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Elsie Hand

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Elsie Hand Image

Elsie Denton was born January 28, 1882 in Montgomery County, Kansas and came to Oklahoma as a child. She married Wilson Howe Hand in 1901. Hand did not hold a college degree nor had she studied at an institution offering a library science degree. She was intelligent and very interested in the library profession and progressed within it. Hand was head librarian at Southwestern State Normal School at Weatherford, Oklahoma for the 1918-1919 academic year. During 1920-1921 Hand was an assistant librarian in the Oklahoma Library Commission where she helped to establish and organize eight public libraries as well as libraries at seven institutions.

From 1921 until 1933 Hand was the Head Librarian at Oklahoma A & M College and during that time period she oversaw the addition of over 40,000 volumes. In 1926 she was instrumental in installing the first book return chutes which was in response to students making the excuse “I left the book on the circulation desk, someone must have taken it.” The loss of library materials by theft was an issue and Hand made physical changes in the interior of the new building in order to protect bound volumes of magazines and reference materials. New arrangements were also made so that when entering or leaving the reference section patrons had to directly pass the desk of a librarian.

Hand was active in the library profession in the state and at the national level as well as active in political issues relating to libraries. Hand was involved in state politics and was asked by the Women’s Bureau of the Oklahoma Democratic State Central Committee to assist in a political campaign but the college President at the time said no. She served as the Secretary of the Oklahoma Library Association (OLA) in 1925 and then served as President in 1927, 1929, and 1930. In 1926 and 1927 Hand was an active member in the American Library Association (ALA). She traveled in Europe on an ALA arranged excursion and on October 8 reported to the Agricultural Libraries Section on the work her staff had done in the section’s effort to compile a record of state agricultural statistics. Oklahoma was one of five states which participated in the ALA effort in 1926.

In a 1928 report Hand referred to the library as “the laboratory of the school” and noted there were about 150,000 reference questions during the year in her annual report.

In 1932, during the Great Depression, she was outspoken about the unfair reduction in librarians’ pay as compared to other employers across campus and a year later this was rectified. After leaving the employment of Oklahoma A & M in 1933 Hand worked for awhile as an assistant to the head of the Department of Charities and Corrections and as an Administrator of the State Library for the Blind. Beginning in 1951 and ending in 1958 she was a librarian at the Oklahoma Historical Society Library. Elsie Denton Hand passed away August 13, 1958 at the age of 77, was preceded in death by her husband in 1908 and survived by one son, Wilson D. Hand.

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