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Dorothy Pierce Ladd was the first librarian, Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary, after receiving her degree in library science from the College of William and Mary. Ladd was given a small budget for the purchasing of new books and furniture. By the end of Ladd's tenure, the library's total holdings had increased to 13,200 volumes, and the physical size of the library had doubled. In 1948 Ladd moved to Boston with her husband and began a 30-year career as a librarian at Boston University. The interview discusses her educational background, her experiences with the early Norfolk Division from 1937-1948, and her involvement with the development of the library at the Norfolk Division.


Interview With
DOROTHY PIERCE LADD

Interviewer: Jean Major, University Librarian
August 12, 1999
Listen to Interview

Dorothy Ladd

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 door.

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 that.

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 sure.

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?

Interviewer2: Yes.

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 things.

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 it.

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, so…

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, but…

Major: So I’m guessing that you were never asked to do anything like bibliographic instruction.

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 for me.

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 me greatly.

Major: (laughter)

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 degree?

Ladd: Right.

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 I left.

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 place?

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?

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:

The faculty bachelors six
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?
RSVP.

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?

Ladd: Yes.

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 Bethea?

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 about….

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 were related.

Major: What else do you remember about those days that I haven’t asked you about?

Ladd: Oh, well, I guess….have you ever read anything about the Greek Festival in Norfolk?

Major: No.

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 surprised to….

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.

Ladd: Good.

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?

Ladd: Yes.

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?

Major: Sure!

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!

Ladd: Yes.

 

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: yeah.

Major: Well.

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??

Major: Yeah!

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?

Major: No.

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 Dorothy Newby

Conclusion of interview.

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