Interviews with Missouri Librarians

The Beta Phi Mu “Famous Librarians of Missouri” Oral History Project was conducted by students in the “Oral History: Principles and Techniques” class under the supervision of Aurora E. Davis at the University of Missouri-Columbia Graduate School of Library and Information Science between 1980 and 1984.


Susanna Alexander (1917-2003) grew up in St. James, Missouri, and attended Stephens College in Columbia. She worked in reference and technical services at the Stephens College library after World War II. In 1955, she accepted a position as director of the Columbia Public Library. During this time, the Daniel Boone Regional Library system was established to provide improved library services to rural populations. In 1965, she became the associate state librarian at the Missouri State Library. She retired from the Missouri State Library in 1983.

Interview with Susanna Alexander (transcript)


Gene Martin (1926-1985) was born in 1926 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. After working in public libraries in Ohio and Indiana, Martin returned to Missouri as director of the Ozark Regional Library and later the Cape Girardeau Public Library. He then served as the director of Daniel Boone Regional Library and was involved in the Mid-Missouri Library Network.

Interview with Gene Martin (transcript)


Esther Gilman (1916-2000) was born February 4, 1916, in Madison, Kansas. Early on in her career, she worked at public libraries in Lawrence and Dunklin Counties in Missouri. In 1957, Gilman became the first director of the Trails Regional Library following the merger of the Johnson County Public Library and the Lafayette County Library.

Interview with Esther Gilman (partial transcript)


Virginia Garton Young (1919-2005) was an active leader and advocate for libraries. She worked as both a professional librarian in academic libraries and as a library trustee in public libraries in Missouri. In 1966, she published a nationally-recognized book, “The Library Trustee: A Practical Guide Book.” She later served on the Missouri State Library Commission and was chairperson of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education in Missouri.

Interview with Virginia Young (transcript)


Sarah Janice Kee (1908-1998) worked for the Missouri State Library from 1946 to 1950. She was a field consultant from 1946 to 1948, and then became director of, and was largely responsible for the success of, the Missouri State Library Film Demonstration Project between 1948 and 1950. She also served as interim Missouri State Librarian for 10 months in 1949-1950.

Excerpts from an interview with Sarah Janice Kee about her experience in Missouri (transcript)

Full interview with Sarah Janice Kee (transcript)