first job at the Nursing Library at Cornell, I had the choice of two jobs, three jobs.  One was in a prison, one was in a convent (chuckles), and then the third was in the Nursing Library.  I decided I fitted better in the Nursing Library than in either of the other two, though I was a little fascinated by the prison.  I thought that might be interesting for a little while.  But this was the depth of the Depression, and one took whatever jobs were available.

Were there many other candidates for that position?  Do you know?

For the Nursing School or for Columbia University?


I don’t know.  They had one of their people on the medical library staff who resigned and went somewhere else, and they just needed somebody.  As a matter of fact, I was then working in the main part of the university.  They wanted me on the staff, but there was no particular job that was open.  So for about six months, I substituted everywhere where a professional librarian went on vacation.  So I had all kinds of experience.  It was like an internship.  I’d work one month in the Journalism Library and another month in the Chemistry Library and a couple of months in the main university library and so on.  Then when this job came up in the Medical Library, why I was right there and the logical person to put on that job.

Would you say that it was a typical medical school library for that period?

No, it was better than the typical medical school library of that period.  It was larger and it had a larger staff.  When I went there, there was no librarian there.  Tom Fleming hadn’t arrived yet.  Therefore, we waited for several months until he showed up.  In the meantime, we just kind of kept things going.

Well who had been Librarian previously?

A fellow by the name of Bett, an English physician.

Walter Bett?

Walter Bett.

Oh really?

He had gone back to England – I’m trying to think here.  It was some in-between period that he was doing something that I don’t know about; I’ve forgotten.  Then he was in the British Army in Ceylon or Burma or someplace like that.

Well, where did Tom Fleming come from?

From Western Reserve University.  He had been Head of Acquisitions at Western Reserve.  But he had a Master’s in Zoology and he had worked also in the Gesner material.

Oh.  Well he had experience then, more experience than you did.

Oh much more.

How was he as an administrator?

Well I can’t say anything but only the nicest things about him.  I know he has all kinds of reputations, just as I do.  But I certainly learned an enormous amount by him and with him and through him.  He was very good at seeing that his assistants got involved in things; he listened to their ideas; he gave them his advice; he let them make mistakes; and he put them in touch with people who were the shakers and doers of the period so that the young person could then slide into the hierarchy.  But mostly, he really was an awfully good librarian, and I have the greatest respect for him as a librarian.

Well how long was he there before they shifted him to be Assistant University Librarian?  Was that position—

Yes, I’m trying to think – it must have been seven or eight years.  He came around 1937 or 1938 and he left about 1946 or 1947, somewhere around there.

I see.

Then he was down there for a year or two while they had a fellow called Seymour Robb, who was the Librarian.  They brought him in from the Library of Congress.  But he was very ineffective and I think he is dead now, so maybe I can say it: I think he was a drunkard.  They finally got rid of him, or he took another job.  It was all very hush-hush in those days.  For a year, I was Acting Librarian, until they decided that they didn’t want a woman in that position, or else I wasn’t very good.  I think it was pretty much the first.  They practically told me that.  Then they brought Tom Fleming back.  That’s when I decided that I would leave as soon as I could get my Ph.D. out of the way.

In other words, you were ready to look for another position where you had some chance for—


Advancement.  Were there any particular frustrations about working in Columbia at that particular time?  That was the end of the Depression and the period of the Second World War.

Well, the biggest frustration of course was the chauvinistic point of view of Williamson.  You know the Williamson Report on—

No, I don’t.

That’s the famous, so-called Flexner Report of Librarianship.  He was the Dean of the Library School and the Director of the University Libraries.  He was just an old-fashioned man who believed that women are fine as assistants, but that you don’t, unless it’s a small area, make them head of anything important.  Tom Fleming had the same idea too.  He used to tell me, “Well you should pay women less than you pay men because men had to take care of their wives and children, and women should be taken care of by their family.”  So that was a very frustrating experience.

I can imagine.

No matter how well you did, you couldn’t get very far there.  As for money and people, that never seemed to me to be much of a problem because I was so new in it.  I didn’t know anything but a poor amount of money and poor numbers of people.  Perhaps another frustration was that the Medical Library was separate from the main university library, but was part of the university library system, not part of the Medical School system.  A lot of things had to be okayed by the main university library, and a lot of times people were assigned.  For instance, the catalogers were all part of the Cataloging Department of the main university library and had no official loyalty to the Medical Library, though at the time I was there they were all very loyal.

Was that kind of a situation unusual on a university campus?

No.  I think it was quite— Well, I think they were about half and half.

Did you become acquainted with the medical library community in New York at this time?  This is when you got to know Janet Doe and Gertrude Annan and so many other people?

Well of course I had known them for years because we had small groups of special librarians and we had the Medical Library Association.  We were a small group.  You knew everybody.  Gertrude Annan I got to know because I bought a copy of [William] Withering’s work on the foxglove for $5.00 and had to make sure that it was really the first edition.  Also, it had a reversed plate, and I investigated it, and as you look in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine I wrote it up.  That’s when I began to know Gertrude very well.  I’d known her of course, and as I said all the people knew everybody in those days.  But then when we worked together on this problem I got to know her well.

Did the New York Academy of Medicine more or less dominate the library scene in New York at that time?

Yes.  They were the biggest and the best organized.  I think Columbia University was probably the second biggest and best organized, and all the others kind of trailed off from there.

Let’s move along to the Armed Forces Medical Library, later the National Library of Medicine.  You’ve already said that you were ready to leave Columbia.  How did it happen that you took the position of Assistant Reference Services at the Army Medical Library?

Let me see.  First of all, the title was Chief of the Reference Division.  Under the Reference Division, which was really the Public Services Division, there was the Reference Section, the Circulation, the Stacks, and the Photo Duplication.  Everything which had to do with the public came in there.  I have already told you that I left the Columbia Medical Library after Tom Fleming was back, in order to get my Ph.D.  I took a year and did my course work.  They paid me for teaching at the same time and they gave me a stipend too, so it didn’t cost me anything.

[End of tape one, side one]

They paid me and they gave me a stipend so that it didn’t cost very much for me to do it.  I was living at home, so I didn’t have any problems there.  I decided that if I were going to get out I’d have to have some specialty that not many librarians of the period had.  So I got my Ph.D.  While I was there I was teaching, and that year in my class were Brad Rogers, Louise Darling, Jacqueline Felter, and Eric Meyerhoff.


It was the most interesting class I had ever taught.  While I think you always learn when you’re teaching, this was one time when I really learned an awful lot.  I was also teaching for the Veterans’ Administration Hospital Libraries, and so I had enough money to do it.  In the end of the course, Brad asked me if I would come down as he was going to reorganize the then Army Medical Library and I agreed to come down.

How was the Army Medical Library organized when you arrived?

Badly.  (Chuckles)  Well, it had been much worse.  It was getting organized.  At that point, there was the Reference Division which I have just described to you; there was the Catalog Division, the Acquisitions Division, and the Index-Catalogue Division, as well as buildings and grounds or whatever.  The library was in the old building which it shared with the Army Medical Museum and Institute of Pathology.  The library had been a dying institution for so many years that the Institute was able to take over more and more of the building and kind of push the library away.  Consequently, the greatest problems we had were first, space – that was by all means – and then the need to bring the library kicking and screaming into the Twentieth Century.  They still didn’t have a catalog, not a card catalog, not a printed catalog.  They had a card catalog which had cards for some of the books in there and cards for books that they didn’t have at all but Claudius F. Meyer, the Editor of the Index-Catalogue, just thought were interesting.  What’s more, there was no classification scheme, and therefore it was almost impossible to find anything.  Before I came, the annual report of my predecessor said that seventy-five percent of the time of the staff was spent in looking for the material.  I don’t know if you want more on this subject or not.

Well what was the physical arrangement of the library at that time.  It was in the old library.

It was in the old library building; there was a three-tier stack and a reading room which went up all those three floors with the clerestory windows around the top and a roof that leaked.  The stack held approximately 100,000 volumes.  The library, of course, had about half a million volumes, so that you can see that there was a lot of other places where the material was.  We had an old Fisheries Annex across the street, which had been a Civil War hospital in the old days, and we had two temporary buildings across another street where the weight-bearing floors were very poor; so we couldn’t put a great deal of heavy material on them.  The rare books had gone out to Cleveland during World War II.  So by the time I came they were all out there.  But what was more, they had sent out other collections which they didn’t have any room for, and these collections were not cataloged.  Some of them were not even in scope.  We found Weather Bureau reports for 50 years, which we turned over to the Weather Bureau eventually.  But nobody had gone through any of it.  It was just a hurried sending everything out for fear that they’d be bombed before they could do anything.  In the eleven years that I was at the Army Medical Library/National Library of Medicine, I’m probably the only one in existence who handled every single book individually and looked at it to determine whether we should keep it or not.  That took me the whole ten or eleven years I was there.

(Chuckles) I can imagine.

It was very interesting.

What about the personnel and support situation?

Well, they were adding people quickly because they had decided after the survey of the Army Medical Library, which was done with people like Janet Doe and Tom Fleming and Mary Louise Marshall, as well as some other people from the ALA, that they needed to catalog and classify.  So they were enormously adding to their staff.  In order to do that, they had to go through civil service procedures which were much more difficult at that time I think than they are now, because they tried to be fair in civil service in those days.  They got people, of course, without any medical training or without much training at all.  But perhaps what is worse— Their librarians were mediocre to good.  But their support staff was a revelation to me because I’d been used to university support staff, where you had the wives of students and you had intelligent people and people who were willing to work.  When I got there and found the civil service mentality, that was the thing that I found very disturbing and one of the things in reverse that I found so good when I came to the Washington University Medical Library because, again, I was in the academic atmosphere and could get support staff who were intelligent and hard working.

Could you characterize the users of the Army Medical Library at that period?

Most of it was mail order work.  There were the people from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology who were right in the building who came in in person, and there were local physicians, and since the Army Medical Library overshadowed all the others, the faculty and students of the medical schools and hospitals in the area would come in and use it occasionally.  But they apparently had been not welcomed previously; so there weren’t very many of them.  It’s only when they really needed something that they came.  However, the largest amount was in interlibrary loan and in answering reference questions by mail.  We had a staff of nine or ten people who did nothing but answer letters for reference material.  At that time, of course, the QCIM had suspended and then died, and the Index-Catalogue was way behind, but we had cards for these articles; so we were the unofficial QCIM for the country.  We also had the Current List of Medical Literature, which was then at first a private publication and later became an official publication of the Library, and it was made for the physicians in the armed services and it was made in size so that it would fit just into the pocket of the Army physicians and surgeons.  I’ve forgotten now what you asked me the question for that brings all of this to mind.

Oh, I asked you to characterize users.

Oh, about the users.  So, most of the time we had people from Walter Reed or from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology or a few local people.  Then commercial firms would send people down to us and work regularly there as translators or so on.  But most of it was mail.

And this was of course after the war, but you were still doing a lot of military work, weren’t you?

Yes.  Don’t forget we got into the Korean War in the 50s, and so we had that all over again.

Right.  Did you find a distinct military atmosphere at AML?

Well, it was certainly more so than I had ever had before.  The supply sergeant was a sergeant in the Army, for example.  When Major Rogers became Colonel Rogers it was a whole lot of— It was hierarchically arranged.

Were you able to put into effect changes that you felt were needed in the Reference Department?

Oh we put into effect so many changes that when I came to leave and looked back on it I could hardly believe that it was the same place.

What were some of the major changes that you were able to do?

Well, a good deal of it was planning and arranging the work so that they flowed and things went faster; for example, how to get an interlibrary loan out in five days instead of twenty-five days and how to get the stacks in order so you could find things when you wanted them; how to train the untrained boys and girls who were assigned to us to shelve books, and so on.  As for the reference people, I did give a course there in reference bibliography and medical history.  Then we tried a staff journal club to get people interested in what was going on and we tried to get them interested in belonging to the Medical Library Association, Special Libraries Associations, and the local American Documentation Association as it was in the old days give them some professional view of their jobs.

Did you get involved at all in the Welch Survey?

I was the Officer-in-Charge of that. (Chuckles)  That’s how I got to know Eugene Garfield so well, because it was his idea to use punched cards to produce the Index Medicus.  I used to go back and forth to Baltimore to see how they were doing because I had known San [Sanford Vincent] Larkey before then and Helen Fields and all the others, Wilhelmena Himwitch, and so on.  So it was easy for me to be in charge of that.

How did this affect the Reference Department?

It never did, because they never finished what they were doing – not, I think, their fault, I should make that clear – but the Army cut off the money.

Why would they make a decision like that?

Well, because Brad Rogers had some different ideas of what he wanted to do with the indexes.  He and Scott Adams had worked out killing the Index-Catalogue, and instead producing two works: a catalog of the monographs and an index to the journals, which became the Current List of Medical Literature, which became the Index Medicus finally.  They felt, and I think rightly so, that there was nothing you could do with the Index-Catalogue which would make it work in the Twentieth Century.  Therefore, the best thing was to put your energy and money into doing something which would bring about the results that you wanted.  Consequently, they said they would wait to do anything more along the lines of automation, which is what San Larkey’s group was working on.  And they came back to that with a Council on Library Resources grant a few years later.  But San Larkey was very upset about it, and bitter about it.  He said if he had known that this was likely to happen, he wouldn’t have started it because he’d just got himself going and then it ended.

During this period you were Director of the Special Libraries Association, 1949 to 1952, as well as working on your dissertation and running the Reference Department.  How did you find time to do all that?

I was also Editor of the Bulletin.

That’s right.

And I was exploring the confines of the Civil War around Washington, and oh!  I had all kinds of things.  I was young and energetic, and I enjoyed it.

And no one told you that you couldn’t do all that.

Nobody told me I couldn’t do it, and so I did it.

In 1960, you were made Associate for Extramural Planning, Assistant to Scott Adams.  How did that come about?

Well, Scott Adams had left the Army Medical Library and had become the Librarian of the National Institutes of Health.  Then he had gone over, let me see – I think he went over to the National Science Foundation and then he came back to us, and then he went on to the State Department.  He was bouncing around at that period.  Scott Adams and I had worked very well together for a number of years.  Joe Grosbeck, Scott Adams, and I were the committee which worked out the first Selection and Acquisitions Policy for the Army Medical Library.  It was a technique which had never been worked out before, and which is now a very common one; so people think that it always existed.  It was the technique of dividing all of the literature into four grades: the exhaustive, the comprehensive, the reference, and there was one smaller grade.  We worked this out and we took the Library of Congress classification and we went down it and said, “Now this subject the Army Medical Library ought to buy at that grade,” and so on.  Then when Scott went over to the National Institutes of Health, he asked me to come and be Consultant and make a survey of the library and give him recommendations as to what the library should do.  So I spent several months going back and forth between the Army Medical Library and the NIH and produced a thick report which he then tried to implement – at least part of it.  So we had, you know, been working for years together.  I knew him before I got to Washington and I always liked his ideas.  We used to bounce them off together over lunch; Joe Grosbeck and he and Seymour Taine and I would have lunch once a week and just hash things out.  So when it was decided that what we needed (and it was DeBakey who suggested it) we needed a Medical Library Assistance Act, Scott Adams came back to NLM and we worked together on setting up this program.  It was interesting because it was a staff position instead of a line position.  There was Scott Adams and me and a secretary.  We got together all of the data and we lobbied, and we got things worked out and presented it to Brad who then took it on to see if it went through.

The resulting Act that was passed – is it pretty much as you had intended?

There was one additional thing.  Let me say I left before the Act became operational.  In fact, it looked as if it wasn’t going to be done at all.  Brad Rogers is a genius, but he has a very difficult time with people, and he’d gotten into trouble with [James] Shannon and the result was that they were blocking, NIH was blocking, the Medical Library Assistance Act.  Only when— It looked to me as if it wasn’t going to get going, so I left.  My other position had been filled by Mildred [Crowe] Langner and there was no point in staying there, so I came here.  But in the period between my leaving and when Brad was able to maneuver around Shannon, he had to play footsie with [Senator] Lister Hill.  Lister Hill wanted some kind of boondoggling act in it or log-rolling, so that he could get things for various people.  Otherwise they wouldn’t vote for it.  The Regional Medical Library was his method of giving things to various senators.  You’ll notice that the one in Alabama was the very first one that was ever set up.  Now we had really carefully researched all the information about the other parts of the proposed Medical Library Assistance Act: education, collections, buildings, and so on.  But this Regional Medical Library was kind of put in at the last moment without any time to do anything.  For the first five years after the Act was in existence, people were coming and saying, “Why did you put it in?  What is it supposed to do?”  It kept changing its program because there was nothing that said what it was supposed to do.  That’s been one of the problems of the Regional Medical Library.  The program was a name and nothing much more.

Do you think it had the effect that you hoped it would have?  That is, the Act itself?

Well what turns out is that the Regional Medical Library is the part that has been the tail that’s wagging the whole dog.  That turned out to be inter-library loans or document delivery for the most part.  I’m disappointed in that.  I’m bored with document delivery.  We did that for a hundred years before we had a Regional Medical Library, and I don’t think we needed it for that.  Right now they’re beginning to use the Regional Medical Library for more purposes, just at the time when it looks as if the Medical Library Assistance Act might not be renewed.  So it may be that we’ve lost the possibility of doing all the things which we wanted to.  The situation changed.  For example, one of the things was how many librarians do we need to educate per year in order to take all the positions which we need?  Well, when we started there was a dearth of trained medical librarians and more jobs than people.  The situation has changed now.  I think the people who had training in medical librarianship started out a lot easier, knowing a lot more than the people who didn’t have training in it.  But as a quasi-sociologist and one who has seen this occur in India and Thailand and other places, I would rather not train people too highly and then have them not take any jobs.  You get a disaffected populace and you’re likely to get revolution of one kind or another.  So I think, for instance, the training part of the Medical Library Assistance Act needs to be changed.  I think the collections is an important thing, but along with it you need people to handle it and I don’t think they’ve correlated those two things well enough.  But they’ve done pretty well on the whole.

What do you think will be the effect if the Act is not renewed?

Well, for a few years, it will be minimal because there’s a certain momentum.  Then it will suddenly be very terrible.  There’ll be parts of it that are terrible right away, like the publications part; the history of medicine publications part will be just wiped out completely.  The meeting that I’m going to go to, the Study Section on June 29th, may be the last for the next fifty years.  On the other hand, there are certain things which medical schools and hospitals have grown accustomed to seeing their libraries do and having done for them.  As long as the money can be squeezed out of their institutions, I think it will continue.  I think it will be harder and harder.

What effect do you think these budget cuts will have on NLM’s operation?

They’ve already had a lot of cuts.  They’ve had cuts not only in the dollar amounts, but in their personnel ceiling.  I think this is going to make it very difficult for them to continue to do both the traditional library portion of it and the research and development as well as the extramural portions of it.  The present NLM is not the simple institution it was when I went there in 1949.  It’s now a conglomerate of different things: the Lister Hill research component, the extramural component, the library itself and the relationship between it and other libraries, such as using our PHILSOM system for their integrated library work.  So it’s a very much more sophisticated system than it was years ago.

You were responsible for the Russian translation program at NLM.  How was that organized and carried out?

It started out at the National Institutes of Health and actually it was Scott Adams who was in charge of it, and when he left NIH they turned it over to NLM and I was assigned to be his successor.  We had a committee made up of people from all over the country who came in and we would try to get copies of the Russian texts in medicine and ask them to tell us which of these was worth translating.  Then we would use the Public Law 480 blocked funds for translations.  Public Law 480 blocked funds – for those people who are not knowledgeable in it – was money which the United States had coming to it for the sale of surplus agricultural materials, but it was paid in the funds of the country.  In other words, they didn’t pay in dollars but they paid in zloties or shillings or whatever.  We had an enormous number of those which we couldn’t take out of these countries.  We used them for such things as building our embassy buildings and for some pay for the people who lived in those countries who worked for the American government.  But there were enormous amounts of them left over.  We used some of them in Israel and in India and in some other countries.  But those were the two major ones, and Japan, to translate these.  Then we sent copies of them, free, to all the medical school libraries in the country.  My job was to see that we got the best advice as to which ones to translate and then to monitor the translations to see that they were all right.  I didn’t do much more than a year or two of this, and then I left, so—

Did you already have facility in the Russian language?

Not very much facility.  The one thing about the government is they’re very generous about sending you to school.  They sent me to UCLA to study the mathematics of computers one year, and they sent me to Catholic University for a couple of years and to NIH for another couple of years to study Russian and scientific Russian.  I got a minimum of it, but there were lots of people at the National Library of Medicine who read Russian as their native language and were very helpful to me.  But at least I had a superficial knowledge of it.

You spoke a while back about being persona non grata at the National Library of Medicine.  What do you mean by that?

Nobody that has been on the Oral History interviews has told this story, and so I guess I’d better tell it.  I’m not sure whether you want to do very much with it.  When I was Vice President of MLA and President-Elect, Marty [Martin M.] Cummings came in as the Director of the National Library of Medicine.  I invited him and Brad and Louise Darling, who was the President, and myself to a little meeting at the MLA Annual Conference and suggested the setting up of the MLA/NLM Liaison Committee.  I said that NLM was the central focus of a good deal of the work which medical libraries in the United States did and, since we had a change of administrators, I thought a more formal way, rather than having a gin and tonic with Brad Rogers, would be necessary.  So we set up this NLM/MLA Committee.  Scott Adams was the liaison.  He was the appointee from the NLM to this committee.  We had the first meeting in my suite in Philadelphia when I was President.  Scott and I got into a little argument about how could we be sure that NLM was really going to be forthcoming?  He apparently reported that to Cummings.  Cummings got furious and he told NLM – Al [Alfred N.] Brandon was the next President – that if the Medical Library Association appointed me to anything that had to do with MLA that they would not give any money whatsoever or any help whatsoever to MLA.  Previous to that time, I had been down in Washington and Scott Adams said, “Come and let me introduce you to Marty Cummings.”  So I went, when I was at some meeting, to NLM and got into Marty Cummings’ office, which had been Brad’s office, which I knew very well of course, and he was so new he still had Brad’s old secretary, Mrs. Luethy.  She was making a cup of coffee for us and she was saying things like, “I can’t remember whether you take sugar and cream.”  Marty Cummings started out immediately, even before the coffee came, and said, “I just want you to understand there’s a new administration in this library.  Those of you who wish to play ball with me will find that I can take care of them and everything will be all right and they will get help, and if any of them are of the feeling that they’re on the side of Brad Rogers, they will find themselves out in the open without any shelter and they will be in a bad way.”  Well I was so astonished at this, and he went on for some time this way, that when I got on to the plane to come back here, I wrote it out because I couldn’t believe that I would believe it myself the next day.  But since then, I have never had anything from NLM.  They’ve never asked me to be on any committee, they’ve never wanted me around.

But you’re on the History of Medicine.

Well, that’s an NIH thing.  See, that’s why when you said that I was on this Study Section, I wanted to make that very clear that I’m not on any NLM study sections.  I’m only on NIH study sections and I was Chairman of one for two years.  So they think I’m all right, but NLM doesn’t.

To your knowledge, has anyone else been treated in a similar fashion?

Well, I’ve not tried to find out.

Why don’t we talk a little about the Medical Library Association.  When and how did you hear of and join the Medical Library Association?  It must have been quite early in your career.

Yes.  I went to Columbia in 1937 and by the next year I went up to an MLA meeting which was in Boston.  As I said, it was such a small group then that once you got into it you knew everybody.  There were sixty people at that meeting in 1938 in Boston.  It was in the midst of the Depression.  I stayed at the YWCA because I couldn’t afford a hotel.  The doctors of Boston very generously provided us with lunch every day – only they used the same caterer and they got the minimum lunch; so we ate the same menu for all the days at the meeting.  But we were grateful for it.  I remember [Walton Brooks II, Ph.D.] McDaniel was there and Mary Louise Marshall – the two that I remember distinctly.  Ballard of course was the host and Margueriete Prime.  They were hammering away at constitution and bylaws.  I remember thinking, “My what a dull subject.”  (They’re still hammering away (chuckles) at constitution and bylaws.)  But having coffee and so on with everybody in the place, at lunch every day, I got to know them and from then on, almost immediately, I got put on committees and so on.

Were the meetings pretty much the way they are today on a small scale?  That is, people would present papers and so forth.

Yes.  The people would present papers and there was one business meeting, but of course there were no section meetings, and no simultaneous meetings and so on.

Did they have exhibits at that period?


What qualities did MLA have for you then that it might lack now, if any?

Well, I think the caliber of the people who were members.  First of all, there were a lot of physicians.  Most of the time, the officers were physicians.  So you got a different perspective on things.  Secondly, I think what Brad Rogers used to call the “Grand old Dames” of the MLA were really very interesting intellectual, scholarly, and individual people.  I think people like Janet Doe, of course, and Mary Louise Marshall and Eileen [Roach] Cunningham were the three greats.  But you had people like Sue Biethan, and you had Ballard, and you had McDaniel himself, and so on.  It was a more interesting group of people than the average person in the MLA today.  I don’t think that we don’t have people like that, but they’re diluted by the large number of people in the Association who are not at that level.  Also, the MLA meetings always came just before or just after the History of Medicine meetings.  So you could go from one to the other and they were always in the same city.  So I got to meet a great many of those people.  They were planned that way.

Do you know when they stopped doing that?  AAHM is always the month before now, so you can’t do that.

I don’t know, I can’t remember.

What was your first assignment in MLA?  Do you recall?

I was looking at that question last night and trying to remember all of the committees I’ve been on.  In those days, you were on everything if you lived long enough.  Because there were just so few of you that you just kept— It seems to me that we didn’t have meetings during World War II; so I was only there two or three years before they ceased meetings, and then they started again after the war.  In those two or three meetings, I’m not sure whether I was on any committee or if so, it was certainly not anything very earthshaking.  During the war when we didn’t have meetings officially, we’d have regional meetings and I went down to the College of Physicians at Philadelphia and I gave a paper on a bibliographic service which we had started at Columbia University, where I read through the journals as they came in and kept fifty or a hundred subjects in mind and would send notices of those—

Early SDI.

SDI, yes.  It’s been published in the College and Research Libraries if you ever want to read about it.

You were also at this period active in Special Libraries Association.

Well yes, because the Special Libraries Association had local branches, and so there was a New York branch.  Even when I was at the Nursing Library at Cornell, I got taken to the local nursing and biological sciences group of SLA meeting and I gave my first paper there.  That was run mostly by Wigmore, what was her first name?


No, but it began with an E [Ethel], who was at the Bellevue Hospital Nursing School and then went back to England during World War II, and then was the Librarian of the World Health Organization when they first – Ethel Wigmore.  You get into these small groups and then you’re asked to talk and then you’re made a committee member and—

Well there was no New York regional group of the Medical Library Association.

There were no regional groups until about 1950, maybe later than that.  And there was much opposition to regional MLA groups.  They said it would dilute the interest in the national group.

How would you compare the two associations, MLA and SLA, as far as you were concerned – their assets and their weaknesses?

Well, the MLA was a much more cohesive group, since it had only one interest.  Because it did have physicians in it and some scholarly librarians, it had a very different attitude.  The SLA was made up of a lot of people in very small libraries – banking libraries, or company libraries, or so on.  Mostly it was a social and basic educational institution.

You served on a large number, probably most of the MLA committees through the years.  Which ones did you find most rewarding?

Well, it’s hard to say because as you grow, things which were very interesting to start with change.  I was very interested in the certification because of the educational component when I first started, which was in 1945 or thereabouts.  They put me on that same committee just last year, and I found it terrible and finally resigned from it.  You change your views of things over the years.  I suspect that the MLA/AAMC Committee was the one that I found most interesting.

We’re going to talk about that a little later.

After coffee. (Chuckles)

Who were some of the members that you enjoyed working with most?

Well as I said, there were only sixty when I started.  Do you mean when I started or over the—

Well, over the years.

Well, I’ve mentioned some of them—

[End of tape one, side two]

You were elected to the MLA Board in 1962, Vice President and President Elect in 1963, and President in 1964 to 1965.  Among those with whom you worked in these positions were Brad Rogers, Louise Darling, Myrl Ebert, Irene Jones, Helen Crawford, Ralph Esterquest, and [Ida] Marian Robinson.  How did they all work together?  Were there common goals and methods to facilitate interaction and accomplishments during those years?

Well of course you’ve given me a list of individuals, and some of them worked well together and some of them didn’t work so well; some of them were domineering and some were dominated, so that it’s hard to make a general statement about all of them.  They did, I think, have common goals.  I think they were all for the greater good of medical librarianship and the transmission of scientific biomedical information.  They did it in different ways, however.

Did you find some of them easier to work with as individuals than the others?

Oh sure.  Just like any other group – some of them were just easier people to work with and some of them had personalities that made them a little more difficult to work with.  But I never had any trouble with any of the people you’ve listed in that list you just said.  Perhaps Brad Rogers was the most domineering and dominating of the group.  But I don’t think any of them were difficult people.

How was the central office running by the time of your Presidency?

Well, it had only been in existence about four or five years by that time, maybe not even that much it didn’t do very much except the routine work of keeping records and paying bills and things of that nature.  I didn’t find them very helpful at all because I didn’t find Helen Brown Schmidt very helpful.  She was bogged down in details and didn’t see a lot of large problems that she could have been involved in.  I don’ think she was particularly desirous of being helpful, and she certainly in my opinion wasn’t very well organized.  I think that I once said jokingly that my goal for the year I was President of MLA was to make sure that the same figure appeared in all the things that MLA put out; that is, if it said that we had 503 members, in one publication, we shouldn’t say we had 522 in another one, and 511 in a third one.  I remember when the annual reports were due that they had to go back two or three times to Helen Brown Schmidt because these figures never added up straight.  I think that was characteristic of her personal view of life.  She didn’t pay any attention to things like that, and yet she was always talking about the details.

When the central office came to be, I think it was when Mildred Jordan was President in 1960, do you recall that they had envisioned a broader role for the central office at that time?

Well, it’s hard for me to say.  Bernice Hetzner was the Chairman of that committee, and Tom Keys was on it, and Gertrude Annan, and there was I think— Wasn’t the woman out in Seattle that you interviewed—

Bertha [Brandon] Hallam.

Bertha Hallam.  Wasn’t she on that group too?  I was not involved with the choice of it, and I don’t really know how they went about doing it.  But I suspect if they had broader views of that office that the members of the Association wouldn’t have been in back of them.  The members were very uncertain whether they wanted this office.  They were afraid to give up some of their authority to anybody else.  They wanted somebody in that position who was not really a very dynamic person, and they got what they wanted.

Had you any particular goals in mind for MLA when you became President, other than the one you just—

(Chuckles)  That really wasn’t very – I’m embarrassed to say I probably didn’t.  I don’t remember any particular goals.  I was interested in certain things more than others, such as the education program and the program for certification, and I probably just automatically pushed those more than some of the others.  But a one year office is, even if you’ve been a Vice President and President-Elect and on the Board, is very hard to get anything done.  Also, in those days there wasn’t so much continuity.  Louise Darling was my predecessor and I almost never heard from her the whole year.  In fact, the biggest fight that we ever had was because she didn’t let me know what she was doing and I made a fool of myself a couple of times, particularly with Marty Cummings, because I proposed things entirely differently from what she had proposed.  She was the fair-haired girl at NLM and has always continued to be so.  I was out in left field.  Part of it was because I didn’t know that she had proposed things.  That kind of thing I think went on a great deal because it was a volunteer job without people’s having much secretarial work and the Xerox machine was a very new thing in those days and you didn’t get copies of correspondence.

Somewhere I recall, I believe it was in your remarks written after the death of Mildred Blake when you were writing about her and the close relationship you had with her, you said something about, I think you were kidding, about her being on the Nominating Committee at the time that you were elected and—

Yes, and I was proposed for Vice President.  Of course that was the days when they had only one slate, one person per office.  So if you were nominated, you’d have to be a pretty terrible person not to be elected.  I was in Japan when this went along, and I got a cable from them asking me if I would serve in that capacity.  I often thought, “How come?” that they wanted me.  Later, when I found that it was Mildred Blake who was Chairman of the committee, I decided that that was how I got to be Vice President of MLA.

Did you have any particular disappointments, any plans that didn’t get fulfilled during your Presidential year?

Well, very rarely does a one year term give you the satisfaction of seeing some things done.  The thing that I thought was the most important was the NLM/MLA Liaison Committee, which I felt went much beyond any term that I would have anything to do with.  I still think it was a good idea, even though it caused trouble for me personally.

You listed the MLA/NLM Liaison Committee as one of the half dozen most important decisions made by the Board during the year of your Presidency.  You mentioned earlier that you helped to set it up.  What kind of activity went on in that group and what was the relationship with the Board?

With the Board?

And with yourself as President.

Well, it was just set up the year that I was President, so that I don’t know what its relation to the President is now, I have no idea.  What I had in mind were two things: first of all that medical librarians would know what plans NLM had, because so much of it would then affect them, and also I thought of it as a group which might help NLM by forwarding the plans, by helping to bring about better budgets or more equipment, or whatever they needed, if the NLM could explain what it was they wanted and how they thought it would be helpful to have it done.  Since then, I have not been involved with it and so I don’t know how it’s worked out.  I know that they get an annual report of what NLM has done or is about to do or thinks it wants to do, but beyond that I don’t know whether it goes in the other direction.

Do you think over the years that there has been any increase in communication, if you will, between the National Library of Medicine and the Medical Library Committee?

Medical Library Committee?


Community.  I think the highlight of that was in Brad’s time.  I think there are bits and pieces of it – bits and pieces that the MLA gets in on.  But the general attitude of “We will report everything we do to MLA and we will explain why we are doing it and what we propose to do and how we need their help,” – I think that has died down.  Now part of that is due to size.  They’re just so large at NLM these days that it probably is not feasible to do it to the extent and to the depth which was done in the fifties and early sixties.

Did your geographical proximity to Chicago help you at all during your Presidency, do you think?

No.  I went up there several times to talk to Helen Brown Schmidt, but I always came away frustrated because I never got what I wanted.  For example, when it came time to appoint committees, I wanted some geographical breakdown so the committees would more or less represent— We didn’t have all the formalities that we do now, of course.  I wanted people from different kinds of libraries to get a cross section of the whole group.  What I got when I went up there was the card file of the people in the Association with no breakdown or anything like that, and I said, “Well isn’t there some way in which I could get some of it?”  Well she didn’t know of any other way.  A couple of times I did things like that and was frustrated and just gave up after a while.

Central office wasn’t very helpful.


To change direction, how did you become interested in oral history, since you were materially involved in the first feasibility study which eventually resulted in the Oral History Program for MLA.  When did you start to become interested in it?

Now are you talking about the MLA or in general?

Well, in general, because it led to the program.

The last year I was at Columbia University, when I was getting my Ph.D. and before I left, they asked me if I would work with the history of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.  I was leaving, so I said no.  But I got interested in it and I had been interested in it, and of course historically I knew about their work.

Alan Nevins was at Columbia then, was he not?  He started that program there?

Yes.  It wasn’t Nevins who talked to me; it was somebody else.  But I had already accepted the job at NLM, although I wasn’t going to go to it for six or seven months.  So I had to turn them down.  But that was one thing that interested me and once you’re interested in something you read up on it.  Now as far as MLA’s Oral History Project is concerned, Ann Kerker called me up one day when she was President of MLA and asked if I would do a feasibility study.  So I did it, period.

You have done the majority of the interviews so far.  How does it feel being on the other side of the microphone, so to speak?

Well, I find myself looking to see that we’re being recorded and some of the other things, and I try to avoid some of the things I found difficult in listening to other people’s oral history interviews, but as I said to you last night, I’m an old ham and I don’t mind being questioned.  The only thing is, I don’t always remember accurately.

Currently we’re not indexing the tapes.  Do you think this should be done eventually if we get the money for it or if the technology develops—

Well, we are indexing the tapes.

Well, excuse me.  I meant transcribing.

Transcribing is what we’re not doing.  Well transcribing would be very nice.  You would still have to index the transcriptions too.  It is easier to go back and forth in a transcription than it is in a tape.  But like many other things in this world, you can’t have what you don’t have money for.

Who devised the program for indexing the tapes?

Millard Johnson of the Washington University Medical School Library staff devised them for the Oral History Program at the Medical School.  When MLA started, it seemed reasonable to use the same program for their tapes, as well as for the tapes in the Medical School.  That’s how you got them.

When did the oral History Program here at your library start?

I came in 1961, and in 1962 I began recording interviews with, in 1962 or 1963, Dr. Joseph Erlanger who got the Nobel Prize in 1943 and was in his 90th year.  I figured if I didn’t get it then, I’d never get it.  I used to go over every Thursday and had tea with him and then I would record it, and on such an old machine that we recently had to rerecord it on modern equipment, otherwise we couldn’t have used it.  As a result of all of that, he gave his collection to us and we have not only his manuscripts and his correspondence files and his lecture notes and so on, but we have the cathode-ray tube that he designed which was the beginning of his Nobel Prize, and we have the heart clamp that he devised when he was working with Sir William Osler, only it was Dr. William Osler then at Johns Hopkins.  He came here because [William] Welch suggested he come here.  He worked with Welch for a while.  All of that is down in the interviews.

Do you do most of the interviewing for that program?

No, not any more.  Dr. [Paul] Anderson does a good deal, our archivist; and our previous archivist did them.  I do some of them, special people that I know or that I want special things from them.  We have a plan – we interview the 25th year alumni class and the 50th, a few people from each of those regularly; so we always have that going every year, as well as some other things as they come up.

Let’s talk a bit about the MLA Bulletin.  You were Associate Editor with William Postell for a short time and then Editor of the Bulletin from 1947 to 1957.  You called it “one of the high points of my career,” and said it was the “most satisfying professional work ever undertaken.”  Do you still see that period in this light?

Well, it’s not the period, it’s the job.  I love to edit.  I enjoy it very, very much.  I find I learn a great deal, and I like to put things in a way in which people can get the information they want in the nicest way they can.  I like to write and so I like to edit and I like to see that things get put through the printers and so on.

In an editorial in July in 1952 outlining the traits an editor should possess, you mentioned “intellectual toughness” and awareness of what was going on in the medical library community, patience, catholicity in taste, and flexibleness in outlook, and liking the work.  Did you find that you needed and had all these attributes during your tenure as Editor?

Well I could hardly say that I had all the attributes; I’m not that good.  But these are the things which one needs.  (Chuckles)  Intellectual toughness is very important in my opinion.  You have to be able to say no to a poor article or to send it back two or three times to the author to make sure that it’s done well.  Otherwise, you really can get a pretty terrible group of articles.  At various times in the history of the Bulletin, you will see that the editor has not done that.  There are things in it that are not really worth very much.  It’s hard to tell whether it’s the fault of the editor or the fault of the writers, who there weren’t enough of.  But there was a time when Harold Bloomquist was Editor when he was ill that it went down very badly, and I think Mildred Langner’s period had some periods when she was not able to get good manuscripts for publication.  It’s not easy to get good manuscripts.

Why should there be some periods when it’s more difficult than others?  I suppose there’s no answer to that.

I believe like [Henri] Bergson that there’s not one solution, there are only solutions.  There’s not one reason; there are a whole series of reasons.  For one thing, the editor has got to be knowledgeable in the field and known by all of the people in the field so that he or she can go around and say, “Now that’s a fine topic.  I’m very interested in what you were saying.  Why don’t you write it up?”  Also, he’s got to have enough of a standing so that when he says, “Now you’ve got to write it this way, not that way,” the person will do it.  You can’t just sit back and wait for manuscripts to come in, though if you have a good product the manuscripts are more likely to come in.  When I finished in 1957, I turned over to the next editor enough unpublished manuscripts to last for over a year.  You can build up a reputation which makes people want to publish in your journal.

What percentage of contributed papers comprised the average volume?  That is, unsolicited.

Oh, I don’t know.  I would have to go back and look.  But a large percentage, I would say.

Do you have any feeling for the average rejection rate while you were Editor?  I mean, there were some that you rejected out of hand, that couldn’t be reconstituted.

That’s right.  Again, I would have to go back and look exactly, but I would say probably the number that were rejected out of hand was comparatively small, five or ten percent perhaps.  But there were a lot of them that went back for revision.  We used a tripartite group to select the articles.  The Editor and the Associate Editor and the Chairman of the Publication Committee were the referees while I was Editor.  We had to get all of them to say whether they thought it should be published or not.  Then it was up to me to see if it was in publishable form.

Mildred Blake was your Associate Editor, was she?

No, she was Chairman of the Publications Committee.  Maybe she was Associate Editor at one time.  They kept changing.

Marie Harvin was also.

And Marie Harvin and Ann Dougherty.  We were all close by.  Marie Harvin was in Baltimore, and the rest of them were in Washington so it was easy to send things around.

Well, in other words, you used these people – your Associate Editor and the Publications Chair – as reviewers rather than sending papers out.

That is right.  Occasionally, when there was a subject that we weren’t very knowledgeable about or that there was some question, when we had a split vote or something, we would send it to somebody else.  But for the most part, the three of us decided.

What was the most difficult part about being an editor?  Was it the rejection of manuscripts?

Well, I think the most difficult part was getting people to get their manuscripts in on time, particularly the issue which had to do with the meetings of the MLA.


Yes.     They were almost impossible.  Some people just wouldn’t get them in.

Your farewell editorial stated, “I feel the Bulletin is a different journal from what it was when I took over.”  What was the Bulletin like in 1947 and what were the changes that you made?

The Bulletin first of all was very much smaller in pages.  Secondly, it was not well-edited so far as the articles themselves were edited.  There was also a great deal more in the history of medicine, and I’ll come to that in a moment.  I don’t think that it was well-printed and published.  They used cheap publishers, and it took me a long time to persuade them that they had to go to a standard publisher like Williams and Wilkins, which was the one they used while I was there, rather than some fly-by-night amateur publisher who didn’t charge very much but he didn’t do very good work and whose timing was not as good; so the Bulletin was coming out at odd times rather than when it was due.

Did you make any other changes?

Because I have a kind of standardized mentality, we standardized some things.  There was always one or two editorials.  There was always News and Notes and there were always book reviews, and that had not always been true in the past.  The articles— For a long time, I tried to get one history of medicine article in there in each issue, but not to overshadow all the others.  Then there was a survey of the readers to ask them what they wanted to do.  One of the things they said was “Not so much history of medicine.”  So we cut out the history of medicine.

How do you find the Bulletin in the years since you were Editor?

Well, varied.  Some very good, some very poor, some mediocre.  I’m a little upset that the last two issues have been so late.  Apparently, Gloria Werner hasn’t been able to get them out on time.  I’m a great believer in telling the truth.  If your masthead says April, I think it should be out in April.

Do you see any need for specific changes in the Bulletin right now?

One of the things I’ve tried to do all my life is not to criticize the people who take over the jobs that I had left.  I guess I’ve said some nasty things about some of the editors previously, but I think I’ll skip that question.  Okay?

What do you think about the present exclusion of history of medicine altogether from the Bulletin’s scope.

Well, I put it in so obviously I thought it was a good idea.  After all, there is the Bulletin of the History of Medicine.  Now I think there’s a difference between the history of medicine and the history of medical libraries.  The history of medical libraries belongs in there, even though we now have the Journal of Library History.

Well I have a feeling that that would probably make it, whereas straight history— Well, did you have anything that you would like to add about the Bulletin or the MLA that I haven’t—

Well, the MLA has changed in the years since I first belonged to it.  It was an organization which tended to be more a place where you met people and made friends which professionally were very important to you and who then became personal friends.  It was the reason that a lot of people felt a loyalty to it, because they were part of the group.  With the increase in size this is not possible anymore, and when people say to me, “Why should I join the MLA?  What am I going to get out of it?”  I find it much more difficult to answer on that basis.  All I can say to them is the Bacon statement that every man owes something to his profession, and belonging to a professional organization is part of it.  I’m afraid that as it gets bigger, the Association will become a kind of high class union and will be more interested in economic advancement of librarians rather than interest in the transmission of biomedical information.  For me, that’s less interesting.

Do you see that the regional groups might fill the role that the larger organization can no longer fill possibly?

That may be possible just because they’re smaller.  On the other hand, the regional groups are pretty widespread too, and that may go against them.  It’s hard to say.

Let’s talk some about education for librarianship and medical librarianship.  Throughout your career, you have written and spoken cogently, frequently, and at length in support of education for librarianship, especially medical librarianship.  You have emphasized the importance of subject background, languages, and research skills.  In your Janet Doe lecture at New York in 1971, you spoke of the pursuit of excellence.  Your keynote speech at the SLA Annual Meeting in Denver in 1963 had noted that rapid change in librarianship brings fear of the unknown through a lack of understanding and emphasized the joy of knowing and the intellectual excitement of learning.  Even earlier, you wrote that “the most important way in which the medical librarian can continue to grow, it seems to me, is by working on some problem connected with her work, no matter how small, and publishing her conclusions.”  All of this characterizes your own career.  Do you see any indications today that librarians see these as worthwhile goals?

(Pause)  Well, how can I talk about all medical librarians?  I get very disturbed because many medical librarians I see don’t feel that they need to continue their education; they’re not interested in education.  I don’t know.  I come from a culture which is different from the culture around me now.  I come from a culture of Talmudic scholars who have always thought that the greatest pleasure in life is the study of intellectual questions and the examination of logical alternatives.  I find learning a great joy and a great pleasure, and I don’t understand people who don’t enjoy learning, who don’t get any pleasure out of something new and different and exciting which they had not thought of before, or they don’t get any feeling of satisfaction out of following an argument to its logical conclusion or examining something from various points of view and trying to get a rounded picture of a phenomenon.  I therefore don’t even know how to talk to these people.  We talk on different fundamentals.  They think of learning as something they are required to do, and I think of learning as something that I want to do.  It’s a very different point of view, and so I get disturbed with my own staff because I can’t get them to (most of them, not all) learn anything new, to share their knowledge.  They think a discussion is an argument and an argumentum ad hominem rather than just an attempt to examine the problem.  It bothers me, and I’ve tried a hundred different ways to try to get the people who work with me to get the same attitude that I have; I’ve given them more salary if they’ve taken courses, written articles, become members of committees and so on, and it doesn’t work.  I’ve been unsuccessful and I think I’ll never be able to solve that problem.  That’s more on that subject than you had any desire to know.

No, I think it’s interesting.  I was wondering if the fact that you don’t come across people with your same interests today has something to do with size again.  That is, in the early years of the Association the people who mattered most were those who were concerned about these questions and who gathered together to solve them.  Now perhaps the numbers are there, but they’re diluted, and so that you don’t come across them as frequently.

I don’t come across them in my own staff either.

Do you think that part of this— You have said in some of your articles that the caliber of the students in library school today are not what you would have them either.  Do you think it’s part of the selection process because people aren’t being tough enough to say that these are the standards for medical librarianship and you don’t meet them and that sort of thing?

Well I think all of these enter into it.  Library schools need students, otherwise they’re going to go out of business.  If you don’t get the good ones, then you get the poor ones.  But I don’t know.  Librarianship today is more of a technological methodology than of a scientific technological breakthrough.

Then, a question such as this one – can you comment on the caliber of research being done today as seen in library publications?  You’ve almost answered that already, have you not?

Well I think that there are more formal scientific apparatuses in the publications of library research than there used to be, and a lot more verbiage.  But I’m not sure that the research is any better or even as good.  It’s certainly on a different series of subjects.

Quite different.  During your career, you predicted the advent of internships.  You saw them come, you had one such program in your library, and you’ve seen them all but disappear.  Do you think there will be a place for them in the future, or have they ceased to be useful?

Well, internships is a term which came, of course, from the medical field.  There it implied the learning of the methods for use of the theory which the schools gave.  In other words, you got the theory in school and you learned how to use it in your internship.  I’m not sure that the internship in the medical library field these days is that kind of an internship.  In other words, I don’t think they come with the theory behind them, and they are learning both the theory and the methodology in the internship.  It’s hard to know whether the people who are coming into the post-graduate internships are going to be able to use their theory in the way in which an internship should, or whether they’re just going to learn something.  Now in our internship in computer librarianship, they were learning computer librarianship.  They didn’t come already with that knowledge and then put it to use.  As the library schools or other schools take on the teaching of that, then the internship should change.  The fact that it has gone out of existence is partly that the Medical Library Assistance Act doesn’t pay for it, but partly because people now realize how much time it takes of the library staff and of the librarian to make sure that the interns are getting a true educational experience.  It’s like having Mrs. Frankiel here.  The amount of time that we spent before she came, setting everything up for her learning, the amount of time it’s going to take for everybody to talk to her and give her their input is enormous and many people don’t realize how much a good internship requires in time and energy.

In addition to doing the job that you’re supposed to do anyway.

Well of course.

Do you see anything as replacing the internship experience?

Well, the library schools teaching more different things.  I think that some of the things that we taught in internships could very well be taught by the library school outside of the regular year’s librarianship.  They could do the continuing education which MLA is trying to do.  I think there’s advantage to have them go back to school for a few days or a week, and that I think might be better than the MLA’s educational offerings at their meetings.

Okay.  That was going to be my next question.  What is your estimate of the continuing education programs?

Merely because it is so short a period and so superficial, it cannot be as good as an in-depth look.

In the fifties, when MLA was talking about continuing education and you had different types, like seminars and symposia, was the current continuing education program something that you might have had in mind for the future, something along those lines?

I’m not sure I understand that question.

In other words, could you have foreseen the evolution of the continuing education program as it is today from the symposia and the courses that were offered in the earlier years?

Well, I was Chairman of a committee one year which took the whole year to try to figure out what MLA should do with its continuing education.  We examined how it was done in other professions, architecture and theology and so on.  We came to the conclusion that it needed to be a staggered program in which the people could come back and build on one course after another rather than one year they’d take this and the next year they’d take that without any relation between the two.  We also thought that you had to divide up the class.  I’m not an egalitarianist.  I believe that there are indeed people with better knowledge and backgrounds than other people and I think that you bog down the good people by having the poor people or the people with less experience in the same class.  I recommended that it be divided.  In fact, one year when I was in charge of it I divided it by size of library.  Boy, I was unpopular!  But I said that a librarian coming from the National Library of Medicine or the New York Academy of Medicine had a different point of view and a different knowledge basis than the librarian of the Squeedunk, Iowa General Hospital of 200 beds, and that you ought to divide them up.  I don’t know what the future of continuing education is.  I’m also one who believes that a librarian starts out with the theory that you can learn things from books and journals and audio-visual things, and if he believes that really, then why doesn’t he or she learn something by reading books and journals and listening to audio-visual things?  It raises the question whether they really believe it.  So, there are many paths to knowledge and I don’t think any one will solve all the questions.

What effect do you think the new certification code will have on continuing education?

Well it will make people take courses.  Whether they really learn anything or not is another question.  (Laughter)

Do you think or have you seen any trend that people are coming into medical librarianship with more applicable backgrounds, that is, undergraduate or graduate degrees in biological sciences?

No, I don’t find it yet.  But we’re just beginning into a depression and, you know, one of the few advantages of a depression is that you can get better trained people who can’t get jobs in their own field, and I think in the next four or five years, we may find that we’re getting people with better backgrounds than we’ve had in the past.

Why did you leave the National Library of Medicine and come to Washington University School of Medicine Library?

I think I’ve answered that question already.  The Medical Library Assistance Act hadn’t been passed yet, and it looked as if it might not be passed.  The old position which I had had in the library had already been filled and therefore, it seemed to me, that there was no point in sticking around.

[End of tape two, side one]

There were several places that were looking for a librarian and I went out to see a few of them, and I got to talking to the search committee here and the dean and I found to my delight that the dean had been on the DeBakey Committee which had a whole section on biomedical libraries, how they needed to be strengthened.  I found that he understood what a library was trying to do.  [Of] all the places – although they didn’t pay as much as some of the other places – I decided I would be happiest here.  I have never regretted that because that dean who was here four or five years—

Who was that?

Edward Dempsey.  He became Assistant Secretary of HEW for Health after a while.  He was in the Anatomy Department here and he became the head of the Anatomy Department at Columbia University.  But he and I could talk the same language.  I never went to him with a problem but that I felt that he understood the problem.  And he was very generous with money, as has the university.  All the years I’ve been here, they’ve never once turned me down for money.  I’ve gotten every cent I’ve ever asked for.

That must be fairly unique.

I think so.  It was one of the reasons that I find it very nice to be here, and one of the reasons I think I’ve been here at the best of all times, because money was easy to get, the people were understanding, and our collection wasn’t overwhelming; so that although we didn’t have enough room, we could somehow maneuver.  I think my successor will have a much more difficult time all around.

What was the library like when you arrived?

Well, my predecessor had ended up as a patient in the psychiatric hospital and in the three or four years where she was getting to that point the library had gone down very, very badly.  It was a fine collection; it had, in the early days, a group of people who were on the Library Committee who were really bibliophiles and great lovers of scientific literature.  They not only collected rare books and material and historical works, but they made the rule that if they bought a journal, they would go back to volume one, number one and buy it.  That’s how we get all these complete sets of things, the Royal Society Transactions, and so on.  That makes us the unique medical library in this area.  However, over the years, the staff had left or gone away because of the difficulties in working with the collection here because of the librarian.  When I came, there was only one librarian on the staff and all the rest were clerks and there were about six positions that were open.  They were so delighted to find somebody who knew how to run a library (they’d had the wife of one of the doctors kind of keeping things going for six months or so while they looked for a librarian) that they decided to give me as much money as I would ask for.  Also, after a while, [they decided] that the Library Committee should go back and be whatever they were and not have a library committee, that they didn’t have committees running the Departments of Physiology or Anatomy or whatnot, so why should they have a committee running the library?  I wanted to teach.  There were two things I insisted upon when I came: one was that I was going to Japan – I had already agreed to go to Keio University under a Rockefeller grant; and secondly, that I would teach the history of medicine.  For the latter, they had to find an academic appointment for me and since my background was in histology and embryology, I found myself Professor in Anatomy, and that’s my position now; Professor of Medical History in Anatomy is my official title.  But they were very helpful and very grateful, and I got all the support I needed.

Was the library physically in the same situation as it is today?

Oh, it was in a mess.  First of all, the stacks had not been erected on this floor.  I’m trying to think how best to say this; if I could draw you a picture, I could show it to you, but it won’t be on the tape so let me see.  This library started out after the Flexner Report as a library that would hold about 50,000 volumes.  Therefore, the library was small.  It was one large reading room, and the stack (and remember we walked through the stack to go to the staff lounge?), and the one just above it.  That’s all there was to the library.  The basement was used for storage, and when I came I found that they had stood on the top of the steps and thrown things down into the basement up to here.  You couldn’t get in, and there was broken up equipment, and an old card catalog, and duplicate journals and books, and God knows what – a real Augean stables.  I spent, with Bob [Robert B.] Austin and Irwin Pizer and Isabelle Anderson, the people that I brought with me from the National Library of Medicine, the first four or five months clearing out that basement, selling duplicates, burning up those that we didn’t want and weren’t worth anything.  In fact, they told us at one point, stop doing it, we were putting fires out in the incinerator (laughs).  Then when we got it all settled, for the first time since they built the building we had the place painted.  Then we stacked it and we moved the books around.  Over the years, we’ve added different parts of this building; so there’s nothing left in this building but a couple of floors of anatomy – the dissecting room, and so on – and the library.  Then we’ve taken over various other buildings.  So, the collection was then about 90,000 volumes; it’s now over 180,000, which is a perfectly normal doubling in twenty years.  They took 800 journals; we now take about 2,400.  The budget then was $80,000, and it’s now, let me see, about two million dollars, a million and a half to two million.  Now inflation takes a good deal of that; so it isn’t quite as wonderful as it sounds.  There were, as I say, eight people on the staff when I came, one of whom was a librarian.  We now have the equivalent of about 40 full time people.  All of this would have happened whether I was the librarian or not, because they just obviously needed that.  But the most amazing thing was the research component.  I was able to persuade them that just as any other department in a medical school should do research and training, the library should do it.  When I came back from Japan in September of 1962, the Dean came up to welcome me back and I said to him that I was going to come down and ask him for some money to do some research in automation and he said, “How much,” and I had not even thought about it and I said, off the top of my head, “$10,000,” and he said, “Fine.”  Since then we have had, every year, money to do research and development and a separate staff and some space.  That is how we got into the automation system.

We were talking about your early days at the Washington University School of Medicine.  You mentioned that you brought with you from NLM three staff members, Irwin Pizer, Robert Austin, and Isabelle Anderson.  They had worked with you at NLM, had they, in the Reference Department?

Bob Austin was my Deputy at the National Library of Medicine; Isabelle Anderson had come and worked for a year with me as Interlibrary Loan Head; and Irwin Pizer was the intern; in fact, he was the first and only intern of the four or five year program at NLM by the time I left who didn’t take a job at NLM.  It was one of my criticisms of the NLM program that it was just a way to get people in on their own staff, not to prepare them for other libraries.

The three of these people stayed with you for fairly lengthy periods of time before they went on to other things, did they not?

Well, Bob Austin stayed until he retired, and Isabelle Anderson became quite ill and found that a large library like this was more than she could easily handle and so she went to a small hospital library in an area where the temperature and humidity were easier on her heart condition, and then Irwin, of course, went off on a upward mobility jag.

Did the staff that was here when they came have any difficulty adjusting to the new staff members?

Well, as I said before, there was only one librarian.  She stayed for a few years; the others were just clerks, so they didn’t care one way or the other.  I think a number of them, especially the older ones, had some problems with the whole standard which the group of us brought with us, which had not been the standards previously, and gradually they took other positions.  Since they were not specially trained as library assistants or librarians, it was possible for them to get clerical jobs in other parts of the medical center or the university or elsewhere without very much difficulty.  So I never really had a great deal of difficulty with the staffing.  I had anticipated a great deal more, and one of the questions I asked the search committee before I accepted the position was what happened if I found that the people were entirely against me or what we were going to do?  Would there be other places for them to go?  But it was a problem that never really occurred.

You have a rather formidable reputation in the medical library field as an innovator, a scholar, and as a fair but demanding administrator.  Do you think your staff would find this description accurate?

I think my staff would find the portion of it which said I was a very demanding person quite accurate.  Since I am in the process of retiring, various members of the staff have taken the occasion at various points to say things about their time with me.  A few of them have said things like, “Well, when we finally got to know you, you were okay,” (chuckles), or “I was scared of you until I really had to work intimately with you.”  The fact is that I get impatient with stupidity and laziness, and when I get impatient it’s very obvious.  Although I tell myself each time I mustn’t do it, I’m afraid I’ll never get over it.

What if any aspects of library administration do you find most difficult?

The most difficult thing I find in library administration is telling somebody that he isn’t doing a good job.  Before I do this, I have sat down and gone over the record inside and outside and gotten as much information as I can.  Then I come across to that person that I’m criticizing like thunder from above – it’s cold and impersonal and very hard to take.  It’s mostly I tell myself because I find it so unpleasant to have to tell anybody that he isn’t doing well.

Did you find the personnel problems that you encountered here very different from those at NLM?

Yes, in a certain way.  As I mentioned, the people at NLM, particularly the non-professionals, had what I call the civil service mentality – they were sea lawyers, they knew exactly how far they could go without getting lopped off and they would do it.  I didn’t find that here; so that that kind of a problem never seemed to grow very great here.  On the other hand, many people are afraid of life and they don’t want to try something unless they are sure they are going to be successful.  To persuade them that you have to try it and that you have to take a chance and that you sometimes will be unsuccessful and be bawled out for it is very difficult for some people to accept.

What has been the effect on your staff of the continual change of the experimental activities involving the research components you mentioned earlier?

We used to have a joke here a few years ago.  If we did a thing two years in a row, it was an old and hoary tradition (laughs) around here.  Well, for the best people it’s exciting.  For those who like things to go in a steady course, it isn’t so easy to take.  But by self-selection, those people generally go off, and what we were left with is a group that finds that very exciting.  We used to have a lot of visitors from all over the world, particularly when I was going all over the world, and the people would come back here.  I think they found that rather interesting.  It’s easier if they’re involved in making the plans, though I find it necessary to keep an eye on them because some times their plans either aren’t likely to be successful— The question is how far do you let people make a fool of themselves and of your library?  And the other thing is that they often don’t have a broad enough imagination and they don’t see where beyond that they can go.  But I think the staff has rather enjoyed it; it’s one of the things I think that they talk about, why they stay here.

Do you think that this had any effect either way on recruitment and retention?

Well I do think it had some effect on recruitment of middle level and higher level people because they know what we’ve been doing here.  The people straight out of library school very often don’t know anything about it.  We have had more trouble in finding staff because St. Louis isn’t a very glamorous place to live; at least people don’t think of it in that way.  We’ve had more trouble with that than we’ve had with other parts of it.  Now as for retention, I don’t think that people have left because there’s a— Well, a few people have left because there’s a lot of uncertainty with experimentation.  But where a lot of people have left is that they get known to have been working in experiments and then they’re invited to a bigger job, and of course that’s fine.  That’s what you want to do.

We’ve already mentioned Robert Austin and Irwin Pizer on your staff, and Doris Bolef was an also member of your staff.  How do you see the roles they filled when they were here and the contributions they made to the library?

Well they all made very great contributions.  Since they came at different times, at least Doris Bolef came in a different time from Bob Austin and Irwin Pizer, the contributions were different contributions.  Austin and Pizer were here when the fundamentals of the library had to be reestablished.  Doris Bolef was here when new thrusts from those fundamentals were the logical thing to do, so that they had different roles to play.  Bob Austin also played the role of being a very good person interposed between me and the rest of the staff and between me and the rest of the faculty, because he had a very nice manner about him and soothed things over.  He was in charge of the library for the almost eight months that I was in Japan, and I’d been here only a few months when I left; so he really ran the library in the eight months that I was gone.

Do you think that there are some positions in libraries that should always be filled or never be filled by a degreed librarian?

The more I spend time as an administrator of a library, the less sure I am of all these rules and regulations.  While it’s nice to have a person who is trained in the field and trained in the particular field you’re working in, that is both librarianship and medical librarianship – it saves you a lot of time – it depends upon the individual.  I would rather have a very smart person who never had any training but who could learn quickly and was willing to give a lot of good service and work hard than a person with a Master’s who was just of mediocre intelligence, knowledge, and ability.  So I don’t know what the answer to that is.

One can say there is a pervasive tension in libraries between use and preservation.  Your library seems to have balanced this very well.  Do you think this is the case?

Well, preservation of course can be an endless pit.  You can spend every cent you want that you can hold on to for preservation.  That has not anything special to do with the use because I’m thinking about preparing it for use, such as bindings and air conditioning and special lighting, and so on.  One has to be pragmatic about it.  I’m not sure we do the best; we do what we can.  We don’t think that’s the most important part of the library.

Let’s talk a little bit about the history of medicine and archives collection here.  What was the state of these collections when you arrived?  Had much time, interest, staff, or money been spent on it before you came?

Well, as I mentioned, the library in the 1912 to 1925 period had a great many scholars on the Library Committee and a great interest in the history of medicine.  With the money which they had to buy collections, they bought the Walter Pagel Library after World War I, for example, and their own collections which they left to the library.  I think the library had a very fine standard collection in the history of medicine, a lot of early editions.  As we are now going through and cataloging them all to the modern standards, we keep being amazed at what we have and how good a collection we have.  Then came the Depression and a series of librarians who didn’t have much money and weren’t very interested in this, and the collection was allowed to fall into disuse and dis-care.  There were eight locked bookcases containing the rare book collection at the time when I came, and the Beaumont Collection, and that was all.  Everything else has been acquired since then or pulled out of the regular collection.  We found a lot of things which were bought and just put in the regular collection which now we have segregated into the rare book collection.

In my experience, having two professionals, one for rare books and one for archives, on a staff is almost unheard of for most medical school libraries.  How were you able to obtain two FTE positions for that?

I never had any trouble getting positions once I could persuade them that we needed them.  I think my staff thinks that I am too conservative about it.  I take the point of view that if you hire somebody, you’ve got the responsibility of keeping him on your staff for a long time and you’d better think three times before you hire a new person on your staff.  When I came the Dean as I said was also head of the Department of Anatomy.  He wanted to bring in a young anatomist whose wife wanted to get a Ph.D. in the history of medicine.  In order to persuade the man to come, he had to find a job for the woman.  So he asked me if I would take her on as half time archivist and let her work on the history of the school, which was what they had hoped to have long before I came.  Well of course I was delighted to have that, because I figured in a few years they’ll move on and I’ll have that position, and indeed that’s what happened.  Then I began to build the archives.  We got the Erlanger Collection that I told you about, the man who got the Nobel Prize; and then the Graham Collection, which was a man who founded the American College of Surgeons and the American Board of Surgery and was very important in World War I on wound bacteriology treatment.

Is that a collection on surgery?  Strict surgery or general collection?

It’s his collection, his manuscript collection.  These are not books, these are archives.

Oh, I see, these are archives.

Correspondence and papers, and so on.  Well, it was soon obvious that we needed more than a half time person; so then I hired a full time person, and we continued with the archivist also being the rare book librarian until we began to get gifts of rare book libraries.  We got the Becker Collection of Ophthalmology, and at that point we realized we had to catalog it.  So we got a rare book librarian who would do cataloging, and he had got about once around in the Becker Collection when we got the Central Institute for the Deaf Collection, so we continued that.  Then as we cataloged these new collections, we’d go back to our own collection, and we’d find that very often in our rare book collection, the first item in a binding would have been cataloged, but the other items in that same binding were not.  So we finally decided, well we might as well do the whole thing over again.  So that’s how we get both an archivist and a rare book librarian.  We’ve also persuaded people to give us small amounts of money every year for the purchase of rare books so that they were continually adding.

The original donors, you mean, or the medical school?

Not the original donors, because many of them are dead.  Actually, Becker still continues to do it, and he gives a lot, and not only small amounts but large amounts.  But people for instance there’s one physician in neurosurgery who gives us one of his honoraria for his lectures every year.  It comes just at Christmas time and we expect it, you know.  We look around for something and— Several people do that, and so that gives us a little extra money.

You’ve already discussed the major acquisitions during your tenure – that is, the Central Institute for the Deaf and the Becker Collection.  Are there any other that are outstanding?

Well, yes.  We got the Hallowell Davis papers.  Hallowell Davis worked with Lord Hill in England on muscle physiology, and then he was at Harvard for many years, and then he was in the National Research Council, National Academy of Science, and then he came here to the CID.  He had given some of his papers to Harvard, but all the rest of them we have, and we’re now in the process of bringing order out of them.  We have the Cowdry Papers, which have to do with the establishment of the medical school in Peking, the Rockefeller Medical School, and we have a few other rather nice collections.  In the rare book field we haven’t had any large collections like the Becker and the CID, but we get occasional ones.

Are you involved directly in those departments, that is, making the policy decisions and so forth?

Yes.  One of the things which I do as an administrator is meet with the head of the department every week and discuss problems, get reports about what they’re doing.  I’ve divided it up now with Barbara Halbrook, because I’ve found the span of control was too great and also I figure she’s going to be at least Acting Librarian until they find one.  She ought to know what’s going on.  But there were a few things that I just couldn’t give up. (Laughs)  History of medicine, archives, automation, and reference are the ones which I still keep a hand on.  I enjoy very much working with those groups.

Your history of medicine archives section is located outside of your library.  Do you find the physical location a deterrent to the use of the collection.

Oh, sure.  There’s no doubt about it, except that it didn’t have any place in the main building and at least this way we have a pleasant place; and with our History of Medicine Club meetings right in that building, why it brings people in to see it.  Also, we have some of the journals which are earlier volumes of the ones that are here and anybody doing a long term search of the literature has got to go over there and see them.  But it would be nice to have it all together because we’re continually going back and forth, and while the staff may do it, the readers are not so likely to do it.

You also use that building for off-site storage, do you not?  Does that staff service that off-site storage collection?

Well, this is what I was just saying.  Use of the journals that are the earlier volumes of the journals which are here.

Oh, I see, journals.  What do you consider to be the optimum qualities or characteristics for a history of health sciences librarian?  What kind of education do you think is the best?

Well I think a knowledge of biomedical sciences would be one of the best ones; it’s one you’re least likely to find, but it seems to me that would give you names, places and ideas to hang the work together.  Since so much of the history of biomedical sciences is written in foreign languages, a really good scholar must learn them – not only Latin and Greek, though that’s certainly very, very valuable, but German and French and Spanish and Italian and all the rest of it.  I find a balance between the tight little spinster-like attitude about cataloging and bibliographic description and an understanding of how important or unimportant the details are.  Very difficult.  Very rarely do you find two people with the same idea of where that line is.  I find either the people tend not to pay any attention to bibliographic description in the classic sense of the word, or they spend all their time with it and not in realizing that it’s there for use and not for the intellectual pleasure of the librarian.  That probably is the biggest thing which I would look for in a rare book librarian.

The contribution of your library to the organization of Medical School Archives Collection has been almost unique.  How did the idea of your systems approach to handling archives materials develop?

Well, I read that question last night and thought, “Well gee, I don’t even remember.”  We decided we needed a manual and we wrote a manual, and then everybody who saw it said, “Gee, I’d like to have a copy.”  It was a sleeper in the publishing sense because we only put out 100 copies at first and I guess we must have reprinted that thing ten times and it’s in the second edition and there’s a third edition going to be published fairly soon.  We’re just astonished.  We thought we were doing just the traditional thing, and yet the traditional thing seems to have been useful to a lot of places.

I think that more and more it’s smaller institutions that have never done archives before are looking for models and this has certainly provided them with one.

We’re delighted.

Is publicity for these special collections a major effort in your library?  I know that you have published different special catalogs and listings.

We do three things, I think, with that to publicize.  First of all, we put out a little pamphlet about it.  We’re just now putting together the newest edition, which will describe in greater detail the contents of some of these collections which we have – kind of an overall guide to the collections so that people who are far away can determine whether it’s worth their coming here.  Secondly, we put up exhibits and we do this regularly both here and in the other building, and we publicize them in the local Medical Center publications and on the main campus too.  I’m surprised every now and then to find it in the newspaper.  Apparently, when they run out of space, they look at the Washington University list and pick up a few things.  Then the third thing which we try to do is to write some articles, give some talks in the History of Medicine Club or elsewhere.  One which I published just recently on Joseph Nash McDowell, the fellow who founded the original medical school here and who was really a crazy man (chuckles), has brought me more correspondence and more people, and more people who say, “My great grandfather was in that school and I have his notebooks and would you like them,” and things of that nature.  So we’ve tried to do that kind of thing.

How do you find funding for such special collections and projects as individual catalogs.

Well, the Becker Collection, which is the most expensive we have ever done – we would not have done [it] except Becker gave us the money for it.  He wanted to have copies for some organization of alumni that were coming to give him special honors and he thought it would be nice if each one of them had one.  Since he was going to do that, why he then had allowed us to print several hundred other copies and to sell them and to keep the money to buy more Becker stuff.  So that’s the only one we’ve done of that nature.  We do put our rare book cataloging in OCLC and Chris Hoolihan has worked out a very good system which other libraries are beginning to take over for putting rare books in the OCLC cataloging system.  We make copies of our own card catalog because we keep provenance catalogs and signatures and so on, and other libraries have found that useful.

You distribute cards of these, is that the kind of deal?

If they wish.  Xeroxes, not cards.

You stated earlier that when you came here, one of your requirements was that you’d be able to teach.  Had they been teaching history of medicine here before you came?

Back in the twenties there was a surgeon in the Surgery Department who gave a series of lectures in the history of surgery and indeed he wrote a book.  Major Seelig was his name.  What was the name of the book?  It wasn’t called History of Medicine, but it was some such innocuous title.  When he died or left or whatever, nothing happened until I came.  Then for several years, I gave a required course in the history of medicine to second year students.  Then they had a revision of the curriculum and I guess I was on the Curriculum Committee so I can’t blame it on anybody else.  But then there was no space for required history of medicine; there was space for people who wanted to study the history of medicine to take special courses on their own.  I have had one or two students almost every year who’ve been interested in that.  They have six weeks or twelve weeks (I forget now, it’s such a long time since I’ve done it) in which they can do research on their own and they can take two different subjects.  So often, we would have them working on— For instance, one fellow worked on the English sweat, but he also was interested in cardiology and so he did work on both of those.

Sort of individual study or independent study situation.


Then there are no formal courses being given any longer?

There are no formal courses now.

Your library was very active in organizing library activities of the Regional Medical Program.  How did that come about?

Well the medical school was active in it and so I became active in it.  The head of it was really at St. Louis University, but there were enough people from Washington University on the committee so that I became a member of the committee.  I liked working with it because it was a lot easier to get things done locally than to go to Washington and get them done.  But we made the mistake of allowing Frank O’Leary of St. Louis University to take over the major portion of it and he just ruined it.  He was ill and wasn’t there much and he couldn’t find staff.  They would do things like we had put in money for the purchase of Abridged Index Medicus to go to the small hospital libraries, and he sent it to them without finding out (a) whether they already had it, and (b) if they knew how to use it.  Oh – it would just appear on their desk.  Then we had a traveling library which we’d send with somebody as a peripatetic librarian, only he could never find anybody who would drive the distance and so on, and finally it just petered out.  It was unfortunate because I think it could have been useful.  But that’s how I got into the Regional Medical Program.

Yes.  I was about to ask you if Mid-Continental RML was the last one to be established.

Well now that was the Regional Medical Library.  That’s different from the Regional Medical Program.

Oh, I see what you mean.  Yes.

The Regional Medical Program was on a very different basis.  It was based at the NIH, for one thing, and it was— Well, it developed into the AHECS.  But it was a different program, a different funding, a different legislation completely.  It was decentralized.  Each area decided what it would do and what it wanted and how it would do it and how much money it would require and so on.  Now the Regional Medical Library was under the medical Library Assistance Act.  That was entirely separate.  In fact, they were rivals.  The Regional Medical Program died and the Regional Medical Library continued.  The Regional Medical Library here was supposed to be set up here in St. Louis.

This was the Mid-Continent.

The Mid-Continental Regional Medical Library.  I could not persuade the librarians in St. Louis that they wanted to be in on it at all.  You had to have the backing of the Region in order to get it.

[End of tape two, side two]


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