Clara Stanton Jones died on September 30 at the age of 99. Jones was the first woman and first African-American to serve as director of the Detroit Public Library (DPL), as well as the first African-American president of the American Library Association (ALA).
Jones’ career at DPL lasted decades, including her stint as director from 1970 until her retirement in 1978. Jones’ appointment as director was not without controversy. Petitions circulated in protest, and two library board members and the acting director quit, according to BlackPast.org. “But she did have support from the United Auto Workers and a coalition of progressive businessmen,” Jo Anne Mondowney, current DPL director, said in the Detroit Free Press.
Jones studied at Milwaukee State Teachers College, Spelman College in Atlanta, the University of Michigan, receiving degrees in English, history, and library science. She served as reference librarian at Dillard University in New Orleans and associate librarian at Southern University in Baton Rouge before joining DPL in 1944, the third African-American librarian to be hired by the system.
“One of her major accomplishments at DPL was the 1972 establishment of TIP, The Information Place, our community information and referral system that became a model for other libraries throughout the country,” Atiim.J. Funchess, spokesperson for the DPL, said in a statement. “TIP was huge, and we still have it,” Mondowney said.
Jones became ALA president in 1976. She’d initially run for the office in 1974 and was defeated, but in 1976 then-president Allie Beth Martin died before the end of her term. Jones served as acting president from April through July 1976 and as president for 1976-1977, according to ALA. During her tenure, the ALA Council adopted Equal Employment Opportunity: A Statement of Policy and awarded the first Louise Giles Minority Scholarship. Jones was also instrumental in advocating for ALA’s resolution on racism and sexism awareness. She also edited Public Library Information & Referral Service and published Library Service to the Disadvantaged, Means and Methods.
In 1978, Jones was appointed by President Carter to the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, where she served until 1982. In 1983 she was made an Honorary Member of ALA. In 1990 she received the Trailblazer Award from the Black Caucus of the ALA, its highest honor. And in 2007 her children established the Albert D. and Clara Stanton Jones Scholarship at the University of Michigan School of Information in honor of Jones and her husband.
Jones died in her sleep in Oakland, CA, where she lived. She is survived by her three children, seven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. Her husband, Albert D. Jones, predeceased her in 2008. The funeral will be held on October 20 at the First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, and condolences may be sent to her son Stanton Jones at 1948 Cortereal Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611.