Edna Bothe

Edna BotheEdna Emilie Bothe was born in July 29, 1900, in Warrenton, Missouri. She graduated from Central Wesleyan College in Warrenton in 1922. Ms. Bothe taught high school in Shelbina, Missouri, in 1922-1923, and Essex, Iowa, in 1923-1924. She taught high school history and math in New Canton, Illinois, in 1924-1925. While teaching high school, she attended graduate school at the University of Missouri during summers. She completed a master’s degree in English Literature from the University in 1926. Her thesis was entitled “Continental Influences on the English Prayer Book, 1549-1552.” During the 1926-1927 school year, she taught high school in Benld, Illinois.

In 1929, she graduated from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign with a master’s degree in Library Science. Following graduation, she was hired as assistant librarian and library science instructor at Western Kentucky State Teacher’s College. In 1932 or 1933, she became head of the library science department at the college.

Edna BotheIn December 1947, she was named the librarian, and assisted in the formation, of the Lawrence County Library in Mt. Vernon, Missouri. During that time, she was member of an informal group of 10-13 county library directors who met regularly on Sundays in Jefferson City with the Missouri State Librarian to discuss library work. After leaving Lawrence County, she served as the director of the Dunklin County Library from January 1953 to 1957.

While at the university, she founded the Eclectic Book Club. The club included monthly programs, along with book discussions, and had officers, dues, and bylaws. It continued to meet until 2004.

In September 1943, Ms. Bothe was hired as the Director of Field Services for the Missouri State Library. When she arrived, there was only one county library in Missouri (Platte County). In 1944, the Missouri State Library launched an enormous campaign to reach underserved library populations and create county libraries. Ms. Bothe visited one-hundred libraries in 1944. Over the next two decades, Ms. Bothe continued to travel around the state and met with countless citizen groups to promote library service, organize library service demonstrations, and advise county library campaigns. Forty-three county libraries had been created in Missouri by 1953.

Edna BotheThe success continued throughout the 1950’s. The State Library, with Ms. Bothe as Director of Field Services, had helped organize 109 library campaigns by 1961. The effort resulted in 84% of the state’s population was being served through 101 municipal, 30 county, and 13 regional libraries.

Susanna Alexander, former Associate State Librarian with the Missouri State Library, was interviewed in 1980 and recollected about Ms. Bothe’s contributions to public libraries in Missouri: “Many of us give Miss Bothe a great deal of credit for the public library development ion Missouri. She worked very hard in developing ways that might help people see what public library services really mean[t] to them and vote to support it. She was the leader in the demonstration program and helped to create the sixteen regional libraries that exist today in Missouri.”

In 1952, Ms. Bothe taught library science classes during the summer semester at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and West Virginia University.

Edna BotheWhile at the Missouri State Library, Ms. Bothe published several articles about extension services in national journals, including “Missouri – ‘Show-Me’ Library Service State” in Library Journal (1956); “Good Harvest for Missouri Libraries” in Library Journal (1959); and “A ‘Good Neighbor’ Policy of Library Extension” in ALA Bulletin (1960).

In 1964, after the resignation of Paxton Price, Ms. Bothe served as Interim Missouri State Librarian.

After her retirement in 1965, Mr. Bothe remained active in church and civic work, including adult literacy programs, the federal prisoner visitation program, and the Springfield Job Corps. She passed away on January 13, 1981. Ms. Bothe is buried at the Warrenton City Cemetery in Warrenton, Missouri.