Franklin, Hardy R. 1929–
Hardy R. Franklin 1929–
Public library director, ALA president
To implement the theme “Customer Service: The Heart of the Library” during his 1993-94 term as president of the American Library Association (ALA), Hardy R. Franklin established a committee to recognize the most effective initiatives established to serve youth in libraries across the United States. “These programs were fantastic!,” he exclaimed in February of 1994 in American Libraries. “Programs for teen mothers, low-literacy students, disabled students, reading for pleasure and fun, homework information centers, and even organizing a baseball team are but a few examples of the many great ideas presented.”
Funded by a $20,000 grant from the Margaret A. Edwards Trust, the ALA awarded the top ten ideas $500 each and the top 50 publication in the 1994 ALA book Excellence in Library Service to Young Adults. But motivating youth represented only one facet of Franklin’s vision for the library profession during his term. He also advocated broader public and private support for libraries and for new technologies, expanded community outreach and visibility, and increased member participation in the ALA, the main professional association representing librarians.
The third African American to serve as ALA president in the organization’s 118-year history—and the first in the last two decades—Franklin rose gradually through the ranks until his election in 1992 by almost 40 percent of ALA voters in a three-way race. With a doctorate in library science from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Franklin has been the director of the District of Columbia Public Library since 1974. The native Georgian began his career in earnest at the Brooklyn Public Library in 1956 and was assistant professor with the Queens College Library Science Department before assuming the top post in Washington, D. C.
Ironically, the future ALA president was denied the right to read as a boy in the Rome, Georgia public library on the basis of his race. Born on May 9,1929, in Rome, Franklin was employed at age ten by the Abercrombies, a white family, at the rate of $2 per day to read to and entertain their six-year-old son. In that capacity he visited his hometown public library dozens of times. Then, on a spring day in 1939, the young Franklin went to the library—alone this time—to read his favorite book. “You
At a Glance…
Born May 9,1929, in Rome, GA; married Jarcelyn Fields (died, 1985), married Barbara Washington, 1987; children: Petey, Regan Hayes. Education: Morehouse College, B.A., 1950; Atlanta University, M.L.S., 1956; Rutgers University, Ph.D., 1971.
Rockdale County Board of Education, teacher, librarian, 1950-53; teacher and librarian in Okinawa, Japan; Brooklyn Public Library, branch librarian, 1956-61, young adult coordinator, 1961-64, community coordinator, 1961-64, senior community coordinator, 1964-68; Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY), assistant professor, library science department, 1971-74; D.C. Public Library, director, 1974—. American Library Association (ALA), council member, 1979–83, 1989—, vice president, 1992, president, 1993–94; D.C Library Association, vice president, 1991–92, president, 1992. Author of The Relationship between Adult Communication Practices and Public Library Use in a Northern, Urban, Black Ghetto, 1971, and contributor of articles to numerous library journals and reports to public libraries.
Awards: Brooklyn Friends of the Library Award, 1963; National Endowment for the Humanities grant, 1970-71; Distinguished Public Service Award, D.C. Public School Library Association, 1979; Allie Beth Martin Award, Public Library Association, 1983; Distinguished Service Award, D.C. Library Association, 1990; Distinguished Alumnus Award, Rutgers University Library School Alumni Association, 1992.
Addresses: Office —Director, D.C. Public Library, Martin Luther King Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001-4599.
can’t come here by yourself,” the white librarian told him, as Franklin recalled later in the Washington Post. Franklin’s father explained to him that he should “understand that this is part of life,” Franklin remembered, but that prohibition only heightened the young boy’s thirst for literature. “I wanted to read all of the books that I could,” he said.
That voracious reading paid off. In 1950 Franklin graduated with a B.A. in sociology from Morehouse College; he earned a master’s degree in Library Science at Atlanta University in 1956. That year Franklin began a lengthy tenure as young adult coordinator, branch librarian, and community coordinator of outreach services, respectively, at the Brooklyn Public Library. A popular gathering spot in those years, the library provided Franklin with research requests ranging far and wide. Once, for instance, he settled a $1,000 bet between two World War II veterans about whose battleship had thicker armor.
After leaving Brooklyn in 1968, Franklin next earned a Ph.D. at Rutgers University in 1971. His dissertation, “The Relationship Between Adult Communication Practices and Public Library Use in a Northern, Urban, Black Ghetto,” was published in book form in 1971. During the early 1970s he also worked as assistant professor in the library science department of Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY). Then, in 1974, the D.C. Public Library offered Franklin the directorship.
Franklin began his post as director of the D.C. Public Library on September 1, 1974. He inherited a 650,000-volume library system beset by staff shortages and a hiring freeze; most of its satellite branches were located either in storefronts or unattractive rental properties. By 1994, the library had grown to 27 branches and 2.5 million volumes. Franklin’s effort to relocate branches to more appealing sites was still vital in 1993, evidenced by his move of the Sursum Corda library from the third floor of an apartment complex to a new structure on New York Avenue.
Franklin ascribed credit for the public library system’s success to the coalitions initiated by his staff with the Friends of DCPL, the city council, and community organizations. Throughout the early 1990s Franklin focused his efforts on promoting funding for education—and libraries—as a way to revive the nation’s economy. “Libraries are central to this effort. Sensitizing and mobilizing people and building coalitions are essential,” he was quoted as saying in American Libraries just after winning the 1992 election for ALA president for the 1993-94 term. “I will work tirelessly to keep library roles, values, and needs before the public.”
A member of the ALA since the early 1970s, Franklin had a long record of involvement before the race for ALA presidency in 1992. He had participated in the Committee on the Recruitment of Public Librarians, the Public Library Association Urban Public Library Issues Committee, and the Black Caucus. In addition he sat on the ALA Council from 1979 to 1983 and has since 1989, and he served as president of the local District of Columbia Library Association during the early 1990s. Thus he was well prepared for the 1992 race for ALA president, which pitted three candidates against one another and ended in a close call between Kathleen de la peña McCook (Heim), the second place finisher, and Franklin. Franklin won by 494 votes, tallying 5,001 of the 12,543 cast.
Franklin’s supporters cheered when he assumed office in July of 1993. Staff and friends held a “welcome home” rally for him at the Martin Luther King Memorial Library. One of the organizers of the function, Marguerite Kelly, a member of the Library’s board of trustees, was quoted in the Afro-American as saying, “We just want the community to know how proud we are that Franklin was elected president. We hope it will bring more focus to the public library system. All of his hard work has paid off.” In a related comment in early 1994 on his work at the D.C. Public Library, Lillian Wesley, president of the Federation of Friends, also praised Franklin’s work, specifically his performance as director of the D.C. Public Libraries. She told the Washington Post, “The library has grown, and it meets the needs of the community. Hardy Franklin deserves an A-plus because he cares.”
Franklin set out the vision behind his presidency during the campaign in 1992. “The massive readjustments we are witnessing in employment, investment, and income for public enterprises is not a temporary recession but represents a significant realignment of capital resources in the world. As the U.S. economy shrinks, money for public enterprises becomes more and more scarce,” he wrote in Library Journal. “Libraries must fight harder and harder to get the dollars they need at a time when all of their costs are escalating.” He also emphasized the need for libraries to strive to maintain their role as the main source of information—free information—in a society increasingly based on data dissemination.
Although these demands on libraries were peculiar to the economic downturn and technological changes occurring during the early 1990s, the basis of these challenges have plagued librarians since the founding of the ALA over a century ago. In his book A History of the American Library Association, Thomison Dennis cited inadequate support for libraries and the distribution of public documents as key issues facing founders at the earliest meetings of the association. Indeed, changes in society have often required “greater resources than have ever been available to librarians” just to fulfill basic functions, Dennis argued. Moreover, responding to the varying resources and particular needs of library patrons has obliged the ALA to play an expanded role “far beyond anything foreseen by its founders,” Dennis wrote. In his election platform, Franklin outlined just how acute the challenges were facing librarians in the early 1990s.
To enact his platform, Franklin promoted a number of programs designed to take advantage of high technology and make it more accessible to library patrons, particularly young people and the disadvantaged. In his home library system, Franklin hoped to entice youth with a new young-adult multimedia room called “The Other Place,” which is stocked with a three-dimensional encyclopedia, a computer, music tapes, and videos. “This is a gathering place for teenagers,” he explained in the Washington Post. “It is designed to bridge the gap between the children’s section and the adult-use area.”
As president of the ALA, Franklin appointed a commission to identify the 50 best programs for youth nationwide and to cite them in the ALA’s house publication, and to award $500 each to the top ten programs. The activities of the commission and the awards were funded by a $20,000 grant from the Margaret Alexander Edwards Trust. Among the top ten award winners were the Male Mentoring/Read Aloud Partners (R.A.P.) Program of the Hall and Robert Taylor Homes Branches of the Chicago Public Library; the Youth-at-Risk Outreach Project of the Alameda County Library in Fremont, California; and the Teen Advisory Council of the B. B. Comer Memorial Public Library of Sylacauga, Alabama.
Also in 1994, Franklin more fully harnessed video technology to serve the library profession. In May the teleseminar “Achieving Breakthrough Service in Libraries” linked librarians at over 350 sites nationally with each other and with faculty from the Harvard Business School to discuss ways of developing customer loyalty—a key factor in profitability and growth in business—in libraries. “We have found shining examples of excellent customer service that have resulted in greater community support, increased funding, and loyal, productive employees,” Franklin wrote in American Libraries. “The Wake County (North Carolina) Public Library was the first department of the county government to promote customer service excellence. It certainly paid off—voters passed a $10 million bond referendum this year.”
Bringing video and similar new technologies to customers remained a top priority for Franklin. In June of 1994 he published a letter to the editor in USA Today in which he called for additional funding for libraries that would enable them to provide access to the enormous wealth of information available digitally and on the Internet, a series of computer networks connected “on-line” and popularly called “the information highway.” In the letter, Franklin encouraged readers “to contact their elected representatives in Washington and urge them to ensure that libraries have affordable access to this new technology so they can continue doing what they do better than anyone else—put information in the hands of the people.”
Franklin has also championed ever higher standards of professional service among librarians, meaning first and foremost support for graduate training to prepare librarians for the responsibilities of the future. “A well-trained, well-paid body of professionals can be a powerful magnet to draw a diverse student body and faculty—and even open up new avenues for steady financial support,” Franklin was quoted as saying in American Libraries. “The ALA Washington Office should continue efforts to broaden federal funding for scholarships and fellowships for library education.”
The promotion of such standards also means appealing to practicing librarians to involve themselves more vigorously in their profession by participating in the ALA. In American Libraries he wrote, “I personally challenge each and every library staff member who ‘knows how to do things better’ … to become an active ALA member. Become a leader in your own right…. Above all, get involved. Keep in mind, without involvement there is no commitment. Become committed to making the library world more responsive to the needs of our customers. After all, we are all customers for information in this day and age.”
Married to Barbara Washington and the father of two children, Franklin is regarded as a personable man who encourages enthusiasm and involvement in his profession at every turn. After his term as ALA president ended in 1994, Franklin continued his service as director of the D.C. Public Library, where he has earned lavish praise from his colleagues and members of the board. One archivist at the library attested, for example, that she chose to work at that institution for its reputation as a leader. “I came here because I heard this was a phenomenal place to work,” Danna Bell Russel stated in the Washington Post. Nora Gregory, a member of the board of trustees of the D.C. Public Libraries, was also impressed. When Franklin began his term as ALA president in 1993, she was quoted in the Afro-American as saying, “It’s so important that the community knows we are here and that we have events they are welcome to. Franklin is very deserving of the honor that was given him.”
Dennis, Thomison, A History of the American Library Association, American Library Association, 1978.
Afro-American, July 17, 1993, p. B7.
American Libraries, July/August 1992, pp. 600-01; September 1993, p. 779; February 1994, p. 200; April 1994, pp. 370, 374; May 1994, p. 467.
Jet, July 6, 1992, p. 24; July 26, 1993, p. 57.
Library Journal, April 1, 1992, pp. 75-83.
USA Today, June 1, 1994, p. 10A.
Washington Post, January 13, 1994, sec. DC, pp. 1-2.
Wilson Library Bulletin, September 1974, p. 19.
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