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.
This librarian is sorting serials in the catalog division, 1948. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/5439kr
Miss Meeds compares a catalog card to the title page of a book, 1948. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/dyb9xa
Mrs. Eddie Dent and Agnes Boush organize items in the catalog bindery, 1948. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/822nz6
A group of library workers utilize the duplicating machine, catalog cards, and manual typewriters, 1948. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/602vf4
Mr. Charles Mooney is captured by the camera in a session of ‘shingling’-a type of book binding, 1953. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/jr3w4m
Mr. Gibson operates the microfilm camera, 1954. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/a4j9y4
Mr. Shifflet photocopies items in the Photographic Services Division, 1958. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/n401qh
James Goldsmith stands in front of the magnetic tape control unit, circa 1960. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/lxs9m9
A woman operates the RSD/PSD mobile camera to microfilm materials, circa 1960. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/y12a9g
An operator in the Bibliographic Services Division completes her data processing using the IBM Card Punch System, circa 1960. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/3qbfds
Two librarians operate the data entry computers in the Bibliographic Services Division, circa 1960. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/40xphj
This librarian uses the state of the art Friden Flexowriter typewriter in the Bibliographic Services Division to index items, circa 1960. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/5wkifv
Mattie White, Mr. Richardson, and Mr. Green are sitting at their desks in the Inter Library Loan Division, 1962. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/2144lz
Mr. Parkam uses the microfilm camera, 1962. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/hx4i4u
Mr. Bragg looks at a book in the RSD/PSD stacks, 1963. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/la201v
Frank Shifflett ensures things are going well on the Copy Flo machine, used to turn microfilm items into print format, 1963. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/425agz
Mr. Holman and Mr. Kinslow work diligently in the library’s book binding section, 1963. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/jtxw03
Mr. Drew mans the Main Reading Room’s reference desk. The main reading rooms holdings were essential to students and professionals in the health sciences, 1969. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/4y9oau
Miss Frances Joseph operates the preservation camera in the photo duplication section, 1969. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/1k172h
Mrs. Pearl Caldwell operates the MacBeth densitometer, which measures the degree of darkness of a photographic or semitransparent material or of a reflecting surface, 1969. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/0n4rxd
A librarian uses the Xerox Copy Flo machine, 1969. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/de1dmr
This librarian reveals the interior of the Flo Machine to the photographer, 1969. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/52spp6
Yvonne Scott dials in to MEDLINE, circa 1970. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/974vq2
Howard Drew and other library users search through the state of the art card catalog, circa 1970.http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/56u0pf
Librarian Yvonne Scott uses the punch card machine, circa 1970. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/z8106l
A library user in the audiovisual learning resource area of the library searches AVLINE using Medical Subject Headings, 1977. http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/s/zi30yd
Alexsandra 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.