History of the Association
Oral History Project: Voices of the Past
Elisabeth Runge was associated with the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston for forty-four years and was a member of the Medical Library Association for over fifty years. Unlike many of the other oral history interviewees, Elisabeth was not President of the Association. She declined to serve as President claiming she was too isolated in Galveston to discharge the duties of that office. And while she was not a Noyes Award winner, she had the privilege of knowing Marcia Noyes, first meeting her in Cleveland in 1929. In commenting on the changes in librarianship, she noted that the library was no longer the social gathering place that it had been and that physicians no longer did their own library research. Expecting to be a kindergarten teacher, Elisabeth attended the University of Texas at Austin. While there she was persuaded to become a librarian through encounter with members of the library staff, who often lunched at her dormitory. She wanted to study librarianship at the University of Chicago, but her father, who objected to her having any career aspirations, insisted she remain in Texas. She stayed on at Austin, which had a smaller and newer library school. Elisabeth, and her seven classmates, took seven courses: classification, cataloging, administration, history, library extension, reference, and book selection. She valued the personalized attention and the practical aspects of her training.
Elisabeth developed the library at Galveston from a one-person library. "Oh yes, I did all the cataloging. And I did all the letter writing, ordering, classification, selection of books...I had nobody to superintend me or to inform me...I used to save stubs of pencils and string, because I didn't have much money." She supplemented what she considered an insufficient budget by exchanging the Texas Reports of Biology and Medicine for 1200 foreign and domestic journals. She also made good use of the Medical library Association Exchange. The growth of the collection necessitated five moves during her tenure.
Elisabeth was an avid Medical Library Association meeting goer, missing only three meetings in a thirty-one year period, even though she went at her own expense until 1942 when her institution finally assumed those costs. She served on a few committees and hosted the 1949 meeting. "We had 62 down here in '49 and we thought that was wonderful. We had 19 from NY, and they said that was the first time New Yorkers had ever left their territory. And then the Army people came from Washington. They flew in a plane, and that was something unusual!"
Always one to travel, Elisabeth attended the International Congress on Medical Librarianship in London. What she remembered most about the meetings was "the large libraries and the old books." She visited the British Medical Museum, the University of London, the College of Physicians, and the Royal Medical
Medical Library Association
Last Updated: 2007 May 14