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Helen E. Haines

Helen Elizabeth Haines (1872–1961) was a writer, reviewer, teacher and lecturer. [1] She was instrumental in the development of the library science profession, though she herself never worked as a librarian or earned a professional degree. Born in the late Victorian period as the eldest of five girls and educated privately, she worked in publishing after being turned down for a library job. [2] As a protégée of Charles Cutter, she became the managing editor of Library Journal in 1896. She also served as an officer of the American Library Association. [2] In 1906, however, her health broke down, and she eventually had to leave both positions and relocate to southern California. [2] For her service to librarianship, Andrew Carnegie awarded her an annual pension. [2]

Helen E. Haines
Helen Elizabeth Hayes (cropped).tif
Born 9 February 1872 Edit this on Wikidata
New York City Edit this on Wikidata
Died 26 August 1961 Edit this on Wikidata (aged 89)
Altadena Edit this on Wikidata
Occupation Librarian edit this on wikidata


Early lifeEdit

She was born in New York City, the daughter of Benjamin Reeve and Mary E. Haines. [1]


Haines published her first work at 19, a history of New Mexico. At 21, she worked as an editorial assistant for R.R. Bowker, who published Library Journal and Publishers' Weekly. Initially working under the supervision of Charles Ammi Cutter, Haines became the journal's managing editor in 1896.[3] In 1907, when she was 35 years old, she contracted tuberculosis. She then took a 6-year break from all work except reading. [4]

She was a member of the Council of American Library Association and editor of its proceedings for ten years. From 1914 to 1926 she was a member of the faculty of the Library School of the Los Angeles Public Library; she gave courses in book selection for the School of Librarianship of the University of California. She was a contributor to the Saturday Review of Literature, The Bookman, New York Herald-Tribune, and more; she gave many annual series of lectures on books for the L. A. Public Library, Pasadena Public Library and Long Beach Public Library, and also for the Extension Dept. of the University of California. She compiled and edited various Bibliograph publications, including "American Catalogue" (1890–95) and "Annual Literary Index". She was a member of the American Library Association, California Library Association, Pasadena Library Club, Woman's Civic League of Pasadena, Friday Morning Club of Los Angeles. [1]

Haines recovered her health and established herself as a library educator, writer, and activist in two key areas: support for popular fiction and for intellectual freedom. In 1935, she published Living with Books: The Art of Book Selection, which became a definitive library school text. [2] One contemporary review, while praising Haines' "shrewd and discriminating observation, … acute and illuminating criticism," nevertheless complained that "there is a fearful lot of junk in some of her suggested lists of books". [5] Perhaps the review was objecting to Haines' eclectic tastes; in a 1924 article, for instance, she advocated for "a rounded and representative collection, for readers of varied tastes, sophisticated as well as simple". [5] In her annotated bibliography of Haines' work, Mary Robinson Sive notes that likewise, Haines' 1942 work What's in a Novel "did not receive unqualified critical acclaim because of its disregard of purely literary criteria". [6]

She had a larger agenda that included everyone, even Black Americans, an idea that was controversial at the time of her writing. Haines’ “ideas about race relations and sex education were decades ahead of their time.” She believed a public library should indeed be public, and that they should promote education through reading. Haines was a strong believer and advocate for intellectual freedom, and “as a believer in the free exchange of ideas, she wore a bulls-eye on her back." [4] In 1947, Los Angeles County demanded that all civil servants, including librarians, sign loyalty oaths or be branded as "probable communist subversives".[7] Haines protested the order and urged the ALA to do the same. When they didn't take action against the decree, Haines took matters into her own hands by rewriting the ALA's Library Bill of Rights stating, "All patrons should have free access to books regardless of the author's race, nationality, religious beliefs or political ideas".[7]

Haines continued to write widely and to advocate for libraries to feature modern fiction and a broad collection. Her career, however, became mired in controversy when she published a second edition of Living with Books in 1950. Initial reviewers were positive about this edition, which was explicit in its opposition to censorship. [8][4] In the popular press, however, Haines was denounced as pro-Soviet because of her strong advocacy of the aforementioned intellectual freedom and her openness to works considered controversial.[3] As Haines was largely undefended by others in the profession, she withdrew into retirement. [2] She received the Joseph W. Lippincott Award in 1951 but ceased publishing. She died in 1961. [2]

Personal lifeEdit

She lived in Brooklyn, New York, and moved to California in 1908. She lived at 1175 North Mentor Avenue, Pasadena, California. [1]

Selected writingsEdit


Journal articlesEdit

  • Haines, H. E. (January 1, 1909). Library periodicals. Bulletin of Bibliography, 6, 2-5.


"From every book invisible threads reach out to other books, and as the mind comes to use and control those threads the whole panorama of the world's life, past and present, becomes constantly more varied and interesting." -Living With Books: the art of book selection (1935, Columbia University Press)

"All who care for books will possess some friends and intimates whose companionship cannot be restricted to a formal and limited visit."[7]

Quotes by Other Writers about Helen E. HainesEdit

"In an increasingly virtual world, Haines's writing also serves to remind us that the library is a rare point of human contact for many of our users."[3]


  1. ^ a b c d Binheim, Max; Elvin, Charles A (1928). Women of the West; a series of biographical sketches of living eminent women in the eleven western states of the United States of America. pp. 49–50. Retrieved 8 August 2017.  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "E-Resource Login".
  3. ^ a b c Trott, B. (2010). Helen E. Haines: A life with books. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 50(1), 14-17.
  4. ^ a b c "Floridian: Queen of bookworms". Retrieved 2016-04-22.
  5. ^ a b "E-Resource Login".
  6. ^ Robinson Sive, Mary. "Helen E. Haines, 1872-1961: An Annotated Bibliography". The Journal of Library History. 5: 146–164. JSTOR 25540227.
  7. ^ a b c
  8. ^ Crawford, Holly. Freedom Through Books: Helen Haines and Her Role in the Library Press, Library Education, and the Intellectual Freedom Movement. Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1997.

External linksEdit