HomeHistoryWilliam Frederick Poole: American Bibliographer, Librarian, and Historical Writer (1821-1894)
William Frederick Poole: American Bibliographer, Librarian, and Historical Writer (1821-1894)
William Frederick Poole was a famous American bibliographer, librarian, and historical writer. He was born in Salem, Mass., on December 24, 1821. William Frederick Poole graduated from Yale College in 1849. He also assisted John Edmonds, a student of the Brothers in Unity Library. At the close of his sophomore year, he was appointed assistant librarian of his college society, which owned a library of 10,000 volumes. Here he prepared and published the first edition of his now-famous “Index to Periodical Literature.”
A second and enlarged edition was published in 1853 and secured its author-wide fame in both America and Europe. In 1852, William Frederick Poole was made Librarian of the Boston Mercantile Library and, from 1856 to 1869, had charge of the Boston Athenaeum, then one of the largest libraries in the United States, which he relinquished to engage in expert library work.
William Frederick Poole organized libraries in several New England cities and towns, at the United States Naval Academy and the Cincinnati Public Library, finally becoming’ Librarian of the latter institution. By persuading friends in the academic community across the country to donate volumes, William Frederick Poole started the initial Chicago collection. Even though a library had not yet been established in Chicago when the great fire of 1871 occurred, his appeal implied many books had been destroyed in the fire.
The degree of LLD was conferred on him by Northwestern University in 1882. Dr. Poole took a prominent part in the organization of library associations and was one of the vice presidents of the International Conference of Librarians, held in London in 1871. His advice was much sought in relation to library architecture and management. In October 1873, he assumed charge of the Chicago Public Library, then being organized, and, in 1887, became Librarian of the Newberry Library, organizing this institution and remaining at its head until his death.
He wrote much on topics connected with his profession and on historical subjects, frequently contributing to ‘‘The North American Review.” In 1874–75, he edited a literary paper in Chicago called “The Owl” and was later a constant contributor to “The Dial.” He finished his career as librarian of the Newberry Library, a private research institution, between 1887 and 1894. Poole designed the structure, which is still located at 60 West Walton Street.
He was president of the American Historical Society and a member of state historical societies and other kinds of associations. William Frederick Poole died on March 1, 1894, at the age of 72.