Monday, July 9, 2018

Elizabeth "Libby" Holder: Bridging Woman's College and UNC Greensboro in the Library

On August 1, 1947, Elizabeth "Libby" Holder arrived at the Woman's College (now UNCG) campus to start work as the new Assistant Circulation Librarian. The library was housed in the Carnegie Library (now the Forney Building), which had been built in 1905. And many of the faculty members from the earliest years of the college remained either on staff or retired but still active in campus life, including Mary Channing Coleman, Edward J. Forney, and Cornelia Strong. But, during Holder's years as a librarian on the campus, she witnessed numerous changes that helped the university develop into the institution it is today.

Elizabeth "Libby" Holder
Holder was born on July 1, 1914 in Winston-Salem, and was the first baby born in the Ardmore neighborhood. Elizabeth Avenue in that neighborhood is named in her honor. After graduating from R.J. Reynolds High School, she attended Duke University for one year and then transferred to Salem College, where she graduated in 1935.

She began work at the Woman's College library with a strong background in librarianship, including work as Assistant Librarian at Salem College (1935-1937) and children's room librarian at New York Public Library (1937-1940). She had also worked as a reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal-Sentinel (1941-1943) and head of the children's books section at Straughans' Book Shop (1945-1946). When she began at Woman's College, she was offered an annual salary of $2200.

In addition to her library work, Holder studied art at Columbia University and enjoyed illustrating. In 1948, she illustrated the book Tell Me a Story by Katharine Boring Rondthaler (Bethlehem, Pa., The Comenius Press). This book featured children's stories about the early history of the Moravian church and the surviving costumes and traditions of the wife of the President of Salem College. Holder's illustrations were all done in pen and ink, but printed on a light blue paper. As Holder noted in a form submitted to the campus news bureau, "the costumes of the children and architectural detail are authentic, even though imaginatively interpreted." She also contributed illustrations to the 1955 book Old Salem and North Carolina Cookery and numerous other pamphlets and publications.

Perhaps one of the most exciting challenges during this time period, though, was a move of the campus library from the old Carnegie Library building to the new library building (now Jackson Library) in 1950. The move was a long and complicated process. As Holder noted in a 1990 oral history interview, the move was completed using campus laundry baskets. She notes, "they had a chute up to the second floor and our books were packed in the laundry baskets and sent there - the chute - into an awaiting truck. Then they were carted across over to the new library. And each stack was assigned a member of the building and grounds to help unpack." Initially, the library staff had hoped to do the move after commencement, but unfortunately, they had to do the move during exam time. She proudly noted, though, that the library was never inaccessible to students. She stated, "if you put in an order for a book in the morning, we guaranteed to find it for you by two o'clock in the afternoon. It might be in the truck. It might be in a basket. It might be in the new building. But we tried."

In 1955, Holder completed her master's degree in library science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her master's paper was a history of the WC library. Three years later, she left the Woman's College to serve as Librarian at Brevard College (Brevard, NC). But, in August 1963, she returned to Greensboro as Head Reference Librarian at UNCG. The school's name had changed since she had left, and, in one year, undergraduate men would begin enrolling.

The changes kept coming for both Holder and Jackson Library. After the retirement of Director of the Library Charles Adams in 1969, Holder served as the Acting Director until his successor James Thompson arrived in 1970. Then in 1973, the library tower addition opened.

Holder dressed in 18th century Moravian costume
On August 1, 1976, Holder officially retired as Head Reference Librarian. In an article in Library Columns (the Jackson Library newsletter), Director James Thompson wrote that "Elizabeth Holder has had a rich professional career which has earned her a reputation as one of the leading reference librarians in the country. A complete listing of the offices she has had in professional organizations, the papers she has read at professional meetings, and her published works would fill the rest of this newsletter ... Suffice it to say that the loss of Libby Holder to us in Jackson Library, to her University, and to her profession will be irreparable. Her wit, charm, good humor, and high standards of professional performance will be sorely missed."

After her retirement, Holder remained in Greensboro where she was an active member of the First Moravian Church and served as the congregation's librarian. She also frequently dressed in 18th century Moravian costume to do presentations for elementary school children. She also volunteered at the Greensboro Historical Museum, where she was honored with the Governor's Volunteer Service Award. Holder passed away on October 19, 2009 at age 95.

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