In her 1969 address as the U-M School of Library Science’s first Alumna in Residence, R. Kathleen Molz (AMLS ’53; PhD [Columbia] ’76) recalled her graduate experience at U-M as one that went beyond passing grades and job placement, and inspired her to do something more than was expected.
Molz noted that her time in Ann Arbor helped her master new disciplines and took her places she didn’t think possible, including a whirlwind trip to the British Museum’s Reading Room, where her status as an American librarian allowed her to enter the famed London library as the lone visitor one Sunday afternoon.
Inspired to visit the Reading Room by discussions with her U-M professor, Mary Parsons, Molz stood beneath the library’s ornate papier-mâché dome and saw the desks of such luminaries as Charles Dickens, Karl Marx and Virginia Woolf.
Professionally, Molz’s career took her to the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore and the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Wilson Library Bulletin as the magazine’s editor, and a role as the head of the Library Planning and Development Branch in the U.S. Office of Education. She then earned her doctorate in library science from Columbia University, where she became the first woman named a Melvil Dewey Professor, a recognition established in 1887 to honor the creator of the Dewey Decimal System and founder of Columbia’s library school.
Drawing from nearly 25 years of teaching experience at Columbia and her accompanying professional background, Molz partnered with Columbia University colleague, Phyllis Dain, to write Civic Space/Cyberspace: The American Public Library in the Information Age.
The book combined the research of Molz and Dain and profiled public libraries at the end of the 20th century, acknowledging how technology was changing the library’s role. Originally published in 2001, Civic Space/Cyberspace was recently reprinted in Japanese.
While Molz was a little surprised that the book would be republished, considering it was based on libraries at the end of the 1990’s, the discoveries that she and Dain made while interviewing sources and visiting public institutions are still applicable to modern libraries.
Their research uncovered a widespread desire to keep the public library tradition alive, to push for new buildings and more funding, and even with the onset of the digital revolution, they found public libraries remained a vibrant fabric of the country’s culture.
Molz says she still maintains a passion for information policy as it relates to libraries and copyright, and is happy that the School of Information has been at the forefront of the evolving nature of library science.
In addition to her role as UMSI’s first alumna in residence, Molz is a former member and president of the Alumni Society Board and has been a loyal donor and strong supporter of UMSI’s annual fund.