A woman in a smock and white cotten gloves reviews a film strip with an instrument.

A Look at Librarians

By Alexsandra Mitchell

The job description for today’s librarian is ever-changing, adapting to constantly evolving technological advancements that better serve library users.  Libraries have expanded with these advancements to include the use of websites, databases, search engines, scanners, E-Books, and born-digital resources.

This February, on the occasion of African American History Month, let us take a look back and appreciate the work of African American librarians, from leaders like Jean Blackwell Hutson and Dorothy Porter Wesley, to the many librarians and technicians who together helped to shape, develop, and advance the modern library.

This gallery takes a look at African American staff members at the National Library of Medicine between 1948 and 1977.  These skilled librarians were responsible for helping the library through its transition from the Army Medical Library to the National Library of Medicine and for serving the public through the many organizational and technological changes that preceded today’s digital information age.  These skilled workers utilized ‘state of the art’ equipment and data services throughout this time period such as the Densitometer and Flexowriter typewriters, Haloid Xerox Copy Flo, punch cards, magnetic tape units, the dial-up (literally, as it required you to call in) version of MEDLINE, and the AVLINE database system.

portrait of Alexsandra MitchellAlexsandra Mitchell was a 2013 Association of Research Libraries Career Enhancement Program Fellow in the History of Medicine Division and a Brooklyn based international research scholar.


  1. These pictures are historic. We can’t ignore their contributions for the advancement of modern-days library.

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