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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

BRETT, WILLIAM HOWARD - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

BRETT, WILLIAM HOWARD (1 July 1846-24 Aug. 1918), librarian of CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY and founder of the Western Reserve University Library School, was born in Braceville, Ohio to Morgan Lewis and Jane Brokaw Brett. He became the school librarian at Warren High School at 14. He fought in the CIVIL WAR before entering the University of Michigan and later WRU, but was forced by poverty to abandon his studies. Brett settled in Cleveland and worked for the bookdealer, Cobb & Andrews Co., becoming acquainted with bibliophiles, including JOHN G. WHITE†, who helped appoint Brett as librarian of the CPL in 1884. Brett contributed to cataloguing, and by 1890 developed the concept of the open-shelf library

Brett published the first issue of his Cumulative Index to the Selected List of Periodicals in 1896, a publication that eventually became the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature. That same year he was elected president of the American Library Assoc. Brett campaigned vigorously for children's libraries and established an alcove for juvenile books in the CPL. Under his leadership, the first branch libraries were opened in Cleveland. Staff training occupied a large place in Brett's thinking; he realized the importance of specialized education for library work. His interest led to formation of a library school at WRU in 1904 with Brett as its first dean, although he remained head of the public library. During the years before his death, Brett developed plans for the main library building on Superior Ave., which, although not opened until 1925, bore the imprint of his thought.

Brett married Alice L. Allen on 1 May 1879. They had five children: Morgan Lewis, Allen, William, Edith, and George. Brett was buried in LAKE VIEW CEMETERY.

Eastman, Linda A. Portrait of a Librarian (1940).

Last Modified: 14 Jul 1997 03:47:56 PM

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