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Loleta Dawson Fyan
was the first professional librarian for the State of Michigan
Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....
(1941 to 1961). Long before the invention of the Internet she believed that information should be available to all.
Albert Foster Dawson, who was Representative from Iowa (March 4, 1905 – March 3, 1911) was Fyan’s father. Dawson’s political activity may have been an influence on Fyan’s lifelong participation in a variety of organizations, including the American Library Association
The American Library Association is a non-profit organization based in the United States that promotes libraries and library education internationally. It is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 62,000 members....
, the Michigan Library Association
The Michigan Library Association is headquartered in Lansing, Michigan, United States. It publishes a library science journal, MLA Forum.-History:...
, the League of Women Voters
The League of Women Voters is an American political organization founded in 1920 by Carrie Chapman Catt during the last meeting of the National American Woman Suffrage Association approximately six months before the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution gave women the right to vote...
and the Michigan Rural-Urban Women’s Conference. Because of her father's position, she was able to meet Presidents Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...
and William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft was the 27th President of the United States and later the tenth Chief Justice of the United States...
. Fyan's mother was Phoebe R. (DeGroat) Dawson, whose family came to Iowa via New York and the Erie Canal
The Erie Canal is a waterway in New York that runs about from Albany, New York, on the Hudson River to Buffalo, New York, at Lake Erie, completing a navigable water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. The canal contains 36 locks and encompasses a total elevation differential of...
She married Clarence E. Fyan on July 17, 1926.
Fyan became a teacher after her graduation in 1915 from Wellesley College with a BA in botany and music. In 1916 she began what became her lifelong passion in Davenport, Iowa
Davenport is a city located along the Mississippi River in Scott County, Iowa, United States. Davenport is the county seat of and largest city in Scott County. Davenport was founded on May 14, 1836 by Antoine LeClaire and was named for his friend, George Davenport, a colonel during the Black Hawk...
, delivering books from the main public library to nearby schools and farms for people who would not otherwise be able to access reading materials .
"Books are dead until they meet the human mind,” Fyan believed DALB (2003), pg. 103 and so she created the first “bookmobile,” providing service in 1921 with a $10,000 budget and a Ford.
For twenty years, Fyan was head of the Wayne County
-History:Wayne County was one of the first counties formed when the Northwest Territory was organized. It was named for the American general "Mad Anthony" Wayne. It originally encompassed the entire area of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, as well as small sections that are now part of northern...
Library, Michigan. Under her leadership it blossomed into a staff of one hundred librarians, a fleet of cars and several library branches . This was in direct contrast to the prevailing wisdom of previous years that libraries weren't really necessary, and money spent on them was better spent elsewhere.
“Don’t listen to those people who say that democracy won’t work.”, she stated in a Library Journal article. “Of course it won’t work. It’s up to us to work it” .
Fyan was unfortunate in having to oversee the effects of a major fire in 1951 that resulted in the loss of thousands of documents due to fire and water damage in the State Office Building in February 1951 . This event encouraged builders such as those of the Ecorse Public Library to build the library “completely fireproof.” This building was among others built with funds directly received as a result of Fyan’s work on outlining post-war projects.
Fyan also encountered difficulties raising funds. “There is never enough money, and painful choices must be made each year” she stated in her Report of the President to the ALA in January, 1952. She was instrumental in developing library legislation titled P.A. 106 of 1937 which enabled the Michigan State Library to create the State Aid and Traveling Libraries Division .
In her will, Fyan left many legacies: the Loleta Fyan Continuing Education Scholarship Fund , the Loleta Fyan Rural Library Conference, the Fyan Community Leadership Award , and the ALA Loleta D. Fyan Grant all aim to encourage and support smaller libraries supporting rural communities, her lifelong passion .
The State Board in 1961 requested her resignation, the stated reason being that she was too old to hold the job .
- Michigan State Librarian, 1941-1961
- Davenport Free Public Library, 1916-1919
- Detroit Public Library, 1920-1921
- Wayne County Librarian, 1921-1938; 1939-1941
- Michigan Library Association President, 1934-1935
- Michigan Library Association Secretary/Treasurer, 1935-1936; 1941
- Michigan Rural Women’s Conference Chair, (1935-1941)