National Library Week, celebrated this year during the week of April 19-25, celebrates libraries and those that work in them.  Did you know that many Maryknollers held degrees in Library Science?  I knew that National Library Week was coming up so I wanted to take a moment and celebrate Maryknoll’s libriarians.

Sister Kathleen Skenyon

Sister Kathleen Skenyon studied at the University of Hawaii and received a Master’s of Art in Library Science in 1972.  With this degree she went to the Pacific island of Yap and set up a library for the St. Mary’s School.  She also trained librarians and Peace Corps teachers in library preparedness.

After her work in Yap, Sister Kathleen found herself in another Pacific island – American Samoa.  While missioned there, she set up two high school libraries, two grade school libraries and assisted in an early education library.

Father Arthur Brown

Father Arthur Brown was first missioned in Chile in 1944.  After seven years, his next assignment found him at Catholic University in Washington, DC, where he obtained his Master’s Degree in Library Science.  Fr. Brown then went to work in the library located at Maryknoll’s headquarters in New York.  In 1954, he was appointed the Librarian at Maryknoll’s Major Seminary.  The library was widely acclaimed and used by other church associations and major universities throughout the US.

For the next 34 years Father Brown was always on the job in the library. He reorganized the library according to the norms of the Library of Congress and built up a permanent collection of Theology and Missiology books to serve the Society and missions. He had a fine influence on both faculty and students and had his finger on every resource material for their use.

One of his favorite duties was to organize libraries in the center houses of the missions. In 1966 he spent three months in Manizales, Colombia building up the library for Maryknoll’s Instituto Latino-Americano.  He returned there each year until 1969 to improve it and to train local persons for maintenance. In 1975 he did the same in Hong Kong and Davao, Philippines. He was also called upon to organize the libraries in Nairobi, Tanzania and Bolivia.

In 1988, upon his retirement, then Superior General, Fr. William Boteler, wrote a letter to Fr. Brown.  In it he said, “Thank you, good and faithful servant. Your contribution to Maryknoll in the field of Library Science and Education has been truly outstanding, not only here but in various mission regions around the world. In the name of all of us I express our deep gratitude for your equanimity of spirit and your constant enthusiasm and dedication to the Church and to the missions.”

Sister Mercedes Maria Martin

Another Maryknoll Sister, Sister Mercedes Maria Martin, also spent part of her mission life in the library world.  In 1941 Sister Mercedes began her mission life in Hawaii teaching at St. Anthony High School in Wailuku, Maui.  She had a great love of books and research, which led her to a  Master of Science degree in Library Science from Catholic University in 1962.  She returned to Hawaii in 1965, taking a position at the Maryknoll High School in Honolulu.

Her tremendous contribution to the Hawaiian people was setting up the library for The Institute for Religion and Social Change at Chaminade University of Honolulu. Over a period of three years she catalogued more than one thousand books according to the Library of Congress system. Her dedicated work increased the value of this collection and made it readily available to The Institute and to Chaminade University of Honolulu. As a result, in 1994, the Library was dedicated to her and bears the name of the Martin Library.

Father Richard Baker

Father Richard Baker, though not a trained librarian, has worked to improve access to libraries in Ethiopia.  In 2010, he established a library in the Ethiopian town of Debate.  About 1,000 books were provided to help the students in the town and other nearby villages improve their English language skills.  The facility also contained six computers with programs for learning English, math, and science.

In conclusion, during this National Library Week, I hope you can take a minute to thank the librarians in your community that tirelessly work to provide access to the world’s knowledge.