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25 Librarians Who Changed World History [VIDEO]

National Library Day is April 8th, and all throughout April libraries and librarians are celebrated.

The people who first organized words and ideas were extraordinary world leaders, famous authors, legendary philosophers, and scholars. Today, one even has an action figure.

Even with Kindle, and electronic books, libraries, and paper books are now, perhaps more important than ever before. And appreciating the institutions that still catalogue paper books, and those who catalogue and organize them, is equally important.

What pre-Google and pre-Internet Americans learned to appreciate was going to the library, getting their first library card, learning the Dewey Decimal System, and reading books printed on paper. (Most still do.)

Learn more about the 21st Century Librarian:

Meet the 25 Famous Librarians Who Changed History, 11 of whom (below) are Americans.

(1) Ben Franklin: Ben Franklin didn’t sit behind a circulation desk, but he was America’s first librarian who helped create America’s first library. In 1731, Franklin and his philosophy group Junto organized the “Articles of Agreement,” which created America’s first library called The Library Company. It was organized as a” subscription library,” where members paid a small fee to retrieve books. Franklin was its second official librarian, and the Company expanded to catalogue more books than most university libraries at the time, including artifacts, coins, and fossils. Membership expanded to include members of the Second Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention, and others.

(2) Melvil Dewey: Melvil Dewey, known as the “Father of Modern Librarianship,” created the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC, or Dewey Decimal System) in 1876. It is the classification system used by all libraries in America. He first worked in a library as student at Amherst College, where he continued working after graduation. Amherst College published his work, A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a Library, after he had spent years experimenting with different cataloging and organization methods. In 1876 Dewey helped create the American Library Association.

(8) J. Edgar Hoover: Hoover is well known as the legendary director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), which he founded in 1935, and spearheaded domestic investigations from 1924-1972. But before this, while attending night school at George Washington University he worked at the Library of Congress, where he was a messenger, cataloguer and clerk.

(9) John J. Beckley: Beckley is recognized as the first political campaign manager in America. But before that, he was the first Librarian of the United States Congress, from 1802-1807. And before that, in 1789, James Madison chose him to be the Clerk of the House.

(15) Beverly Cleary: Remember the Ramona Quimby and Henry Higgins children’s books? Before Cleary wrote them, became a celebrated author and received three Newbery Medals, attended the School of Librarianship at the University of Washington, Seattle, and became a children’s librarian. Her love of books started at a young age when her mother asked the Oregon State Library to send books to their farm near a tiny Oregon town.

(16) Laura Bush: Former First Lady Laura Bush supported librarian recruitment initiatives, touring many libraries around the world.As former First Lady of Texas, her public projects focused on education and literacy. She earned her Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Texas at Austin after working as an elementary school teacher.

(17) Madeleine L’Engle: After writing the award-winning fiction book, A Wrinkle in Time, and winning multiple Newbery Medals and other awards, L’Engle served as the librarian and writer-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

(23) Stanley Kunitz: Before being named the U.S. Poet Laureate in 2000, the celebrated American poet was Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress from 1974-1976. Kunitz was awarded the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the Levinson Prize, the National Medal of the Arts, among others.

America’s Future Librarian Leaders are introducing to the public new trends.

(24) Jessamyn West: West created librarian.net, the Library 2.0 “cool librarian” site, and served on the American Library Association Council. She is an advocate of freedom of speech and expression.

(25) Nancy Pearl: Pearl is the 21st Century “celebrity librarian” who even has her own action figure. She travels the country lecturing about reading and books after starting the trend of city-wide book clubs. She first organized the “If All of Seattle Read the Same Book” program in 1998. She received a Women’s National Book Association Award, served as Executive Director of the Washington Center for the Book, and wrote the best-selling book, Book Lust.

For those who loved to watch this show, another video for a trip down memory lane.

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