Today’s entry comes from Agnes Widder, Humanities Bibliographer at Michigan State University Libraries. I (KB) found the image above through an obituary from Rice University’s Fondren Library Newsletter. If you know anything else about its provenance or owner, please let me know!
Beth J. Shapiro was a librarian at Michigan State University, where I have been working since 1979. She was at that time the Urban Policy and Planning Librarian. Then she became our Head of Public Services, and then Deputy Director. Richard Chapin, our long time director, had hoped she would succeed him as Director of Libraries. But the staff didn’t really want her. She was too bright, too energetic, too critical—in short, a micro manager! So she didn’t become our director. Instead she became director for Rice University Libraries, in Texas. And they loved her!
I dare say it was our loss. She’d worked at Michigan State as a student assistant, as a clerical assistant, and in a number of librarian positions. For years everything I did, every book I selected, I did with her looking over my shoulder! She was a true giant of late 20th century academic librarians, active in the ALA, and an author of books and articles.
She was born a Jewish woman, and she was originally from Boston, I think. She came to the Midwest as a college student, became a radical, and obtained a PhD in sociology and a library degree. Her husband was Russ Barnes, an African American man.
Unfortunately, she had breast cancer and died, too young, at age 49, in 1995. This was after she had beaten it, but it came back in her brain. Her daughter was a small girl then. We were bidden to write letters so that Gabby would know more about her mother.
There are articles about Beth:
Library Resources and Technical Services, Oct., 1995, v. 39, pp. 442-443 (obituary).
Library Journal, June 1, 1990, v. 115, p. 34.
American Libraries, Oct., 1990, v. 21, p. 864.
There are also 15 entries by her in the Library Literature Database.
There is a book-length biography of her by her brother, Alan Shapiro (1952-), called Vigil. He was a professor of literature and a poet.
I didn’t appreciate her as much as I should have!