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Priscilla M. Mayden, AHIP, FMLA

Priscilla Mayden was the director of the University of Utah Eccles Health Sciences Library from 1966-1984. She served regional professional organizations and the Medical Library Association in many capacities and was elected a Medical Library Association Fellow in 1984. She was also honored by an award established in her name to recognize projects in technology and medical information. Priscilla believed in getting things done: “I discovered that sometimes the best thing to do was never to ask - just go ahead ...and then pick up the pieces.”

After receiving a Bachelors degree in library science from Simmons in 1941, Priscilla worked for a time at the Stoughton Public Library, but entered the Women's Army Corps in 1944 and began her career in medical libraries at the United States Air Force Redistribution Center hospital library in Santa Ana, California. In 1946 she became chief librarian at the Veterans' Administration Library in Bedford, MA, where she planned and revamped the library of a 1200 bed psychiatric hospital. In 1952 she moved to the new Veterans' Administration Library in Salt Lake City, a position that attracted her because “I wanted to go someplace I could ski.”

In 1966, Priscilla says, “ I finally admitted to myself that I had a career, that I enjoyed being a professional” and went back to Columbia for a Master's Degree in Library Science. That same year she decided to make the move to academic medical librarianship, becoming the director of the medical school library at the University of Utah. She became deeply involved in designing and building a new medical school library and dealing with the academic politics. She recognized the importance of automation and moved to the Philsom system before the new building was created, “probably one of the most important decisions I ever made - another one that I made without any money, without any support, without asking anybody.” Priscilla was able to use grant money to fulfill visions for the library in Utah: “the National Library of Medicine Resource Project Improvement Grants were absolutely crucial...an opportunity to experiment to move ahead.”

She was therefore eager in the early 1980's to testify before the Congressional Committee on behalf of the Medical Library Assistance Act. She was also the first librarian appointed to the National Library of Medicine Biomedical Library Review Committee, the group that reviewed library grant applications. She says that serving on this committee gave her a chance to “educate deans of medical facilities about what a medical librarian was and what library service meant and the kind of things medical librarians were capable of doing.” She further comments that, “with all the criticism we have given the National Library of Medicine, we really [must] keep in mind what they have done for the nation's medical libraries.”

Priscilla was active in professional organizations, joined the Medical Library Association in the early 1960's, and was chair of the Mid-Continental group in 1972 before it was an official chapter. She served on the scholarship committee, taught library planning continuing education courses, and was on the Medical Library Association Board of Directors from 1975-1978, “during a time of great change and restructuring.”

With typical modesty, Priscilla notes that her greatest honor was election to the Medical Library Association Fellows, because “I never felt ...I should have been in this distinguished company...with the greats of the past.”

Priscilla M. Mayden Oral History Index

Priscilla M. Mayden, AHIP, FMLA

Interview Date: 
June 25-26, 1988
Interviewer: 
Alison Bunting, AHIP, FMLA
Number of pages: 
92 leaves