I decided to write an article about Marjorie C. Keenleyside, the first librarian of Roosevelt College because of a photograph: www.ila.org/pub/reporter/vol23no2.pdf . I contributed this particular photograph to the ILA Reporter in 2005 and they used it on their cover. They photoshopped in a fellow in a sweater and jeans as the "Building the Future" part of their slogan.
Marjorie C. Keenleyside is the woman in the center, carrying an armload of books and sporting the checked dress and the trendy do. She is both quaint-looking and unusual for the time. The picture was taken in the 1940s and she is in the process of organizing the first library of Roosevelt College. Her glasses and print dress make her look quaint and amusing, but we also see that she has a rather wild hair style and two of her co-workers are African-American. College-educated African-Americans were rare in the 1940s.
She had just joined Edward Sparling in walking out of Central YMCA College because of Sparling's refusal to accept racial quotas for students, and she was facing the challenge of creating a library from scratch for the college. Her version of this adventure can be found in Illinois Libraries May 1951. (Click here to Download illinois_libraries_may_1951.pdf ).
We might question why she chose to do this. She was over-qualified for the job. She already held a Doctorate in Library Science from the University of Chicago, and while at Roosevelt, she obtained a second Doctorate, in Spanish. She had experience teaching both subjects.
We do know that she was good at her job. These letters were written by a group of students from Chicago Teachers College after she took them on a tour in 1962: "Never in my years of visiting other libraries (and this has been from one end of the globe to the other), have I encountered any person who was more public-relations minded in informing the passerby than Mrs. Marjorie C. Keenleyside." "I met the most charming person who was bursting with enthusiasm about library work. If only there were more people like Mrs. Keenleyside speaking to future librarians perhaps we would have more library teachers." "A visit with Mrs. Keenleyside, the Head Librarian at Roosevelt College, is a rare treat for any librarian. The warmth and enthusiasm she brings to an interview is not only inspirational, but a miniature course in librarianship."
These letters exist because large numbers of President Sparling's papers were saved and are today stored in the archives, and he saved all the correspondence he received from her. This is one of the differences between a library and an archives- a large portion of the items owned by an archives are unique items, which are known to and seen by few people.
The most interesting of her letters deal with her interest in Latin America. She reviewed books on Latin America for Library Journal and taught Spanish in the early 1960s. She had friends in the Guatemala Archives and National Library. She traveled to San Carlos in 1948, lead a group of Roosevelt students on summer session in Guatemala in 1950, and visited again in 1954. She wrote a guidebook for the students she accompanied to Guatemala called "Let's Go Guatemala!" Here is a snippet:
Simple summer cotton dresses or blouses and skirts are correct for school wear. A top coat, suit, or twin sweater set for evening, date dresses for dances, and a formal just in case, a folding raincoat and folding plastic overshoes, and winter pajamas are recommended. When it rains, it RAINS! And nights are COLD. Mid-riffs, off-the shoulder blouses, blue jeans, and slacks are not proper in Latin America. And don't forget sun glasses, bathing suits, and sturdy walking shoes. Boys can judge for themselves, and remember raincoats!
During the summer of 1954, while she was in Guatemala, the leftest government of President Arbenz (Guzman) Jacobo was overthrown by pro-American rebels headed by Col. Carlos Castillo. She remained in Guatemala during this period, and wrote a series of letters to her friends in the states describing what she witnessed. I have scanned three of them: Download july_1_1954.pdf Download july_30_1954.pdf Download august_15_1954.pdf
Marjorie C. Keenleyside remained director of Roosevelt University's library until 1966, a total of 21 years of service.
One last item- she was a lover of film and many of her letters discuss them. Here's her review of Marilyn Monroe's "Niagara": "A gruesome picture with nice scenery, and my first introduction to the questionable charms of Marilyn."
Submitted by Michael Gabriel