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Wed, 05.14.1913

Clara Stanton Jones, Librarian born

Clara Stanton Jones

*Clara Stanton Jones was born on this date in 1913. She was a Black librarian and administrator.

Clara Stanton was born to a close-knit Catholic family in St. Louis, Missouri. Her mother, Etta J. Stanton, worked as a schoolteacher. Her father, Ralph Herbert Stanton, was a Standard Life Insurance and the Atlanta Life Insurance Company manager. Jones grew up in a racially segregated St. Louis neighborhood; she viewed her life as privileged, with all her primary mentors being black.

In high school, Jones aspired to become an elementary school teacher; Stanton was the first member of her family to graduate from college. Jones attended the Milwaukee State Teacher's College in 1930; she was one of only six black students. She transferred to Spelman College, where she majored in English and History and decided to become a librarian. President Florence Read offered her a position as a typist with the new Atlanta University Library; the librarians encouraged Jones to pursue a career in librarianship. Stanton received her Bachelor of Arts in 1934 from Spelman and a degree in Library Science in 1938 from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

That year she married Albert Jones, a social worker living in New Orleans. They had three children. Jones began working in libraries at Dillard University and Southern University. Jones spent the remainder of her career at the Detroit Public Library, becoming its director in 1970. The first African American and the first woman to serve as director of a major library system in America. There was opposition to the election of Jones as director. Her detractors tried challenging her authority by questioning her decisions, making decisions behind her back, and using derogatory language. Amid the pushback, she persevered.

She served as the first black president of the American Library Association from 1976 to 1977. During her presidency, she heavily aided the ALA's adoption of a "Resolution on Racism and Sexism Awareness" to encourage librarians to raise the awareness of library patrons and staff to problems of racism and sexism. Her response was published in American Libraries, the official publication of the ALA. Jones opposed the IFC's proposal, declaring that the resolution required further adjustments and amendments to the language before the committee considered annulment. The IFC feared that the resolution favored censorship to purge library materials of racist and sexist language, thereby opposing the Library Bill of Rights pledge to sustain access to information and enlightenment despite content and to encourage libraries to challenge censorship.

The ALA deliberated on the resolution's fate and reported its results at the 1977 Detroit conference. Jones asserted that the resolution did not conflict with the Library Bill of Rights and promoted awareness by encouraging training and outreach programs in the libraries and library schools. She argued, "The spirit of the 'Resolution on Racism and Sexism Awareness' is not burdened with repression; it is liberating. If the resolution is imperfect, try to make it perfect, but not by destroying it first!" The resolution was not rescinded. After her retirement in 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed Jones as Commissioner to the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science 1978. She served in this post until 1982.

In 1984, Jones and Aileen Clarke Hernandez founded the black women's discussion group Black Women Stirring the Waters in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jones received the Trailblazer Award in 1990 from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. The award recognizes individuals whose pioneering contributions have been outstanding and unique and whose efforts have "blazed a trail" in the profession. Clara Stanton Jones died peacefully in her sleep on September 30, 2012, in Oakland, California, at the age of 99. She was survived by her three children, seven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

The Clara Stanton Jones Scholarship fund was created in 2007 to assist University of Michigan School of Information master's students, mainly those interested in urban librarianship. In 2018 Clara Stanton Jones was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in the historical category.

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