Sunday, February 15, 2009

An early special librarian: Hazel Ohman Oille

Last week at work, my colleague Linda showed me a great photo from our library's collection of a librarian named Hazel Ohman, who worked in the Music and Research Library of NBC. The photo was dated 1931.

My curiosity kicked into high gear and I started poking around for information on Hazel, who later became Hazel Ohman Oille/Ollie. I've seen both spellings but am leaning toward the former since I've seen Hazel with that name in two separate issues of Special Libraries, the "official journal" of the Special Libraries Association from 1910 to 1996. (As an aside, all issues of the journal have been scanned and are available in PDF format on the SLA Web site.)

I found an article Hazel wrote for the February 1942 issue of "Special Libraries" titled "Employment Opportunities for Special Libraries." At that time, Hazel was working as a Research Librarian in the Division of Placement and Unemployment Insurance in the Department of Labor in New York City. News libraries get a mention toward the end of her article when she writes "There also seems to be somewhat of a shortage of male librarians for newspaper libraries." (The article begins on page 9.)

In 1943, Hazel was working as the Assistant Director in the Bureau of Planning at the New York Division of Commerce in Albany, New York. She spoke at the SLA Wartime conference in June of that year on the topic of "Basic Social Insurance Literature."

Hazel is mentioned in a 1996 publication commemorating the 50th anniversary of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. In an entry dated 1945 it states "Hazel Ohman Ollie, library consultant, begins organization of the ILR Library." (Note the different spelling of her last name.)

It sounds like Hazel had a very interesting career. I'm still looking for what else I can find about her and will probably contact SLA to see what they have in their archives. In the meantime, it's fun reading old articles about special libraries and thinking about the practices that are similar, completely different and have significantly evolved.


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