While doing some research at the NY Public Library I found myself confronted by something in my profession. I was entranced by the Astor room, a gleaming three story entryway of marble and when I read the dedication I saw that it was named in honor of a philanthropist who had sat on the library board for a number of decades. When I first began my career in public libraries I worked at the LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library. LeRoy Collins had been a major figure in state politics and the library director was vehement about the full name of the library always being used. "Good afternoon, welcome to the LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library, how can I help you" is a mouthful to get out every time you are doing telephone reference.
What I have come to understand is that libraries are not named after librarians. No matter what I accomplish in my career there will never be a Christian Zabriskie Library (unless, as waggish friends have suggested, I quit my job, go out and make a ton of money, then dedicate that to a library). I understand that financiers are crucial to libraries since they provide the cash to do major capital improvements and I also understand that naming a building after someone's mother is a great way of raising cash. It is just a little depressing that if Joe starts a hot dog stand he can call it Joe's Hot Dog Stand and have a sense of ownership over it. I myself grew up in and around my father's business, Zabriskie's Pharmacy, and it made me really proud to have my name up on a sign on mainstreet.
Of course I realize that by the very nature of my profession I cannot OWN the library, it is the public's property not mine and I am a caretaker and facilitator between them and it and will be even when I am a library director. In some cases though this lack of recognition for our profession seems a little ridiculous.
Melvile Dewey is often called the Father of Modern Librarianship. Not only did he invent the Dewey Decimal Classification system which is still used in most American public libraries, he also was one of the founders of the American Library Association, and helped to start Library Journal, to this day the largest professional journal out there. He was one of the great agents of social change in our society as his reinvisioning of the public library made it accessible to people of all classes. He was instrumental in founding the first school of library science at Columbia University and demanded that the school be open to women. He reformed the Library of Congress and made it the national catalogue that it is today. The public library as we know it simply would not exist were it not for this man.
Yet I cannot find a single library anywhere named in his honor...