Campus News Society & Culture

UGA library director honored for humanities efforts

Athens, Ga. – Mary Ellen Brooks, director emerita of the University of Georgia Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, received a Governor’s Award in the Humanities May 11 in Atlanta.

Citing her “indefatigable energy,” “amazing degree of knowledge about the history of Georgia and its authors” and calling her “one of our state’s unacknowledged leaders in the humanities,” Brooks was nominated for the award by Betty Jean Craige, director of the UGA Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, and Nicole Mitchell, director of the University of Georgia Press.

“Without great libraries, researchers cannot be great scholars,” Craige said. “And Mary Ellen made Georgia’s Hargrett Rare Books and Manuscript Library into a rich repository of rare books, photographs, documents, drawings, letters, papers and manuscripts for all scholars of Georgia’s history to use now and in the time to come.”

Brooks served the last 15 years of her career as director of the Hargrett Library, during which time she acquired 532 manuscript collections and built the library’s collection of fine printing and small press books and other works related to the book arts, making it the fifth largest in the country. Brooks supervised the digitization of historical maps of Georgia and the Southeast, among the first projects of its kind in the nation.

“Deeply knowledgeable about the collections, she has been a trusted adviser to many scholars doing research at the library. Moreover, she is a frequent traveler around the state where she meets with community members in ‘documentary seminars’ that bring rare books, photos, letters, diary entries and other artifacts of Georgia’s past to life,” Gov. Sonny Perdue said. “Without her efforts in collecting, developing and sharing the insights held within the Hargrett, public understanding of Georgia and the South would be diminished.”

Thomas G. Dyer, University Professor emeritus, credits research in Hargrett in three of his published works, “a tiny portion of the scholarship pertaining to the state that rests fundamentally on the collection in the Hargrett.”

The areas in which Brooks strengthened Hargrett’s holdings “literally cover the range of the humanities-not just the field of history-and include elements of the sciences as well,” Dyer said. “Ms. Brooks’ energy and commitment also led the Hargrett to embrace the new technologies at a much earlier time than comparable libraries elsewhere.”

Areas strengthened during Brooks’ tenure include the natural history collection and performing arts.

Brooks also is credited with being an ambassador to the state, introducing the wealth of materials in the Hargrett.

“Her work in the Hargrett Library alone makes her a hero to the thousands of Georgians who have traveled there to do research on our state and to even more students who have worked on a class project or thesis or attended a session of a class taught by Ms. Brooks,” said William Gray Potter, university librarian and associate provost. “She brought to her position a degree of competence, trust and integrity that is unsurpassed.”

Potter added, “She is a model of library service we all strive to match.”