Major: I’ve looked at pictures of the original library space and …
Ladd: Could you believe it?
Major: Well, what a dark, crowded place!
Ladd: Of course.
Major: Who planned that first library space?
Ladd: Well, they were able to get a building, period. Because, other than
that, when I went there as a student, we had the old Larchmont School
building, which had already been condemned, but they fixed it up so
it was usable. And so, when I was a student, there wasn’t any library
there. But after I graduated from William and Mary, and came to find
out that they were looking for a librarian, I found out that the library
was in one side of the front end of the Administration building, which
was the first new building, but you can’t tell now because the campus
is so different, I guess…. But, at any rate, that took care of classrooms,
offices of the staff, physical education, and then there was Mr. Foreman’s
field that they used to call it..
Major: They still do.
Ladd: They do? Well, and it was just the front end, at first, and then
the library got to be pretty crowded, because when the boys came back
from the service, with the GI Bill of Rights, all of a sudden we had
men back again -–and very bright young men; people who wanted to learn.
And so they enlarged the library by giving me part of the physical education
area. Which doesn’t happen often to libraries!
Major: No. The locker room, wasn’t it?
Ladd: Yes, it was part of the locker room. And so we were able, then to
put stacks in.
And, at first, I can’t remember now how many, but I think there were
no more than 2,000 books at the most when I started. And, a number of
those were in disrepair. When I went back to a reunion once, and I mentioned
how I happened to be there, one of the students who had been there when
I was the librarian said, "And you mended almost every one of them!."
Major: My gosh.
Ladd: And I said, "Well, not quite!" But I did have to do a
lot of mending.
Major: I’m sure!
Ladd: The war came along, and I had a WPA worker, and then she did the
mending for 30 cents an hour.
Major: So, the library space, to begin with, I assume was just a big room?
Was there any work space, or was it just….
Ladd: There was a little cubbyhole down at the front end where I could
retreat and work on books a little bit. Other than that it was mostly
tables and chairs, and just some books around the wall. That was it.
Major: And then, as time went on they put some of those wooden stacks in
the middle of the room...
Ladd: And there was a little workroom added towards the back, and the
previous work place was dismantled, that’s how that operated.
Major: Was there any equipment…..a typewriter or anything?
Ladd: Yes, there was a typewriter, and I was able to buy some mending
materials, and such as that. Eventually, when I got the larger space,
they built a desk for me…I mean a service desk, and so on, where I could
file the circulation cards, and so on. And we, I think, probably bought
a second catalog cabinet, and a display stand.
Major: It sounds as though the space was adequate to begin with, because
there were so few books.
Ladd: Yes, that was the idea. And the person who was running the library,
in a sense, such as it was, was Frances Saunders, who was teaching English.
And in between times she sort of looked after the library.
Major: I read that, and I wondered what she did, if she was the first librarian
or if she… In the first catalogs, they give her name as "librarian"
but, what -- she saw that the books were shelved?
Ladd: She probably did some purchasing of books. After all, she was teaching,
and how much time she could give to the library, I don’t know.
Major: That’s right. And, during your time, there was the first expansion,
where you took over the locker room. There was at least one other expansion
that I know about, where they took over the book store. I think that ….
Was that during your time, or was that after?
Ladd: No. That must have been later.
Major: So, in your time, was it a one-story library, or was it….No, the locker
room would have been downstairs…
Ladd: There was a storage area under the stairs just outside the library
Ladd: Mine was on the first floor.
Major: Oh, really?
Ladd: And the business offices…Dean's office, Registrar's office, and
Treasure Room . Actually, it was Dean Billy Hodges, a sweet man who
got in trouble eventually, but…
Major: That’s what everybody says: a sweet man, apparently tremendously popular.
Ladd: He loved his own children so much, he wanted to help other people’s
sometimes when they didn’t have enough to go on, but that was one of
those things. The stacks went in slowly – not all in one year, because
of the budget restrictions. When I started to work there, I got the
magnificent salary of $75 a month, for ten months. And then they allowed
me to do summer school, as well, and I made a little bit more. The next
year, my raise was to $87.50. When I see beginning salaries of $23,000
I think, boy, was I a piker! But it was the tail end of the Depression,
and fortunately for Norfolk, the Depression brought that college there,
and brought excellent teachers; they were almost all Ph.D.s who were
directly concerned with the classes. There was nobody to read papers
or to correct, anything like that. The faculty member and the students
were together. And it was a magnificent experience for us. And it cost
so little when I went there.
Major: When you got that job, was there a lot of competition for the job?
Ladd: I don’t think so. The salary and the situation were not appealing
to an experienced librarian. You might be interested in what I had by
way of education at that time. The state of Virginia had realized suddenly
that none of the public schools in Virginia, really, had any libraries.
And so the Division of Textbooks and Libraries set about to teach some….
To have some people taught what you have to do in a library. And there
was a very good man who was head of Textbooks and Libraries at that
time. And so he made an arrangement with William and Mary to work with
the Education Department, teaching library science. I had a major in
library science and a minor in mathematics. What we were to do was to
go out and teach -- get a teaching job, and volunteer for the library,
and be so good at the volunteering for the library that the 2nd
year, at least, maybe the 3rd year, they would hire us as
librarian in that school. That was the purpose of the education I had
at William and Mary, and we did have some good people. And for the job
that I went to, it really was almost all I needed. But when I got back
to Norfolk after graduating from William and Mary, I found out that
the position was open, and I went and applied for it. And I remember
telling Dean Hodges that I was a good librarian. And I got away with
it! laughter Anyway, things went on after that, and I realized that
I needed more training and the next thing I did in a few years was to
get certificated by the state of Virginia as a librarian. I took a devilish
exam…took me all day, I think. We had to go up to Richmond, and I think
it was given to us in the old State Library. So I was legitimate, to
that extent. Later on I went 4 summers to Columbia and got it legalized,
so to speak.
Major: Can you tell me, what was the recruitment process like? Did you just
go and speak with Dr. Hodges? Was there an interview? Did they show you
around? What was it like?
Ladd: Well, they did show me around, such as it was. But, as a matter
of fact, one of my roommates was working at the college -–she graduated
the year before I did. She was also a Norfolk Division student! And
she was working in the office at the Division at that time, and she
was the one who told me that they had a vacancy at the Division, would
I be interested? And I said yes, and went out, and I don’t know that
they had anybody else. So, there I was. And I think Dr. Hodges asked
Ernest Gray and a couple of other faculty members about me -- what kind
of student I was -- and, one way and another, there I was. For 11 years.
And in the last 2 years, I also did St. Helena.
Major: Yes, and I know very little about that. It was an extension operation?
Ladd: It was St. Helena Extension of William and Mary. There were too
many veterans who wanted to go to school, so they set up, over in a
part of Norfolk that was the Berkeley area. There were Army buildings
there, and it was called St. Helena – the area was, where the military
equipment was. And that’s where they set up the college, in the Army
buildings. And there I began practically with nothing again, and several
of the faculty members there brought their trunk-loads of books which
they put in the library, and then we started to do some selection, and
bought some more things. Some of the books for St. Helena came from
Servicemen's libraries discontinued after the war. Colonol Fitzroy,
the director of St. Helena, made the contacts for that, I think, and
I went to the Norfolk Naval Base where the books were stored and selected
appropriate titles. I already had the experience at the Division, so
I went over there…. I supervised there, as well as being librarian at
the Division. So I got a little "upsy" on the salary, for
Major: Of course. How long did you work without any kind of staff assistance?
Ladd: I think I had maybe one or two…after three or four years, I had
two or three students, and I had, also, the WPA worker. She was very
good. The WPA had trained them as book menders – book fixers – and she
cleaned every page of the book. And she was just as neat as she could
be. She just sat and worked. I thought she was wonderful. They really
got their money’s worth. But, anyway, St. Helena went for two years,
and when it closed down, all of the books came ….all of the books we
had purchased, you know, for the library came to the Division.
Major: When you got the WPA person, did you have to recruit the person, or
was it a transaction of the college and they just gave the person to you?
Ladd: No. I found out by going to a library meeting … and I agree, I think
belonging to library groups is a very fine idea. You learn from your
colleagues, especially when you start out kind of green, you know. And
I found out that I could get a WPA worker. I might have even learned
that from one of the people who sold books at the convention, I’m not
And so I just…I did what I had to do. And this woman had a son, and
I think what she made was just about all she had; the boy was working.
So it was wonderful for her, and she was always pleasant and such. Later
on I had two full-timers, and still some student assistants. One young
man that I liked very much could do almost anything. He always called
me "boss lady." Some of these students, you know, were just
as old as I was. Anyway, that’s how it was. And we did increase the
holdings in the library. We displayed new books and we had some other
kinds of books on special subjects on exhibit.
Interviewer2: How big was the school when you were there?
Ladd: How many students?
Ladd: I really don’t know.
Major: I know that at the beginning a lot of the collection was donated.
Was there any money budgeted to buy books?
Ladd: Yes. As you know, the budget is a biennial, and I think the amount
went up every year. In a small way, but it did improve.
Major: But, even so, there were a lot of donated books in the collection.
Ladd: Oh, there were many donated books. And there were -- I remember
we had groups and individuals. Norfolk was a funny place. (Still is,
I expect.) But it was a city that was really a small town.
Major: Still is.
Ladd: I expect so.
Major: It really is.
Ladd: And…somehow there were groups in the city that gave. There was –
this is sort of an aside, but it may amuse you – there was an elderly
woman whose name was Mrs. Frank Anthony Walk, and she was in charge
of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. And, after her husband died
– and he was a character, as well – she was in mourning. Not for him,
but for the Confederacy! And she, and Dr. William Henry Tappy Squires,
who was a Presbyterian minister who lived fairly near where I lived,
in Riverview in Norfolk, came over to the college to present a set of
books on the Confederacy. I’ve forgotten the title, but they were "good
as new. Never been used!" I don’t know how long they had never been
used, but that’s what they were. So the two of them were getting ready
to make a little speech to present, and Mrs. Frank Anthony Walk said
to Dr. Squires, "Come, Dr. Squires. It’s time to begin to get started
to commence!" And it went like that for quite a while. And there
were people who regularly gave their "books of the month,"
which often were quite good, and the students had to have something
to read other than textbooks, of course. The library was a study hall,
as well. And it also served for registration, and a number of other
One of our classic stories was the day we got a little bit slap-happy
and tired late in the afternoon of registration. People had these tables,
giving advice, and so forth, and there was one young man who turned
up. His name is what amused us all. His name was James Trivelpiece from
Shickshinny, Pennsylvania. You can imagine, at about 5 o’clock in the
afternoon of a registration day… We just got completely undone with
this wonderful name.
Major: When you did buy books, did you select them? Did the faculty select
them? How did it work?
Ladd: A combination. They were very helpful. The worst trouble was, I
did have, occasionally, a faculty member who would put something on
reserve and then take it out himself, so there wasn’t anything left
other than maybe one copy for the class to use while he taught from
Major: How funny. It sounded, from some of your annual reports, as though
during the war years, the rate of publishing went way down.
Ladd: It did, and then some of the books were on such a cheap paper. Everything
went to war, at that time.
Major: Yeah. I concluded that that was what it was, but I was born in 1939,
Ladd: You were too young to be affected by the war….
Major: That’s for sure! After they hired you, and you came to work, was there
any training? Did they assume you knew what you needed to know?
Ladd: They did assume so. I had some favorites among the faculty, and
I trusted them to help me out on selection and such. And they were really
good about it. I pretty much had a free hand.
Major: What did you do all day? Were there lots of kids in there needing
help all the time?
Ladd: Yes, there were. There were a fair number. There was always a group
of "greasy grinds" – this is one of the things they used to
call them, but they were often dedicated students. They really wanted
to learn, and such. So there seemed to be enough to do all the time.
Getting the books in and out, putting them on reserve and taking them
off, and trying to keep the place quieted down.
Major: Right…. Was the teaching at that time….. How much library use was
part of regular teaching at the time you were there?
Ladd: Not very much, I guess, except for the reading lists that the faculty
members had. It was obvious that they couldn’t do any original research,
to speak of. They could read books, and work up some things, you know,
Major: So I’m guessing that you were never asked to do anything like bibliographic
Ladd: I did some, in the English classes.
Major: What did students come to college knowing about using a library?
Ladd: Not much.
Major: Very little?
Ladd: Some. The Norfolk Public Library was on the east end of Freemason
Street at that time.
Major: It was a private library, wasn’t it?
Ladd: It was a public library. But I was very fond of that library, because
it was in the downtown area, and my mother would go shopping and park
me at the library, and I had a wonderful time. And there was a nice,
comfortable older woman, who always wore black. She was from a very
nice family, and she had done a lot of reading, and that was her charm
I just thought she was wonderful. And so we just went around the library,
you know, and she would tell me, "these are the things to read."
I got loads of mythology – I just loved that – all kinds of things.
And that’s why I got interested in being a librarian. I just thought
they knew everything. There was a branch of the public library in the
newer Larchmont School building across Hampton Boulevard from the Division,
which the students could use.
Major: Even from the beginning of my time as a librarian, I rarely met anyone
my age who went to college knowing that they wanted to be a librarian.
Most of us found it as a fallback from something else.
Ladd: Right. Well that sort of happened to me, as well, because I was
going to be teacher, that’s what I thought I would do. But I got in
education courses and I wasn’t very happy with some of them. And so
the possibility of working in the library science with it appealed to
Interviewer2: She taught 7th grade for one year, and it cured her!
Major: By October, I was looking to see what else I could do, because that
was certainly not it! It sounded, from some of the things I read, as thought
the William and Mary library science program was, in some sense, accredited
or sanctioned by ALA.
Ladd: It may have been. I don’t know that. I joined ALA early on, because
we were told….and I remember one of the teachers that we had in library
sciences came from North Carolina – she was a ball of fire – and she
told us that we ought to join the local association and also the American
Library Association because we could learn a lot from both of those.
And she told us to have a good looking dress to wear to the meetings,
and to wear it, so that people could say, "there’s that woman in
the red dress" or "the one in the black and white jacket"
or something of that sort, to identify. Wear it enough so that you get
identified by it.
You know, there’s more than one way to skin the cat.
Major: Were you encouraged to get the 5th year degree at Columbia,
or did you decide that the situation…
Ladd: No, I did that on my own. I knew I was going. Actually, there were
two other women in the area – I think both of them worked at the Norfolk
Public Library, as a matter of fact – they… one of them, Mary Calvert
Dye, was my age, and the other was a little bit older. She was the daughter
of one of the admirals in the war. Anyway…. They went to Columbia the
same time I did, and I guess we talked quite a bit about it. As I said,
I learned from so many people, not just in class, but otherwise. And
I didn’t have to take some of the courses; I took some preliminary exams
at Columbia, and got out of taking some of the courses. And then Also,
I had to fill in some academic courses, and so by getting rid of some
library courses I was able to take a course in Russian literature and
another 18th Century British literature, and a course in
Ancient History with Robert McClelland of the Division. But anyway,
that sort of evened it out, so I was able to be through in four summers.
Major: But that’s what it took: four summers to get that 5th year
Major: Three courses a summer?
Ladd: Yes, at least three. It was a busy time. I loved New York. It was
a time when things didn’t cost so much…. Columbia wasn’t cheap, but
you could eat really cheap. We could get breakfast for 15 cents, or
something like that, and dinner was often only 55 cents. And this was
because local people had little -- five to six tables in their basement,
and would feed the Columbia students. It was very nice. We could get
a light lunch, also, at John Jay Hall, or one of the places that had
kind of a cafeteria style.
Major: One of the things that I noticed in the catalog was, although your
name never had academic rank beside it….
Ladd: I was on the faculty right from the start, and stayed on it until
Major: Right. And I noticed your name -- at first your name was with instructors,
and then with other assistant professors, and then finally, the last couple
of years, with associate professors. How did those advances in rank take
Ladd: Accidentally! I don’t know how they took place. They just upped
the salary….they thought I was doing all right. I never did get as much
as the teaching faculty.
Major: No, I know that.
Ladd: It’s quite obvious.
Major: Yes. In some of my going through those early papers, I did see that,
too. And what was particularly striking was that the salary they hired
you at, was lower than the salary they were paying Frances Saunders to
run the library without training.
Ladd: Yeah. But she also taught classes, you see.
Major: I suppose.
Ladd: No, I was invited and expected to attend all the faculty meetings,
which was very good for me, too, because I knew what was going on. Good,
bad and indifferent.
Major: And had a chance to get better acquainted with all the faculty, I
assume. Although it must have been a small enough community so that there
were no strangers?
Ladd: That’s true. I can’t remember how many there were on the faculty.
Of course, some of them were young. Eddie White wasn’t very much older
than I was. The math people came pretty much from VPI, and it was the
Division of William and Mary and Virginia Polytechnic Institute, which
I’m sure shows up in the records. And Lewis Webb, of course, later on
became president, but he taught physics and a bunch of things, and I
got most of my math from the people who taught mathematics from VPI.
They were on the faculty in Norfolk, but I mean they had been VPI graduates.
Of course, the college started with people coming down from Williamsburg,
but you don’t build a college very quickly until you have permanent
people on the grounds. Eeventually, the entire faculty was on the premises.
Major: How collegial was that group?
Ladd: Very good, I would say.
Major: And you were treated as a colleague like everybody else?
The faculty bachelors six
Ladd: Yes. If it came to my wanting to discipline any faculty member,
I had a bit of trouble. Such as, "Won’t you bring your book back so
your students can use it?"
I remember, I don’t know, it may have the third or fourth…. One other
thing that was in that building was what was called the Trophy Room.
It had sports things that people had won….It was a beautiful room. And
so Frances Saunders and I decided that we ought to have a Christmas
party, and we invited the single men to serve as hosts with us, and
the invitation that went out was:
Will be in a terrible fix
If you do not come
To their Christmas "at home"
December 19, 4 to 6.
In the Trophy Room we’ll be
Hoping your faces to see
Around the Yule log,
We'll drink lots of nog
Won’t you come?
So, just foolish, but we had a lovely party. And this is something
that probably should be deleted, but Dr. Hodges’ wife – his second wife
– had been Dean of Women at William and Mary, and she wasn’t terribly
interested in his two children. So we always called her "Madam
Queen." And I think it was at that Christmas party that somebody
had brought some dog biscuits and passed them around to Mrs. Hodges,
and she took one. And she ate the dog biscuit! You know, a small place
like that, you can have the craziest times in the world.
Major: I would think that, particularly at the beginning, there must have
been considerable esprit de corps because …
Ladd: There was.
Major: …because it was a new project and it was a bootstrap project.
Ladd: That’s right. And the people who taught came from different schools.
Gerald Akers was from Ohio; Ernest Gray was from New England; later
on Frank McDonald, who ended up as head of the Philosophy Dept. at William
and Mary, and is now retired, came from Massachusetts; Perry Y. Jackson,
P. Y. JacksonChemistry – I’ve forgotten, but he was from elsewhere.
A. Lee Smith was a Norfolk boy, and so on. But they came from different
areas and so they didn’t know anybody in our area until after they’d
been there for a while. And so they played bridge, and we used to do
The Game once in a while, which is kind of a charades thing. It really
was a social group; it really was.
Major: Were you aware at the time of considerable public support? Were the
people of Norfolk always committed to have a school?
Ladd: It’s hard to say. I would have said, even when I left Norfolk, that
Norfolk would be the last place to turn around and be more modernized.
But, doggone if it didn’t get to be one of the first ones. Because they
closed the downtown area and did all sorts of things that I never thought
it ever would. Because my first mother-in-law (I was married twice)
lived over in the Brambleton area, and she and her sister would sit
out on the porch to see if they could stop some black woman to see if
she would do the laundry for them. Their family name was Corprew.
Major: Yes, that’s a very well-known name in that area.
Ladd: Yes. Things like that. Norfolk was a mixture of very strange things.
But I had a cousin who went to work in Norfolk. He was a VPI graduate
in Engineering, and he went to work with a man who had been a classmate
of mine in high school, and they were involved in all sorts of changes
in the city. This was after I had left and gone to Massachusetts. And
I heard about what was happening all over in Norfolk, and I just couldn’t
believe it. And now they’ve got that MacArthur place in Norfolk.
Major: Yes; we have good shopping.
Ladd: So I’ve heard. I have a cousin there, the wife of my first cousin,
and Nancy Parsons is her name; he died some years back. But she told
me that now she can get down to the MacArthur Center in no time at all.
There’s evidently a new roadway or some such.
Major: Things have definitely been fixed up; definitely.
Major: Where does she live?
Ladd: She lives near Edgewater, sort of behind Larchmont.
Interviewer2: OK, that’s very easy to get….
Ladd: Sort of behind Larchmont, back in there.
Interviewer2: We live in Larchmont. It’s a very easy drive downtown now.
Ladd: That’s great.
Major: Were there ever volunteers? Did you have people volunteer to help
in the library?
Ladd: Yes. I had students….we had students who volunteered.
Major: Did they really? Instead of being paid?
Major: Did citizens use the library, in the beginning?
Ladd: Not very many. Occasionally somebody would come in – a friend of
someone, maybe a faculty friend, or something. I did manage – I don’t
know many years had been going on, but I got up my nerve and called
the public library, spoke to the librarian, and asked if she would be
interested in starting a library club in the Norfolk area. She was,
and we did. And we even had, at that time, a black library over in one
of the areas, maybe over in the Church Street area, which used to be.
And, it was a branch of the Norfolk Public, but it was for blacks.
Major: A Jim Crow branch.
Ladd: Yes. And we did have a nice group, and there was an Army library
that was there, too, in Norfolk. There were enough different kinds of
libraries to have a pretty good organization, had programs and such.
Major: Did you know the woman who became the librarian after you left? Louise
Ladd: Yes, I hired her. I didn’t know what I was going to do, because
I was leaving and I felt obligated to find somebody. So, she…I can’t
remember how it happened; either she called me or came over to visit,
and we talked. She seemed like a pleasant person and all of that; I
think she did all right.
Major: What do you mean, that you hired her? Wasn’t the administration concerned
Ladd: Oh, yes. I took her over to introduce her to Louis Webb, and we
talked, and so on. And she was hired by the college, of course. As far
as I know, no one else applied.
Major: Interesting. She was there for four years. And then I’m going to be
eager to see if I can find out somehow, then -- it sounded as though she
was kind of eased out and a man brought in.
Ladd: Yes. I don’t know who it was.
Major: William Pollard, who was there for maybe 10 years, then he want to
William and Mary, and then Mary Baldwin. He’s retired; he’s the archivist
at Mary Baldwin, so I mean to have a little visit with him some day. Interestingly,
she went away for several years, then she came back and spend the last
10 years of her career being cataloger at the Norfolk Division.
Ladd: Miss Bethea? That’s interesting. The only thing much that I heard
about her after I left, of course I had friends in the faculty, was
that she did beautiful flower arranging. At one time she was asked if
she would be willing to do an arrangement for a party they were having.
And when she found out what it was, it was an arrangement that would
have to look good on all sides, but her book didn’t have any of those.
And that was all that I heard about her. So, I don’t know. She probably
did what was necessary.
Major: She had a lot of experience.
Ladd: Yes. She sounded pretty good.
Major: I saw one picture of her….
Ladd: She’s nice looking….
Major: …nice looking woman, and so on. And good educational background.
Ladd: We had a student who was a Bethea. I never did find out if they
Major: What else do you remember about those days that I haven’t asked you
Ladd: Oh, well, I guess….have you ever read anything about the Greek Festival
Ladd: Robert McClelland and Maggie Holman -- one of the best phys. ed.
teachers I ever knew, a wonderful friend, too. She and Robert McClelland
– Robert had wanted to do a Greek Festival for years. He taught ancient
history. And the students were interested. We had every girl student….
And we got the mother of one of the girls who worked in the office –
met with us – and we went downtown and we bought yards and yards… from
either Aultshuls or the other store that used to be on Church Street
-- inexpensive rayons and stuff – beautiful colors. And she draped them,
draped the girls – she did very little sewing…..Mrs. Harper was her
name. And the faculty men and students took garbage can tops and made
shields, and they had swords, and they used brushes, I think, for the
helmets and all…. But they were good – the effect was remarkably good.
And we had Greek and English both being spoken, and the music going,
and the dances, and all of this. It was wonderful! It was out in Mr.
Foreman’s field. And a lot of the public came to that. It was for free.
Major: When they built that football field, was there football?
Ladd: Well, not particularly.
Major: Well, there certainly isn’t any now! The field is right there in the
middle of everything…
Ladd: I know it. They could get a field, but they couldn’t get anything
else, so they took the field. That’s what it amounted to. Just like
the grounds there at the building – the Administration Building where
the library was -- were beautifully kept, because they could be financed.
Also, Dr. Hodges was great for that, and he could get money for gardens.
And there was a fine black man named Thomas, who was one of those who’s
just as long from his waist to his feet as he is from his waist to his
head?. And he would bend right over and do his gardening, bent over
in the middle just like that. And if you asked Thomas, "How are
you this morning?", "Only poorly, thank the Lord." Always,
"Only poorly, thank the Lord!" But he really knew how to take
care of…. And we had beautiful gardenias along the side of the library.
That’s about the best perks we could have, considering everything.
Major: Well, one of the …. One of my current friends in Norfolk worked for
a number of years in the Boston area as a librarian, and so a couple of
weeks ago, the last time I saw him, I asked him if he knew you. Well,
he knew of you, he’d met you a time or two…. Do you remember a man named
Ellis O’Neal at Andover-Newton Theological School.
Ladd: Yes, I think so.
Major: Well…. He’s one of our church friends, now. He said that before he
went to college full time, he took night courses at the Norfolk Division,
which I hadn’t known before – hadn’t even thought about before. I was
Ladd: Which reminds me that I did teach…. I taught a little bit of library
science at night to about 7 or 8 people who were interested in it.
Major: Interested in being school librarians?
Ladd: Uh huh, or some kind of a librarian. They wanted something to do,
so I….. You know, you forget some of the things you did.
Major: Yeah. I can’t believe some of the details you’ve been able to remember.
I’m very impressed!
Ladd: Oh, my!
Major: I have enjoyed this project very much, particularly as we have lived
in Norfolk now for 7 years, and have met more people and have learned
more about the area, and so forth. It’s really been very interesting to
read about the early days, and to go through the stuff in the archives,
and all of that. So, my hope is that before this year is over I will have
my little history done, and can start giving it to people who are friends
of the library, and so forth.
Ladd: Do you know Connie Kearns McCarthy?
Major: Oh, yes.
Major: How do you know Connie?
Ladd: Well, see, I contribute to William and Mary, and I may even do that
now to the Norfolk Division. I’m a member of the Library Society, the
Ex Libris Society, which includes people who worked in the library at
William and Mary, those who have been librarians elsewhere, and those
who were trained at William and Mary. And besides that, I knew Nancy
Marshall very well, because she and I were on the OCLC advisory committee.
Major: Yes. Users Council?
Major: I’m on that now.
Ladd: Good. I enjoyed that very much.
Major: I’ve really enjoyed some of the people I’ve met.
Ladd: Yes, that’s it, that’s what it is….
Major: Anyway, so you knew Nancy, and now have you …. Do you know Connie?
Ladd: At William and Mary the department of development has someone assigned
to the library as the one for development, and so on. And, of course,
William and Mary’s gotten a lot of money for the Swem Library, now,
to do the special collections. Especially since they received from the
Supreme Court justice, ….
Major: Yes, Warren Berger.
Ladd: Warren Berger…two tractor trailers full of his books and possessions.
And they had to clear out some things and store those away until they
get the building finished. But I don’t know, William and Mary’s just
going to get too big for its britches sooner or later, but they keep
building all around Williamsburg, and it really has gotten to be an
awfully big school.
Major: And a very attractive campus.
Ladd: Oh, it is. They’ve lost a lot of trees this year, with the dryness
and also the wind storms. Did you all have a bad storm last night?
Major: No, we didn’t have any kind of storm last night.
Interviewer2: No, the….
Ladd: It only went as far as Surry and Williamsburg, I think.
Interviewer2: Gale(?) county, North Carolina, got a severe storm, south of us.
We were lucky.
Ladd: We were too. I saw it on the television, right along.
Interviewer2: My niece just graduated from William and Mary last June. She really
enjoyed it; it was a wonderful education.
Ladd: Well, the other woman who was with the development office for Swem
was Sally Kellam. She was a daughter of the Kellams in Norfolk … in
the Norfolk area. Eddie Kellam, I think, was her father. But at any
rate, she got in touch with me and I think there was a young…. David
[Bates? Baines?] also was there, later. And they both loved crab meat,
and so they would come up here and pick me up and we would go over to
Lowrey’s and get crab meat sandwiches, and so on. And that’s how I got
to know her. Now she has moved over to the law school, and there’s a
girl named Kathy Nolan Martin who is doing for the library now, the
same sort of thing. So she and Connie McCarthy came up here the other
week, and we went over to Lowrey’s. And so I was going to suggest that
for you all , but I didn’t know what your circumstances were, and it
was a longer drive, and so on.
Major: What we did, we really did kind of misjudge the time. We left this
morning and we went as far as Gloucester Point to the River’s Inn and
had lunch. And, if we had gone a little further before having lunch, we
would have easily come here by 1:30.
Ladd: Did the Yorktown bridge hold you up at all?
Interviewer2: Yeah. We lost about 5 minutes. But it’s just that it was a little
longer up here than we thought.
Major: Well, have you seen the campus at Old Dominion lately?
Ladd: Not very recently. I did see… I think I saw library number two.
I don’t mean just the one after me, but the second one after me.
Major: Right. Well, now there is I think it’s library number three. We just
finished a big addition to the library, it was a wrap-around, and then
they gutted the building, so we really have a brand new library. I really
enjoyed the preparation. The construction part was not quite so enjoyable,
but the planning and all that was wonderful.
Ladd: Well, you needed that for the computer hookups and stuff.
Major: Oh, my, yes. Oh, yes. And so now we have a new library, and -- do
you know the chain, Dollar Tree? It’s a retail chain.
Ladd: Yes, I think I’ve…
Major: Well, those people are very partial to libraries, and they made a
contribution that caused us to name the building the Perry Library. Their
names are Pat and Doug Perry.
Ladd: I noticed that.
Major: Maybe sometime you will get to Norfolk. Do you have any family in
Norfolk at this point?
Ladd: Just a cousin. I might be able to get one…I have two girls who help
me out here.
I had polio just before I started college, back when I was 16. And
that’s when I started at the Division, 1933. And I got over it and did
pretty much all right, thought my right leg was always somewhat affected,
but it wasn’t too bad. I’ve had a perfectly good life, but then when
you get older these things come back to haunt you, and I think I’ve
got a little problem. I’ve had osteoporosis, and also I have this, I
think what they call the post-polio syndrome. I have to use a quad cane,
and I don’t do any amount of walking, nor driving for a while, either,
but I hope to get back to it.
Interviewer2: Well, if you get down to Norfolk, you really should come by and see
it. I think you’d be very …..
Major: ….oh, I’d love to show you….
Ladd: Yeah, I’d love to see it. Well, as I say, I think I saw the second
one, and I did go up in the stacks, and I looked for…..you wouldn’t
even know what an accession number was…
Major: Oh, sure!
Ladd: Do you know about them?
Ladd: My goodness, I didn’t know young people…. Anyway, I think I put
the accession number on page 41 of each book received. I had to keep
the accession books. That’s one of the things I had to do.
Major: That took up your time!
End of Tape 1
Major: My first job – after I realized that teaching was not my calling –
my first library job was at a suburban Chicago public library, and it
was not the most up-to-date place, and also, this was 1962, and books
were accessioned. I don’t think, after I graduated from library school,
I don’t think I ever worked any place where they accessioned books. But
I certainly did know the procedures, from that. And I knew about pencil-end
daters, although I never had my hair, you know, so that you could…
Ladd: Oh, I must tell you one of the things that I think is delightful
in library history. At Wellesley College, in Wellesley, Massachusetts
– it’s a very fine college – has been many years for women, but now
they have a partnership with MIT, and the gentlemen who would like to
take some courses there, and the girls who would like to take courses
at MIT. Since everything has moved toward equality in life, it's very
great. Anyway, at Wellesley, the special collections person ______________________
spoke one time at somebody’s retirement –I had several friends at Wellesley….librarians
– and she had found out, which the staff knew, that there had been a
time when Wellesley had a 2 x 5 catalog.
Major: Two feet by five feet?
Ladd: No, honey. 2 x 5 cards. Now that’s where I’ve got you….
Major: That’s for sure! I’ve never heard of such a thing.
Ladd: The cards were 2 x 5. The cabinets were 2 x 5. The cards were all
hand-written, and then later typed.
Major: In "the library hand"?
Ladd: Library hand! Yes, that was important. The next thing that happened
was that the Library of Congress started to do cataloging for the public,
for the library system. So Wellesley decided that it would be a good
idea to get the LC cards. So they did. And whenever the 3 x 5 card was
too long to fit, they cut it down to 2 x 5, and typed the rest on another
2 x 5 card. Isn’t that magnificent??
Ladd: I thought that was just so wonderful. As much respect as I have
for librarians, they could find more things to do that they didn’t need
to do…than you can shake a stick at!
Anyway, we were highly amused at that piece of information, and there
were many other kinds… I know we had some hand-written cards in the
catalog at Boston University. Also, when I went to Boston University
– I went there to work in the Reference Department when my husband and
I moved to Boston (he was taking some courses at Harvard) – there were
all sorts of things that had happened there. One….Boston University
had 13 libraries, and the dean of whichever school it was the library
of (like Social Work, or Nursing, or whatever), the dean was the one
who ran the library. There was a librarian, but the dean, you know,
paid for the salaries and chose them and all that. And I discovered
that in one of the off-shoot branches, they had cataloged each volume
of an encyclopedia. Yes! And it was our business, over the years…. Boston
University decided that it was going to go with LC classification, which
was a perfectly good time, because we were putting the collections together,
all the 13 together. We could get rid of some of the duplication, because
some of them were getting literature, and everything that you’d have
in a general library in that particular school library. So they were
wasting money like mad. After I’d been in Reference, I guess, for a
year, I decided that it was time for me to learn something new, so I
asked if I could work with the catalog department. I’d always liked
cataloging, anyway. And that would be fine. And we re-cataloged the
whole bloody mess, all of those. And then we got a brand new building,
because at the time when I went there, they were on the 5th
floor of the College of Liberal Arts building. And that building was….what’s
that kind of construction, that’s done this way, and the floor – you’ve
got to keep the floor level with weights, because if you don’t , it’ll
do like that…. Cantilever!
The 5th floor was cantilever construction, and so you could
put stacks all around the edge, and right in the middle would be all
right, but in the rooms on either end, you had to stay right around
the edge. So, I’ve been through some funny things in my time.
Major: That’s for sure. You know, I had imagined that when you went from
this very small, start-up library to Boston University, it must have been
another world. But you’re describing a library that was not huge and fancy.
Ladd: It certainly wasn’t. They were all small libraries, and we put them
together. Now it’s got more than 2 million volumes.
Major: Yeah. Now it’s huge and fancy.
Ladd: Yeah. And the very controversial Dr. Silber has been responsible
for a great deal of that.
Major: Really? A lot of the growth…
Ladd: He’s a very strict man in many ways…
Interviewer2: …But he raised a lot of money!
Ladd: He did. And he got hold of special people to be university professors
and so on, and gave them titles, and worked so hard, and enlarged the
schools that were doing the best. Now it is a well-functioning university.
When online cataloging became a possibility and most of the collections
were in the database, it was time to close the catalogs and remove the
cabinets. They sold immediately all the card catalogs that they emptied.
People were almost standing in line waiting to buy them. That’s pretty
smart of people, because that was well made furniture.
Major: Yes. Apparently in about 1980, the library at Old Dominion closed
its catalog, and I gather that there were people waiting in line to buy
the catalog cases at that time.
Ladd: I think they told me last year that they had also done away with
the shelf list, all except for…. I think probably they had kept the
dissertations and special collections. There’s always a few of those
that you have to wait until you know more about.
Major: Well, I think we’ve done away with the shelflist, but I wouldn’t be
absolutely shocked to find something…
Ladd: hanging around?
Major: Right. Well, I have certainly enjoyed this conversation. You’ve told
me a lot of interesting things that I didn’t know about the Norfolk Division.
Ladd: Well, I’m glad.
Major: What about if I have the tape transcribed, and I’ll send it to you,
and you can make corrections and send it back. And then I’ll incorporate
all the interesting tidbits in the history, and…well, I’ll send you the
whole thing, but particularly to take a good look at the section about
the early start-up times.
Ladd: Sure. Well, I know Robert McClelland was telling me, when he was
working on the book, it was so funny to see my annual reports that included
the number of shelves added since that time and increases in staff and
books. But that’s what I thought you were supposed to do. People don’t
write annual reports anymore.
Major: You’re right. We don’t.
Ladd: That’s another thing that libraries ought not have to do.
Major: That’s for sure. Could I get you to sign a release form, so that we
can put the transcription of this interview in our files?
Ladd: Oh, I think so, yes. I didn’t disgrace anybody much, did I?
Ladd: Right here?
Major: Let me see. I need to put my glasses on. At the top, fill your name
in, and then where it says "donor" write your name, and I’ll
write my name on the next line.
Ladd: I was really interested when I got your letter, because I’d been
wondering whether anybody sooner or later was going to figure that out.
Because while I was still there, I was Dorothy Pierce, Dorothy Newby,
and Dorothy Ladd.
Major: In fact, there are a couple of pictures where you’re identified as
Conclusion of interview.
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