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Mary Eileen Ahern Papers

Identifier: MSN/MN 0504

Scope and Contents

The collection includes a little over 200 letters. The papers consist of a number of essays, presentations, speeches, and such miscellaneous items as library course examinations and course syllabi.


  • Creation: 1893-1930


Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

Mary Eileen Ahern (1860-1938) was born on a farm southwest of Indianapolis. She graduated from high school in 1878 and attended Central Normal College in Danville, Indiana. Upon graduation she worked as a teacher in the public schools for 8 years. In 1889 she became the assistant librarian for the state of Indiana, and then in 1892 she was appointed state librarian for a two-year term. This was an exciting period in the development of libraries in the U.S.: Andrew Carnegie was building libraries across the nation, and Melvil Dewey created the Dewey Decimal system and founded the American Library Association. In 1895 Ahern began attending the newly organized Armour Institute Library School in Chicago and later assumed the editorship of a new journal, Public Libraries, the first issue of which came out in May of 1896. Imbued with the importance of the library's mission, the education of the people, Ahern made certain that the new publication guided novice librarians in all phases of library work: from shelving and catalog cards through newspaper racks to weeding the collection. The subtitle of Public Libraries was "a monthly review of matters and methods." A great believer in the importance of organizations, Ahern also used the journal to promote library associations -- local, state, and national. In 1926 the journal changed its name from Public Libraries to Libraries, reflecting its broadening scope, and when Mary Eileen Ahern retired in 1931 due to poor eyesight, she was so integral to the journal that it ceased publication. The last issue which is dedicated to her is filled with expressions of gratitude and with testimonials to her work. Her greatest contributions were her influence on implementing standard methods and best practices and her influence on the growth of the professional community. She died in 1938.


1 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



This collection of the papers of the American librarian and editor Mary Eileen Ahern (1860-1938) consists primarily of incoming letters, many from prominent library professionals.


The collection consists of 2 series: correspondence and papers. The letters are arranged alphabetically by sender, and the papers are arranged chronologically.

Mary Eileen Ahern Papers
Ingrid Adams
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556