Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Biographies in the Public Library: Who Should Be in Every Library? A Survey

When students or other readers ask for biographies of some big name historical figures or eminent artist at the reference desk, I am sometimes disappointed by our collection. I think, "We should have had a biography on (fill in the blank)." I wonder how we missed that famous person.

It occurs to me that we buy our books according to reviews of the books, which for the most part works. We want the best books. Still, we sometimes have a subject driven need at the reference desk, so we need some subject driven selection tools to help us be prepared. One thing I do not remember seeing (maybe you can remind me) is a list of core biographies from the viewpoint of who should be covered in the basic good public library.

So, let's make our own! Who should be in the public library on the biography shelves (or elsewhere if you shelve biographies with the Dewey subjects)?

I assume all the U.S Presidents and some of the first ladies, including Abigail Adams, Dolly Madison, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Julius Caesar, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and some other world leaders.

Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Daniel Boone, Robert E. Lee, William Tecumseh Sherman, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and other historical figures.

Mahatmas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jane Addams, Florence Nightingale, Rosa Parks, and other activists and reformers.

Artists should include Michelangelo Buonarrati, Leonardo Da Vinci, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, and Georgia O'Keeffe.

William Shakespeare, John Milton, Anne Bradstreet, Mark Twain, George Eliot, the Bronte sisters, and other writers.

Scientists should include Galileo Galilei Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and George Washington Carver.

Katherine Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin, James Dean, and some other Hollywood celebrities belong in the list.

So do Babe Ruth, Jim Thorpe, Michael Jordan, and other athletes should be in.

Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig Beethoven, Woody Guthrie, and other musical figures should be present.

Jesus, Muhammad, and Buddha will be there, too.

I am sure to be missing lots of names. What do you think? Here is another survey. Fill it in and submit and the names will go directly into my Zoho database. I will work on a report later.

We may have some names to debate later, too.


ActLikeOne said...

Your list is a very good start. Is it from your existing collection, or the one you propose?

ricklibrarian said...

The list so far is strictly from my head, in reaction to a statement somewhere in Nonfiction Readers' Advisory about libraries having all the presidents.

I am hoping to get lots of ideas to create a core list. I also intend to look at some reference books, like Public Library Catalog and Encyclopedia of World Biography to see names that jump out as essential to me.

It is a list that would change with time. When I was a kid in Texas 40 years ago, I heard about Will Rogers all the time. I think our testbooks had Will Rogers. I bet there are lots of people who do not even know who he is now.

Anonymous said...

If you are looking for a biography of Michelangelo, Bloomsbury will publish, in 2009, "In the Footsteps of Michelangelo: A Traveler's Biography" by Fred Plotkin. He is the author of two classic books on Music: "Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera" and "Classical Music 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Classical Music" as well as Italy for the Gourmet Traveler and five books on Italian cuisine