DR. SARAH K. VANN - In Loving Tribute to an International Scholar, Teacher, Philanthropist and Community Activist

June 16, 2012 on 8:57 pm | In Uncategorized |

DR. SARAH K. VANN, professor emerita in the University of Hawaii’s Library and Information Science Program, passed away at the age of 96 on May 25, 2012, at Hi‘olani Care Center of Kahala Nui. She was a widely recognized authority in library history and international librarianship and a master teacher in library education. Born in Georgia, Dr. Vann received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of Michigan before completing her doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1958.

Dr. Vann always stated that her forty-year career as a library educator was her crowning accomplishment. Before joining the UHM faculty in 1969, she taught at the Carnegie Library School in Pittsburgh, Columbia University, and the University of Texas at Austin. She brought to the newly established UHM library school first hand knowledge of Asian librarianship and expertise on the Dewey classification. She taught on the Manoa campus for 17 years before retiring in 1986.

Miles Jackson, dean emeritus of the School of Library and Information Science, noted that Dr. Vann “was a true example of human kindness and dedication to librarianship as a profession. She will be greatly missed by the many students and faculty members she worked with during her illustrious career as teacher, scholar and writer.”

Her achievements extended far beyond the schools privileged to have her as a faculty member. She was invited by the Rockefeller Foundation to serve as a consultant to the president of the University of the Philippines and was instrumental in establishing a library school there. She was selected by the Melvil Dewey Office and the International Relations Committee of the American Library Association, to travel around the world conducting a field survey of the Dewey Decimal Classification system abroad. The work of surveyors like Dr. Vann had an enormous impact on the 17th edition of the Dewey Decimal Classification and Relative Index published in 1967. Dr. Vann also established library schools in Indonesia and Pakistan. In the U.S. Dr. Vann helped to create the library school at the State University of New York at Buffalo. At SUNY she introduced one of the first courses on intellectual freedom in the library curriculum.

A widely respected scholar, Dr. Vann’s publications on Melvil Dewey and his contributions to librarianship as well as her extensive study of the Charles Williamson reports are considered enduring and seminal works providing detailed and scholarly commentary on the pre-Williamson and Williamson era of library service and library education.

Throughout her exemplary career, Dr. Vann garnered numerous awards including the following: Scarecrow Press Award in 1962; Distinguished Alumni awards from Georgia College in 1966 and the University of Michigan in 1976; Hayes-Fulbright Award in 1972; Melvil Dewey Medal in 1982; and Beta Phi Mu Award in 1987. Although Dr. Vann appreciated these honors, she was most proud of her teaching career, which she considered her enduring contribution to the field of librarianship. Of extreme importance to her was endowing scholarships that focused on continuing education for students and strengthening communities in Hawaii.

Throughout her professional career, Dr. Vann was active in the American Library Association, either serving on or chairing numerous committees. She also volunteered in a number of community organizations while being honored as a Fulbright Scholar. She served as president of the American Association of University Women, Honolulu Branch; the Pan Pacific and Southeast Asia Women’s Association; and the Honolulu Media Council. Notably, she worked tirelessly with the Friends of East-West Center on a range of projects from Host Family and International Visitors programs to fund raisers and a Reading Room. She also served as the Friends president in 1990.

In 2004, the Sarah K. Vann Professional Service Award was fittingly established in her name at UHM. Administered through the LIS Student Chapter of the American Library Association, the award recognizes a Hawaii information professional who embodies the ideals and goals of librarianship as codified by the ALA Code of Ethics.

Violet Harada acknowledges the following contributors to this memorial piece: Carolyn Arbuckle for her article on Dr. Vann, Phyllis Tabusa for her oral history interview with Dr. Vann for the East-West Center, Diane Todd for her article on Dr. Vann in the ALA-SC Blotter, a testimonial from Miles Jackson, and information links and tributes from Andrew Wertheimer, Diane Nahl, and donna Bair Mundy.

 Visit the permanent tribute page for Dr. Vann at http://www.hawaii.edu/lis/tribute/

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