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A woman with a cultivated voice whose dress was "absolutely correct in taste and style."  A woman with "unfailing tact, unusual literary taste, and good sense."  She was respected by colleagues, admired by friends, and recognized on an international scale.   

Who was this shining star?

She was Carolyn Ulrich, the originator of Ulrich’s Periodicals Index, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year as Ulrichsweb. Today we celebrate Carolyn and her incredible contributions to the field of librarianship.

With a career that lasted nearly three decades, Carolyn was a lecturer, author, advocate, and innovator. Thinking outside the box from the beginning of her career, Carolyn recognized that libraries needed to meet the needs of their patrons as defined by them, not the library. In 1920 she cited the "importance of psychological contacts with the reading public," which translated into a sensitivity not only toward what services were delivered, but how they were delivered. Carolyn knew the client was king. 

Carolyn’s career spanned the years from 1918 to 1946. During that time she witnessed economic prosperity, the Great Depression, war, recovery, and the continued evolution of American values and thinking. Her writings and programs reflected a keen understanding of the times. In 1936 she advocated in the Journal of Social Hygiene that materials on parenthood, sex, venereal disease, prostitution, and other similar subjects be made available to the layperson, noting that the public was now less self-conscious about these subjects. It was a bold suggestion for the time.

Carolyn is probably best known for her pioneering efforts in the management and bibliographic control of serial literature, where her efforts were as broad as her thinking. She spoke on topics such as “A Current Periodicals Room in A Metropolis," chaired the ALA’s Periodical Roundtable and the Joint Committee on the Standardization of Periodicals, and concluded her career as the Chief of Periodicals at the New York Public Library. And, perhaps most enduringly, gave us what is now Ulrichsweb.

Learn more about Carolyn Ulrich and the origins of Systematic Serials control.

14 May 2012 | Posted by Daniela Parmley

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