February 16, 2018

Janice R. Franklin & Loretta O’Brien Parham | Movers & Shakers 2004


Preserving a Legacy


In 2001, Janice R. Franklin and Loretta O’Brien Parham attended a meeting of the Southeastern Library Network (SOLINET) Board of Directors, an ordinary enough event. Observing the support that the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries provides its members, they realized there was no such mutual assistance program for the librarians at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). What’s more, they discovered that the library directors of the 103 HBCUs had never even met. Franklin, director of the library at Alabama State University, Montgomery, and Parham, director of the Harvey Library at Hampton University, VA, resolved to do something.

They approached Kate Nevins, SOLINET’s executive director, who agreed to provide funding and support. She also helped secure additional funding from the Council on Library Resources and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Franklin and Parham cochaired the first meeting of the HBCU library directors in October 2002.

Parham led off the meeting with a rousing speech. ‘Why are we here?’ she asked. ‘We’re here because of our fortune to be part of the solution for students of African descent. We’re here because of our passions for reading, for learning, for intellectual freedom and scholarship. We’re here because to do nothing is to end the story.’

Franklin followed with a paper that outlined opportunities for collaboration, topics for working group discussions held over the next two days. The result was an agreement to create the HBCU Library Alliance, which would preserve the history and culture of each institution and community, build human resources, advocate for the value of the libraries’ collections and archives, and promote collaboration and sharing.

Their mutual admiration makes for a highly effective partnership. Franklin calls Parham ‘a true leader who cuts to the chase and is extremely confident, who builds coalitions well, and excels at synthesizing issues.’ She’s amused by the contrast between Parham’s ‘Northern Chicago assertiveness’ and her own ‘Southern, reserved, steel magnolia’ style. Parham calls Franklin ‘the consummate professional and lady,’ and says, ‘we’ve been a good tag team. I tend to be very direct and a bit of a risk-taker, while Janice is a quiet force reminding me of the sensitivities of others.’

Franklin has a scholarly bent. She has published a book on copyright issues in library automation systems. Parham has a strong management background, having previously served as a district chief for the Chicago Public Library (CPL) and as deputy director at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Both want to see more young African Americans in the profession and enhance their opportunities for advancement. Parham thinks the secret to recruitment is highly visible role models that have advanced to the top of the profession. Both see salaries as a primary recruitment problem.

While Franklin and Par-ham both entered a book-based profession, they’ve seized the Internet as an extraordinary tool not just for information but for preserving and sharing the unique African American history in HBCU archives.

Librarianship seems to be in their genes. Franklin’s mother was a school librarian, and Parham’s mother was the first African American commissioner for CPL.

It’s a destiny both embraced because, as Parham said, it’s a chance ‘to make a little difference for our African American students.’ And make their mothers proud.





Current Position: Director, University Library and Learning Resources Center, Alabama State University, Montgomery
Degrees: Ph.D. Library Science, Texas Woman’s University, 1988; MSLS, Atlantic University (now Clark Atlanta University), 1977
Professional Postings : President, Alabama Library Association, 1999–2000


Current Position: Director, Harvey Library, Hampton University, VA
Degree: MLS, University of Michigan, 1977
Professional Postings: Editorial Board, College & Research Libraries, 2002–05