Priscilla Mayden: visionary librarian

Todd Vandenbark

Priscilla Mayden paintingPriscilla M. Mayden, who served as the first Director of the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library, passed away this month at the age of 93. Joan Stoddart, Deputy Director of the Eccles Library, wrote a thoughtful summary of Ms. Mayden’s life and contributions to the library profession:

Priscilla Maltby Mayden was born in 1918 in Stoughton, Massachusetts. She received her B.S. from Simmons College in 1941 and her M.S. in Library Science from Columbia University in 1967. She was Hospital Librarian in the Women’s Army Corps, USAF Redistribution Center, Santa Ana, California from 1944-1946, the Chief Librarian at the Veterans Administration Hospital , Bedford, MA. from 1946- 1952 and Chief Librarian at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Salt Lake City, UT from 1952-1966. She came to the University of Utah as the Medical Sciences Librarian and then became Director of the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library 1966-1985. Ms. Mayden was a member of the Medical Library Association Board of Directors, 1975-1978 and became a Fellow in the Association in 1983. She was also Chair of the Utah Academic Library Consortium 1972-1973 and President of the Utah Library Association 1961-1962.

Priscilla’s friends and colleagues established the Priscilla M. Mayden endowment in her honor upon her retirement in 1985. This lectureship has allowed the Eccles Health Sciences Library to invite knowledgeable and exciting speakers among others such as Dr. Joyce Mitchell, Chair of the U’s Department of Biomedical Informatics who spoke last year about Genetics, Genomics and Biomedical Informatics, and Dr. Ed Shortliff from Columbia University who spoke a few years earlier about the National Health Information Infrastructure.

Priscilla was a visionary in her time, understanding the emerging role of computers in libraries and in healthcare at the bedside. She started the Hope Fox Eccles Clinical Library in the University Hospital in 1983 which was to serve clinical staff with the latest search capability close to the bedside. This small library has recently been relocated and redesigned as a Health Library and now serves the health information needs of patients and families of University Hospital.

In a recent email message to staff, Library Director Jean Shipman wrote:

I had the great opportunity to meet Priscilla (thanks to Karen Butter) a couple of years ago and got the chance to see how powerful of an individual she was at 90. I can only imagine and appreciate her influence during her years as Director of the Eccles Library. I feel that I, the faculty and staff and the users of the Library are benefiting from her vision for the physical building and for the value of information…

It has been a delight to read the many memories shared by the MLA Fellows about Priscilla. I know we all have lost a great visionary, a wonderful spokesperson, a mentor, and a delightfully gracious individual. May we relish in our fond memories and appreciate the legacy she has left for many others to gain the knowledge needed to make this world a better place for all of us.

I invite other members of the library community to tell us about your memories of Ms. Mayden, and how she has influenced or inspired you.

UPDATE: A service honoring Priscilla’s memory will be held on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 5:30 pm at First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, 569 S 1300 E, Salt Lake City, UT.

Also, an obituary for Ms. Mayden was recently posted on the Salt Lake Tribune website.